Halloween is just around the corner; very soon it will be knocking ominously at our door. It’s bound to be a great time, as Halloween always is, but something that will be even greater for us is thinking about the progress of our new app: Castle Breakout. Here at Cloudburst, we like to pour our heart and soul into every project we work on, and Castle Breakout is no excuse. It’s a game choke-full of mystery, and it is dark… But before we get to that, would you like to know how we made the app?
Caleb, our game designer, chose the castle subject almost out of a whim! The reason I say almost is because the real reason he did it is that him and I both love castles to bits!
At the time, our whole team (about 6 of us), took our time to think about the best escape app. We went through the best apps in the App Store and studied what made for a high ranking escape app. Slowly, we got a clear picture and dreamed up a robust set of functions that we could implement to be competitive.
The artist team was excited! They were just gunning to start! They immediately began to draw up castle rooms and we began work on the production of our castle. We didn’t just want any kind of room, though. We were very specific.
Many castle-based games opt for the old-looking rooms; the dirty rooms, like the dungeons and the servant’s quarters. We decided to give it a new approach. Instead of going for the “tired” and true (play on the phrase “tried and true”), we wanted to show off the other side of every castle. The Kings room, the noble’s room, the duke’s room, the tower, and the dragon’s room. These new-looking rooms would give the player the opportunity to experience our castle as if it were freshly made.
We wanted to go a step even further. Something else we noticed with other apps was the prevalence of hand-drawn art. Hand-drawn art is great, if you’re a teenager. We understood that the casual adult gamer market would prefer, and appreciate, a game with a little more photorealism in it. To be sure, photo-realism is hard to create, but for us it was worth it.
We thought through a bunch of other things as well. One of these was the type of escape rooms our game would have. Hidden object was an option, but it felt a little too easy. The market was certainly full of hidden object games and we were sure there would be too much competition there. So we explored other ideas and gradually put together what, to us at the time, looked like a masterpiece. We had created the Mona Lisa of the escape app world!
We beta tested the app with a lot of enthusiasm going in. We had poured a lot of hard work into it and we were excited to have some people try it out. The results were heartbreaking! The Beta testers simply weren’t thrilled.
We didn’t quit, however. We hunkered down and got to work instead. The first step was to try and fulfill the beta testers’ requests, such as the need for a more complex hint system.
Later, on another whim, I approached a publicist named Kevin Doel. He gave me two contacts to try. One was Lisa of AppUnwrapper.com. Lisa is the girl who has written over 200 room escape mobile app reviews. If there’s anyone who could help us beat the competition, it had to be her. However, when I saw how long her list of recommendations was, my heart sank big time.
We didn’t quit after Lisa’s list. It was demoralizing but it was going to take more than an incredibly long list of improvements to put us down. I spoke with Lisa and we agreed that I could consult with her. So for the next couple of months, she gave us little nuggets of wisdom on room escape games. Meanwhile, we soldiered on.
As it turned out, Lisa really made the biggest difference for us and, as she helped us, our app skyrocketed in likes. Perhaps the most helpful advice we got from Lisa was to be true to ourselves. We had animals in our game, but they weren’t part of the game; there were merely ancillary animations. So Lisa said, “better make the animals part of the puzzle itself.”
We followed Lisa’s advice and, sure enough, it made a huge difference in likes. We finally released our beloved app to the world and waited to see how it would be received. It got 3 out of 5 stars. We were quite disappointed. Why so low?
The first thing I noticed was that our images looked incredible on desktops, but not quite so on mobile devices. I wondered about it for a while and decided to investigate. It wasn’t till we had been around for about a year that I discovered what was missing: we had the wrong color profiles!
We immediately got about improving our color profiles and opted to use sRGB (standard Red, Green and Blue). All this work was done by our academy award winning artist. It made a huge difference and our likes edged up to 4 likes. But I still wasn’t satisfied. Why only 4 out of 5 likes?
We went back to the drawing board and tried to figure out what else we could improve. After a ton of research, we realized that our app was too slow on older and smaller devices, such as the iPhone 5 and the iPod Touch. Our images were massive, forcing older devices to stretch them down. We went on to develop a lo-fi and hi-fi version of all our images and that pushed our likes even further. We were now getting 4.5 stars.
There was still one more issue to be resolved. Users from less developed countries were getting seriously upset about the purchase system. They felt like everything should be free. Understanding that the customer is always right, we gave them what they wanted: a completely free experience with intermittent banner ads. Now we get nearly 100% 5 star reviews. The only things lowering ratings are our bugs!
We have a nice story comic book that’s inside our app and we intend to maintain it that way. Later on we’ll make a choose-your-own-adventure book, on mobile, with the story.
Our comics have a guild of justice experts, who work with noble knights. Their purpose is to secure the kingdom and make good the escape of the king and the knights as needed.
Another feature of our game is the dragon comic book. Our dragon is another throw-back to medieval times. Rather than make our dragon mean or angry, he is royal and noble, and helps the king on the way.
Cloudburst has a range of other games with millions of players from around the world. We pride ourselves in the little community that has steadily formed around our games. Castle Breakout is well on its way to being another mainstay in the world of escape apps, and will add to our tight-knit community. It is a game that keeps the player suspicious and curious to the very end. We can promise you that you’ll enjoy the game. What we can’t promise is that you won’t get addicted!
Stories (at) Cloudburst-games.com
Cloudburst Room Escape, Inc.
340 S LEMON AVE # 3048
WALNUT, CA 91789
support at cloudburst-games.com