This article gives an overview of how we at Futureplay successfully launched our first mobile game Farm Away! in a record 5 months.
I’ve been working in games for 6 years; I started at Rovio as a programmer in 2010 and later jumped into production. By the time I left in 2015 to found Futureplay, I was head of production for all externally developed games including Angry Birds Go!, Angry Birds Transformers and Angry Birds Epic. At Futureplay I now spend most of my time programming but also wear the producer’s hat to make sure that we hit dates with an agreed scope.
Futureplay - Replay The Future?
Here at Futureplay we are now a team of 9 people with plans to grow further this year. Our company culture is based on fast execution and learning. We release minimum awesome products, high quality games with a tight scope, and focus on future-proofing rather than what used to work. Our goal is to make multiple games per year rather than spend multiple years per game.
A key distinguishing aspect of Futureplay is our View-To-Play monetization strategy. We want to integrate ads the right way by only using opt-in video ad placements that feel natural, and use positive reinforcement instead of using ads as a life-line. With the View-to-Play model, we’re able to give players a choice, stirring engagement and retention by making ads that work better for both players and advertisers. To give you an example of our gameplay integration, players choose to watch video ads by clicking a cloud that rains so they can harvest crops with double profits for four hours. Or, by simply clicking the sun and watching a video ad, players enter a sun event for extra profits.
Always Be Shipping
We released our first game Farm Away! in November 2015, exactly 5 months after starting development. Farm Away! delivers a fresh, casual idle gaming experience in a farm setting. We are all big fans of the idle genre and wanted to make a game that would introduce it to a whole new group of players. The reception has been phenomenal: Farm Away! was downloaded over 1 million times in just three months with an average rating of 4.7 stars.
Unity allowed us to iterate very fast. Our development team consisted of 2 programmers, 1 artist and 1 designer. Only one of us had used Unity before but we were not new to making games. We are really proud that we were able to ship an awesome game in such a short time.
The first prototype of the core gameplay was made in a day, which proved to us that tapping and swiping mechanics felt natural and rewarding. During development, instead of focusing on writing feature documentation we added a placeholder version of a planned feature directly into the game to get a quick feel of how it feels on device. In a sense, the game itself was the only design document and specification we needed.
Farm Away! Development Process
Our development process was lean. First the designer added the prefabs for a feature into Unity, after which programmers coded the required behavior and hooked the prefabs into the game. We would then make a build to see how fun the feature felt and if iteration was needed. Once we were all satisfied, the artist created the art for it. We split the project in one week long chunks, giving us a new version of the game to play at the end of every week. The whole process was very organic and our small team size allowed us to solve problems on the spot and have short design discussion on an ad hoc basis.
We all understood how important it is to have a great first time user experience (FTUE) for any mobile game to be successful so we decided to get help from real users in designing it. We organized usability tests with a feature complete game and monitored where players got stuck and what they did not understand. The test results got turned into a FTUE design that was then implemented and iterated upon.
Development was not completely without it’s problems. Being new to Unity gave us a few surprises along the way, especially with the object lifetime management and script lifecycle functions. In the end we shied away from inheriting from the base class of Unity scripts and started managing the object lifetimes and class dependencies ourselves.
Multiple Games Per Year, Not Multiple Years Per Game
During this year, we have already released two new updates for Farm Away! and launched on Android. We will continue to release more content and features for Farm Away! on monthly basis and at the same time we working hard on our second title that will be released very soon. Our team will continue to grow during the year bringing a lot of new opportunities and options, but also some new challenges. All in all, a very exciting year ahead!