In the fall we went to Florida. I had another work camping job at a park. Howard was busy with a new client and didn’t want to work camp again. One of our dogs, Jake, a 15 year old border collie got sick suddenly and died. Then my job ended up being a nightmare. While I was dealing with the mismanaged insanity in the park’s office, Howard decided to do a Seven Day Roguelike Challenge. He was going to make a dungeon crawl type video game in a week. I helped with the graphics in the evenings and on my day off but it’s certainly not my best work. My day job had my quite frazzled. The game, Elemental, came out alright though. After that, Howard woke up one morning and said, “I want to make a game called Taco Tapper”. We both giggled, then started throwing ideas back and forth. This game was how Howard learned the Unity game engine. I took a couple days off to work on the graphics. We released the game on Google Play, Amazon, and Apple. There are two versions, a free version with ads, and a pro version with no ads for $1.99. Apple only approved the pro version for some reason though. Working with Apple is such a pain in the butt (more about that later). We finally had a game out there in the world!
I did make a great friend working at the park in FL, we shared in the misery of working for crazy people, but by March Howard and I had left. We went down to the Keys for a couple weeks of fun. It is an interesting thing to drive your house across long bridges over the ocean to get there. Key West is awesome. We talked about staying longer or going back the following winter, but it’s so much fun there, we would never get any work done. We finally were making games and needed to keep the momentum going.
The following summer we were back at Owl’s Landing in NH. Howard had shown me a game called Idle Oil Tycoon. It’s an incremental game where you buy oil wells for profit and the profit increased exponentially. At first I though this isn’t any fun, but half an hour later when I was still clicking the screen buying more and more oil wells to gain more and more profit, I got it. Howard suggested we make a game like that.
That July we released Real Estate Mogul on Apple and Google Play. It was free to play but had the occasional ad and a bonus to the game for watching a video ad. We put the game on Steam, Kongregate, and as many places we could find. We put a little money into advertising and started making a few dollars of ad revenue here and there. Certainly not anything worth bragging about, but it was a start at not only making games, but making a living at making games.
Later that summer we did our first Ludum Dare, a game jam challenge where you have a weekend to make a game, based on a theme announced at the start of the challenge. Afterwards, everyone who did the challenge could play, comment and vote on all the game submissions. We made a weird little game called Stay Angry. It was fun and we both learned a lot..
Traveling in our RV is great, but it can get expensive. To save money the following winter, we stayed in my parent’s condo in NH while they were in Las Vegas. We wanted to do another idle game, this time better that Real Estate Mogul. We came up with the idea of Cartel Mogul. It won’t be for everyone, but a lot of people will find it fun and funny, we hoped. We needed to be making more money though so we took on any work we could find from old and new clients. We managed to do a couple game jams over the winter, we released a football trivia game just in time for the super bowl, and we worked on Cartel Mogul when we could.
That April, just as Cartel Mogul was ready to be released, we considered the idea of adding in-app purchases to our games. We spent the rest of that month doing just that for Real Estate Mogul and Cartel Mogul. We also spent that month trying to get Cartel Mogul accepted by Apple. We even completely changed the game so there were no blatant drug dealing references, but in a way that players would still get it. I thought it was stupid and didn’t want to release it like that. One evening we got a call from someone at Apple. She asked us to please stop submitting our game for approval because they were never going to approve it. It “encouraged illegal activity” according to them. We asked about all the other games on the iTunes store that were about the same subject matter. The Apple rep asked us to send us a list of those games so they can take them down. Ya right, like we are going to rat on our fellow game developers. So, Cartel Mogul is not available on iOS.
That summer, back in our RV at Owl’s Landing, we released Apple-friendly Farm Mogul. The game concept was so easy to come up with, it practically wrote itself. In-app purchases were working out for us too and we were making enough that we could spend more on advertising. Our biggest problem with this is that we were charged for our advertising before we got the income from our in-app purchases and in game ads, so our budget was still tight. We were definitely seeing some growth in our installs and income though. If we can keep this going, we will eventually have the time to work on one of the more involved games that we really want to make.
Late that summer, thanks to Bing and Google translate, and some friends. we localized Cartel Mogul and Real Estate Mogul in several languages. We have our players helping out with translations too. We reward them with Squid Coin, the in game currency. Also, Real Estate Mogul and Cartel Mogul were both Greenlit by Steam. We are not sure if we’ll ever release these games on Steam though, but the option is there if we want to. Plus, it’s pretty cool that we have 2 games Greenlit!
In late October, we were spending our last night in the RV of the season. In the morning we were going to secure it for the winter and head to Michigan to visit Howard’s family. I was laying in bed thinking about getting up when I heard a snap and thought, I bet that one dead tree is about to fall. Then there was a huge crash and the RV shook like crazy. Well that tree fell alright, right on us!
The tree smashed a vent on the roof over our refrigerator, destroyed the awning, and ripped a couple holes all the way through the wall into the bathroom. It was a mess. We called our insurance company, covered the holes, wrapped the RV in a giant tarp and went to Michigan.
While visiting my in-laws we found the time to make a bonus game for Cartel Mogul, our most profitable game despite not being on iOS. The bonus game is a slot machine. Maybe we’ll make a casino game some day.
That winter, back in NH, we house/dog sat a really nice place right on a lake. Over the winter we did a few updates to our existing games, made a VR game for another Ludum Dare, and I did all the artwork for a fourth Mogul game. But, the best thing we did that winter was get a contract to make a couple educational games! This was for a new company that provides curriculum based games to middle school teachers to use in their lesson plans. Since this was a contract, we were paid, and we have a chance of receiving a bonus later in the year depending on how the teachers and kids like our games.
Our dog Max was 15 now and really showing his age. He couldn’t really walk, in fact Howard had been carrying him up and down stairs for the last year, he was deaf, and was not really enjoying things like he used to. On Valentine’s Day we took him to the vet for the last time. It was sad, but at least we were greeted by Winchester, the crazy dog we were dog sitting, when we got home.
Howard and I obviously both like to travel and one of the things we have talked about doing since we were first together is going to Europe. Not for a vacation, but to live. Now that both our dogs were gone, that could become a reality. There are a lot of really cool places we want to see and it will be cheaper to rent an apartment over there that most places we would want to live in the U.S. It will be cheaper to eat out and do a lot of the things we like to do too.
This summer, while waiting for our RV to be repaired (more about that later) we decided to really go. We bought one way tickets to Lisbon, Portugal and rented an apartment there for two months. Our plan is to continue to make websites for clients, make some improvements to MarginBot, and of course, we are going to make games, all while we see the world!