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Making the chart-topping game about being an Australian Magpie

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I launched my first game called Swoopy Boi and watched it soar to the top charts of both the App Store and Google Play in Australia. It has been downloaded 10,912 times and 38.2K sessions have been logged.

Swoopy Boi is a casual game where you play as a magpie that swoops posties, hipsters, and other characters. iOS | Android

Swoopy Boi in action

Hello Indie World!

In recent years I have discovered why I like programming and it isn’t because I’m good at it. In fact I’m not good at it (when I compare myself to others 😵) and I find it frustrating. I actually like the result of programming. The concept of being able to imagine something and bring it to life.

I only started viewing the idea of making games seriously a couple of years ago after watching Indie Game The Movie. I have consumed more and more indie games like Celeste, Night in the Woods, Hollow Knight, The First Tree, Pinstripe, Firewatch, Gris, and Untitled Goose Game ever since.

I wanted to make a story-driven game like those but it would require too much time for what was going to be my first try and test run at game development. So I caved and allowed myself to make a mobile game. A small repeating game, like the (in)famous Flappy Bird.

Honestly, the thought of making a mobile game was kind of embarrassing. It was going to have to be a unique idea; I didn’t want to add to the noise. I just had to get started and hope an idea would come to me. I downloaded Unity and followed a tutorial on how to create… a Flappy Bird clone.

I was amazed with the power and ease of Unity. The thought of making a game was not as daunting anymore and I was confident that if I had a decent idea, I would definitely be able to make one.

I was watching videos of people being chased by Magpies when I thought that’s a funny idea for a game.

I googled for similar game ideas involving Magpies and there was only one. It was 3D, a few years old, and complicated with the tilt controls and ability to build nests. This was not my vision.

I had found my unique game idea.

Building the prototype

I opened Unity and tried to make a square “swoop”. I found that relatively easy to get going so I added a second square representing a postman. A couple of hours later I had a successful game loop.

The prototype was fun to play so the idea was worth more of my time. I spent a week replacing the squares with illustrations, animations, and added a background. And posted this gif to Reddit.

The response was very positive and I was surprised to see people saying they would even “buy this game”.

I was a concerned that the idea was primarily targeted toward Aussies.

le wrote:

By making a magpie game I was limiting myself to an Australian audience. But I was supposed to start small and I finally had a unique idea, so just do it!

I was going to only have posties and cyclists in the game but since it was going to be targeted towards Aussies it made sense to push harder on the Aussie theme. I thought about what Australians love to hate and hipsters came to mind. I drew a hipster and animated him drinking a coffee. Once I had him walking, running, and dropping his coffee I was hooked.

I was going to make and finish this game.

Taking things seriously

This was going to take me months and I wasn’t going to do it for free. I really considered charging $2–$5 for the game but ultimately being my first game I didn’t know if it would be any good so I settled on making it free and relying on ad revenue.

If I was going to make money with ads, I needed incentives for people to keep playing. This is what I landed on:

  1. Talking characters. I added a bank of sayings for characters to blurt out and randomised them so the more you play the more sayings you see. Each character has their own phrases.
  2. Game over phrases. Random Aussie slang phrases on the game over screen poked fun at and egged on players to try and do better next time. I hoped some people would keep playing even if only to see all the phrases.
  3. Unlockable characters. I liked making characters so I did a few more and added a swoop counter which unlocks characters as it increases.

Finding motivation

Once I was at the point of no return I started struggling with decisions on what to include for release day and what could wait. I continued sharing updates on Reddit and it was getting more positive attention with people giving suggestions on characters and other features.

It’s funny looking back but at the time I was worried someone was going to rip off my game idea and release it before me. Today knowing how much work and time a game requires to make I don’t think I had anything to worry about —but it was a good motivator to get the game finished.

I did the drawings, animation, and coding while my friend Carlo did the UI design & illustration, and my bro-in-law Tom did the sound effects. These two areas are my weakness so I’m very grateful for their help because the game wouldn’t be what it is without them.

On top of this I watched lots of videos and live streams from Thomas Brush for how-to’s and general inspiration/motivation.

Launch Day

Launch day went well and the game was being shared around my circles. I was however waiting for a review to come online from LADBible Australia. They approached me months earlier to write about Swoopy Boi when it released. I waited all day for the review and it never came.

I went to bed when Swoopy Boi had been downloaded 1,077 times. I was really happy with that but was left wondering if the review would ever come and how much of a difference it would make.

I woke up to more positive posts and comments about the game. I drafted an email to LADBible asking about their offer to write about the game. Before hitting send I quickly googled “Swoopy Boi” and to my surprise there was a review on the LADBible website…. it was posted at 1am that morning.

I checked their Facebook page and they had not posted about it there. I was glad they had reviewed my game, but was disappointed about the timing. Then on that same day at 4.30pm they posted it on Facebook. Good timing! I literally made this game imagining people would play it on their way home from work on the train so I was stoked at this posts timing and it blew up!

More than 4000 people downloaded Swoopy Boi in the next few hours. Which was amazing because they did not include links in their review so people had to like the idea so much to manually open the app store and search for it.

The next few weeks Swoopy Boi soared to the top of iOS and Android charts. It was a thrill to see my game listed alongside Mario Kart Tour. Later more sites reviewed the game including Well Played, Shan Fine Dining, Player2, and Man of Many.

Overall I’m really happy with the launch of Swoopy Boi. This is my first commercially released game. I had many days of problems resulting in anger and in some cases nearly giving up.

There are things I would have done differently given more time. There are aspects which I would have liked to “improve” before releasing it. There are features I would have liked to add before people started playing. It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of improving and never finishing. One of the hardest parts has been accepting that it is done. It is not perfect, but it is done.

Swoopy Boi is available on iOS and Android.

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