We are very proud to announce that at last weekend’s 2013 iFest Seattle event, Buddy & Me was voted by players as the “People’s Choice” Award winner! It was a super-fun event with over 20 games from talented Seattle-area indie developers, open to the public for hundreds of curious visitors.
We had some fun with our table, after discovering that it was backed up against a “pin cushion” wall… early that morning we took concept art off the walls at the studio, then drove across town to the event and hung it up behind the Buddy & Me demo table. It was a nice way for visitors to learn a little about the “making of” process while waiting to play on iPad and Kindle. Congrats Backers, you’ve officially participated in an “award-winning” project!!
iOS Leaderboards Update
Late last night we launched Buddy & Me version 1.1.0 Update on iOS, which contains the Leaderboards, Widescreen Menus, and iPad 3 & 4 framerate improvements we’ve talked about previously. We also expect the Kindle edition with GameCircle to go live very soon, hopefully today. So grab the update everyone, and see what you think!
Already it’s exciting seeing everyone’s late-night high scores… in fact, one player has already scored over 100,000 points, something we haven’t even been able to do here at the studio!! Wow, way to go!
Sales Trends & $1.99 Price Drop
You’ll also notice that with Buddy & Me v1.1.0, we’ve dropped the price to $1.99. This will be a permanent drop, and was a decision we made after looking at sales trends. We’d hoped to avoid dropping the price before launching the Android version, but since that’s been slipping closer and closer to the critical winter holiday season, it was time to make a move.
As you can see from the above iOS chart, Buddy & Me got off to an AWESOME start in its first month, thanks in part to our awesome Kickstarter community spreading the word, and being featured by Apple. But over time, things naturally slowed down. When we experimented with a $0.99 weekend sale, you can see an immediate mini-spike, which was evidence of the obvious, that the lower the price, the more players we get... the trick is figuring out the best balance. There’s still a steady trickle of daily downloads, but we’d obviously like to see more folks trying out Buddy & Me before the holidays… and a price drop is also the perfect way to invite new players to try the latest & greatest version of the game!
Traditionally, many game studios don’t talk about their financials much unless they’re announcing a new sales record, so it’s interesting for us to share some (albeit limited) information. But you guys are part of the team, so I thought you might appreciate a tiny glimpse into the business side!
It’s hard work sending out all these packages! We’ve been spending several hours a day double-checking addresses, writing labels, applying stamps, and making trips to the post office. It’ll take some time mailing out everything, but we’re off to a great start!
All Post Cards Sent.
Art Cards Sent to Art Card-Tier Backers.
Packaging TShirts starts This Weekend.
Book Design Started. Easily the most complex of all our rewards, we needed some extra time to get to it. This week we’ve finally started carefully preparing it, and we want it to be special. For those of you whose reward tier included a book, don’t worry, we’ll send the rest of your stuff first, so you don’t have to wait.
I hope everyone’s enjoying the changing seasons! Let’s start this update with a fun picture we took around launch, a playful day at the office with our new hoodies:
It’s been over a month since our last update, so there’s a lot to talk about. Here are today’s topics in case you want to skip down:
New Features Coming Soon
New HD Trailer
Android Progress, Reward Distribution
iFest Seattle - This Saturday
New Features Coming Soon
When Buddy & Me launched, the reviews were mostly positive. But we received a lot of constructive criticism, too… and while we can’t address it all, we’ve started to chip away at some of the more straightforward issues that were distracting for players. We wanted these to be addressed before our Android expansion, because we’ve learned about how important a launch’s first impression can be. We've just submitted a build to Apple with the following changes, which we hope will be available soon:
Widescreen Menu Support. Initially we designed the game for iPads, which have a 4:3 screen size ratio. Although the gameplay portions of Buddy & Me automatically expand for widescreen devices (like iPhones, Kindles, etc), the Menus did not. At the time, we didn’t have the resources to expand those Menus, as it was a lower priority than polishing in-game content. What we didn’t expect, is that many players would interpret the non-widescreen Menus as a software bug. We received a lot of feedback about how the game’s menus were broken, or otherwise “ugly” because of the black bars. So, a few weeks ago, Gene painted the expanded Menus, including the Boy’s bedroom:
Leaderboards. At the time of launch, we knew that we needed more depth for “replay value”, but again, we didn’t have the resources. This is an area of the game that needs the most long-term work, but we wanted to start by adding at least something to encourage players to practice more and improve their skills. One easy way to do that, is to show players how other players are doing, by comparing High Scores. While I don’t like to think of Buddy & Me as a competitive game, I would like it to be a social one, so providing a way to share progress with friends is important. And of course, if a friend has a higher score, it naturally encourages others to ask how it was possible, and try to improve towards that goal.
Improved iPad 3 & 4 Framerate. When working on the same game for over a year, we sometimes get accustomed to its shortcomings, to the point that they stop bothering us as much. That was the case with framerate on big-screen HD (or “Retina”) devices like the iPad 3 and 4 (and Kindle Fire HD). Until we launched, we didn’t fully appreciate how many players it might bother. But what's even more interesting is that the game actually runs better on some older devices, like iPad 2 and iPad Mini. The simplest explanation is, that the first generation of HD/Retina devices squeezed in 4 times the amount of pixels on the same size screen, but with only 2 times the graphical horsepower to use them. So a game that runs fine on one generation of devices, a generation later might look a little prettier but sometimes perform worse. On iOS, the fix is relatively simple, to disable “Retina” functionality in code, which instantly improved framerate... and to our surprise, playtesters didn’t even seem to notice the non-Retina difference.
New HD Trailer
In celebration of our upcoming HD Widescreen Update of the game, we re-recorded our Game Trailer in HD and posted it on YouTube. Check it out!
Android Progress, Reward Distribution
There’s some really good news, but also some more delays.
The really good news is that we’ve made a big decision regarding how we’re going to distribute the game to our Kickstarter Backers. As many of you know from our previous struggles, distributing a free copy of the game is complicated. For domestic iOS customers, we were at least able to “Gift” the game, but that option isn’t available on Google or Amazon. For a long time, it looked like our only available option for Android was to create a complicated “Free Demo” version of Buddy & Me which would require us managing secret passcodes and more functionality we’d have to build from scratch. Furthermore, we’d have to spend time designing an tuning everything needed to make a high-quality, interesting Demo. Bottom line, it probably would have added yet another month to the Android wait... and our budget.
But then something was brought to our attention… unlike Google, Amazon’s Appstore allows a priced game (like Buddy & Me) to be dropped to Free for a period of time, then back up to full price. And, Amazon’s Appstore isn’t just made for Kindle, they can sell Apps for ALL Android devices.
So, when the Android build is ready, we’ll send out an announcement to you, our Kickstarter Backers, to get ready… and there will be a 24-48 hour launch period where you can download the game for free on Amazon's Appstore, with all the benefits of future updates and online/social features (via Amazon’s GameCircle). Yay!
As we talked about before, we learned a lot about making first impressions on our iOS launch. While some things are beyond our reach, at a minimum we wanted the latest round of improvements to be available for Android launch, for the best impression possible… which is one of the reasons things are taking longer than anticipated. We’ve been playtesting the Android build the past few weeks with decent results; the game seems to work fine on most of the devices we test, but there are unexpected issues and crashes on the others that we’re still fixing. So, part of the not-so-good news is, we still need a little more time to fix the game on more of the devices that our Kickstarter Backers own.
The last concern relates to our iOS “Retina” discovery… that there’s an entire generation of “HD” mobile/tablet devices that compared to the previous gen, increased their number of screen pixels disproportionately more than their graphics horsepower. Because of this, in some cases the game automatically performs slower, despite the newer technology. It’s an odd “more is less” problem, and unlike iOS Retina devices, there’s no easy “HD On/Off” switch. We’ll continue trying to optimize, but I wanted everyone to know about what has become a challenging technical puzzle for us.
Let me reiterate, this will NOT affect everyone (only certain devices, which we'll continue to try to improve), and the latest generation of phones & tablets (like the Kindle Fire HDX models) are powerful enough that it’s not an issue.
The exciting stuff! We’ve made lots of progress ordering and preparing Rewards for mailing.
TShirts Printed. A couple of hours ago, Backer TShirts arrived here at the office! There’s only one small difference, in that a minor color change was required by the TShirt company for the choice “B – Friends”, so it’s very slightly more tan. I’m not even sure if anyone will notice!
Art Cards Printed. The art cards were crafted by a local Seattle printer last week… and they’re a lot cooler than originally planned! Each art card comes with its own envelope, and opens up like a holiday card. Feel free to send some to friend and family for the holidays!
Art Prints Printed. The giant 16” x 20” signed prints were also crafted by a local Seattle printer. We still have to sign them this weekend.
Post Cards Ready. All the post cards have finally been signed, addressed, and stamped… I have to double-check them for duplicates and anyone missing, but otherwise they should be dropped into the mail tomorrow!
iFest Seattle - This Saturday
If you’re in the Seattle area and would like to meet the team, swing by the Seattle Center this weekend for iFest! We’ll have the latest build of Buddy & Me available to play at our table, and you can check out other games from local indie game developers as well. And if you love Buddy & Me as much as we do, we'd appreciate your support by stopping by and casting your vote for the 2013 iFest “People’s Choice” award for favorite game of the show!
***A special note for local Seattle Kickstarter Backers… if you’d like to pick up your physical Rewards (Art Cards, TShirts, Prints, etc) from us at iFest instead of waiting for the mail, let me know ahead of time, and I’ll bring your stuff to the show! (and bring an ID!)***
When starting to imagine the music of Buddy & Me, for inspiration we looked outside the world of games to find instruments and styles that captured the game's moods and themes. We listened to a mix of classical music, Celtic folk music, orchestral soundtracks, even lullabies, trying to discover which sounds and pacing would best express the actions, atmosphere, and character personalities seen on-screen.
We knew we needed a gentle bedtime lullaby for the boy to fall asleep, a sunny woodsy adventure theme to run along to, a more exciting flight theme for riding Buddy, and the most fun, an "Angel Bunny Chorus" to serenade the player after a run. It was important that no matter how complex each theme was, at its heart there would be "whistle-able" simple tune that would be easy to recognize and recite.
After some time researching, Aaron started to work his magic and create original music. Over the course of several months, he experimented with different directions and refined the ones that worked best, getting closer and closer each time. What impresses me the most about the final result, is how unique and "catchy" each song is, with a very special quality, where sometimes I find myself still humming along hours later after I've stopped playing the game. The songs not only perfectly capture the spirit of the game and compliment its visuals, but are so wonderfully written that they're just as fun to listen to by themselves.
And for those of you that have worked on a game project before... you know a song is good, when you still enjoy listening to it after testing the game 100 times a day, day after day, week after week, month after month. Even now, the first few notes of any one of these tracks puts an instant smile on my face.
Thanks Aaron for your awesome work! I hope everyone enjoys the soundtrack!
***NOTE***: For those Backers that pre-ordered it ($25 Reward Tier or higher), I've already started sending codes your way with instructions. Please forgive me if it takes some time to receive your email code, each one has to be sent manually, and it's a very, very long list of Backers. :)
Press announcements and Reviews for Buddy & Me have been trickling in slowly over the past week. It's not easy for a new studio and new game property to get the attention of the press, especially on mobile where hundreds of new games come out daily, so it's actually awesome to see these reviews popping up all around the world.
Here's a small selection of favorable reviews we've seen:
“This world of tree-houses is brought to life so amazingly that one wants to drift off to sleep and find themselves in the world running, hopping, flying and laughing. It sure beats the hum drum world we have now.”
“Buddy & Me moves at a much breezier and less demanding pace than the average runner, but that proves a positive here, thanks to the alluring presentation and child-like wonder within.”
So overall, I think Buddy & Me is really resonating with most players that give it a try. It's not perfect by any means, but reviewers seem to appreciate the intangible "experience" at the heart of the game that makes it special. We currently have a 4 out of 5-star rating on the App Store... and most of the lower ratings are from our mystery crash.
That being said, sometimes we need to hear some bad news, if we're going to understand how to grow! Not everyone loves Buddy & Me, and that's totally normal and expected... sometimes the worse criticisms provide the most insight, into what we can improve in the future. It's not always easy to hear, but it's important for a game developer to listen carefully, think it over, and even read between the lines.
Here's the most critical review we've received so far:
"A deeply ordinary endless-runner that frustrates due to its lovely artwork and promising dream world premise"
iOS 7 iPad Mini Crash Update
We were finally able to track down an iPad Mini that crashes consistently (only happening on a small number of devices), and get some information. Whether it's something funny about iOS 7 or not, we're not sure, but either way it appears to be a "low memory" crash, which we have some options for.
As soon as we have a verified fix (hopefully tonight), we'll let you know and put an update out on the App Store!
We've had a fantastic launch so far, with thousands of sales and climbing! Customer reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and we expect more website reviews to start trickling in soon.
Featured in the Kindle Appstore Games Category
Some great news, we've been selected as a headlining feature on Kindle Devices! If you go to the Games store, Buddy & Me is there on the front page!
iOS 7 Mystery Crashes... and Solution?
The exception to our positive launch, is reports of random iOS 7 crashes from a small percentage of players. I say random because it's not consistent... neither during Sunbreak or Apple testing did anyone experience a crash on the shipped version of the game, even with the exact same settings as those experiencing the crash. In fact, that's why we took so long to release the game, to spend extra time fixing all of our known bugs. We were proud to ship a game that we thought was bug-free. :)
The crash seems to be experienced mostly on iPad Mini's and sometimes iPad 2's, and it works like this... sometimes you can play the game once, but it seems really slow. The next time you try to select "Dream" from the main menu, it crashes, and can't ever be played again. Some players don't even get to try the game once. This kind of thing makes customers sad... which makes Buddy sad too, when someone can't dream with him.
The important point I'd like to make, is that thanks to the help of some incredible customers and Backers that have reached out to us and tried a few things, over the weekend we found some temporary solutions. We'll keep working towards a permanent fix, but in the meantime, try these:
Step 1: Update iOS 7. As we've mentioned before, if you're currently running iOS 7, try manually updating your iOS to 7.0.2. This seems to fix the issue for most, and it also seems to increase overall performance a little for everyone.
Step 2: Reboot Device. If #1 hasn't worked, simply manually shut down, then restart your device. So far, this has fixed the issue for everyone that #1 didn't.
Step 3: Help Others. If the fix works, tell us about it! And if you haven't yet written a review about Buddy & Me on the App Store, you might want to mention how you fixed it, for the benefit of other customers. Unfortunately, Sunbreak doesn't have a way to reach out to disappointed customers on the App Store to help them fix it, so maybe if they read about it from someone else, it will help. If you know a friend experiencing this problem, let them know how they can fix it too!
And lastly, if somehow this still doesn't work, contact us! We'll figure this out!
Still Haven't Received your iOS Gift?
Ever since last Wednesday night I've been getting messages from Backers that haven't yet received their iOS Gift copy of the game, which is supposed to arrive in the form of an email. The good news is, so far we've been able to fix the problem for almost everyone that's reached out to us.
The common issues include:
iTunes just didn't cooperate for the first attempt. I have no explanation, other than when I hit "Resend", the email Gift arrives. Last night I manually resent over 100 unclaimed Gifts just to make sure.
The wrong email address was accidentally provided in the Survey.
The iTunes ID itself is an email address that no longer works, although the iTunes account is still working fine. This seems to be happening a lot with "@mac.com" Backers. To fix the problem, please provide the email address associated with the account... the current one that iTunes sends updates, receipts, and offers to.
In the Survey, a physical address was listed as outside of the United States, but that Backer happens to have a US iTunes account. I had no way of knowing they were still eligible, so I didn't send one. If this is the case, you're an international customer with a US iTunes account, please contact me!
The backer accidentally missed/deleted it because it looked like just another iTunes advertisement email.
Don't be shy, let me know what I can do to fix it if you haven't received your copy yet!
Stay tuned for more updates, and thanks again for you support.
After a late night, I've finished sending out iTunes Gift Copies of Buddy & Me to ALL qualified United States iOS Backers that I have the appropriate information from. As far as I know, I've also answered all emails and messages pertaining to those copies, so we should be all caught up now.
If you feel you haven't received your due copy of the game yet, please check your inboxes, then contact me. It might be that you missed the email from iTunes, or that we missed an email from you. Or it might be because I needed more information (I've sent about 80 Backers personal requests for clarifications, corrections, or a Survey submission). Or there might be some other problem, like incorrect or outdated Survey information, or some other issue.
Just please know that we've made every effort to make sure that no Backer gets left behind!
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" Crash Fixed
We worked together with Amazon late the night to provide a fix for reported crashes on Kindle Fire HD 8.9" devices. If you grab the latest update from the Amazon Appstore, it should be fixed!
Investigating iOS Performance
Having some lag on older device (iPod Touch 4th-Gen, iPhone 4) is normal, as the game will naturally perform better on newer, more powerful devices. But we've heard reports of some rare crashes, missing audio, and unusually sluggish behavior that we're looking into, and hope to have some answers soon.
If you're experiencing any of these issues, feel free to contact us. But first, please make sure that you definitely have the most recently updated version of the game (1.0.1), and be prepared to let us know what version of iOS you are running, and any other circumstances that might help us identify the issue. Thanks!
Kindle Refunds Next
Apologies for the delays, but I'll be finally sending out partial refunds to Kindle Fire Backers that need to purchase the game manually. Thanks for your patience.
We're Still Making the Game for Android!
Some backers might have gotten the impression that we cancelled the Android version, since it wasn't part of our initial release. That's not true!
We're just too small of a studio to handle launching on such a large number of Android devices, at the same time as managing iOS and Kindle launches. We'll be there soon!
Buddy & Me in the News
We're starting to pop up all over the web, it's very exciting! We've been having fun at the office reading reviews, forums, and translating impressions of our game from all over the world.
Yesterday, IGN featured us at the top of their daily update (IGN.com Sept 25th App Store Update), and the App Store gave us a shout on their Facebook Page (with over 8 million fans!).
As of this afternoon, on the iTunes App Store we're listed on the front page under "Best New Games"... and even cooler, we're the top featured App in the brand new Kids Games Category! Awesome!!!
That's it for now, thanks everyone for your feedback, for playing the game, and for helping spread the word!
DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME, PLUS YOUR NAME IN THE GAME CREDITS as our way of saying thanks for helping fund Buddy & Me's development.
Take a stroll through the forest of dreams, with a digital copy of the game upon its release, for iPhone/iPad. Enjoy access to regular project updates, with insights into the creative process shaping the game's development. Also, your name will be listed in the "Kickstarter Backers" section of the in-game credits.
DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME (ANDROID EDITION), PLUS YOUR NAME IN THE CREDITS as our way of saying thanks for helping fund Buddy & Me's development.
Take a stroll through the forest of dreams, with a digital copy of the game upon release, for select Android devices. Enjoy access to regular project updates, with insights into the creative process shaping the game's development. Also, your name will be listed in the "Kickstarter Backers" section of the in-game credits.
PREVIOUS + SIGNED POSTCARD + DESKTOP IMAGE PACK. In addition to the copy of the game listed above, you'll also receive a set of 3 digital backgrounds for your computer, featuring beautiful artwork from the game. Even more, as an extra thanks we'll mail you a Buddy & Me postcard, signed by the team!
PREVIOUS + DIGITAL SOUNDTRACK.
All of the above rewards, plus a digital copy of the game's original soundtrack, by composer Aaron Cherof.
PREVIOUS + SET OF ART CARDS. All of the above rewards, plus a set of 5 "art card" postcard prints, featuring a beautiful mixture of character and environment art.
Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
PREVIOUS + CHOICE OF T-SHIRT, AND SPECIAL THANKS.
Share the tale of the secret forest of dreams, by wearing a memento of the adventure. All of the above rewards, plus a choice of T-Shirt from several designs. As an additional show of our gratitude, you'll be listed in the "Special Thanks" section of our "Kickstarter Backers" in-game credits.
Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
PREVIOUS + CHOICE OF LARGE ART PRINT. All of the above rewards, plus choose from a collection of large 16" x 20" high-quality Art Prints featuring concept art from the game.
Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
PREVIOUS + ART BOOK.
All of the above rewards, plus a hardback edition of the Art of Buddy & Me illustrated coffee table book.
Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
PREVIOUS + THE BOY'S HOODIE.
All of the above rewards (game, postcard, soundtrack, art cards, t-shirt, art print, art book), plus a real-life replica of the Boy's Red Hoodie to help you glide through your dreams. *** Note: Will not actually help you fly in real life. :) ***
Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
SIGNED COLLECTOR'S PACKAGE.
You're now completely prepared for your adventure in the forest of dreams. All of the previous rewards, except the Art Print ($250+ tier) comes signed by the original artist, and the Art Book ($500+ tier) come signed by the entire team. In addition, you'll receive an "Associate Producer" credit in the game.
Add $15 USD to ship outside the US
(4 left of 4)
EXECUTIVE TREEHOUSE PACKAGE. In addition to the Collector's Package, come and spend some time with the team, and see first-hand our inspiration in the Pacific Northwest. We'll fly you in, take you on one of our favorite local hikes, and you'll get a chance to stay in a local treehouse hotel. In addition, you'll get recognition as an "Executive Producer" in the game credits.
Ships within the US only
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