Friday, June 12, 2015

I'm not dead - just busy

There are periods in life which overwhelm you totally and do not leave you any space to breathe. That's what's been happening to me for the last three months. A new city, a new job, business trips, new freelance contracts, knee problems, a short sailing vacation, being a best man at a friend's wedding - that's just a short list of things circling over my head lately. But hopefully, this period is almost over and I'm ready to move on to new projects and challenges... But before I get to it, let me just mention some things I've been occupied with all this time.

Guys from Mobartis asked to me localize their game, Fruit Worm Bubble, that I've been working on, into seven more languages: French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Portugese, and Chinese. Of course, I'm not doing the translations myself, but the task is still quite demanding. Text in different languages has different dimensions and often overlaps other UI elements, goes off screen or stops being centered correctly. The whole project grew in size as well, since there are several new textures to store and load. I'm quite happy with the result though. After some small improvements that I'm still working on, I hope you'll be able to judge the new game version yourselves soon.

Other than the game, I got a third-in-a-row Elance contract from an appreneur who wants to create an interesting productivity app. I probably shouldn't tell you too much about it, because of the NDA, but let me just mention that it's getting very close to a releasable version and I expect it to be published in the not-so-far future. In the meantime my Elance profile got richer in experience, earnings and reviews, which is always a great thing.

I had some time to work on my own apps as well. I created Rome Metro, which is basically a clone of Milan Metro, but for a different city. Well, guess why I'm mentioning it now and not earlier. The app is doing quite badly, with only around fifty active users three months after getting published. I still don't understand why one app can have above 15k active users and another almost none. Perhaps it's because I didn't have so many good reviews from the start or because I used new ad networks which required more permissions. We'll see, perhaps it will become more popular eventually.

But I started talking about ad networks... I integrated StartApp banners and Ogury interstitials into both my metro apps. I got fed up with stupid "virus found" banners offered by AdMob and others. StartApp was doing fine in the beginning, reaching the CPM of up to $0.60. Unfortunately, it started getting worse and worse, and now it oscilates around $0.10-$0.30, which is not even as good as AdMob was doing earlier. Ogury, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise. It has a guaranteed CPM of $15 to $25, which is great compared to other ad networks. It earned me almost $120 in the last 30 days and keeps going up. The bad thing is that it has rather low fill rates and that it works so well only in specific countries: Italy, France, and England. As my metro apps are mostly for Italians and the income is high despite the low fill rate, I'm certainly going to stick with Ogury for a longer period of time.

Before trying StartApp I wanted to implement Airpush banners. Unfortunately, they used to force a dialog asking users to accept an EULA, which made me change my mind. However, recently they've removed it, so I might switch to their services some time in the future. Their 360 banner looks very promising and I haven't had a chance to experiment with it yet.

To close up the subject, it's worth mentioning that a friend of mine recommended to me Chartboost. I read their informational materials and signed up for the newsletter, and I have to say that I'm pretty impressed. Too bad you can only use it in games...

Now a short show off break. I managed to complete a 10-week Machine Learning course on Coursera with a score of 100%. It might have been the most interesting course I've done on that e-learning site and perhaps also one of the most demanding. Definitely check it out if you're interested in how computers learn, self-driving cars, recommender systems (e.g. the one built by Netflix or YouTube), image processing, OCR (text recognition), etc.

Finally, let's talk about plans for the near future. I've finished one Unity tutorial so far: a 2D Roguelike game. I'm amazed by the engine's capabilities and ease of use. I'll try to learn more, perhaps by rewriting my Blobby Volley game and adding in some new features. Sadly, I can't spend as much time on this project as I'd like, but I'll try to squeeze in and hour or two here and there. I'll be also trying to post new updates on the blog at least once two or three weeks. I might even upload a playable version of the current state of the game with each update. Stay tuned and don't give up on me just yet.

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