4. PC Version Balance (a.k.a. "Bloody Difficult Mission 11")
For some reason -- no one wants to take responsibility for this decision today -- we changed the initial version of the 11th level, feeling that it was too easy for this part of the game. The entire story campaign mode has 14 levels, and the difficulty curve initially was kept correct -- the last two levels were the biggest challenges, and in the last one, of course, the toughest was the mega-boss.
In the 11th mission, we introduce a new enemy -- the Energizer -- which is capable of respawning destroyed enemies. So it's a pretty tough enemy, but one is able to beat it fairly easily by bombarding with an airstrike. Beating this mission with airstrikes is still properly challenging for a later level.
And suddenly -- oops! -- we took airstrike from the player, and Mission 11 become extremely difficult. We didn't notice that, because we knew the game mechanics so well that we knew how to beat this mission easily, and we thought that the 11th level should be more difficult to maintain a proper difficulty curve.
Players, on the other hand, had problems with it. Some stopped playing on that level, because they could not beat it. A part of those who finished entire game have admitted that the 11th level was the toughest. It's a solid mistake, perhaps caused by the fact that the final tests were done by people who knew the game too well. The conclusion is simple -- until the very end, you need to involve some people in testing who are completely fresh and new to the game.
5. Bad Start on Google Play
We totally didn't have any experience, nor were we properly prepared to launch a game on Android Market (now Google Play). We learnt everything from scratch on the back of our own mistakes. It began with a not-so-good toolset - we used Visual Studios and the VS_Android plugin. Unfortunately, we could not conjure up a debugger. Eventually we used the console log.
Secondly, many devices heavily utilized bugged graphics drivers. Overcoming those bugs required blind guessing. Unfortunately there is no any easy way to communicate to a user to install the latest drivers. Thirdly, it's impossible to test the game on all possible devices. There are over 1,000 listed on Google Play. Quite often -- and only from players -- we received feedback about problems on various devices. We don't have any idea about testing these devices other than to just buy the most popular ones and learn through feedback from users whether bugs disappear on their devices too.
Furthermore, we had isseus with the limitation for APK size. Anomaly consists of about 150MB of data. The market limits APK size to 50MB. To solve this, one has to arrange hosting of additional data. This approach completely kills the point of refunding money to user within 15 minutes if they're not satisfied with the application. Within 15 minutes, many people were unable to download all the game data, especially when they connect to the internet via mobile network.
Finally, an interesting fact -- Google Play did not allow you to sell apps from Poland. In Poland, there are several hundred developers of apps for mobile devices. We had to get around this by cooperating with a foreign company. However, a little later, the store expanded to allow apps from Poland and the Czech Republic.
Anomaly Warzone Earth (prototype, top; final game, bottom)
Despite numerous iterations, we couldn't avoid mistakes in balancing and testing. The gameplay came out fantastically, but the story and dialogue could have been better. In future projects, we're going to put more attention toward these elements.
At an early stage, we quickly managed to create our own engine, which we constantly improved with new tools. Now we have our own toolset adjusted to our needs and to multiplatform development. We expect to have slightly faster tempo for future projects; however, the "no crunch time" rule is still in force!
Anomaly Warzone Earth did a good job on PC and Android (10,000 downloads were reached in about a week and 50,000 in a bit more than one month). On Mac and iOS it did terrific. The Linux version was launched with a Humble Bundle, which sold 150,000 bundles.
The Xbox version, though, had a serious problem at the start. During first two weeks, the game page on XBLA was missing trailers, screenshots, and artwork -- almost everything except the description. So if anyone was looking for the game to buy and download, they were able to see only the text and nothing else. We and the team on Microsoft side struggled with this system bug for two weeks before it was fixed; the initial sales was rather bad, but in the end the console version paid off -- however things didn't go as well as the PC or mobile version. For us, the console market is the toughest one, and we rather recommend hitting Steam or Google Play unless you already have a Minecraft-size brand on your hand.
Let me sum it up. We created a new studio, in which the experience of veterans of the Polish game industry, and the creativity of new members gave birth to a game that gained respect from young strategy fans and old hardcore gamers as well. Often it was praised for its uniqueness of gameplay, originality of the concept and high level of polish. Now, we want to keep this level in future games -- gamers expect this from us, and we expect this from ourselves!