07 October 2011

Android Thoughts

We haven’t gotten any requests for Windows Phone 7 versions of King of Dragon Pass, but we know some of you wish you could play it on your Android phone (or I suppose other Android device, though not many of those have sold).

I’ve written before about how Android was not a possible platform when we started the iOS version. (Not just unviable, impossible.) Even if it had been, A Sharp is a small studio, and can only do one project at a time.

So what about now? King of Dragon Pass is released on iOS, after all.

Well yes, but it’s not done. We’re still working on Accessibility, using VoiceOver technology to allow blind players to enjoy the game.

On the other hand, that effort is pretty far along. Why not do Android next?

I always hate to say “no,” but I think an Android port is extremely unlikely.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that device and OS fragmentation is not a problem. And let’s assume that Android piracy is somehow dealt with (or is actually no worse than iOS piracy).

As I keep saying, King of Dragon Pass is a big project. It took 20 calendar months to do an iOS version (admittedly there were some months in there when we undertook other projects). All of the user interface code would have to be written from scratch for Android. Much of the user interface art would need to be reworked (since not all Android devices have a 480 x 320 pixel screen). So an Android version is close to the same amount of effort.

A Sharp has no expertise in Android development. In theory, we could get someone else to do it. However, they would no doubt want to be paid. (Coding 40 screens is a lot of work, if I haven’t mentioned that.) Since King of Dragon Pass is a proven product with a good reputation, it might make sense for someone to do this for royalties. However, the studio we talked to mentioned that Android users are notorious for not being willing to pay for anything. (They do both iOS and Android.) So given the scope of the project, they were not interested.

The alternative is to pay someone prior to release (and thus take on the risk of Android users living up to their notoriety). If King of Dragon Pass had become a smash hit, the risk would be less, and there would be more money to pay for the development. Unfortunately, King of Dragon Pass is probably among the top 25% of games by revenue, but it is not a smash hit.

I suppose another great risk we could take would to create a version for Kindle Fire. That’s close enough to mainstream Android that it would be easy to then do an Android version. The upside may be higher (Amazon actually knows how to sell stuff — both the Fire itself and products for it), but the drawbacks are the same. (It’s still a big project we can’t do or afford.) And I am extremely dubious about how Amazon treats app developers.

So at the moment, I see no road that would lead to an Android version. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but the ways to make it happen didn’t materialize.

But hey, it took 10 months for an Android version of Angry Birds to come out. Something might happen in the next 10 months. But don’t hold your breath.

52 comments:

  1. Note the 'there is no tablet market' article is written by an admitted Apple shareholder. Of course it's in his interest to say those things. The android market is growing faster than iOS - hitting 44 percent of the mobile market, with most of the rest split between Apple and RIM. http://www.kansascity.com/2011/10/06/3191064/android-grows-blackberry-numbers.html

    The Kindle Fire is definitely interesting - Amazon are betting a LOT of money on the idea that it'll sell tonnes and move even more in digital content sales, as they're only charging less than half the price to produce the thing!

    I seriously hope this happens some day. I've been a fan of KODP for ages and I own an Xperia Play because I like playing my games with physical controls, not touch screen. Of course that's also another complication that fragments the Android market.

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  3. This insincere post doesn't convince me A# actually weighed their options. Mr. Dunham might have just written "It's too hard" and "we're too poor." That would have reproduced the post's main arguments without irrelevant rationalizations. As for waiting ten months and "don't hold your breath?" More insulting than funny, Mr. Dunham.

    I will take that advice. I will wait ten months. Devices available late next year ought to have enough power to run Windows 95 under emulation well enough to play the original undemanding game, now sitting on my shelf.

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  4. Let me look at my house hold

    Number of iPhones, 0

    Number of Android phones, 3

    Number of Android Tablets, 1


    Have Android Apps been paid for?, Yes

    Paid PC copy of KoDP, Yes?

    Do I feel insulted by this blogpost, pretty damn much

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  5. The comment that coders do not work for free, and that picking up Android coding to a high enough standard to do a professional job of the port is non-trivial, does make a lot of sense (speaking as a coder who does not yet know Android).

    But Android apps not selling? Let me switch to my "user" hat. I have a few Android apps on my phone, I'd expect to get some on my next mobile device (which will almost certainly be an Android tablet). I'm willing to pay for them, if they're non-trivial. The only reason I generally don't is because most of the serious apps I use ARE free. Yahoo mail app, as provided by Yahoo? Free. Facebook integration, as provided by Facebook? Free. Spotify? I pay for that, and it's worth it. Suduko - free.
    Once I get the tablet, and an interface I can type on, I'll be getting a word processor. I expect to pay for it.
    I wouldn't pay for a totally unknown game app - but KoDP isn't an unknown. Charge me say £10 for it, I'll be happy to pay.

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  6. I'm sorry that you think an Android version is too risky and respect your decision.

    I would like to know however is there a chance to get a new revised version of KODP to PC platform?

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  7. Insincere? I figured people deserved a definitive answer, even if it's not one they would like to hear. I figured they would like to hear more than one word.

    Yes, of course every Android owner reading this would buy the game. But when someone who is in the business of doing cross-platform games tells me about the relative markets, I have to believe him.

    The real point is not that A# is too poor, but that an Android port would almost certainly not pay for itself.

    The economics might be different for desktop, but the size of the development effort is just as large. We’re not interested in taking that on.

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  8. ITT: A bunch of butthurt whiners making a big deal over nothing

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  9. I have multiple Android devices and an iTouch. If I want to play KoDP I just take the iTouch along. I would be nice to play it on my Droid and my Xoom, but I still have the iTouch version. I'm happy with it.

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  10. Well, that sucks. I pushed as hard as I could (resulting in maybe three additional sales...I'm no mover and shaker) to get this game into friends' hands, mostly because it's one of my all-time favorites, but also partly because I wanted that Android version to happen. I guess I will have to keep lugging my old and busted iPhone around if I want to play. That's all I use it for, so it would have been nice to be able to put it away once and for all. Oh, well.

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  11. Thanks Adam, I wanted it too. If sales (revenue) were 2x it would be a very difficult decision. If sales were 4x, it would be an obvious move.

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  12. I understand. It's also too bad that Android users have that reputation. Well, I will keep playing and keep recommending it to others, because there is literally no other game like it. I have never had a game make me feel like there were real personalities and not just numbers behind it like KoDP does.

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  13. So what was included in that latest patch?

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  14. I am blown away by the "story book" ui.
    You mention that if your revenue was 4x you would make the andriod version ? If you want more money why not make the same game in space or something ? many settings would work, just need new art and change the text to the setting.
    Or if you could attach yourself to a well promoted frachise like Game of thrones!

    Is it possible to release a small portion of the game ? ie: you play the role of a young warrior of the tribe for a few turns ? then sell that for 99cents or free ? so many more itunes users would get a taste (become addicts like me lol) and buy the real game.

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  15. LostInBlue: the App Store includes release notes.

    Deathjem: Wait, are you talking about an Android version of KoDP, or some entirely new game? And, the App Store puts some pretty serious restrictions on trial games. "A few turns" is almost certainly not going to be accepted. Level-based games fit better into this model, but KoDP doesn't.

    As for 4x: more revenue would not only fund a port, but also indicate the chance of a port making money in its own right.

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  16. Oh sorry David, I was talking about new games for the itunes store.

    Now that you have perfected the engine and the UI, how expensive would it be to write in all new lore and artwork ? Or was that the most time consuming ?
    In my mind as a consumer, I would buy the game again even if the only change was that I now play one of the animal tribes (ducks) or the dragons or the horse people, in the same setting.
    I thought the way to make more money with KoDP and without android, would be selling to new people. Without advertising and new reviews and with the high price of the app: its tough.
    So why not sell again to all the people that bought KoDP ?

    I see that a demo wont work. Thats a shame, because it would convince all the people that are shy of the higher price.

    I was dreaming a bit when I mentioned how wonderfull it would be to see you make a version of KoDP that worked in the George RR Martin book series "Song of fire and ice" aka Game of thrones. All that advertising HBO does. You could base the game 1000 years before the story line in the books.
    Anyways I'm raving. I realy realy do love love this game, I play it every day. The price was high but I think its worth 20 other $1.00 games.

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  17. Artwork was definitely the biggest cost to create the game. In any case, I'd guess a new game would be more expensive than a port.

    If Apple allowed trial games (free for an hour), we'd have it made.

    So actually you're saying the price is too low :)

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  18. Rather than an app, surely KoDP could be done as a web app with sign on and a fee or small subscription to fnd the server.

    That way it's partway to being platform neutral, though a bit of interface tweaking for mobile vs desktop would be required.

    If you want the opinion of one of us Android leeches

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  19. Some commenters here need to stop throwing their rattles out of the pram. The facts of life are that an Android version (or PC update) is not financially viable for A#. Looking at the link to the financials on iOS games, it's not a bed of roses there either.

    I am sure it is just as frustrating to David that Farmville make millions, and KODP makes thousands. But I shudder to think what Zynga would do with KODP to make it profitable.


    As an android owner, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to play the updated version of the game (and would happily pay $$$ for it if it happened). But I am a HBO guy in a basic cable world.

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  20. Web? Sure. We could do an entirely new project. (FWIW, I suspect that's even harder to make money off of. Plus I think doing it with a game not designed for it would be an even bigger risk.)

    Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if games in general had similar financials. I recall at the time of KoDP's original release reading about a game with far bigger funding than ours that sold only a few hundred units.

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  21. Jim

    That's why I suggested a web based, though that would have maintenance costs for A# that might need a larger fee or small subscription

    There seems little in the logic or GFX of kODP that would not lend itself to this, from what I remember from playing it

    it's been a while. As a Linux user and an Android user it's not a game I can play any more

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  22. Here's a spectacular new idea for a scene. It's called the Orlanthi Apocalypse, and it happens to whichever race or faction pissed you off the most during your long game.

    Once you are crowned King of Dragon Pass, you select the race, then that "it's very very bad" music plays and the scene of Orlanthi massing for an assault is shown. The favor of your gods if with you, and the text describes how you arrive at your enemies lands, and give them an ultimatum. They either don't pay you tribute, and you kill them slow. Or they pay you tribute, you still kill them slow, but kill their young slightly less slowly. For once it's someone elses turn to cower in fear of massive force! Up yours beastmen! Up yours elves! Up yours trolls!

    Anyways, this was clearly a joke, but damn it would feel good to see. I'm sure my fellow KoDP fans agree with me wholeheartedly.

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  23. How about starting a KickStarter project? Figure out how much you need and see if people are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

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  24. A web version would involve not only reworking all the 40 or so screens & dialogs in JavaScript, but also a server component. The game really isn’t designed to be a web game. (If you want a story game that is, I recommend Echo Bazaar.)

    I suppose it's possible that there more people who would pay money in advance in the hopes of getting something than have actually paid money TO get something. (Remember, KoDP revenue so far is about what I think it would take to create an Android version.) This seems unlikely. If I use KickStarter, I'd much rather use it to help create a new game.

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  25. Fragmentation? Screen size?

    Are you aware that Google is announcing Android 4.0 version "Ice Cream Sandwich", which is supposed to remedy those aspects pretty well?

    And the release is due tomorrow?

    Please don't give up on Android platfom yet. I'm never going to buy an iDevice. But we already have 2 Android mobile phones and planning on buying a tab soon. There is a significant market in Android gaming. We just need more quality games, which KoDP surely is.

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  26. Fragmentation was only one issue, I hope that does get better. Android developers seem to think it less of a problem than I do, but I often look at pixels with a magnifying lens, and most artists I know are like that too.

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  27. If you want more profit you need to drop the price, it's that simple. Lower price means more curious people willing to risk the purchase, which in turn means more good reviews and more good word of mouth. Developing this for Android is clearly the right move, but before you can do it you need to market it on the iOS properly.

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  28. Not releasing for Android suggests that you think it was a bad idea to release for iOS. Android is the bigger market, and has just overtaken iOS in total app revenue. Even if Android users are less likely to spend money on apps, that effect is easily compensated by the sheer size of the market. And that market will continue to grow over the next 10 months.

    Also, are you aware that there are frameworks that make it easy to release for iOS and Android from the same codebase?

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  29. Even if mcv is correct, none of that was true in December 2009 when the project began.

    I continue to sound out developers, but nothing new.

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  30. Are you planning to optimize the iOS version for iPad?

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  31. KoDP is definitely a game that appeals to the "geeky" type of audience. At least where I'm from iPhones are basically considered dumbphones among the technically literate and Android is the way to go. Thus sales on Android platform might provide to be surprising.

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    1. Have you been to the Silicon Valley? It's the geek mecca. And everyone there is using an iPhone instead of an Android.

      More than anything else, it's income and wealth that determine if a person uses iOS or Android. There have been a few research on the subject. Well-off people use iPhone and iPad. Everyone else, Android.

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  32. Possible solution.

    Setup a fund for Android Community members to donate to or pledge donations to see the game developed for the platform. Despite the bad press I think you would be surprised how many android gamers would to see the game became available on the Android Market. Of course with the incentive that those who donated/pledged what you would charge for the game received a licensed APK (game package) from yourself when the 1.0 release came out.

    I'm sure you'd probably find a much more receptive community for supporting development with regards to testing Betas as well.

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  33. @Jeff Smith -- they could do that easily via Kickstarter.

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  34. Followed the bread crumbs here from my kindle fire....just sayin' ;)

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  35. I don't have very high hopes for an answer, but anyhow, any chance for an Android version in a foreseeable future?
    I wil buy the GOG version otherwise, but I would *really* prefer to play this on my tablet.

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  36. Since no Android developer has contacted us to do a port, I don’t see any Android version in the near future. It is not a project that makes sense for us to do, though we would be happy to talk to a developer or publisher.

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    1. You may want to look into "Android Developers for Hire". Just google the keywords. Most of them are in India, and they work for cheap.

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    2. I have certainly worked with remote developers, but I have not yet talked to any software developer who has had success with this sort of thing.

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  37. Be wary of Amazon App Store and Kindle Fire. A developer blogged that Amazon App Store screwed over developers with Free App of the Day:

    http://blog.shiftyjelly.com/2011/08/02/amazon-app-store-rotten-to-the-core/

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  38. Would the touch UI be easier to port back to Windows? There are plenty of tablets with proper x86 Windows 8 and Intel Atom Z2760 coming up and the same version could be used on desktops too.

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    1. Not really. Besides there already is a Windows version (the 1999 release available from GOG.com).

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  39. Apportable, http://www.apportable.com, has some automatic iOS to Android porting software, and the games they've ported using it all work great. Any chance you could go that route for for releasing it on Android?

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    1. I'd just like to second this, I own all bar four of the games that have been ported using this software and they all run without any problems.

      With regards to cost, spiderweb software used this to port Avadon to android and I believe that they are very similar to you in a number of ways including size and pricing models.

      Additionally, what they did was release Avadon via the Humble bundle for android initially, which enabled them to gain testing data(the humble bundle app collects this I believe) for what devices it successfully ran on as well as reach a wider audience initially. I don't know what their sales figures are(obviously) but maybe a chat with Jeff Vogel would help you decide one way or another.

      I'd really like KoDP to be made available on android and would certainly pay for it. As for android users wanting everything for nothing, if that were true, square enix wouldn't sell any of their titles. Android is becoming a far more viable gaming platform, not to mention that devices like the galaxy S3 are achieving iDevice like levels of sales.

      Perhaps it's time for a rethink?

      TL;DR Android is viable, this software does work based on the results, please port it.

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  40. I think there are some issues with their Kickstarter campaign, but http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1481683631/starbase-orion-now-colonizing-android-pc-mac is not encouraging as an example of support for moving from iOS to Android.

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  41. Yeah definitely, no point trying at all then. I take back everything I said

    You've clearly made up your mind anyway. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.

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    1. Not sure how you’re getting that conclusion. This merely points out that Kickstarter is not a panacea for bringing successful iOS games to Android.

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    2. It seems to be another in a list of reasons not to bring KoDP to android though.
      I still hold out that hope that you'll decide to port it, via whichever medium you chose.
      The number of successful iOS to android transitions far outweigh the failures on kickstarter. Ascension did it in 10 days for example. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1965800643/ascension-online?ref=live

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    3. Kickstarter can definitely work. But I don’t think most people realize how much work it takes to make a campaign successful. Stone Blade actually did things differently in theirs.

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    4. You're a creative guy David, and I don't doubt that you work with creative people, surely you could come up with a decent campaign?
      Not to mention that if your campaign gets pointed out by almost any gaming blog(Kotaku for example) you're almost definitely going to have a successful campaign. If memory serves there are several articles that I've read on gaming sites about KoDP.

      It's worth a shot isn't it?

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  42. Disappointing that no updates on Android have been made. It seems at heart the wish is to simply not do it, no matter how surmountable the task is.

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