Fizz Filler. Some Windows Phone users will remember this game as far back as 2014. So what happened?
At the time I developed the game, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere after about 3 months of updates, so I started working on something else (a C#/SharpDX game engine). Almost two years went by and I didn’t check the game even once, which was definitely a dumb mistake on my part because it had actually received a good amount of 4 – 5 star ratings and reviews on the Windows Phone store.
Then the unexpected happened, Microsoft bought Xamarin. A company which led the development of Mono, which is a cross-platform framework that allows games to be developed in C# and run on other platforms, such as Linux, Mac and Android. Fizz Filler uses a framework called MonoGame. This fact alone is how the idea to port Fizz Filler to Android was born.
Over the two years before its Android debut I always felt that the reason Fizz Filler didn’t go anywhere is because Windows Phone never managed to garner a userbase anywhere close to the size of Android. It was very hard to make an income from ads alone on the platform due to the very small user base, which makes it less worthwhile in terms of development time and costs. But enough of the reason, how did the transition to Android actually work?
The first problem I hit was ‘how could I make the game feel new again?’ and then figuring out which parts of the game needed improving. For this I turned to the reviews on the Windows Phone store.
Many of the reviews at the time requested more upgrades, so this was the first thing I did. Despite the relatively small size of the game, the upgrades still had to make sense and still had to be balanced as to not make the game seem too easy or repetitive. In the end, only one new upgrade ended up getting added to the Android version.
I eventually changed my focus to polishing what I already had, rather than expanding upon the game. I knew from the start that in 2016, if you wanted to get anywhere on the Android store you had to have a damned good app/game. If it doesn’t at least look good from the start, the door will shut before you can get your foot in it.
Polishing began with the code. Much of the code from two years ago look very bad compared to all of the things I had since learned. By the time I was done cleaning up, optimizing and making it more modular or extensible, most of the game code had been re-written. There was barely anything left of the 2014 codebase.
This led to the next problem. Bugs. Not only did I have the reported bugs from the last two years to deal with (surprisingly few), I also had to test for any new ones that were introduced from the code re-write. Many bugs were slain during this time, but as usual, a few sneak through the cracks and into release!
Once the code was running smoothly, I focused on remaking all of the artwork and UI to a higher quality, so that it looked good on HD phone screens. At this point I was getting all kinds of crazy ideas, but had to tame my imagination to stay focused on the task. However a few small ones made it through, such as being able to see glass bottles fill up, instead of them appearing instantly full as if the liquid teleported into them.
Despite what some may believe, this is actually the worst part of the whole process from a developer perspective. You have no idea what is going to happen. The game might suddenly be a success and get lots of reviews, or it might get bombed with lots of bad ones and fall to the dark depths of the Android Play store from which many apps never come back.
Neither of the above happened to Fizz Filler. It managed to get one 5-star review in the first two weeks. Instead of taking that as a bad sign and giving up, I went back to working on the next update to further polish any rough edges and fix any bugs I and a few friends had found in the meantime.
The turning point for Fizz Filler. After adding the world map and drink factories, I was desperate to find out what else was lacking from the game, so I posted it on r/AndroidGaming. The reaction was immediate. Within about 8 hours over 200 people were playing the game and it had gained more store ratings/reviews on that day alone than it had over the previous two months.
Many of the players also commented on the reddit post, explaining what was missing or how things could be improved. Most of this feedback was added to the game over the next few updates. Two weeks later, the game’s playerbase started to grow quite steeply and continues to do so at the time of writing.
Yesterday version 1.6.5 was released. The time between this and the previous update was far too long, but the sheer amount of feedback I received had to be taken into account. There were many reports of bugs and crashes, a couple of which were extremely hard to track down. Since people were losing their progress as a result the bugs, I refused to release the update until they were fixed.
There are still so many features I would like to add or existing ones to be improved. Hopefully you all enjoy playing Fizz Filler as much as I have enjoyed developing it so far.
If you haven’t tried it on Android yet, head over to the play store and grab it for free!