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Microgolf Masters

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This one was a while in coming - our current TripleFun game: Microgolf Masters.

Microgolf Masters logo screen

About the game

Masters is the sequel to MicroGolf Challenge, itself the sequel of MicroGolf, so it's interesting to see the evolution of the game as time has gone by. As of the time of writing, MicroGolf Challenge has been removed from sale to stop any confusion amongst players.

While Challenge was a good game and enjoyed modest success, there were problems with the inherit conception of the gameplay and monetisation, so after meeting with other CEOs of mobile games companies, Nicolas decided that the best course of action would be to release a new game. That way, we can make any number of breaking changes with the previous one without suffering the wrath of an existing playerbase.

And there were a hell of a lot of changes. Here are just some of the differences:

More updates are coming down the line. At the minute, we're finishing up a big performance update, to get the game back up under 60fps and silky-smooth, and after that we're planning on a teams feature, where players can face off against each other in 2v2 matches.

A bit about the development

Challenge was our first Unity game, so by the time we tackled Masters we had a bit more experience and could tell what was working and what wasn't. Although we were working from the same codebase, we profited a bit at the start of development to restructure and refactor anything that wasn't up to scratch.

One thing we set from the start, which I'm glad about, it focused solely on Android development, so we were only on one platform from the get-go. This was a huge timesaver in the long run, as, if you don't know about it, the time to release on different platforms is wildly different.

Though it's better nowadays, iOS would routinely take ~2 weeks to validate a release. As you're working in sprints of about 2 to 3 weeks, this meant that you had to support the version in dev, the version in pre-prod (that was currently being validated), and the version in prod. So anytime there's a bug, there was a 2 to 4 week delay before we could fix it (once you've figured out if it's already been fixed or if it's a regression).

Android, on the other hand, has a release window of a few hours. The difference is day and night. Release in the morning, then monitor, and you still have time to scramble a fix if necessary. As an anecdote, we were cleaning up plugins and requested permissions, and I removed one that inadvertently changed the path to the Application storage directory, which is where we saved the player's save file, including their login details. So I borked every single player that wasn't signed in with Facebook. Needless to say, that's a good feeling. Happily, the files weren't gone, so once I'd found the problem, two releases in the same day later, everyone was back up and running. That would have been impossible on iOS.

Another thing that we did was enlist the help of fellow Unity devs BeTomorrow. They're based just down the road from us, and we had help from Gaël Lequeux and Alix Fumoleau, both of whom brought their Unity expertise to the table and helped us out with the UI and perf.

We're also using the services of Logmatic.io, which is a company specialised in logging and metrics. We had our own solution, but we'd always have to wait a day before the logs were available in our backend. With Logmatic, all logs come in in real-time, and we can do some pretty deep searches. This is a life-saver when it comes to support and bug-hunting. As a result, the majority of support questions can be resolved in around about a minute from the time we open the mail.

The release

Masters was in soft launch on Android for quite a long time before we pushed it on iOS. All in all, there were around 25 versions released on Android while we added, fixed, and polished new features.

When we did release on iOS, it was to a pretty awesome feature. We ended up on the home page of the US iTunes store and ended up in the top 10 overall, and top 5 for sports and strategy. On the french store, we hit #1 and #2 for sports and strategy respectively. Considering the other games on offer and their respective advertising budgets, this was huge!

Top free sports on the iOS French store

The effect of this was pretty immediate; we were gaining around 50k players per day. Our server started crying, but the effect in game was pretty impressive. Searching for games was immediate. Even tournaments, which would normally take a bit longer to fill up, were instant.

On our end, aside from the heady rush that comes with topping the charts and having a huge influx of players, we were scrambling about trying to make sure everything kept running. Our poor server guy, Camille, got about 3 hours of sleep until we could nail down a deadlock situation that was happening if players did specific things in the tournament. Once you start getting big, the law of large numbers takes over, and what can happen, will happen.

All in all, we can't really complain. To be featured at all is a massive gain, and can easily make a company. The fact that we were able to build and release so quickly on Android meant that we were coming to iOS with a pretty solid app that had already proven gameplay, so it was well received.

One mistake we did make around this time was to reset the League of all existing players. The rationale was that we'd just made a big change in how the League system worked, and we'd start all players off on the same foot, but it obviously could never been the case. Old players figured themselves unjustly treated (players love getting new things, but absolutely hate losing them, especially if they've felt they've worked for it), and we got slammed in the ratings. New players, on the other hand, were coming in, and right away facing off against seasoned opponents with much higher performance and better balls, so they were getting creamed in games. For them, they didn't know what was going on, so it was just like the game was badly balanced, and I'd say we lost a good number because of it. I think the day after that update when live, I must have answered over 200 emails on the subject :D

Lessions learned

With every game, we learn something new, so here are a few of the take-aways that have stood out for me:

Play Microgolf Masters

Microgolf Masters is available on both iOS and Android, so go give it a shot. Once you're in on it, it's very competitive. We've got the whole floor where we work playing it after lunch and 4-player mode is genuinely fun when you're all together.

You can also check out some images of the project.

Playing Microgolf Masters

Comments

Dick

Why the f**k are there ads now!?

Damian Connolly

Hi Dick,
Ads are only shown if you've never bought anything in the game.

Masters has been in development for over a year now, and as well as the salaries of everyone involved, there's the costs of running the servers necessary to support a real-time multiplayer game.

If you enjoy the game, consider supporting it so that we can keep doing what we do, and you can keep playing games that you enjoy.

Ian

Its a great game and as much as the ads are annoying i think they are totally justified. Will be making a purchase. All of my friends are playing and we all very much enjoy the game.

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