Fall 2017 Update
The last three months of the year are always the busiest time for me, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there are several holidays which means more traveling and time away from work. In addition, a lot of new devices come out during the last few months of the year, which usually means new O.S. releases and new bugs to work through. It also means a lot of new customers come on board, so I generally try to get everything updated to the latest SDK's so that everything is fresh for the holiday user rush. Since I have several hundred apps published across multiple platforms, this is usually a significant undertaking for a one-man show.
To make things easier, I generally focus on my top performing apps, leaving a lot of the older less popular titles alone. Usually I try to update my top ten apps at least once per month, but during this time of year I like to try to extend that to the top 30 if possible (it usually isn't). Speaking of my top apps though, here are my top ten as of right now, in terms of monthly usage.
Ape Apps Fall 2017 Top Ten
Around February of this year, My Colony overtook PDF Document Scanner as my #1 performing app, and has remained there ever since. It started out as just a small project in early summer 2016 that I really had no plans for, I was really just testing out adding Isometric 2d support to my existing 2d rendering engine that I had wrote for my games My Land and Gone Rogue. Last fall though, the game really took off so I started adding more and more features to both the game and the 2d rendering engine, which has led to improvements to my other games that share the same engine as well. My Colony is sort of a mix between Sim City, Civilization, and older Command and Conquer games (minus the combat), but what has really made it popular (I think) was the fact that it is one of the only classic desktop-style builder games available on mobile. Most mobile games like this baby step the player through everything, feature build times that measure sometimes in the days, and nickel and dime the hell out of players with in-app purchases. My Colony does none of that, and it's free, with one very cheap add-on unlocking non-essential features.
For the upcoming year, my plans for My Colony are much the same as they have been for the past year. I plan to release new content updates at least twice per month, with an entire new civilization (reptilians) coming early next year. I will continue to improve and add features to the engine, and depending on the success of the upcoming "spin-off" game Antiquitas (more on that later), I will probably release another builder game with a different theme next year. I am thinking of an old west city builder.
PDF Document Scanner
With over 6.5 million downloads on Google Play, PDF Document Scanner is my top app of all time, and is the primary reason I am still in the app business today. Earlier this year it was surpassed (monthly, not in all time downloads) by My Colony, but the numbers are still close between the two. On just Android, PDF Document Scanner is still ahead of My Colony in monthly usage, but My Colony has a bigger presence on Windows, Web and iPhone.
Going forward, I am in the middle of an ongoing process of a full featured port of PDF Document Scanner to Windows and iPhone. They both currently have a published beta version, but it is still missing some key features. I don't think this app has a long-term future since many of it's features have since been incorporated into the three operating systems without the need for third party apps, but with millions of users I will continue to maintain the app for the foreseeable future.
My Network Browser app has been very popular for several years now, as in many cases (depending on your home network setup), it just works with no setup required. Over the last year I have brought it to Android TV where it has gained further popularity. I keep trying to publish it to Amazon Fire TV, but they keep rejecting it, saying that they are unable to connect to their test server. I think that their testers just don't know what they are doing, since thousands of people use it on regular Android TV and I have it installed and working on my Amazon Fire TV with no problem. No matter how many instructions I give Amazon though, they still can't get it working, so I still can't get it approved, which is a shame since the Fire TV is a bigger platform than regular Android TV.
Going forward, I am looking into adding built-in emulators to Network Browser, letting people play their old-school ROM's that are on their network using their phone or TV. I am also looking into having the app automatically download movie and tv meta data and posters for users' movie and tv collections.
What is there to say about Fart Machine? It's a stupid app, but people like it. Every few months I update it with a couple of new fart sounds.
A few years ago I pushed out a standard clone of all of the different strobe apps, and for some reason, my Strobe Light app shot to the top position in Google Play. The app is pretty popular throughout the year, but it gets huge spikes in downloads on Halloween and New Years Eve. Both holidays are coming up soon, so I expect Strobe Light to have a very good quarter.
My Planet was the first simulation game I made, and was the first game in the "My" series of games that I have since been releasing. I stole the idea from another game called Planet in a Bottle which I liked but it seemed to be abandoned by the developer. So I made a clone and added more features to it. I keep giving it small updates, but nothing major. I want to do an overhaul of the UI at some point, I just haven't gotten around to it.
Helios File Manager
My no-frills Android file management app Helios File Manager is consistently one of my top apps. There are literally hundreds (maybe even over a thousand) of file manager apps on Google Play, but I was able to boost Helios by tying it in to my PDF Document Scanner app, and now it's also (more loosely) tied in to My Colony. There isn't really much to add to Helios, but every time a new version of Android comes out I usually have to make a few changes to it so that it keeps working.
In a lot of ways, My Land is the grandfather of My Colony, since I started work on My Colony by copy and pasting major parts of the original My Land code. My Land is loaded down with hard coding though, making it pretty hard to use the engine for anything else. Over the past year I have started working on My Land again on occasion, removing a lot of the hard coding, bringing over engine improvements from My Colony, and adding new content, both free and premium. Since then, downloads and profits have increased, and My Land is now one of my top ten apps for the first time ever. I plan to continue making content updates and improvements to the game over the next year.
My Business Empire
Most of the users of My Business Empire are on iOS, and the game gets a ton of premium upgrades relative to the amount of users it has. In fact, if My Colony got the same rate of upgrades that My Business Empire does, I would probably be writing this post from my yacht. I have recently started developing My Business Empire again, and my wife has been drawing graphics of new business for me to add into the game. I also plan on adding features like bribing politicians and having to defend your business in court with lawyers.
I released Finger Paint a long, long time ago (2012 I think), and it was never one of my top apps, but now it is. I recently added the ability to purchase stickers/stamps in the app, and as a result profits have taken off. Going forward I will probably add more stamps, and I want to add the ability to add different layers to your drawings as well.
Earlier this year, I started three new games that I wanted to have completed and released before the holiday app rush: Antiquitas, Death 3d, and Level Up More. I am on track to get Antiquitas done, I will be cutting it close on Death 3d, and I have abandoned by plans for Level Up More.
Antiquitas is my first attempt at releasing a spin-off game using the popular My Colony engine. It is also going to be the largest and most complete game I have ever published (at the time of it's initial release). I usually just put out a concept and then only continue it if there seems to be interest in the project, which takes a lot of risk out of a project, since I don't have to sink a ton of time into something that nobody will play. With Antiquitas though, I have decided to take that risk for some reason. Not only have I already sunk a ton of time into the game's development, but I am also paying for help on completing some of the assets for the game in time for a holiday release. So if the game flops, I'll be out of both time and money.
Antiquitas is a city builder game that takes place in the Ancient Roman time period. The actual game mechanics are pretty much the same as My Colony, but the style and progression are a bit different. It also has more polished visuals, music, and more sound effects. Unlike My Colony which I will probably keep adding stuff to until the last player uninstalls it, I want Antiquitas to be a mostly finished game when it's released. I will continue to update it with the latest engine code from My Colony and will probably add new (mostly decorative) content on a monthly basis, but I probably wont be working on it full time like I do with My Colony. Unless it ends up being more popular than My Colony, then things can change.
As if taking a risk with sinking time into Antiquitas wasn't enough, I am also doing the same with my other new game this fall, Death 3d. I got the idea for Death 3d earlier this year when I was thinking about an old level editor I had for Doom when I was a kid. I tried to find the level editor on the web (it was called Doom E2 or Doom Easy Edit) just to play around with it, and I was unable to locate it. Then I started reading about Doom, Wolfenstein 3d, and the rendering technique called Ray Casting, and I thought it would be pretty easy to make a "3d" ray casting game using a similar technique to Wolfenstein 3d. It ended up being easier than I though, and the core engine was done in just a few hours.
Death 3d takes place (story-wise) in the same universe as several of my other games: My Colony, Deimos, End of the Earth, and Sarge. You play the role of an LIS spy who is captured and sent to a United Earth prison camp on the moon. Your goal is to escape.
It is my first attempt at a first person game, and also my first attempt at adding online multiplayer to a game. I am releasing along side it a desktop server client where anybody can host their own Death 3d online server. The game also comes built-in with it's own map editor. It features single player campaign mode, custom map single player, online multiplayer, and offline AI skirmish multiplayer.
I have no idea if anybody is going to like or play Death 3d, but I do have plans for my new 3d raycasting engine moving forward, which I will discuss later below.
Level Up More
Level Up More was a planned sequel to my game Level Up, but I just didn't have the time or desire to work on the project. Instead I plan on upgrading the original Level Up with improved graphics, music, and sound effects. I will probably also be adding new content/zones to explore.
By the end of this year, I will hopefully have both Death 3d and Antiquitas behind me and will be ready for some fresh projects. Here is what is planned in the back of my mind right now, although this is all subject to change.
One of my favorite computer games in High School was Command and Conquer Tiberian Sun, and it's long been a goal of mine to create a clone of that glorious game. I feel that the My Colony engine is almost to a point to where it can be adapted to fit that need. You can already see some of the Tiberian Sun influence in the game. Colony Wars will be a C&C type game based in the My Colony universe, and will probably reuse a lot of the My Colony graphics and concepts. It will only have one resource (Crystalline instead of Tiberium), and will feature United Earth VS League of Independent States fighting each other in a civil war. If the game is popular, there will be an expansion adding the Zolarg as a third race. It will also feature online multiplayer and come with a built-in map editor.
Wild West City Builder
If the concept of Antiquitas proves successful, I want to make another city builder game using the My Colony engine which takes place in the American old west. Don't really have a name or details in mind yet, just an idea really.
I loved the old Sim Tower game when I was a kid, and I think mobile needs one that isn't a jank nickel and dime IAP game. I'll see what I can do about it.
My Fish Bowl
This will probably be a game for younger audiences, but it will be a fish tank simulation. You build and grow your fish tank, and the game runs in the background when you are away. You can later upgrade to better fish tanks and better decorations.
Infinite 3d RPG Game
I have been toying with the idea of taking the Death 3d engine after it's complete and merging it with the engine from my Gone Rogue game to make a procedurally generated endless 3d RPG game. There will be an infinite world map that is generated on the fly as you move around, with dungeons that crop up and are also randomly generated. There will be towns and quests. The game shouldn't be too hard to make since I basically have a lot of the coding work done already between Gone Rogue and Death 3d. The Death 3d engine will need updates supporting floor and ceiling textures, but that won't be too hard. I also plan on letting the player manipulate the game world and build things. Basically just a really big open ended game.
Ape Apps Website and RP Forums
This is an ongoing project, but I will continue to work on the code behind this website and when I feel like it is far enough along I will be bringing it over to my RP Forums website.
Ape Apps Accounts
Before long I will be removing Facebook integration from all of my apps and replacing it with my Ape Apps Account service which will sync game saves and purchases across all devices. This probably wont happen until early next year though.
If you are still reading at this point, then I congratulate you. As you can see I have quite a bit of work on my plate, but I love doing my work so it's no big deal. Basically more then anything for the rest of this year, I am hoping that Antiquitas has a successful launch. I plan on doing advertising for it at launch, and all but begging My Colony players to at least download it and give it a 5 star review to help it get a good app store ranking. Success with Antiquitas should give me enough income to work on my other projects through the end of 2018. If it flops, I'll have to come up with something new.
I have noticed that a mobile game generally has a good year of growth and then kind of slowly fades away over the next few years. My Colony has already had it's peak earlier this year, but I want to keep developing on it. That means I need some other games to help make up the revenues in order to keep the lights on. A successful Antiquitas would go a long way, and a successful Death 3d would really be icing on the cake. But of course, both could also flop. You just never know what is going to happen, but such is the life of an independent developer! I'll just keep doing what I'm doing until I need to go back into the workforce and get a "real" job.
Anyway, hope you liked this writeup. If you want to see more like this just let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!