At some point we thought the game was pretty close to what we wanted for the release, we just had one really important step ahead: User Testing.
Not that it was the first time we handed family and friends our phone and let them play, but that was more a “look what we’re working on”-event. This time we told them to look at the game as a complete game and tell us their experience. We got a lot of useful feedback.
When working on a game for a while you tend to begin overlook a lot of little issues. You know exactly why it works this way and accept it pretty quickly if it seems reasonable. We found a lot of issues that are indeed a little annoying and shouldn’t have gone unnoticed, but while we knew they were there we didn’t find them to be annoying because we knew too much about the game. A few examples:
- Start button at the end of the tutorial doesn’t start the game
- Customers walking to the treasury chest are still selectable, resulting in unnessecary misselections
- Delete button in profiles can’t delete last profile but is not ‘grayed out’
- Occupied indicator flashes shortly on the treasure chest when a customer pays
- Paying is instant (no animation)
The list is a lot longer but we looked at every one of them. Some of them were ignored, most were fixed or we changed the way they were presented to improve the logic. We even did some big changes in giving the user feedback when he clicks and when a pirate is done with an machine and is blocking its usage.
Afterwards I think this phase saved us from a lot of small and some medium-sized issues and it vastly improved Barrr’s ‘flow’. I’d like to point out it’s really important to not only send the .apk to some friends and ask for feedback but also to find some friends, give them the phone and casually look over their shoulder and sit through a few levels. This way a user will tell you the little, fiddly things that aren’t really important but if fixed add to the quality of the game.
Preparing for the release
The week before our release we were quite busy polishing the game but we knew we’d have to call it done sometime since there’s always something to improve and we were already very happy with the overall polish the game had.
So we registered an developer account and began watching the market’s “Just in” section to determine what would be the right moment to release the game. We found the end of the afternoon in the Netherlands (9AM in New York) didn’t have much releases and thought it’d be a good moment to release Barrr.
We prepped the last stuff needed for the release and made a list of stuff that was needed:
- A polished game icon
- A small promotional graphic for the market
- Check the app’s debug output and remove as much as possible in the release version
- Check the complete install process for the final version
- Testing a full playthrough
- Setting the right version number for the app and the database
- Text for the market description
Allright, release time! After the release we did a few things to get it done as smooth as possible:
- Giving a five stars review ourselves and asking a few friends to do the same, to get the app a good starting position (we feel this helped a lot in the first few hours)
- Keeping a close eye on the bugreports in the developer console
- Keeping a close eye on the user reviews in the Android Market
- Rapidly refreshing the downloads page
- In the following days we kept a close eye on our website’s analytics and google to search for reviews
- Feel good about the good comments
Number of downloads
First of all, the number of downloads has been amazing. We knew we had a pretty funny game but didn’t have a clue about how many downloads to expect. Personally I would’ve been very satisfied with a few thousand downloads, as it turns out I didn’t have to wait for long to wait for that goal.
We released the game at 16.22 GMT, after 4 hours the developer console updated and we had 1154 downloads and a 4,5 star rating! We were very, very happy.
Our next mark (10.000 downloads) was reached 4 days after the release and the user feedback blew us away, users seemed to be very happy with the game, demanding more levels already.
Over the next 4 months the number of downloads continued to rise, leading to this graph:
Overall we’re quite happy about how we released the game and we’re very happy people like it! The downloads seem to climb steadily and has given us confidence to continue work on the game, but more on that later.