The Nightmare Cooperative is our new game. We will be releasing it on July 16th for PC/Mac/Linux on Steam, followed by other platforms.
It’s a strategic adventure where you lead a group of unlikely comrades through some rather difficult situations. Your village has fallen on hard times (due to some rather reckless spending by the Village Council) and it’s up to you to bring back some gold.
You can see more on The Nightmare Cooperative website.
Please, let us know if you’re from the press and you’d like more information, check out the Presskit and drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re a YouTuber and you’d like to monetize gameplay videos, simply use our permission generator.
We have a new game, but for some reason we haven’t been talking much about it publicly yet. That’s all going to change, starting now. Say hello to The Nightmare Cooperative.
If you’re from the press, or if you’d like to get on the beta test list, please drop us a line at email@example.com.
We are very pleased to announce that Bad Hotel will be released for Android, on Google Play, this Friday January 17th.
This follows up from being included in the last 2013 Humble Bundle, which was super amazing. The more eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the Android version was included in the bundle, and you can even buy the Android version alongside the PC and Mac versions from the widget on the Bad Hotel site right now.
However, for the very first time Bad Hotel will be on an actual Android store this Friday morning European time. If you’d like a review copy, please get in touch by writing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tacos, Bluegrass, & Videogames took place on January 11th 2014. We billed it as “The best things in the world, all at once, with beer”, and it was sponsored by the fine folks at Codeplay. We also got delicious beer from Brewdog, which was great!
We wanted to produce and host an event devoted to accessible, fun, and unusual games, together with good food and good music. We wanted to make anyone feel welcome, and we wanted to show games that weren’t violent, scary, creepy, or sexist. And of course, we wanted to eat tacos and listen to bluegrass.
It turns out, we weren’t alone. We sold out our first run of tickets in around 40 hours. We released more tickets and sold all of them really quickly too. We had a huge waiting list, and we had to turn people away at the door!
The night took place at Pilrig Church in Leith, right around the corner from Lucky Frame headquarters. The place was packed, the food was delicious, the tunes were toe-tapping, and the games were awesome. We were completely blown away by the response – we had so much help from dozens of amazing volunteers, starting several hours before we opened the doors, and the goodwill and good vibes continued throughout the night.
We showed quite a wide range of games – an abstract 2v2 sports game, a game where you had to punch bowls of custard (yes, real actual custard), a game where you had to wear a caterpillar costume and roll around on the floor…for most of the games we built brand-new custom interfaces, like a super-minimalist arcade cabinet, a videogame embedded into a coffee table, or a mysterious post-apocalyptic camping tent.
The tacos were handmade by Morgan and her team of helpers (special thanks to Roof, Craig, and Hal), and they were a hit. They were proper flat-style corn flour tacos with beans, rice, and vegetables. Yum.
The wonderful old-timey acoustic music was provided by Jed Milroy together with Carrie and Adam Bulley.
A 1v1 game where you actually punch bowls of custard. It’s as silly and ridiculous as it sounds. By George Buckenham
By Magdev – a hilariously bonkers taco-based first person escape adventure. We built a custom arcade cabinet out of wood from our local lumberyard.
Beautiful atmospheric abstract first person exploring game by Titouan Millet. We built this into the Taquito Tower, making a little cinema onstage for people to play. This didn’t come out too well in photos but looked lovely.
A gorgeous musical exploring game by Niall Moody. Fraser painted another beautiful coffee table which we used to present this game, and Niall made a special 4 player version. You couldn’t hear the audio very much, but people loved playing it nonetheless…
A brilliant collage that felt like a really powerful piece of interactive video art, by Jack King-Spooner. We presented this in a camping tent, and Jack created a really wonderful atmosphere for people to experience his game. Did you pick up the phone?
A real crowd pleaser by One Life Remains. A very simple but crazily frantic four player game which slowly got destroyed over the course of the night (which was part of the point…).
The feedback from attendees was amazing. Some choice excerpts from Twitter (the #TBVG hashtag was pretty active…):
A very special thank you to all of the people who came early and helped set up, or stayed late and helped clean up, and of course all of the people who helped throughout the night. We absolutely could not have done it without you – we were completely astonished by everyone’s willingness to pitch in, carry stuff, push gigantic carts of equipment, clean up custard, serve tacos, man the door, and everything in between. HUGS.
Probably the most-asked question of the night was “Is this happening again?!”, and the answer is: we really want to do it again. It took a lot of work to put this together, but it was hugely enjoyable, exciting, and rewarding, and we are so proud of it. At the moment we are eyeing early June as a potential time, and we are as yet undecided as to whether we will keep the formula exactly the same or change it up a bit.
But doing it once more is only a small part of a bigger thought process we are currently having at Lucky Frame about how we can do this on a larger scale. We are currently exploring options for how to make this into a regular event that encourages and showcases experimental game development, alongside quality food and music, on a national scale. Tacos, Bluegrass, & Videogames was for us a experiment, a testing of a hypothesis. We wanted to see what would happen if we presented video games in a way that had never been done before in Scotland. What if we tried something totally new, yet totally accessible? What if we showed that video games in Scotland can be more than games about crime and misogyny? Is there an appetite for uncompromisingly artistic, abstract, or silly games? I think that this past Saturday night gave us resounding answers to all of these questions…
This will require a lot of organisation, and of course money. We have a few different ideas for how to approach both of those things, but we will need your help. If you were there on Saturday, please spread the word. Send us an email at email@example.com with any feedback, positive or negative.
If you would like to be involved in making the next phase of TBVG happen, please let us know. We will need money, games, venues, materials, and more.
Also, send us any pictures and videos you took, or if something crazy/funny/silly/unexpected happened, we’d love to hear your stories. If you weren’t there, tell us what you would like to see, or where you are so we can work out where to go next.
Seriously. We had an amazing time, and we hope you did too. Let’s do more of this. See you at the next one.
You may have already heard that we are putting on our very first event on January 11th: Tacos, Bluegrass, & Videogames. It will feature all three of those things, plus beer from Brewdog. For £5 you’ll get tacos, beer, music, and awesome videogames. A pretty good deal, if I may say so myself.
You can read all the details on our dedicated site: luckyframe.co.uk/tacos/
It is being produced with support from the fine folks at Codeplay.
Putting together an event like this has been in the back of our minds for a while. We really admire what people like Game City, Bit of Alright, and Wild Rumpus are doing – putting videogames into unusual, fun, and exciting settings, encouraging innovation in game design whilst also making videogaming a bit more mainstream and socially acceptable. We feel that there is space to do something like that up here in Scotland.
Since Lucky Frame has a fairly strong American heritage, it only made sense to throw in a few elements from the motherland. Tacos are delicious, and folk music is designed to be accessible and fun – they seemed to us like the perfect combo (though we did consider Milkshakes, Hiphop, & Videogames).
When I wrote up a plan for getting the word out about this event, this blog post was designed to contribute to the push towards selling tickets. Quite amazingly, this has turned out to be unnecessary – we put the tickets up for sale on Monday and they all sold out in less than 48 hours, just from a few posts on Twitter. Social media wins! Thanks to everyone who bought tickets – we are really excited by the support and we can’t wait to make this happen. Clearly, we are not the only ones who are hankering for some tacos and bluegrass to go with their videogames.
The number of tickets is somewhat limited because of the capacity of the venue, so we apologise to anyone who has missed out. We may be able to release a few more, but we would also encourage people to come by on the night. If there is any room we will definitely let you in, and if you can’t get in we’ll point you to a nearby pub.
We are still looking for a few more games to include on the night – if you are an indie developer sitting on an amazing game that would work well in a relaxed party setting, please send it along! We’d love to show it. If you’re not sure that your game will be a good match, just get in touch and we can talk it over.
So, while this post no longer needs to perform the “buy tickets” function I had originally planned, it still has one important role: LAST CALL FOR SPONSORS. We want to print up posters for the event very soon, so if you want to get your name or logo on that poster, now is the time to act. Get in touch by Monday to be a part of TBVG – send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to have you on board.
More details will be announced soon, see you on January 11th.
I imagine we are not alone amongst Scottish game studios in receiving many requests from high school students looking for “Work Experience Placements”. High Schoolers (around 16 years old) are tasked with finding a company in a field that interests them who will take them in for a week.
It had never really occurred to us to take anyone in, since we don’t exactly have the most corporate atmosphere at Lucky Frame HQ. However, we are always happy when any of our amazing friends are able to stop by and spend the day in the studio with us making stuff. We now have an unwritten Lucky Frame rule: if we have room, you are more than welcome to come by and spend the day with us, as long as you’re making something. I guess that is now a written rule.
So whilst we don’t want to have someone kicking around our office doing nothing for a week, we are totally into having someone making something. Therefore we recently decided to start responding to work experience requests with a challenge: if you want to learn what it’s like to make games, make a game. Choose a coding language or library or piece of software (we suggest Gamemaker, but anything will do) and send us something you’ve made. If you can make something and send it to us to play, we will take you in for a work experience week, and you will make games with our help.
I have set this challenge out to a number of people who got in touch with us, and for the most part I have scared them off. However, recently one local student, Reuben Gourlay, rose to the challenge and sent us not one but two prototypes built in Gamemaker. As a result, he came in a few weeks ago to spend some time with us, and he made a game.
We spent the first day talking to him and introducing him to our favorite games (Super Crate Box was a particular hit…), and getting him to think about what kind of game he’d like to make. We talked a lot about scope, keeping things manageable whilst retaining the fun.
After that we tasked him with designing and creating a full game by the end of the week. Reuben laid out a design for a motorcycle driving game, and he worked with Sean to create the art. Jonathan helped him with the code and I made some sound (and, ahem, totally radical music), and by the end of the week there was a complete game. BIKERS RAGE!!!! A few screenshots for you…
You can download and play the game for yourself…
Play Biker's Rage!!!
Well done Reuben, great to have you with us and keep making games!
The three of us are back in Edinburgh after a few days in Nottingham at the fabulous Game City Festival. We were really pleased to be invited to Game City and given a pretty blank slate to play with. It gave us a great chance to experiment with a few ideas we had been kicking around for a while. The first thing we brought was the Suitcase Arcade – a four player arcade box built into a vintage suitcase. Of course we loaded Gentlemen! on there and set it up in the Open Arcade. It was really brilliant to watch people of all ages coming and playing together. (picture callously stolen from Laura, see the rest of her great shots from the festival here) The other thing we managed to put together for Game City was Roflpillar. This is a new project for us, and one we hope to develop further in the near future…Roflpillar is a two-player game where each player controls a caterpillar who is trying to eat apples. The game is controlled by lying on the floor and putting your head into a covered structure which hides a screen. A sensor is attached to you with a belt, and you have to move your hips to move your caterpillar. You basically end up rolling and wiggling about, twisting and contorting your body to control a caterpillar while everyone outside giggles. It’s amazingly fun, and we are super proud of it. People really liked this one. Keith Stuart at the Guardian called it “hilarious” in his roundup of the festival and IndieHaven picked it as one of the “Things to Watch Our For” (along with Gentlemen!). Here’s a video of it in action:
We’re planning on doing more with both of these projects, so keep an eye out. Many many thanks to the Game City team for having us along, especially Iain, David, and Chloe, and to all of the amazing volunteers who helped us out (Charlotte, you’re a legend). Good work team!
The Steam version is for Windows and Mac. For $5 you can get the critically acclaimed tower defense music game for your glorious big wide screen.
As a quick reminder, here’s what some important people said about Bad Hotel:
“…to understand how excellent Bad Hotel is, you need to play it. And you need to hear it…I like Bad Hotel so much I’d buy it for you. Get it. It’s wonderful.” – Kotaku
“Bad Hotel is, in short, the stuff of wonderful nightmares: an eerie soundtrack, a menacing palette and an all-pervading sense of inescapable doom. Yet it’s also one of the most original and atmospheric tower-defense games we’ve played all year…” – Modojo
If you would prefer to buy it outwith Steam, you can buy it using the Humble Widget from the Bad Hotel website.
As an extra little bonus, today we are also releasing an update to the iPhone version which adds iPhone 5 screen resolution support. Because, you know, those phones have been around for like a year now and I guess they’re not going anywhere. Go update or buy the new version!
Three weeks ago we released Gentlemen! for iPad and Android. If you aren’t aware of it, it’s a 2-player head-to-head Victorian dueling game for tablets. Two players required! Go buy it if you like – here’s the App Store link, Google Play, our marketing site, and a presskit site. It’s on sale until Monday, so now’s your chance.
Since that release we have been working on a desktop Mac/PC version, for up to 4 players. It’s now nearly done! And it’s super fun. We’ve been playing it a lot in the office, and having friends over to play too…we’ve starting falling into the trap of just playing game after game after game, which I suppose is a good sign.
So we will be releasing that soon, at the same price as the tablet version ($5). If you’re a journalist/blogger/fan and you’d like an advance preview, let us know.
Let’s get down to a bit of a release analysis.
Without a doubt, Gentlemen! was one of the best-reviewed projects we have ever produced. We received a coveted 8/10 on Edge, 4.5 stars on Touch Arcade, and a 9/10 Gold Award on PocketGamer. This was totally brilliant, and we are so proud.
It’s interesting to think about why we got such great reviews. Obviously it’s a game that we’re super proud of, and we think it’s amazing, but that’s not always enough to secure great critical acclaim.
At one point, during the development process, we were planning to make a single player mode in the game. We got as far as mocking up some concepts and even designing a few challenge levels before deciding that it wasn’t a good idea. Gentlemen! was designed from the very first prototype to be a local multiplayer game – the gravity flipping, the level layout, it was all created with two players in mind. Any single player mode would have been superfluous and probably not very fun.
I think the positive reviews were an unanticipated outcome from this decision. If Gentlemen! had a half-baked single player mode, then reviewers would probably have only played that and not enjoyed it very much. Instead, the reviewers had to find someone to play with, and play a game together for enough time to make an educated assessment. As it turns out, playing games with other people is super fun, and I think it’s harder to be negative or cynical about a game when you’re sitting across from someone who is having a blast throwing pigeons at you.
The downside, of course, is that not all reviewers were able to find someone to play with. Reviewing games tends to be a fairly solitary activity, and more than one reviewer really wanted to test the game but was unable to find people to play with. We are lucky to have really great support from a number of different media outlets, and several of them made the extra effort to review Gentlemen! – though our overall number of reviews was far lower than Bad Hotel or Wave Trip.
Another interesting result of our no-compromises was that we have gotten some user reviews, almost exclusively on iTunes, saying that we should make a single player version, or network multiplayer. Partially this is my fault, because the marketing copy says “Two Players Required!” and many people don’t realize that means “two players in the same place”. But there is also a funny logical thing going on, where many of the reviews say something like “Good game, could be so much better with online multiplayer or ai”. This is strange to me, because it admits that it is a good game, but then goes on to say that it should be different. My argument would be that the whole reason this is a good game is because you play it with a friend!
So! Great reviews? Check. How does this translate into sales?
So far we have sold 1,047 copies on iPad, and 112 copies on Android.
Whether this is a ‘good’ result is up for debate. Certainly, many many games are released every day that don’t sell anything close to these numbers. We knew very well that we were making a pretty esoteric game, in the sense that it is limited to iPads and tablets bigger than 7 inches and requires two players, so we didn’t exactly have high expectations. We also set the price relatively high – starting at $5, and currently on sale for $3. So far the number of sales is a bit lower than we hoped – my personal target was to sell 2000 copies, but with a little luck we will get there!
As a side note, amateur mathemagicians out there will realize that selling 2000 copies, even at our high price point, is not exactly good business for a 3-person studio working on a game for 5 months. Well, that’s because for this project we were really lucky to be supported by the Prototype Fund, a brilliant support grant run by the University of Abertay in Dundee. They give money to studios who want to make something great without the crushing weight of commercial expectations. We certainly couldn’t have made the game without them, and we are extremely privileged to live and work in a society where this exists.
One problem we definitely had was that just as we were releasing our game, a lovable little scamp named Psy happened to release a song named “Gentleman”. The deep irony of all of this was that we had a really hard time naming our game, and for the longest time it had the terribly uncatchy title of “Martin vs. Monty”. We finally settled on “Gentlemen!” (other ideas: ‘Scoundrels’, ‘East Stabwich’, ‘The Panic of 1857’, ‘Crumpet Clash’, etc) and sent out all of the promo material accordingly, blissfully unaware of this pop song. You wouldn’t think a pop song would cause problems for an app, but we quickly learned about the seedy world of games and apps piggybacking on other entertainment media. What a strange time we live in. Also, how depressing that people spend their time making Jetpack Joyride ripoffs using graphics referencing pop songs. So unfortunately, discovery was and remains a major problem.
We also didn’t really get any featuring from Apple for this release, which was too bad, but then they have really supported our previous releases so we can’t complain!
Anyway, pricing a game is always an interesting question, and there were a few eyebrows raised at our initial $5 price. Part of our thinking was that a two-player game has a higher value than a single player game, because it is being shared with friends. Tablet games can sometimes command a higher price as well, I suppose just because the bigger screen size conveys greater value. But most importantly we believe that Gentlemen! gives you way more than $5 worth of fun. We’ve watched people play game after game, and we get feedback from users who say they play with their child/partner/parent for an hour or more at a time. It’s a bit of a tired argument, but the fact remains that this is pretty great value entertainment. Finally, there’s a bit of a trend in the indie game world for raising prices on games, and we’re in favor of that and wanted to fit into the cool kids club.
(all of that said, it’s on sale for $3 until Monday! so go get it now if you want us to have less money)
A few days after release, we started noticing some pretty strange statistics on the Android version. At the last minute we had included an analytics package into the game that told us how many unique users there were playing around the world. After two days we had sold a total of 8 copies on Google Play, but we were getting significantly more players. The numbers surprised us so much that we actually contacted the analytics company to confirm that we were interpreting them correctly. Once we had done that I posted on the Lucky Frame twitter feed, asking people to guess how many pirated copies were being played. Nobody got anywhere near:
Ok! I think I’ll call time on this. Official Android sales numbers for Gentlemen! after three days: 8 copies sold. 2,462 copies pirated.
— Lucky Frame (@lucky_frame) July 19, 2013
If you’re interested, after three weeks those numbers are now 112 copies sold, over 40,000 copies pirated. And they said it wouldn’t last!
This set off a firestorm of social media activity – basically, I spent the next three days responding to tweets and facebook messages (844 retweets!). It resulted in a definitely jump in Android sales (we sold about 25 the next day – woo marketing!) and generated some interesting discussion around the interwebs. This taught me several things…
This experience was very similar (though much larger scale) to our whole experience with the unVerse rejection. Whilst that story provided fodder to Apple haters, releasing this data was a great example of confirmation bias. One narrative that kept appearing was “this is why you shouldn’t develop for Android”, or more bluntly “this is why Android sucks”.
I find this attitude pretty silly. Let’s face it, all of these devices are just computers. Some of them have nice UI, some of them have nice product design, and they all certainly have downsides. It’s pretty sad when people associate electronics products with lifestyle choices, and judge others accordingly. These devices and companies are loaded with moral and ethical dilemmas, there is very little critical thought devoted to their place in the world, and the differences between them are negligible at best. Instead of saying “Product X is so much better than Product Y” or “Fans of Product X are blind/idiots/fanboys”, we should really be saying “How can we use this technology in a positive way?”
On a more technical note, the idea that we “shouldn’t develop for Android” is kind of ridiculous. We made Gentlemen! in the Unity game engine, which makes building an Android version extremely easy. It probably took us an extra two or three days to make the android version (out of a 5 month develop cycle), so even if we only sell 200 copies total it’s still just about worth it.
Many people assumed that we were really upset about this statistic. In retrospect, talking about the piracy numbers on twitter probably implies that we were unhappy, but in reality the number of pirates just confirmed to us that we made a game that people love to play! The people who are pirating our game are also playing a surprising amount, with really great engagement – these are no casual pirates just downloading because they can. So this confirmed to us that our game design is solid, and that we’ve made a super fun game that people enjoy. To be honest, that is really great. It’s unlikely that any of these pirates would have bought the game anyway, so we’re just glad that people are playing. Android makes piracy very easy, and thanks to that Gentlemen! is being played by more people around the world than all of our previous games combined.
A lot of talk has been devoted to the insane amount of Android phones and tablets on the market, and how this poses a challenge to developers. We were very wary of this, and our strategy was to release only for devices that we were able to test on. This was a pretty limited number of mostly Google Nexus and Samsung devices. Our thinking was that we didn’t want anyone to buy the game and then have a negative experience with it. We got a fair amount of criticism for this, with people saying that the game wasn’t available for purchase on their specific device. We’re still undecided on how to approach this, because it is very scary to allow people to buy our game on a tablet or phone on which it won’t run well. We thought that releasing on the most popular devices would be fine, but it probably wasn’t.
On the other hand, I don’t think that this was responsible for our piracy rate. It seems unlikely to me that people tried to buy it on Google Play, found it wouldn’t run on their device, and then tracked down a torrent instead. It’s far more likely that the people who pirated the game have only one method of finding and installing apps, and that is through pirate sites.
One thing that helped me reach that conclusion was the location statistics for the pirated copies. About 95% of the pirated copies are being installed in Russia and China (and of those, mostly China). We didn’t even translate our Google Play store into Russian or Chinese, so it’s almost certain that the pirates just found our app on localized pirate sites. On the other hand, I’m glad our menu design is intuitive enough that you can play the game without speaking English!
This was our first Android release. We probably could have done more to avoid the massive piracy of our game – or, even better, convert pirate users into paid users. I think that Android apps are definitely going to get pirated no matter what…I can only dimly imagine the level of piracy that a truly successful paid app has. However if we had anticipated this situation we probably would have included some sort of in app purchase, perhaps to unlock extra levels or game modes. At least then the pirates would have the opportunity to pay us a little something if they were enjoying it so much – the main problem is that most of these pirates probably exist in a commercial ecosystem where the Google Play store does not even exist, and it doesn’t occur to them to buy any games from there at all.
One small thing that really surprised us – Google Play users are far more likely to leave reviews in the store…and very positive ones at that! Nearly 10% of the people who bought the game on Google Play have left reviews, averaging 4.8 stars. On iTunes, it’s more like 0.01%, and we’re only averaging 3.2 stars. Awww!
So there you go. As I mentioned, we’re now gearing up to release the desktop version of Gentlemen! so if you’d like a sneak peek, please drop us a line at email@example.com.
Our new game, Gentlemen! is out now for iPad and Android. Go buy it!
We’ve already garnered some amazing reviews…we’re very proud:
Thanks to everyone who helped put this out! If you’d like more information, please visit our Presskit page, and don’t hesitate to get in touch by writing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.