Pay by Numbers

Chris

Why tear out my heart for all the world to see?
Why not paint by numbers
Catchy melody
Burn it up the charts with sweet simplicity
Then do it again
Self, Paint by Numbers

If you ask experts in the field of mobile game monetization how to make a hit, they’ll give you consistent advice.  You should be “free to play” or “freemium,” which means you offer the game at no cost but then ask the user to pay for various things later.   They will encourage you to schedule payment prompts at particular intervals, and to offer items that can be bought with cash.  It’s probably a good idea to have some sort of energy mechanic that forces players to take a break and wait for energy to “refill” every once in a while.  Of course, if they are impatient they can just pay for more energy and continue immediately.  You probably want to have some items that are cheap, and some other items that are super expensive, because a small percentage of users will go crazy over your game and end up buying these extremely expensive things.  In fact, these “whales,” the users that buy the $60 floppy hat and the $100 crested armor, will be your primary source of revenue.  Make sure most of your items are consumable, so the player will have to buy them over and over again.  You should give out free, randomized items every once and a while, just to keep the player interested.  And if they haven’t played for a few days, why not pop up a notification reminding them that they just earned free gold without even doing anything?

This is what the experts will tell you, and they are clearly right: these types of systems allow you to give a game away for free and still make quite a profit on it.  The top grossing games on iOS and Android are, almost without exception, games that employ these schemes.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these ideas.  Indeed, most of them predate the current boom of mobile phone games.  Once upon a time we called them DLC, or shareware, or subscription fees, or “insert credit to continue.”  MMOs have been operating on these systems for more than a decade.  You can find some of them in Animal Crossing.  Some developers have jumped on these systems as intrinsically evil, designed only to exploit the player, and an assault on game design, but this argument has a big problem: it ignores players who genuinely love these games.  Look, Britney Spears might be a singer who’s career is entirely constructed by a corporation for the purposes of selling CDs, but it’s also true that some people genuinely enjoy the songs she sings.  You can’t argue that those people are “wrong” for liking Britney Spears, just as you can’t really argue that people who enjoy Farmville are “wrong.”  Though some implementations may seem more questionable than others, the schemes for monetizing free games are not intrinsically bad.

In developing Wind-up Knight we spoke to a large number of well-meaining experts, all of which told us the same thing.  And we thought about their advice pretty hard.  Well, actually, we thought about it really hard.  We thought and debated and made plans and then threw them away for the entire course of development.  In the end, we ignored almost all of the advice we were given.

It’s not that we think monetization systems are all evil.  The problem with the type of advice we were getting is that it assumes that your game design is inconsequential, the “touchy feely bits” between prompts for more free gold.  It doesn’t really matter what the player does, just as long as they can do it within the monetization structure that seems to work.  Maybe that’s why so many of the top grossing games on iOS and Android feel so empty and soulless–there’s really nothing to do other than walk the monetization state machine in a loop.

Wind-up Knight’s design isn’t something that we sat down and wrote up.  If anything, it’s a design that we unearthed, something that already existed and was just waiting to be discovered.  Something that we moulded and polished into a full game, but certainly not something that came from a big Word document describing a bunch of play mechanics.  It is the product of iteration, a lot of iteration: about 40% of our development period was spent testing ideas and tweaking the results.  The game we ended up making is almost nothing like our original concepts.

The thing is, the game we discovered isn’t a game that works with an energy system.  Consumables don’t work well in the design.  There’s really no justification for an artificial delay in the game loop.  The items we have are not worth $60.  Almost all of the advice we received about “how to make a game that makes money” was at best inapplicable and at worst outright contrary to our core design.

Wind-up Knight is a hard, skill-based game.  The design requires a level of rule transparency and respect for the player that some other games don’t need to concern themselves with.  When you die in our game, it must always be because you messed up in an obvious way; unfair deaths would change our rewarding challenge into a recipe for frustration.  This respect for the player must also extend to every other element of the game, and that includes item sales and monetization.  We felt that to compromise the core design to bolt on some sort of scheme would pretty much ruin the entire game.  It would cheapen the experience, and remove the value of a difficult achievement.

We went around and around on our monetization plans.  Finding a middle ground that allowed us to make some money without damaging the game design or pulling a fast one on the user took a long, long time.

Here’s the system we came up with in the end.

  • You can play Wind-up Knight, from start to finish, completely for free.
    • However, to do so you have to be good.  Very good.  You must get high ranks on just about every level.  But if you are awesome, the game is free.
  • Playing well will get you Notes, our in-game currency.  Notes are paid out at the end of each level depending on your ability to collect all of the items in the level.
  • Levels are separated into Books, four in all, each with 13 levels apiece.  The first Book is free, and subsequent books can be unlocked for free with Notes earned from play.
    • If you are unable to play well enough to unlock a Book for free, you can unlock it by buying a few Notes or spending $1.99.
    • If you just want to check out the content and don’t care about mastering the game, buying the Books is an easy way to progress.
    • If you trust us enough to pay for the game very early (after the third level), we’ll give you the option to unlock all of the levels for a discounted rate.  If you decide not to do that, no problem: the game continues normally until you finish the first Book, which is the first 1/4th of the game.
  • All of the items in the store can be purchased with Notes, which means you can get them all for free as well (if that’s how you decide to spend your earnings).  Many of the items make the game significantly easier, and will thus help you acquire more Notes.
  • Items are priced reasonably based on their in-game effect.  The most expensive item is less than $4, and it’s extremely powerful.

With this system you have a choice.  If you like a challenge, and you are the type of gamer who enjoys putting his pride on the line, your reward for being awesome is enough Notes to buy all of the Books for free.  If you prefer to just speed through the game with upgraded items and you don’t have that completionist streak, you can spend a couple of bucks and access all of the game content.  And if you really don’t want to spend a dime, or you live in a country that doesn’t allow in-app purchases, you can choose to earn Notes through Tapjoy, an advertising service (which is otherwise completely hidden until you select it–no popups or ads in our game).  The items we sell in the store are cheap and have real gameplay value.  Equipping them changes the play significantly–the only “cosmetic” items we have are things we give you for free.

Our goal with is to provide a system that is transparent, has real value, and most importantly, respects the player.  We’ve eschewed popular monetization schemes (much to the dismay of some of our friends) because they simply did not fit with the game we were building.  We believe that there is room for games with different approaches; if nothing else, Wind-up Knight is an experiment to see if this kind of game can be profitable.  If we could have employed some of those tried-and-true systems, we would have, and we may yet in the future.  But only when they complement the game design and are done in a way that the user does not feel ripped off.  To bolt something on that doesn’t belong in the game is antithetical to our mantra of quality above all else.

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83 Responses to Pay by Numbers

  1. John says:

    I like your approach to monetization, except for one point:

    “If you trust us enough to pay for the game very early (after the third level), we’ll give you the option to unlock all of the levels for a discounted rate. If you decide not to do that, no problem: the game continues normally until you finish the first Book, which is the first 1/4th of the game.”

    I never want to feel like a game is making me gamble. Where I am suddenly forced into a decision where I have to make it now, without complete information, or it’s lost. When you do that, you lose me.

    • Chris says:

      Just don’t make a decision, then. You can still play the whole game for free, or pay for it, or whatever.

      • KG says:

        I wasn’t happy with this gamble, either, but for me I think this was largely because the timing was so unfair. After level 3, I hadn’t really learned what’s involved in gaining notes, unlocking books or purchasing items, and it was too early to tell whether the game was likely to be of consistent quality (though I was impressed by what little I’d seen). Worst of all, the game description on the Android Market warned of slowdown problems with the Samsung Galaxy S II – my primary phone – potentially starting with level 4. It seemed very unwise to make a purchase before seeing just how bad the situation was. I’m glad I declined the offer, since the game’s very frustrating (borderline unplayable) in places due to that problem.

        Although imho the offer should come much later, I think it would be nice to make this offer again to SGS2 users once the jerkiness/unresponsiveness problem is fixed/worked around. Having said that, I plan to try playing through the game without paying anything (for the challenge), and I hope I’ll have a reason/opportunity to buy something worthwhile once I’ve done so, if only as a thank you.

        • PH says:

          I agree with KG. At the time of the offer i didn’t even know the normal price of the books. At least the information how much you save would be good.
          After the SG2 Fix and deleting my app data and got the offer again ;-)

          Thx for fixing the SG2 bug. It’s really fun to play. I don’t regret paying the discounted rate.

  2. Stefan says:

    Interesting monetization model. Would be interested to hear about long-term result of it later on.

    And another thing, just because it struck me (and not because I enjoy her music): She is spelled BRITNEY Spears.

  3. David says:

    I agree with John – the value proposition isn’t really very clear at the point where the offer is presented. When a traditional merchant offers a “one day sale”, you probably have some idea of the retail value of the merchandise. You also know that there will probably be other “one day sales”.

    How many levels are there to unlock, and how much will they cost me? How hard is the game, and will I need to spend money on items to beat it? I don’t know these things and have no context to make a decision.

    The fact that you only offer it once, before I know how to value your game, makes me suspect I’m being tricked into spending money.

    • Chris says:

      In that case, the safe bet is just to skip the offer, no? The dialog makes it clear that you can continue the game, no strings attached. If you feel uneasy about it, it’s because there’s a precedent for exploitive games out there. Let it go and continue playing, no harm, no foul.

      • tim says:

        I kinda agree about the offer not being clear enough, although my feeling isn’t one of being tricked into accepting the offer rather it is chagrin that I didn’t know enough at the time to make a decision, and now wish I had taken you up on it :) . I don’t remember the exact wording of the dialog, but I wish it had been clear just how much I would save. Specifically I didn’t realize it would cost me 6 bucks to play the full game, as a casual player who’s not awesome enough to proceed solely on Notes. (And that’s of course before buying any items) 6 bucks feels high for a phone game, although of course WK is on the very top tier in terms of production values. I understand it is a hard balance to strike though so I don’t feel too strongly about it. Definitely wouldn’t go so far as to use the word trick wrt your early offer.

      • David says:

        I agree, presenting it without some information about what one might otherwise pay undermines the brand you seem to be cultivating with this narrative. I’m not saying don’t make the offer, just that being transparent about what it may otherwise cost would better fit the brand you present here. I bought it and love it, by the way. It’s refreshingly different and fun.

      • Ted says:

        I was going to accept the offer. I leave the marketplace open when I went to a meeting. My battery ran out and after charging that restarting the game the offer was not repeated. can I simply uninstall and reinstall? I wanna give you guys your props, but not sure how to accept that offer and pass along a little green. Help

        • Chris says:

          If you clear the app data cache (in Settings > Applications > Manage Applications > Wind-up Knight), you’ll reset all of your progress, lose any notes you have, etc. But this will let you get to the offer again. Thanks!

  4. Roger says:

    I like it. Even if it means going through it all with a wooden sword, I’m ready to face the challenge of playing the game for free!

    I’ve got to say I really enjoy the mechanics you guys set up, especially the wind up time giving you only that much dawdling room to grab the cards.

    Sadly, I’m playing on a Galaxy S2 system, the lag is quite an issue. Made it up to stage 9 despite that (hooked!), hope it all gets resolved soon. Good luck with this and future projects!

  5. John Palgut says:

    I love the game, and the interesting approach to monetization. However, the one thing that is stopping me from implementing in app payments/microtransactions/DLC is the fear that Lodsys will come knocking. Until that patent situation is sorted out, it seems like Indie devs are safer pursuing other methods of monetization.

  6. Pingback: Wind-up Knight In-App Purchases Synthesize Old and New | Tim Stellmach

  7. jetguat says:

    I like the monetize concept you have. I’m pretty new to android, and I’m already a bit tired of that nickle/dime’ing that goes on for just about everythying. Ads everywhere. I’m not against paying for an APP, and I’ve got plenty I purchased. $3.99 is reasonable. But what I’m not sure on.. is it really really a one time only deal? what if I’m good enough to get to, I dunno stage 14 of book one, but completely stuck then. And I find my skills dont get me through. I dont see options to buy notes on the android marketplace. Can I still get the $3.99 at that point? or pay $x.xx for book two, only to find I’m stuck at level 7 and need an additional $x.xx. I’m thrilled to support peoples development efforts (as a developer myself.. my my code keeps you LTE data connections running smoothly). But I want to avoid being nickle and dimed….

    • Chris says:

      If you pass on the special offer, you can still unlock the rest of the game. You can do it with Notes if you S-Rank every level, or you can do it with cash for $1.99 per book. Or, you can use TapJoy to get Notes for free. Or if you almost have enough Notes but not quite, you could buy 600 Notes for $0.99 and then use Notes to unlock the book. So you have options.

  8. Will says:

    Congrats for the game. It’s an outstanding work what you built.

    My only “concern” is that SGS I9000 owners are not able to download the game from the market due to device cache limitations and that keep us behind when new updates are available. Is there a mitigation for that ?

    Thanks in advance and keep the great work!

    • Chris says:

      I’m told, but can’t confirm, that i9000 users can successfully download if they roll back Android Market updates. No clue if that’s for real, though.

  9. Victor says:

    Hi Chris,

    Where, in the game, is an explanation about getting the game for free if beating the levels with good ranks? I Think I’ve missed the popup/info. IMHO that should be more advertised, for people lazy like me.

    Btw fantastic game!

  10. nucan says:

    why con’t HTC Desire S get it ” wind-up knight ” ??
    why ? why ?

    • Chris says:

      Do you have Android 2.2? I know some versions of the Desire also have problems downloading large apps. What issues do you have?

      • Chester says:

        Is it possible because of the carrier’s restrictions? I have a Desire S as well and when you try to install the game, it will say the games is incompatible with my device. My carrier is Singtel. Thanks for any information! BTW, screenshots of the game looks awesome, but can’t play in Desire S. More power to the team!

        • Chris says:

          We don’t impose any carrier restrictions. We require Android 2.2, OpenGL ES 2.0, and your phone can’t be a Galaxy S or Motorola Droid. That’s it.

  11. Chris B says:

    Fantastic monetization plan! It’s refreshing to see a different sort of F2P schedule put in place. It sort-of reminds me how Riot Games runs League of Legends. You can get all the Champions & Runes completely free – you just have to be a bit hardcore and work for them. As a gamer & busy parent, I have less and less time to spend on gaming. So it’s nice having the option to do both styles in a game. Be casual and spend a few bucks, or go hardcore and just take pride in working for it. Thanks for bending the F2P/Freemium model and being a bit of a pioneer in the F2P/Mobile gaming market. Kudos! (p.s. Because of how impressed I am with the plan, I’m downloading the game as I write this! If it was energy based, time based, blah blah, I would have skipped it.)

  12. Nick says:

    Interesting, I did feel a refreshing amount of honesty within this game and could see a large amount of care that was used to create it. The one time discount offer made me panick though, not knowing the full price. It might seem like a small choice to the developers but to the player it was a major crossroads :P fun stuff, trying to ‘earn’ the game itself as a reward for great playing, I love it.

  13. Aaron says:

    I really enjoyed this game, works great on my tab, and im currently unlocking books(levels) through the tapjoy stuff.. But i have say though, i had some troubles with tapjoy, as some of the apps featured there doesn’t quite work. Besides that, the game is really cool, i just had to drop by and thank u guys! You guys are doing a great job and im hoping to play more games developed by you guys!

  14. Eric Gibbons says:

    Ahoy,

    I read through this entire post, nodding continuously. I work at a mobile ad company, Pontiflex, and I just want to let you know that we entirely agree with pretty much everything you said, but especially this part:

    “It’s not that we think monetization systems are all evil. The problem with the type of advice we were getting is that it assumes that your game design is inconsequential, the “touchy feely bits” between prompts for more free gold. It doesn’t really matter what the player does, just as long as they can do it within the monetization structure that seems to work. Maybe that’s why so many of the top grossing games on iOS and Android feel so empty and soulless–there’s really nothing to do other than walk the monetization state machine in a loop.”

    I saw that you’re working with TapJoy, which makes sense for your game, but just know that we agree that monetization schemes should always come secondary, and should offer some sort of value to the developer and the customer. Keep up the awesome work you guys are doing.

    Cheers,
    Eric

  15. Scottie says:

    Nice blog post, neat page style, maintain the great work

  16. Fari says:

    I absolutely love this game! Of the hundreds of games I’ve downloaded for the android, this so far is my favorite. The game mechanics are almost pitch perfect. The controls flow easy. The graphics are smooth and well rendered. Levels are interesting. Collecting cards adds an extra dimension. The power ups are compelling but not absolutely necessary to purchase to enjoy the title. Even monetization is probably the cleverest I’ve yet experienced.

    In that regard, I really hope the monetization works out for you but if it doesn’t, you should know that I would have gladly paid 1.99 (probably would have never tried it for that price but now that I’ve played it, I think it’s more than worth it). With your current montization scheme it looks like you could probably make 3x that amount with some players.

    One suggestion, however. There are a couple of levels that I’m not quite clear about how to get the cards. You should definitely add level hints or walkthroughs to the store for in-game cash. I know I can’t be the only one who would snap those up.

    Keep up the good work.

  17. Laszlo says:

    I do agree that I would have liked the discounted option a little bit later, only because I would have accepted it if I had known the prices of the levels and how much I would enjoy the game. But that is a thought in hindsight.

    I do have a question about the “free notes” however. I signed up for a gamefly account to obtain said notes and have not received them. How do I verify that I went through them steps in order to continue playing?

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  19. Ami Hughes says:

    If I buy notes and wipe the game cache, will I start a new game with the notes I purchased? For example if I buy 2000 notes, make a couple purchases in the store, and if I’m unhappy with my purchases could I wipe the data and start the game again with 2000 notes? Or more importantly, if my phone got broken and my data wasn’t backed up and I replaced my phone and had to start all over, would I lose my purchased content?

    • Chris says:

      Hi Ami,
      If you wipe your phone your notes will be gone. Be careful!

      • Ami Hughes says:

        Would I lose my app purchase as well? Though I’m pretty good at games, I decided to buy this so I could have more notes to spend on items rather than unlocking the next book.

        Also, just out of curiosity, how many notes are there to earn? Let’s say you finished every level with an “S”, how many notes would you have if you didn’t buy anything?

        One final question: When you unlock stuff like the Yellowjacket stuff, do you still need notes to purchase it?

        • Ami Hughes says:

          Ok it looks like there’s about $5200 to earn in game because I seem to be getting $100 a level. I got a free hard hat, also, for no reason at all! Are there any other freebies? :) And does the yellow jacket and card suit armors do anything other than look super nice? If they have any special attributes, what activates them? I love my Heart Armor, but it doesn’t seem to do much. :)

  20. Joshua says:

    Its extremely profitable when you charge the consumers accounts and give them nothing in return and no way to contact you or dispute the charges. Thanks Robot Invader.

    • Chris says:

      You have many ways to contact us! info@robotinvader.com, as listed in the Android Market page. Also, on your Google Checkout receipt, there’s a place to send us a message as well. We do appreciate your patience–so far we’ve been able to respond to most queries within 48 hours, but if e-mail volume increases it might take us longer to get back to you.

  21. emory johnson says:

    Downloaded wind up knight from the market plays well on htc sensation, when the option came for me to do the one time special offer to buy the rest if the books I did. It’s still won’t let me open book two and continue my mission to save the princess. Very disapointing. I can email you the order number if you reply so that you can fix this for me.

    • Chris says:

      Did you complete Book 1 before trying Book 2? Unlocking the books gives you access to their contents, but you must complete a previous book before going on to the next. Feel free to drop us a line (and yes, please do include your order number) at info@robotinvader.com.

      • emory johnson says:

        Yes I even completed the nightmare level. I sent you an email already thanks for this response though.

  22. Liam Phoenix says:

    I loathe monetization, and loathe ads even more, but you’ve managed to pull off one of the few systems that actually work. The rwc content is not necessary, and not obtrusive, which is something your competition and their constant nagging or lag inducing ads would do well to emulate. Of course by making the game challenging you ensure that many people will pay for it

  23. terry says:

    I love the game and after three s ranks in a row found it enjoyable enough to pay the $3.99 to unlock all levels but my battery died right after making the purchase. How can I get those levels unlocked?

  24. Derek says:

    I paid the $3.99 to unlock all the books but I haven’t been able to access Book II after beating Book I. I have attempted to contact Robot Invader multiple times (through Google Checkout and info@robotinvader.com) but have received no replies. Am I supposed to reinstall the game after purchasing the Books? I love the game but it’s been 3 days since the transaction went through and it was not made clear to me whether I had to do anything to be able to play the additional Books. Please help!

  25. Bob says:

    I like your game VERY much, the only thing that keeps me from spending real money on upgrades is the fact that the purchase is not tied to the google account. I’d like to buy for example a sword and be able to use it both on my phone and tablet, just like when I buy apps from the market.

    Great game! and I hope the monetization works out for you. I stay away like the plague from those games that pester you to play.

    • Chris says:

      We’d love to be able to tie it to your account, but Google doesn’t provide a system that services this kind of monetization system. Generally, the Google IAP system doesn’t have any memory of any kind of in-app currency system.

  26. Wargonzola says:

    I decided to read your blog before downloading your game, and I’m glad I did – it was a refreshing perspective on some of the cynical mess surrounding monetization. My only quibble with your implementation is *when* you offered me the discounted unlock – I felt like I was still halfway through the tutorial when it was offered. Just putting it a few levels later would feel less demanding, or having the multichapter unlock as a generally offered product rather than a “1 time offer buy now!” … I don’t know, maybe I’ve been conditioned to resent time limited offers, but I found that I didn’t like that part.
    Hasn’t stopped me from playing, but if left a bad taste in my mouth.
    On the other hand, the game is brilliant and you’ve definitely earned my money. Thanks!

  27. Cooper says:

    Excellent game. I read through your blog and played through your game. 52 S ranks later, I’m quite impressed with the level of work that’s gone into making this tower of cards. The levels are beautiful and deadly. I’m more impressed with your choices about monetization. Putting the players and the game itself before profits was a bold move. Something that we skilled gamers appreciate.

    I have a couple criticisms. My only real dissappointment came at the end of the game. After finishing every level I was expecting some fan fare. A pat on the back, maybe a kiss from a princess. The game had an introduction, why not an ending?
    Also, I think the action buttons could be a little bigger.

    Loved the game, looking forward to your next project,
    Cooper

  28. Trev says:

    First of all I would like to say, this game rocks!

    I downloaded it about a week ago, and I have been playing it in almost every free moment I get. Today I completely beat the game, including earning every note and card. I love the card armor and weapons and their awesome abilities. Anyways, I was a little confused at how the game ended, with no closing scene or dialogue. I was wondering if this is how it’s supposed to end or if my phone somehow skipped passed it, or if there is an upcoming update with more content. I’ve always been into game storylines, whether big or small titles, and just want to know what happens next haha.

    But nevertheless, what an excellent game that is incredible fun and highly addicting. Maybe we’ll get lucky enough to see a Wind-up Knight 2?

  29. Andrew says:

    I love this game, its awesome and doesn’t get boring at all. However, I’m currently using the Samsung Epic touch 4g which gives me terrible lag, as stated, from level 4 and up, is there any ETA to when this will be updated for us Samsung users?

  30. Emil says:

    Bought the game…but so much lag! SGS2, please fix this now!

  31. nick says:

    Love the game. Slick and fun. Bought the discount after level 3, but nothing happened and I couldn’t access book 2 after beating book 1. Emailed robot invader at info@robotinvader.com with my google confirmation number. within 24 hours, they emailed me a code to unlock the other books and another code for 600 notes “for my trouble.” Thanks, Chris and the rest for great service and a greta game.

    To all those who want this game for free, I say you are doing nothing but ensuring this studio is unable to keep putting out great games. I’ll pay my 4 bucks, thanks.

    One piece of advice I’d give is to put the customer service email address in the website header. It took me half an hour of google stalking to find it.

  32. Nathan Cunningham says:

    I am loving this game. I am okay with the monetization system, but today I ran into an issue. I took the deal early to unlock all the books, then I paid the 4.99 for the additional notes. The app crashed right after that, and when I reloaded I still had my 1100-ish notes. Is there any way to refresh it to get the notes I bought?

    Keep up the good work.

  33. Pau says:

    Hey. I downloaded and played part of the game days before coming here and seeing your post and I have to say that the mentality/spirit you outline was already evident when playing. Just two quick notes: 1) I agree that the offer after 3 levels is a bit soon, one does not yet have a good feel of how great the game is and what they are getting (and it’d be good to tell them how much they’ll save with the offer), and 2) it plays kind of great on my Sensation 4G, I say kind of because of some graphical glitches, the most notable being the life sprocket/meter and the falling barrels. The latter is a problem because they sometimes obstruct most of the screen upon exploding, making it almost impossible to proceed. Personally I hope others experience this problem as then there’d be hope for a fix and this game is great fun. I’ll most likely end up buying it after seeing if I am good enough to play it all for free or not.

  34. Sherwin says:

    I admit, I was really put off by the one-time offer, too. It pretty much made me stop playing right then and there, because I didn’t want to make an uninformed decision on a game I’d just started playing. Maybe that’s the intent, that it should cause discomfort, but with it being one-time so early and without me really knowing how hard the game might become because I’m still running through the tutorials, I felt like someone was trying to take advantage of me: either I pay now for something I may not want to play all the way through, or I like it enough later to want to play through the game, and I just missed out on a chance to save money. I’d be much more comfortable with it had it been a standing offer that lasted until you bought/unlocked the second book. I’d have a much better idea of whether I want to pay for the rest of the game by then.

    Other suggestions from my small playthrough would be mostly interface-related: the buttons are sorta small, the menu system has no labels and is trial-and-error, and it’d be nice to have a way to customize the button layout. Game looks great, and I like the sense of humor. Just didn’t like being blindsided by a limited-time deal.

  35. Norman Mcleod says:

    When I got to the offer to purchase I simply googgled, what happens if I don’t and found the answers I needed.

    I’ve after many frustrating attempts got an S on the first 4 levels, and I’m determined to play through without paying, as the challenge has it’s own rewards. It’s a snow day today, so play on.

    However I agree with many others here, you should make the choice a little less confusing.

  36. Jim Le Fevre says:

    I found the game by accident and took a punt by the feel of it.

    Through playing the first parts to it I recognised something inherently great about it and am about 4/5ths of it as I type.

    And now I’ve found this page on the internet and it justifies the last three weeks of thoughts whilst playing.

    I think it is a truly wonderful game and balanced against the skill it demands (at times the sheer bloodymindedness of the skill) the sweetest reward so far has been the Princess tips which are the finest examples of writing I’ve come across in my decades of game playing and bizarrely (especially set against something so clinically demanding) has created the most subtle and deep narrative.

    So touching and crafted and at times the most blessed light relief for a restart for the twentieth time.

    I salute you and I thank you.

  37. scraps says:

    I’m just curious what other games you make asides from Wind Up Knight? Your blog while interesting in your views and methodology doesn’t tell me anything about your other products. Though there may not be any other of course heh.

  38. AHM says:

    I finished the whole game a couple of days ago with all S-rank levels, It made me remember those 8-bit hardcore games we can not play nowadays and that some game developers have forgotten about it. Since I did not pay anything and played the whole game for free thanks to your monetization system I decided to post a review of your game in Spanish, given that the ones I have read looks like they were precipitated done(Its also my natal tongue) and as a way to give something back.

    Also I want to tell a minor bug I experience while playing with my LG Optimus Black, in 3 of the 4 books I had to replay one level to get(AGAIN) the card of that level in order to unlock the special item the game gives after getting the 13 cards of each level(Which I already had).
    Finally, I would like to say your game “its all about timing and coins set the rhythm”, thanks for this great game.

  39. AndreiL says:

    I think this is an admirable way of thinking. I could add that out of respect for your fine work and attitude you could have an option to donate 1$ at the end of the game for those players who are able to finish it by free playing. That could also include the bonus of being included on a public list of best players on your site.
    I myself would gladly donate 1$ for the attitude itself.

  40. ChrisWynter says:

    *heavy sigh* Another “looks fantastic” game that Android Market tells me is incompatible with my tablet (running Android 2.3). I can understand Google wanting to cut down on the refunds due to incomaptibility, but if the game is free then I don’t see why a warning can’t be displayed but still allow the download.

    Chris, is there another option to download the game? I have a couple of games that came up as incompatible on the site viewed on my pc, but I could still download them on my tablet. Wind-Up Knight, unfortunately, doesn’t appear in the search results on my tablet.

    Thanks! :)

    • Chris says:

      The devices that say “don’t compatible” are really not compatible–as in, they won’t run (e.g. old devices), or they will run with serious graphical corruption issues (e.g. the HTC Sensation). The one exception is the Samsung Galaxy S, which actually can run the game fine but is unable to download it because that device has a broken download manager. If you have a newer Galaxy S (running 2.3), we’ll be able to allow that device again once Android Market is updated to work around the download issues on that device.

      • Bob says:

        I downloaded the game for my Galaxy S by increasing the cache partition size, I also did this with my Galaxy Tab. I know that this procedure is not for the standard users, but removing Windup-Knight from the Galaxy S Market now doesn’t allow me to download the updates. I found out about the update through the Tab, which still shows WUK in the market even though it has the same 30Mb restriction as the Galaxy S. Please add the Galaxy S back to the allowed market devices.

        Thanks!

  41. Walid says:

    I’m looking at similar monetisation options. I’m curious how you integrated TapJoy. Sounds like you went for self-managed (because clearing the cache removes your notes), but does this mean you have a server listening to TapJoy callbacks? And if so, why not restore the notes from your server by device id?

    • Chris says:

      We use TapJoy managed currency, but we can’t really take advantage of it because we support 100% offline play. In the end it’s just a way to get a report from them when the user earns notes through their system.

  42. Matyas says:

    Hi Chris,
    Ugh.. finished! Could not really put it down, honestly. Thanks for the game and especially for the bold experiment. It’s good to see that there are some (more) people that consider do not consider business the ONLY important thing in a game. I am also a “wannabe” game developer. And as you seem to be reading every single comment, could you please answer also my question on replicaisland (http://replicaisland.blogspot.com/2010/04/replica-island-one-month-on.html) The last comment in order, also by me. Thank you.

  43. Jarred says:

    Hi Chris,

    I’m not sure how to contact you, so I’ll just leave a comment here. I like the model you’re using for the game, but I made the mistake of buying a piece of armour before I realised I needed all the notes to unlock the next book. I decided I’d just buy the next book – my account has been charged by Robot Invader, but the book is still locked. Is there something extra I need to do to unlock it (I’ve already done the previous book on all S), or what?

    Thanks,
    Jarred

  44. Nemi says:

    Hi, I purchased 10,000 notes 2 days ago But I haven’t received any communication from your end or notes in game. Let me know what has to be done.

    • Chris says:

      This isn’t the right forum for support questions, please see our Android Support page (on the right side bar). If your question isn’t answered there, drop us a line at info (at) robotinvader.com.

  45. Scraps says:

    Hi, thanks for the reply. Just finished Wind Up Knight (all S) and it was fantastic addictive. I thought the idea of being a wind up knight was a clever metaphor for how the knight was manipulated into saving the princess as a result of the princess’ ‘training’.

    Though I thought that there would be a small ending cutscene showing how the princess doesn’t care about being rescued. Or even an angry princess at the end of the last level. You guys planning on something like that for a later patch?