Super Ninja Skydiving Plus Zombies Post Mortem

Ideas for a game to make.

Sometime in September of 2010 I decided I wanted to finish a game. I’ve worked on many projects but never 100% finished anything. I’ve made hundred of small scale flash games for work but have never seen a personal (game) project from beginning to end. At the time I was reading a bunch of success stories about people making a living off mobile games. The ability to publish to Android(Air for Android) and iPhone had also recently been made available in Flash. Since Flash was the environment I spent most of my time in at work, it made sense to just develop something with it.

Originally I planned on just finishing one of the many projects I had worked on over the past few years. I dug through about 5 or so unfinished project but felt it would take way too long to complete any of them to the point where I would be happy. So I set a deadline for myself to complete something new within 3 months.

I set out to make something original and not just “Ape” an existing mobile game. After many brainstorms, I decided to just come up with a name first and focus on developing the game around the name. “Super Ninja Skydiving Plus Zombies” started off more as a joke. At the time there where a ton of zombie games coming out. After a while the name kind of grew on me so I started working on a prototype.

Starting development.

The original prototype took about 2 weeks to put together. It started off as high score game where you had to slice up zombies of the same color to get score multipliers. This was pretty boring. It evolved into a game of just slicing zombies of different types; zombies that chase you, zombies that explode and zombies that shoot stuff at you.

(You can check out the early prototype here)

As with any project, 3 months quickly turned into 8 months. If I was working on it full time I would have likely completed the game much sooner. During that time period I was also preparing for my third Mixed Martial Arts fight and my girlfriend gave birth to our first baby. So needless to say my time was being pulled in all different directions. I realized that the game I was planning on making would never get done in a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately I had to cut out a ton of content. Some of the content I cut out: number of levels from 100 to 46, boss battles, bonus level game-play, multiple character, different weapon types, multiple power-ups and more enemy types.

Cutting out content aside, the majority of my time went into optimizing the game to run at a decent frame-rate on a mobile devices. I purchased an Android phone(Google Nexus One) to do all my testing on. Also my girlfriend bought an iPhone so I could test on the iOS platform. I had originally planned to release an iPhone version of the game right after releasing it for Android. Unfortunately I was never able to get the frame-rate on the iPhone to something I was happy with.

(You can check out a small prototype for bonus levels here)

Flash/Air performance on a mobile device.

Performance of Flash on mobile devices isn’t great if you plan on having many moving/animating objects on the screen. At first I could maybe get 20 objects moving and animating on the screen before frame-rates would drop to something unplayable. After trying a bunch of different approaches; what worked for me was caching every frame of an animation to BitmapData (which I down-scaled to %50 by default), then drawing everything to a single bitmap(also down-scaled to %50 by default). As an added performance bonus any manipulation that was done to an object like scaling, rotating and color changes are also cached. I was now able to draw closer to 300 objects on the screen at a reasonable frame-rate of 25-30.

(you can checkout a rendering test I built to test the frame-rate on different devices here)

Pre-release and marketing.

It is now mid-May and the game is pretty close to completion. I had planned to just release the game on the Android Market and just assumed people would buy it. I discovered this was 100% false. I needed to market the game. I knew absolutely nothing about marketing at the time. Listening to friends and the internet I started to do a few things. I created a twitter account, YouTube and Facebook page. I also created a few trailers for the game (one of which managed to get like 20k views).

I started posting about my game in indie-game, Android and general gaming forums. I got very mixed responses. People either thought the game looked awesome or they would tell me the art sucked, the game looked stupid, or even worst… no one would reply to my threads. I was then contacted by someone who said they would help me market my game and best of all they would do it for next to nothing! Turns out that’s exactly what they would do… nothing. So being completely fed up with trying to self market unsuccessfully I decided I was going to email every review site I could think of and then put the game up. Well turns out many game review sites don’t really care to give you any time unless your already a well established developer or they want you to pay them. Yeah that’s right there are game review sites out there that offer to give you a positive review if you pay them (or buy advertisement space on their website). They wanted anywhere from $50-$1000. I’m not going to say which sites they are but some of them are pretty popular. One of the first 2 sites to actually post anything about my game where and (and I actually check them every now and then for up and coming Android games.

A few reviews went up where I am positive the reviewer didn’t even play the game past the first few levels. They mentioned things like; the game is boring and too easy, there’s no variety in levels and the entire game can be played through with absolutely no skill. Boring I can live with, but I intentionally made the game very difficult complete. I’m personally not a fan of games that you can complete/master by simply sinking more time into. I know this is the mold for most casual games but that’s not how I wanted the game to play. Due to the lack of play testers I had (zero), the difficulty curve of the game might not be where it should be. The first few levels are very easy and then it starts to get frustratingly hard. This is definitely something I need to improve for my next project.

Launch time… and pirates.

July 6th rolls around. I decide to cross my fingers and put the game live in the Android market. The first day saw around 11 sales. Most of them friends and few forum people that decided to help me out. The next few days sales averaged between 5 and 15 sales a day. The all the sudden the game was getting 20-100 sales a day! Turns out my game was on the front page of! I was incredibly surprised to see it there. Shortly after, the game was the #10 new Paid app in the Android Market. It was also a top Trending app in the market. At this point the game had reached around 400 or 500 sales or so. I had initially kept my expectation low on actually making any money with the game but this got me a bit exited. Then all the sudden sales dropped down to around 10 a day again.

I though that was weird so I just googled the game to see what would come up. The first 5 hits on google for “super ninja skydiving plus zombies” and “super ninja skydiving” where pirated sites where you could download my game for free :(. One of the site actually looked like a legitimate website that had re-branded the game as a free game. For some reason I was oblivious to the idea that people would pirate my game which could be purchased for only .99 cents. At this point I decided to put some analytics into the game to see how many people where pirating it.

After leaving the analytics in the game for about 2 weeks it looked like around 10,000 – 15,000 people where playing the game. I had less than 600 sales. To this date there are over 30,000 players of the Android version and only 775 have purchased the game.

Trying to get the game out there.

Around December sales started to dwindled. From what I was reading; a good way to boost sales was to release a free version of your game. So I released an ad-driven version with only 20 levels to the Android Market. This did not effect sales but caused a sizable increase in the number of people pirating the game. Monthly sales had actually cut in half after releasing the free version. To date using admob in the free version of the game has only generated about $50. Currently the free version has about 7000 downloads.

I had planned to release many free content updates for the game. After the first few content updates didn’t really generate much of a difference in sales I pretty much abandoned the game. In February 2012 RIM launched a promotion offering free Blackberry Playbooks to anyone who ported their Android apps to the Playbook. I never say no to free stuff… NEVER! So I spent 2 weeks porting the game to the Playbook. I didn’t advertise a launch for the Playbook for multiple reasons. One of the big reasons was my game sat in the approval stage for over 2 months with no indication on when it would go live.

After porting the game to the Playbook sales in general where next to nothing. I was collecting maybe $5-$8 a month. I decided I just want to get the game out there and have people playing it at this point. Mostly so I could more feedback on peoples perception of the game. I spent about 2 months building a web version of the game. The free web version would have a few extra features I cut out of the mobile versions due to performance issues. I also added a few more hidden levels and achievements. I wanted to use this as an opportunity to advertise the Android and Playbook versions of the game. I was interested to see if the mobile sales would spike after releasing it for free on the web.

Porting the game from the mobile Air for Android project to a Flash Player wasn’t that difficult. I copied the entire project, changed my publish options and just kept building and removing/changing code until all the Air specific stuff was gone. The biggest code changes where modifying the controls to support mouse and keyboard, changing the resolution of everything and handle the game saves. To save the game I was able to create an encrypted file and store it on the device when using Air. For the web version the save data is all stored in a SharedObject. It took me a bit longer than expected to get the web version ready because I decided to do some UI changes and a few game-play changes that just didn’t make sense when playing the game with a mouse and keyboard.

I tried to get a sponsor for the game. I attempted using websites such as Seemed like no one was interested in sponsoring the game so decided to use MochiAds in the game to generate a bit of revenue. I decided to go with MochiAds for a few reasons;

  • They seem to be very reliable with paying developers
  • I didn’t need to provide any weird tax Ids, business numbers etc
  • and they offer a feature to publish your game all over the web for you

I posted the game on first. Within a few days the game was featured on the front page. Once the game was no longer featured I made a few bug fixes and decided to use the Mochi feature to publish the game all over the internet. I also posted the game on Kongregate. On Kongregate the game got decent scores in the review phase. As soon as the game made it to the new games section it got flooded with negative scores which hid it on the site. I though this was very odd since there where way more votes on the website than plays on the game (according my analytics). So I just pulled it from the site since MochiAds is not allowed there anyways.


So to conclude I did what I set out to do. I finished a game. As far as a commercial release for a game goes, I guess you could consider it a failure. 8+ month development time with revenue under $1000 isn’t exactly stellar. But to my surprise releasing the game for free on the web has actually generated more money than the free Android version and the Playbook (paid). Now I’m not saying this would be the case for all indie developers but that was the case for me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way especially when it came to marketing the game. In then end I’m just glad to have a finished product floating around out there. In the future I hope to work on bigger projects with maybe a few other people. But for now it looks like my next project will likely be another mobile game. In the end just like most aspiring indie-developers, I wish to be able to quit my full-time job and make games full time :).

Below is a small table containing the total earnings for the game.



release date



#sales / plays

Android Payed Version

July 6 2011

4/5 star rating


775 sales 30k+ players

Android Free Version (admob)

December 2 2011

5/5 star rating


about 7k players

Blackberry Playbook

April 25 2012

3.5/5 star rating


122 purchases

Free Web Version (MochiAds)

June 10 2012



almost 200k plays


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