It’s been a while since the last update, and for that I apologize. I’ve been really busy lately, which unfortunately has set back my schedule for Rare Earth. On the other hand, there’s been plenty of time to gather feedback! This has been incredibly helpful – dozens of players have forwarded crash reports that have helped me track down and fix bugs. In addition, there’s been plenty of analytic data rolling in. For instance, check out this breakdown of feature votes submitted so far:
There’s still a clear demand for improved instruction (even after last update’s stopgap of an info screen), and people would love some customization options, but the clear winner is LIFE. Well, I haven’t wasted any time – it’ll be in the next update!
Wow, the initial response to Rare Earth has been incredible. In two days, it’s seen more reviews than BuildDown has in two months. On the other hand, the reviews themselves are heavily divided. Some excerpts:
“What im suppose to do in this game??!=/”
“Awesome after you get it what to do >_<”
– AbsurdMr Egg
“Vi prego, aggiungete un manuale di istruzione!”
– Player 401416879
According to Google Translate, that last one says “Please, add an instruction manual!” Point taken.
Unfortunately, this whole “customer dialog” thing isn’t easy. I could submit a metadata update to the game’s description to let people know that an update is coming, but on Windows Phone Marketplace that requires its own cert pass, which would block me from actually submitting the update for several days. Ultimately, I decided to just release the update as expediently as possible. On Friday evening and much of Saturday, I created a simple instruction screen with version notes and some core gameplay tips:
By Sunday, I was squeezing in stability improvements and improved error reporting (to help track down some of the more elusive bugs that have been reported) and submitting to cert. I’d like to include a more interactive tutorial at some point, but for right now, the priority was on helping our customers have a better “first play” experience.
I’m so grateful for everyone who’s playing Rare Earth – even the people who don’t like it (yet). I appreciate your passion, and I hope you stick with it for this update (and beyond)!
Conventional wisdom is that only the most polished and complete games are successful on mobile phones, but some guys made a rudimentary implementation of Pictionary and sold their company for $200 million, so screw conventional wisdom. I’m going to try something different.
In a few days, Rumor Games will be releasing Rare Earth on Windows Phone. It’s a project I’ve been working on for a long time (in mobile game terms). It started as a prototype to see what kind of fun ideas would come from playing with orbital mechanics. Over the last few months, it has grown and changed, leading to several spin-off experiments. But the core mechanic of flinging planets into orbit was something I wanted to see through, and while the experiments were fun, none really brought it to the next level of excitement that I was looking for. Usually, a prototype like this would end up shelved and never see the light of day.
Now, I’ve followed other peoples’ projects that seemed interesting and fun from the outside, but ended up being canceled for one reason or another. Maybe the sales projections weren’t quite where they needed to be, or maybe the product just wasn’t gelling right. But my interest was real and genuine, and I absolutely would have tried them, and would have supported them if I saw promise in what I tried. And with the low barrier to entry of mobile, why not let people try?
All of this led me to this experiment. I’m going to release Rare Earth as-is – beautiful, but unfinished. There are no tutorials, no music. But there is an opportunity. I’ve included a (to my knowledge) one-of-a-kind voting feature, to empower players to help direct future updates. I hope people will see as much promise in this game as I do, and I want to hear from them about what excites them the most.
I want to start a conversation. Email us. Tweet us. Write reviews for the game. I promise I’m listening, and I promise I’ll keep working on Rare Earth as long as there is interest. In the meantime, we’ll keep working on our Next Big Thing.
Space is a subject I’ve been in love with my whole life. As a kid, I dreamed of growing up to be an astronaut (far later in life than most kids would consider normal).
From my childhood bedroom
As a game designer, fully half of my prototypes have something to do with space – as a setting, theme, or even a character. Still, it’s something I’ve struggled to express in gameplay. Initially, I just wanted to replicate the cool, dynamic visual of moving through space on a cosmic scale, the kind of thing they do on the typical Discovery Channel show or NOVA special.
Space physics prototype
But I also want to create games that reflect my personality, and that’s a little hard to do with an n-body physics simulation. So I kept experimenting.
One of the concepts I found myself repeatedly drawn to is a mix of strategic management and tactile action. I decided to pursue that idea with a game about creating and managing a solar system – small enough scope to be practical on a phone, but complex enough to yield a rich field of possibilities. That’s what I’m working on now.
Pretty soon, we’re going to debut our inaugural release, BuildDown, for Windows Phone. It’s a fast-paced new take on the falling-blocks puzzle genre. It takes a clever mix of strategy, skill and luck to master. And it’s gracefully crammed with all the hottest features.
But I have to be honest. BuildDown is not exactly a “new” game. The idea is one I’ve been playing with since college. It has a special place in my heart as my “hello world” of game development. And with every iteration, it gets a little better, a little more refined.
For example, putting the game on the phone is the best thing that ever happened to it. Tap to collapse columns. Drag to move blocks. Shake the device to loose a few extra pieces into the playfield. Everything is just so visceral and intuitive on a phone. It’s quickly become my favorite development platform (which is a subject I’ll cover in more depth in a future post).
I hope people play and enjoy BuildDown. It’s a game I’m extremely proud of. A chip off the old block, even.
My name is Kevin, and I’m an independent developer. I’m passionate about making great games, and talking about them openly. I believe that games should be compelling, not compulsive. I believe that customers deserve to be treated with respect. And I believe that the world is hungry for originality.
That’s why I’ve created a new studio built on passion, imagination, and candor. Rumor has it that we’re up to something good!