15 December 2012

King of Dragon Pass News

Another King of Dragon Pass update is working its way through the App Store servers, and should be available by the time you read this!

iPhone News Background
This version is largely focused on user experience. We revisited a decision made in 1997, and removed the ability to tap a slider’s maximum value. In most situations, this isn’t useful, and it was too easy to miss on the small screen. To make up for it, you can just keep your finger down on the + button (or if you overshoot, the – button).

For VoiceOver users, we’re taking advantage of better iOS 6 support, and focus on a more appropriate element in many cases. And since many of you have asked for it, an advisor’s gender is now mentioned.

Cartographer Colin Driver created a larger version of the Lore map, which is now full screen on iPad, and Retina quality.

As usual in an update, we made a few improvements to advice, fixed bugs and typos, and clarified some text.

Since we’re now taking advantage of iOS 6 features, Apple’s Xcode pretty much forces us to make the minimum operating system we support iOS 4.3. If you’re playing on an older iPod touch or iPhone 3, you should not update (if you’re even given the option).

We also added a new interactive scene.

Which is always fun to do, so we’re currently planning on adding a lot in an update next year. It’s unclear if all of them will turn out to work, but we have solid ideas for over 25 scenes.

Speaking of Colin Driver, he also did many of the maps in the Guide to Glorantha which will come out next year, giving incredible detail not only on Dragon Pass, but the entire mythic world that King of Dragon Pass is set in. There are less than 3 days left, but you can still back this project on Kickstarter and perhaps get more Gloranthan secrets in print!

Finally, GOG.com currently has the Windows version of the game on sale for half price.

01 December 2012

25000 Sales

Yesterday, King of Dragon Pass sold the 25000th copy in the iOS App Store. When we released it a little over a year ago, we really didn’t know what to expect in terms of sales, but this is definitely better than our expectations. Thanks to everyone who bought the game!

To celebrate this milestone, the game is on sale for 25% off* for 25 hours. Let your friends know! Or buy it as a gift to go along with the iPad mini they’re getting for Christmas.

* Actually, due to the App Store pricing tiers, it’s 30% off in the US. We round in your favor.

23 November 2012

Guide to Glorantha

As most of you probably know, King of Dragon Pass is set in the world of Glorantha. Specifically, in Dragon Pass.

Greg Stafford had been detailing the myth-based setting for about 30 years when we came out with the original version of the game, and he has continued to add detail since then.

The rich detail of Glorantha allowed us to create a richly detailed game, but we tried to keep players from getting too overwhelmed by the setting. When strange foreigners show up from Tarsh, Ralios or Prax, they can be treated simply as strange foreigners.

But what if you as a player want to know more about Tarsh, Ralios or Prax? There really hasn’t been a great way to do so. There soon will be.

Moon Design has labored over The Guide to Glorantha, a very comprehensive work on the entire world, not just Dragon Pass (where most published works as well as the computer game were set). They are currently in the process of soliciting help making the book even better. The economics of book publishing are quite different from software publishing, so they need early orders so they can get better rates at the printer. Better rates mean they can do things like use more interior color, or commission additional artwork. They are even adding additional detail should funding reach certain levels (although wisely separating this into a companion product).

Since Dragon Pass is pivotal in Gloranthan history, you will learn more about it than presented in King of Dragon Pass. But Dragon Pass is only about one pixel on the map above (roughly in the center of the northern continent), and there’s a whole magical world that’s just as compelling.

Kickstarter supporters get immediate access to a text-only version. I’ve only had the chance to get a few pages in, but the quality is so high that I can recommend this to anyone interested in Glorantha. Help out Moon Design now, and you will help make The Guide to Glorantha even better!

28 October 2012


I was just looking at the King of Dragon Pass source code, and came across this table:


These adjectives describe the clan’s quality of life, which was calculated on a scale of 1 to 7. Factors included food supply, whether people had gone hungry in the last two seasons, adequate goods, and the presence of exotic luxury goods.

There was clearly provision to display this in the user interface. My memory is hazy, but I think at one point the Clan screen showed these.

Apparently some time during 1999 this got dropped, probably to de-clutter the interface.

Conceivably an iOS update could restore this as advice.

Just because the quality of life is not summarized on-screen doesn’t mean it has no importance. As you might expect, clan mood is affected by meeting people’s needs.

15 September 2012


The rumors were correct, and there is now an additional screen size for iOS: 320 x 568 joins the original 320 x 480 iPhone and 768 x 1024 iPad*.

It’s unlikely that the game will directly support this layout. Sure, 88 more pixels would be nice, but King of Dragon Pass is a landscape game, and extra width isn’t as useful in most cases as extra height would be (most scrolling is vertical). The original art was at a 4 x 3 aspect ratio, and already doesn’t always nicely fit the 3 x 2 iPhone.

Also, unlike the situation on iPad (where until the 3rd generation, running at 2x had pixelly text), the game works as well as always. You just get 44 black pixels on each side, letterboxing. We don’t have an iPhone 5 yet but running in the Simulator, it looks fine. And you’ll even be able to use the full screen for keyboard input.

* Purists may note that the iPhone 5 has a 640 x 1136 pixel display. Technically this is true, but from a design standpoint, it works better to think of 320 x 568 pixels, with the possibility of fine detail.

09 September 2012

Universal Language

We spoke before on the price of King of Dragon Pass in the App Store. Unlike other online stores (like Steam or Amazon.com) there’s no way I know of to do A/B testing of price on the App Store (price reductions are noticed and retweeted before any PR we may choose to do, so they become publicity events in their own right). So I can’t empirically say that we chose the best price. It does seem like it wasn’t a horrible mistake. I think the basic message of “this is a valuable product” has come through, it has given us some flexibility for the occasional sale (ironically, even our sale price probably looks like a premium price given the state of the App Store), and there’s probably some benefit to the large number of App Store reviews saying things like
“Worth every penny!”
“Wow this game is fantastic, don't be discouraged by the price it's absolutely worth every penny.”
“Well worth the price.”
“Do not fear the price point. You will extract the value over and over.”
“It's worth every dollar.”
iPad was released while the game was still in development, but too late for us to take advantage of. Once we figured out a design that would work on iPad, it didn’t take any time at all to know that it would be a Universal version — one that runs on both iPhone and iPad. And that it would be the only version.

A Sharp is a development studio, and I wouldn’t say we have a lot of expertise in marketing. But here’s the rationale.

It’s obviously simpler for a developer to have only one version to maintain, but the code base would be essentially the same, so that wasn’t really a factor. More importantly, we knew that a lot of our players were using iPads. How would they feel if (like some games) we released a separate version they’d need to buy?
“Total different from those "money machine" games.”
“Wow thanks so much for the universal support on this app! It really says a lot about a developer who is willing to add universal support instead of forcing users to buy another separate app! Wonderful support!”
Just flip those comments around. Also, this would be an ongoing issue, as people bought the iPhone version but later bought iPads.

While we might be able to price separate iPhone and iPad versions differently and capture more of the market, we’d also be introducing more consumer confusion (which to buy? I might get an iPad for Christmas, I guess I should wait to see which version to get.) And if sales were divided between two versions, it’d be even less likely to appear in the App Store charts, which are one way to discover the game.

And, we had communicated that the game was a premium product. Premium products don’t annoy their owners. By trying to come up with clever ways to make more money, we’d undercut our own message, and likely end up making less. By staying true:
“What a great suprise! Most companies would have been more than happy to create a separate version to milk money from iphone owners who want to play on their iPad. This game rocks! Developer A Sharp rocks! Keep it up. You have a customer for life.”
So hopefully the Universal version not only is a better product, we’re using it to tell people it’s a quality product.

07 September 2012

Happy Birthday!

King of Dragon Pass first went on sale in the iOS App Store on 7 September 2011. So today is the first anniversary of its public appearance. Happy Birthday!

It’s older than a year, however. Today might be a good time to run through its history.

The earliest document we have seems to be a proposal for a Dragon Pass computer game, dated 19 March 1996. The oldest correspondence (to Greg Stafford) is dated 10 April 1996. I don’t recollect exactly when we started serious preproduction, but it was towards the end of 1996. Full time work probably began at the start of 1997.

Box artwork
We delivered the Gold Master CD to manufacturing on 12 October 1999. We began shipping on 29 October 1999. At some point, there was a second print run.

On 21 March 2000, the game won the award for Best Art in the second Independent Games Festival.

The last update to the Mac/Windows game (version 1.7) was on 8 October 2002.

In 2006, we signed a deal for online distribution of the game. We then attempted to deliver a game that the publisher could distribute. Sadly, we were not able to rebuild the game without introducing some significant bugs.

Early design work
The iPhone version began with some design work in 2009, to see if the game would work on the smaller screen. It looked like the user interface and game play were practical, so actual coding began on 23 December 2009. This was never a full-time project, so even though it was approximately 1/3 the work of the original version, it actually took about as long to complete.

On 1 September 2011, King of Dragon Pass 2.0 was approved for the App Store. We started sending out PR, and released it on 7 September.

Exploration on iPad
We continued to update the game to add features (VoiceOver support and new scenes) and fix bugs. Creating a Universal version that would natively support iPad as well as iPhone took a bit longer, and we just released that on 5 September 2012.

Meanwhile, GOG.com was able to patch the original title so that it could be downloaded (for Windows only). They released this build on 28 August 2012.

So that’s a brief timeline of the game. Happy Birthday, King of Dragon Pass, however old you are!

04 September 2012

King of Dragon Pass Grows Up

The game celebrates its first birthday on the iOS App Store this week, on 7 September. We thought it was time it grew up…

…from 480 x 320 pixels to 1024 x 768. After longer than we expected, King of Dragon Pass is now a Universal app, and fully supports iPad as well as iPhone and iPod touch. It took two additional UI artists, and we had to rework each of the 49 screens, but it was worth it. You use an iPad slightly differently than an iPhone or a computer (even a laptop), and it really feels like reading an interactive, illustrated book.

The game does support the Retina Display on both iPhone and iPad, though most artwork looks just fine at standard resolution so that’s what we used. And we didn’t want to add another 500 MB of art (an estimate how big the 436 event illustrations would be with 4 times as many pixels, for both iPad and iPhone screens).

So the iPad illustrations are the same resolution used in the original game (upscaling inevitably introduces distortion, even if it’s barely perceptible). This left enough room for a reasonably sized column of text. You can see both the art and the accompanying story at the same time, and in most interactive scenes, you don’t need to scroll. And there’s enough space that we can show the info that was hidden behind the graphic on iPhone, and add a Saga button. Again, this really seems like the perfect platform for this game. I can’t imagine playing it on my 30 inch display.

Since the iPad UI is different, we also had to make a new version of the tutorial (most notably because there’s a single Sacred Time screen on iPad), and the manual.

We know a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this version. And we didn’t want them to have to pay a second time. So we made the game a Universal build — it adapts to the device you’re playing on. And we made it an update, rather than a new title, so that it would be free to existing players.

The downside is that you need to download the assets for the device you don’t own. So to make sure there was something for iPhone owners, we added a new illustrated encounter. We also followed up on a suggestion to show deity icons in the lists of blessings, which help identify them. And there were the inevitable bug fixes.

Enjoy the update!

(And, since all reviews and ratings reset with a new version, consider going to the App Store and rating the game.)

02 September 2012

How Many Scenes?

A long-time player recently commented about how he had just gotten an interactive event he had never seen before. This is not as surprising as it sounds, even for a player who has had the game over a year, because many events are conditional, and the raw number is such that you won’t get each one every game. But I was curious about the exact odds.


The game calls interactive events “scenes,” which is biased towards the illustrated events. There are 1624 in total, but they aren’t all story events (scenes). They can be divided into:

code: A chunk of OSL script used to set state or conditionally trigger scenes. These have names like code_InitialTribalAgreements, fragment_BeSureToHaveElection, or code_R115MiddlingPenaltyOver. None of these have any player interaction. There are 464 of these.

news: Some sort of report, given by (or relating to) a single leader. These have no illustration. Most have no interaction, but some do give player choices. A notable subset of interactive news is heroic combat during a battle. Battle results is treated as a special case, and is shown with two illustrations. News scenes have names like news_TradeRouteEnded, news_R45aGrainHeFound, mission_EmissaryBanditAttack, or battle_HesGoneBerserk. There are 462 news scenes.

scenes: Interactive events are the core of the game. They always have an illustration, and at least one leader giving advice. They have names like scene_2Trader, scene_R194WeddingCelebration, or mission_ProposeAlliance. There are 614 of these.

quests: Heroquests are essentially a special type of interactive event, with no advice. There are 84 of these.

So there are 614 scenes defined in OSL, but it’s not really accurate to call all of those interactive events. That’s because when we designed an event, we sometimes wanted to show new advice in response to player choices, or change the background music to reflect a change in situation. This was implemented as switching to a new scene. So scene_R59TheChallenge might trigger scene_R59aChallengeResult, but that’s really just one event to the player.

Luckily, we were pretty consistent about naming scenes, and by looking for that pattern (R59a as opposed to R59), there are 70 scenes that are followups within an overall event.

That leaves 544 distinct interactive events. It’s worth noting that 28 of these are new in the iOS version (25 were in version 2.0, and one is new in the upcoming 2.1).


But, what are the odds of not getting one of the 544? All scenes are not created equally (we kept the amount of branching in the game to a minimum, but some scenes directly depend on earlier choices), and many have specific preconditions. There’s no good way to figure that, so we’ll assume each does have an equal chance of showing up. If there are 5 random events each year, the odds of not getting a specific one each year is 99.1%. How long is a game? That can vary widely, but looking at two sagas of complete long games that are in our bug tracking system 48 to 58 years. For this quick calculation, let’s call it 53. So the odds of not getting a particular scene during a game are over 61%. Now we have to figure how many games. King of Dragon Pass is highly replayable, but even a hard-core player might not play more than 12 games in a year. The odds of not getting a random scene in a year of play are thus only around 0.3%.
A (thankfully) rare scene

It turns out the scene in question was not random, however. It related to the harvest, so it could only occur in Earth season. That means each game has over a 90% chance of not getting it, and thus he had a 31% chance of not seeing it in 12 games. Except that there was another condition on the scene, so the odds of getting it plunge even more.

(The odds would be slightly different for the original Windows version, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.)


So what does this analysis say? I think it verifies our design goal of replay, since you will not see many scenes your first game. (And this is only talking about events, not your responses to them.) And even if you have played a dozen games, you have a pretty good chance of getting something completely new if you play one more.

Also, our marketing copy of “nearly 500 interactive scenes” is conservative, and we should have done the math before.

29 August 2012

KoDP 20K

Some more good news about the game: we have now sold over 20000 copies on the iOS App Store. When we released the game almost a year ago, we really didn’t know what to expect in terms of sales. King of Dragon Pass is a unique title from an indie developer, which are usually two strikes against it. But I think this counts as success. Most copies were sold when the game was fairly new, but it has continued to sell.

Worldwide Sales
Along with yesterday’s release of the original Windows version by GOG.com, the game has now reached a much larger audience than it found when it came out in 1999.

To celebrate this achievement, as well as the game’s upcoming anniversary (the iPhone version came out on 7 September 2011), the game is on sale in the App Store for $2 off, for two days only.

28 August 2012

Download King of Dragon Pass

We’re delighted to announce that the original King of Dragon Pass game is now available as a digital download, thanks to Good Old Games.

We have long wanted to provide a way for players to download the game. (When it came out in 1999, it was distributed on CD, as the most practical way to distribute 450 MB of data.) Back in 2006, we actually had a signed distribution deal (with another company). However, we were unable to rebuild the game in such a way that it didn’t require a CD, and still worked correctly. The fact that we were using a development system that had been discontinued in 1998 didn’t help.

Good Old Games took a different approach. I don’t know exactly what they did, but I assume it was some sort of patch. They do this sort of thing all the time, so they’re obviously good at it.

So if you can’t play the updated iOS version of the game, or are just interested in the game’s evolution, you can now buy the Windows version from GOG.com.

15 August 2012


Like any large software product, King of Dragon Pass is not perfect. We wish it were, so we track bug reports and try to fix things when we do an update.

When we created the original game, we had a quality assurance team to find bugs. We also relied on beta testers. For the iOS version, we don’t have a paid team, and Apple limits the number of outside testers. So we have to rely on players to do much of the bug finding.

Today, a blog comment read “the game seems to be crashing often.” My first thought was “no, it doesn’t!” The second was “that’s not a very good report.” But then I thought, “what if it is crashing more often than I think it is? If so, I want to fix it!”

I remembered that Apple makes crash logs available to developers. Normally, if an app on your iPhone crashes, a log is saved on the device. When you synchronize, it’s copied to your computer. And if you’ve given the OK, it is also sent to Apple. (I believe only when you synchronize, though I’m not sure of the details.)

This is especially handy because Apple will combine duplicate reports. When I logged into iTunesConnect and checked, the top 3 crashes accounted for 71% of the reports. I grabbed these.

The logs by themselves aren’t very useful. They include a stack trace which shows exactly where the crash occurred, but only in numeric form. They need to be symbolicated — cross-referenced against the symbols (typically method or functions) of your app. For this to work, you need to save the symbols with each build. Luckily, when you make an archive to submit to the App store, the symbol table is saved. Unfortunately, Apple’s development tool Xcode is terrible about symbolicating. In fact, I was only able to symbolicate about half of the logs. Luckily, I could get one log from each of the top three crashes. And they all pointed at a method in my AdviceView. In one of them, the call stack included showQuestDialog, so I started showing advice and opening and closing the Quest dialog. Sure enough, I got the crash. From there it was pretty short work identifying what was going on (it was a message sent to zombie object, one that should have been dead). And easy to fix.

So this story has a happy ending, and one that makes me glad I’m an iOS developer and a lot of the work was done for me. (Bigger software developers often create a similar infrastructure themselves, to capture crashes in the field.)

But the moral of the story is: we can’t fix bugs we don’t know about! The 2.0.5 build has been played since February. Nobody mentioned anything until now. Please let us know about problems! http://a-sharp.com/kodp/bug.html explains how to send a report from the game itself. (This won’t do anything with crashes, but you can email bugz «at» a-sharp.com with the reproduction steps, and we can send back the somewhat picky details of finding the logs on your computer.

13 August 2012

iPad in Beta

Last month I mentioned that we were still converting screens to use final iPad-sized artwork. That process is complete, and the game has gone out to a number of beta testers, to make sure everything is good on a variety of devices and versions of iOS. (We’re making a universal release, so the same game still needs to run properly on iPhone and iPod touch.) We’re testing here too, and have been squashing a number of bugs.

It hasn’t been in testing long enough to have confidence in the code quality, but things look pretty good so far.

As a developer, most of my testing consists of looking at specific parts of the program (either something I just changed, or to investigate a problem someone else has reported). But I finally got a chance to play a complete short game from beginning to end. This did reveal some issues that needed to be fixed. But it also felt like the game is finally on its native platform. You hold the iPad much like a book, and this meant that King of Dragon Pass really felt like an interactive story (and less like a computer game).

The iPad layout was actually constrained by not having artwork at any higher resolution than you see here. But the results are that text never covers artwork, and you almost never have to scroll. The text is super crisp (on a new iPad) and the iPad screen is bright and gorgeous, so the art looks great. It’s all a really good experience. And as you can see, we don’t need to hide the extra information (the list of clans was behind a button even on the Mac/Windows version), and the manual is available from within a scene.

So if you don’t have an iOS device and want to play King of Dragon Pass, get an iPad.

08 July 2012

iPad Update

Yes, we are working on a Universal update. Yes, it is taking a long time. No, iPad users won’t have to pay for this separately. No, we don’t know when it will come out.

But that’s not really news. We do at least have some concepts and user interface artwork that can go in the game (instead of the placeholder artwork we’ve been using).

Here is a sneak preview of one of the dialogs. You can see that we’ve enlarged text and buttons (since you hold an iPad differently than an iPhone). And since there is room to fit all the advisors all the time, it’s easier to consult them. But it’s the same dialog as always — you won’t have a different play experience on iPad (although the larger screen does make some things easier, such as less need for scrolling text).

This is the only dialog that’s completely converted to the new look, so there is a lot more work to do. And we still don’t have all the new artwork. But there has been progress.

25 June 2012

Gone Missing?

A recent App Store review (five stars, if you were wondering) wrote:
I have noticed some things are missing from the iPhone version (this one) that the old PC version had. Like allotting magic points to children and hunting and the ability to slaughter sheep, pigs and horses for food when the clan is starving. I can only guess what else is missing, though I hope it's not a lot. I'm not sure exactly what is affected but I personally am something of a perfectionist and would love to have the entire full game same as before.
I’ve written about this before, but in summary: I disagree. The new edition is better. A lot better. It removes a lot of fiddly bits that made little difference (Children magic, for example, was very rarely used), and we added over two dozen new scenes and a bunch of treasures. We improved the maps and added Game Center achievements. There are new advisors, and a lot of new advice. And you can play the game via VoiceOver.

One thing that was removed for practical, rather than design reasons, was the Tula screen. It was certainly a fun screen, but it really didn’t impact game play a lot. (And to answer another App Store review, no, it will not be in a Universal update.)
list of fixed bugs
Fixed Bugs

We also made a lot of bug fixes, many of which were impossible to fix for the original.

Oh, and you can still slaughter horses if you’re desperate for food.

So, I too am a perfectionist, which is why the game is not the same. I believe it’s a much better game than the original.

For more details about what’s changed, see these articles:

What’s New
Automatic Save
(Or search all Design articles)

22 May 2012

Skills, Expanded

I wrote before about the seven skills a leader is rated in. But we wanted to support OSL code such as

test Deception(expeditionLeader) vs Crankiness d6

In other words, like many roleplaying games, people have all sorts of abilities. But seven was already a fairly large number. So we came up with the idea of composite skills. Deception is the average of Bargaining and Leadership.

Including the composite skills, a leader can be tested in
Deception (Bargaining + Leadership)
Diplomacy (Bargaining + Custom)
Exploring (Bargaining + Combat)
Farming (Animals + Plants)
Hunting (Animals + Combat + Plants, special for Odayla worshippers)
Poetry (Custom + Leadership)
Prophecy (Magic + Leadership)
Strategy (Combat + Leadership) 
Note that not every attempt to compose a poem is automatically use of the Poetry skill — it would depend on the context. But without some obvious reason to do things differently, that’s how we would have coded the scene.

15 May 2012

Still Not Universal

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of progress to report on the Universal build of King of Dragon Pass. Due to unforeseeable issues, our artist wasn’t able to complete the work. We’ve arranged for another artist.

Since we sometimes get asked: we are making a Universal build. That is, a single app that will run on iPhone or iPad, and take advantage of the screen size of each. If you already have the app on an iPad, it will be a free update.

(While the game doesn’t fill the screen of the new 3rd generation iPad, that device does use its Retina Display to display text, so the game looks very nice when blown up to 2x.)

We’ll let you know when there’s more progress.

24 March 2012

News: Sale(s), Move

We here at A Sharp have a couple pieces of news to share.

King of Dragon Pass for iOS has sold 15000 copies! We don’t have an exact count for the original (the second printing sold slower and our record-keeping got worse as time went on), but this is several times as many copies as we sold for the CD-ROM version. Thank you all so much for trying the game, and letting your friends know so they’d give it a try. Obviously this is not as many copies as Angry Birds has sold, but it’s not the same sort of game. And we’re really pleased that so many people have enjoyed it.

To celebrate, we’re putting the game on sale for 20% off until 1 April!

The other news is a bit different. With David’s new job as Development Manager at Shenandoah Studio, we will soon be relocating to Philadelphia. Hopefully this won’t result in any interruption of our web server (which is currently in the house where we created King of Dragon Pass). It will mean we’ll be a bit slower to respond before, during, and after the move.

And this isn’t news at all: we don’t have anything to report on the Universal version of King of Dragon Pass. At least on the new iPad, the text looks wonderful even when you magnify the iPhone screen to 2x (this wasn’t the case with the previous iPads). We still intend to release a Universal build when the art’s ready.

28 February 2012

A Taste of QA

While cleaning up the house (King of Dragon Pass was created in our home office), I ran across a notebook kept by Rob Heinsoo, our QA lead. Here’s a typical page:

While for the most part we avoided the branching problem, King of Dragon Pass still had a lot of content, and we wanted to make sure each response of each scene was tested. Most of these had success and failure results, so our QA team had to keep track of when these happened. (It was possible to force things to happen, but I think our preference was to have them come up naturally, since in many cases things depend on something that happened earlier. Forcing a scene or outcome might be buggy in its own right.) Note that a scene might behave differently depending on clan status, e.g. R288 depends on morale.

The new scenes in 2.0 went through a similar process to make sure every branch and outcome worked.

18 January 2012

Regional Variation

It’s interesting to look at some of the sales figures. Denmark just became our number 9 market (with 1.61% of revenue), edging out Norway. This appears to be largely due to a single review (I don’t know if this is an online review or also appeared in print).

This is a bit like the original version of King of Dragon Pass, where a review in the print magazine Pelit made the game a top 10 hit in Finland.

But it’s unlike Norway, where we got 50 sales in one day thanks to a single review (I suspect this was online only).

We can see the difference in these graphs. The bottom graph shows worldwide revenue by date. You can see the birthday sale, and the Sacred Time sale (and the overall effect of the holiday, which is to raise sales to a somewhat higher level — apparently there are a lot of new devices). The top graph shows Finland (orange), Norway (light purple), and Denmark (dark purple). All three Scandinavian countries have about the same population, so they’re interesting to compare. Sales in Finland more or less track worldwide sales, except for a bump when we got reviewed by the print magazines Pelit and Pelaaja. The effects of the Norwegian review are very obvious — but there is almost no long term change in the level of sales. Maybe nobody in Norway let their friends know about the game. But Denmark has a sales spike from the review, but then sales continue at a significantly higher level than before.

I don’t really have an explanation as to why these countries have such different responses to the game. But I think this does show that reviews are still an important way for people to learn about games.

01 January 2012

Looking Back

Although King of Dragon Pass has been available for iOS for less than a year (it was released on 7 September), this is a convenient time to look back.

The KoDP box
The game began to take form in March 1996, or at least that’s the earliest document I could find (a proposal for the game). Full-time work began in January 1997, and the game finally shipped on 29 October 1999. We sold the game through hobby game distribution and through a web store. (We outsourced fulfillment, so we didn’t need to warehouse thousands of boxes.)

Thanks in part to strong sales in Finland, we made a second printing. Our records aren’t as clear as they might be, so I don’t know when we shipped the last box (probably 2006). I do know it was to Finland.

Since some of my earliest ideas for a saga-style game had been intended for the Apple Newton, I was excited when the iPhone SDK finally came out. But since I knew King of Dragon Pass was a big project, my first iPhone game was Jigami (which I’d originally created for Newton).

Preliminary UI design
In June 2009 I started sketching out user interface to see how practical it would be to fit the game on a 480 x 320 pixel screen (recall that the original was 640 x 480 pixels, and buttons need to be much larger for a touch interface). In November I was doing some prototyping.

Coding of the app began 29 Dec 2009. The development diary shows a 5 month gap with no progress. Partly this was because I took time to do a much shorter project (DiceBook), but also I think I must have been unsure how the game would be received. But the diary notes favorable reaction from people I showed the game to, so I resolved to finish it.

Once I was pretty confident that the game would work and I’d be able to do it, I went public (August 2010). That’s when this blog began.

Unlike the original, the iOS version was a part time project (and essentially just one person), and thus the time scale was stretched out. For example, the game first hit alpha (feature complete, but buggy) in April 2011, and beta (known bugs fixed) in May. But polish and fixing bugs (including ones uncovered by iOS 5) took until August.

We submitted the game, and it was approved on 1 September. We sent out the news, and released the game on 7 September. Depending on how you count, it had been over 15 years in the making!

And it’s not done yet. The iPad hadn’t been released when we began the iPhone version, but we’re in the middle of doing a Universal build to take advantage of its larger screen.

Taking a different approach to looking back, in four months we’ve sold about twice as many copies from the App Store as we did boxes (over maybe six years). The game isn’t a smash hit (although it’s hit the top of the Role Playing Game category in both Finland and Denmark), but it’s apparently in the top 10% in terms of revenue according to Owen Goss’s survey.

Version 1.0.4 ratings
Another way of looking at it: did people enjoy the game? AppViz reports that version 1.0.4 has received 5 stars from 111 of 119 people who rated that release.

I’m also very pleased that we were able to make the game accessible to blind players.

So that’s a look at the game so far. I may take another look back, in the form of a post mortem report (writing up lessons learned). But I’m also starting to think about what might come next (after the iPad UI is done).