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Ape Apps Blog

2017-11-17 22:42:28

Build Your Own Roman Empire

Today I'm pleased to announce that Antiquitas, the ancient Roman city builder and simulation/strategy game, is now available for download on all major platforms!

Transport yourself back to ancient Rome where you are given an empty plot of land and a few coins. Transform the land into the ancient Roman city of your dreams!

As some of my followers here will know, I have been working on Antiquitas since this summer. It is built off of the same engine from my popular game My Colony, but takes place in a different setting, has different balancing, music, superior graphics (with much help from @jova here at the forums), and other various enhancements that make it an all around fun game. If you loved My Colony, you will love Antiquitas. If you love Rome, you will love Antiquitas. Even if you hate video games and everything about them, you will still love Antiquitas. So check it out today!

Antiquitas is now available on Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, Mac, Chrome OS, Facebook, and on the web. So you really have no excuse for not playing it. Find download links and updates on the Antiquitas promotional website and below.

  • Android:
  • iPhone/iPad:
  • Windows 10:
  • Chrome OS:
  • Facebook:
  • Windows 7,8,10/MacOS/Linux:
Even if you hate video games, feel free to download the app and leave it a good review in the app store 🙂 Every little bit helps!
2017-10-21 18:57:03

Fall 2017 Ape Apps Update

Back in the day at the old Ape Apps blog, I used to post monthly updates as to what I was working on, what was coming out next, and what my top apps and games were. I really don't have time for all of that these days with all of the concurrent projects I have going on, so instead I decided that I will give broad quarterly updates instead. So prepare yourself now for glory, with the first (and hopefully not the last) Ape Apps quarterly update post!

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.

My Colony
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.

Network Browser
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.

Fart Machine
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.

Strobe Light
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
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.

My Land
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.

Finger Paint
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.

Upcoming Releases
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.

Death 3d
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.

Next Year
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.

Colony Wars
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.

My Tower
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!
2017-09-03 18:48:18

Closing the Old Mailing List

This is sort of just a P.S.A. to the roughly 650 or so members of the old Ape Apps Mailing List. Effective as of right now, the old mailing list is being completely discontinued. For those who wish to receive periodic updates about Ape Apps, feel free to bookmark this website and check in from time to time. In addition, creating an Ape Apps Account (which you can do here: ) will eventually give you the option to opt-in to what will eventually be replacing the old mailing list.

Thanks to everybody who had subscribed to the previous mailing list!
2017-09-02 17:38:08

Breaking Up with Facebook

For an independent developer, managing user accounts and handling user login is sometimes more of a hassle than it is worth. This is why, for years now, I have been using Facebook login for account management on my mobile apps and for providing cloud sync functionality in my games. And for the most part, it has worked out pretty well, at least functionality-wise. Philosophically though, there have always been things that have not sat right with me regarding Facebook, which is why I have spent the last couple of months working on this new website software and my own in-house Ape Apps account system. Now that I am finally ready to pull the plug on Facebook, I thought I'd share some of my experiences that I have had working with them over the years, from the standpoint of a small business owner.

In the Beginning...
Although I started Ape Apps back in 2010, it wasn't until early 2012 that I created my Ape Apps Facebook page and began marketing and promoting my business using Facebook. At this time, Facebook was a lot different than it is today. Keep in mind, I started using it for Ape Apps several months before their public IPO. Back then, the platform worked amazing for promoting my (at the time) brand new Ape Web Apps website. I remember when I launched my Finger Paint app on Ape Web Apps, all I did was post a link to it on the Ape Apps Facebook page, and within a day, the web app had surpassed months worth of user acquisitions on both iOS and Android combined.

Usefulness Declines
Finger Paint never went "viral" on Facebook or anything. To promote my Facebook page, I had put a link to it in all of my Android and iOS apps, and it only took a couple of months before my page had over 10,000 followers. When I posted a link to a new web app back then, it seemed to be going out to nearly all of those followers' newsfeeds, or at least a good percentage of them.

Fast forward about a year or so after their IPO. I started noticing a significant decline in the amount of followers to my page who would actually see my posts. Links that would once get several thousand views were now only seeing a hand full, maybe 10 or 20 at the most. This was despite having over 10,000 followers on my page. Around this time, they implemented a new "feature" to where you could pay money to "boost" a post, allowing more people to see it. Essentially, they made it so that if you wanted your own followers to see your posts, you would have to pay money.

Pay to Play
I resisted using the boost function, but it was becoming virtually impossible to launch new web apps with any sort of exposure using Facebook. So one day I decided to bite the bullet, and I spent about $60 boosting one of my posts about a new release on Ape Web Apps.

At first glance, it looked as though the boost was a huge success, as the Facebook website told me that over 100,000 people had viewed my post. "Wow," I thought. This is going to be my biggest web app launch ever! There was just one problem though, none of those "views" translated into visitors to the site. There was virtually no increase in traffic to my website as a result of the post boosting experiment.

Now, I have no way of knowing for sure if the views claimed by Facebook actually took place or not, but I do know this: Back when new posts actually went out to my followers, I could get hundreds of visitors to my website for free. It seems as though, even when paying them money to "boost" your posts, you still can't get your posts out to your own followers, the people who are actually most likely to click on your links.

From a Users Perspective
Do you remember what it was like to log into Facebook and actually see posts made by your friends? On the off day that I actually log in to Facebook now, there are three main kinds of posts that will show up in my feed:
  1. Events people I haven't talked to in years are attending
  2. Clickbait news articles full of political argument comments
  3. Ads for things I don't care about
And there's also this:
It never fails that every single time I log into Facebook now, there is a sponsored "petition" from the Democratic Party front and center on my newsfeed, and it always needs 100,000 signatures before midnight. And if you ever look at the comments for these "petitions," they are 80% full of Trump supporters making fun of the ad. I mean... why?

Bottom Line
At the end of the day, it all has to come down to user experience and usefulness. I have never received a compliment about how handy it is to have Facebook login in my games, but I have sure gotten a lot of complaints about it. I also very rarely hear anybody in real life under the age of 50 saying anything positive about Facebook. If you look at their quarterly reports, it seems like the company is booming with more users than ever before. I just don't see how it can be possible. Facebook to me seems like a dying platform.

Of course, it might be that I am reading the tea leaves completely wrong here. For me though, I no longer see any value in utilizing Facebook in any of my apps or games, or in using their platform to promote my business. That is why, over the coming months, I will be slowly removing their services from everything Ape Apps related.
2017-09-02 02:23:32

New Ape Apps Website

Welcome to the brand new Ape Apps website!

This new site is 100% custom built by me, and it is replacing and merging three old websites into one. The old [url=[/url][/url], the Ape Apps Forum, and the Ape Apps Blog.

The old Ape Apps Forum and Blog are being completely discontinued and will eventually go offline. They are now represented here at the new website at the following locations:
I am moving completely away from third party solutions and account systems, and the newly updated Ape Apps website runs off of the (also new) Ape Apps Account system. I will be doing a post soon about what all an Ape Apps Account has to offer, but you can get a general overview here. This new forum and account system will eventually be applied to RP Forums as well.

This entire system is still in development, so things might be rough around the edges for now, but expect rapid changes. That's all for now, but stay tuned here for more information!
Ape Apps is an independent software development company founded in 2010 by Brandon Stecklein. Over the years, Ape Apps has published over 400 apps and games across various platforms. You can get in touch with Brandon on Twitter or by leaving a post on his wall @bastecklein
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