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Microsoft Spotlight: Making crime pay - MCV

Microsoft Spotlight: Making crime pay

Pixel Squad CEO Will Mallouk talks about funding, monetising and updating your game via the cloud
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Crime Coast.jpg

I started programming when I was 13 years old, writing very simple games for the MSX system. That was more than 20 years ago now. I then wrote a small game in Assembly language when I was 18, which can still be downloaded from sourceforge.net.

Pixel Squad’s core team consists of three members, and all of us have a console development background. I used to be an engine programmer making games for Xbox and PlayStation before starting Pixel Squad, but I’ve also co-founded another mobile games studio called WET Productions with a friend of mine called Mike Amerson. We have released three reasonably popular games already; My Virtual Girlfriend, My Virtual Boyfriend, and Dark Breakers. I also co-founded another studio called FunGameCo.

At the time of writing, we’re currently working on our new game: Crime Coast. I thought that mixing GTA with Clash of Clans with a bit of added humour would make something unique.

The other full time members of the Pixel Squad team right now are Krysztof Nowak and Paul Trenchard, ex-Crytek employees. We also have contractors working full-time or part-time on Crime Coast with us, doing things like concept art, music, sound effects, rigging, animation, modelling, etcetera.

Greenshoots

I heard about Greenshoots from many sources, but Nowak reminded me about it at the right time. I knew it was what we needed to take the project off the ground, so we applied. It’s a great help, and I’m glad to be a part of it as it’s making it easier for us.

To be honest, I didn’t expect this level of help. For starters, Greenshoots has provided us with devices, Azure credits and all of the Microsoft software licenses we could have asked for. But more importantly, there is a team backing us there. We can ask for anything and they will help us.

I think that initiatives like this are very important for the region and country, simply because they could make the difference between the success and failure of a company.

We looked at other games for inspiration regarding our pricing model, and the main monetisation method we are looking at right now is the sale of virtual currency through microtransactions. We are also considering adding video ads in a later update.

One important thing to note is that all the content in our game is accessible without the need to spend money. We are focusing on pleasing spending and non-spending players equally, as both are very important to the game and its success.

We’ve tried in-app ads as a way to monetise before and they do work. Depending on the game type, ads can provide the largest share of income. It’s possible to build a business solely on advertising-based games.

Using the cloud

The original backend of our game was hosted on Amazon Web Services. I was surprised to find everything we needed on Azure, and the number of services that are provided there is incredible. We use SQL Server, Redis cache, data storage, virtual machines and push notifications. Also, we found the platform more friendly and easy to use than AWS, and were surprised by how easy the transition was.

You can find the full script on how to use Azure to do this on the Microsoft website.

Keeping things simple may seem easy, but it’s not. Be sure to remember that every day of your life, because even veterans seem to forget this rule at times. Make sure you get straight to the point when you’re developing.

Second, dig deep to learn your craft. If it’s programming, do a CS degree, or learn about algorithms and 3D math. I haven’t got a CS degree myself, but I studied all this, including a lot of math, and know how important it is for a programmer. Go deep in the subjects. Start and finish simple projects.

And finally, if you’re starting a small business, make sure you choose a segment where there’s little or no competition. This is important advice irrespective of your industry.

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