SumiKen Piracy – 9 Pirates vs 1 Samurai

 About Game Piracy

Have you watch the latest Pirates of the Caribbean? It looks so cool! Well, maybe not if your games you developed are getting pirated. Piracy is such a common issue in the game industry, yet there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, and here’s my experience with SumiKen piracy.

Postmortem – SumiKen Sales Count

It’s been 3 weeks since SumiKen : Ink Blade Samurai hits the App Store. Sales are pretty good I suppose, for someone who is just starting out and for their first mobile game. SumiKen has sold more than 300 units worldwide and has 17 five-stars rating within the last 3 weeks on the App Store. Reviews and supports are very warm and positive, thanks for all the people who supported SumiKen! It really meant a lot to me personally.

A Shocking News

A week after SumiKen’s release, my friend who is playing it told me he saw more than 700 people on the Game Center’s leaderboard. Which seems pretty weird to me as there are only about 200 units sold based on the iTunes Connect analytics at that time. I didn’t upload it anywhere else besides the App Store. I turned Unity analytic on and wait for two weeks to gather some data. What I found is shocking.

90% of Downloads are Pirated

Wow, there are 3,410 SumiKen players, awesome! But I only made 300 sales? That’s highly suspicious. MAU stands for Monthly Active Users, which tracks how many unique active users are there within a month. From this graph, one can say there are 3000+ players and the iTunes Connect shows only 300+ are paid users. Which means 90% of SumiKen downloads are pirated. Well, that sucks.

A Lost Battle?

Looking at the numbers, I felt disheartened. 3000 users, that could’ve cleared all my financial worries for a year if they were all paid users! The money would have enabled me to make my next game without extra financial pressure on the back of my mind. But no, there are only 300 sales, which gives me about $300+ after tax, just enough to survive for a month. It’s disappointing, yes, but there’s nothing I can do about piracy. The only thing I could do is to be positive and feel happy if they could appreciate and enjoy the game, even if it’s pirated, and maybe spread the words about the game to their friends.

Passion To Make Games

Thinking back about my inspiration for SumiKen, I just realized that I sacrificed huge amount of sleep time just to develop my hobby game, working until 3am in the morning for 4 months, that’s crazy! But in the end, I love it, and I would not stop making games. I just hope that one day I could achieve financial freedom through work and hobby. So that I could, without any financial worries, continue to develop games for people to enjoy and remember.

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SumiKen : Ink Blade Samurai – Inspiration from my list of best games

While developing SumiKen : Ink Blade Samurai, I asked myself, isn’t it awesome to be able to do Shoryuken just like Ryu in Street Fighter? It’s just something cool I wanted to add into my samurai endless runner, as so I did. As a game developer, I love to take references from games I played before and fit it into my own, for nostalgia sake, as well as paying tributes to them. Many games I played gave me great memory since my childhood, and I wanted my game to do the same for others.

Ryu up slash attack in SumiKen : Ink Blade Samurai

SumiKen : Ink Blade Samurai (App Store – $1.99) is my first mobile game, and I have to say, it isn’t very different from your regular runner games. There are running, coins, obstacles, upgrades, you know, the usual stuff you see in most runner games. But what makes it truly stands out is its art style, a smooth monochromatic painting style that resembles sumi-e painting. I didn’t expect it to turn out the way it is today when I started the game project. I’m glad and a little surprised that it looks awesome at the end! (I’m not a very good artist, mind you!)

PS2 Okami 2006

Okami is my all time favourite game and of course a massive inspiration for SumiKen. Its unique game mechanic and art style are what made me fell in love with it and I actually enjoyed playing it so much that I forgot to eat and sleep back in the high school days. It’s fun because you affect everything in the world by drawing with your magical brush stroke, you slash enemies with it, fix things, turn night into day, slow down time, create bomb, etc, there’s so much to do!. The ink brush painting style of the game is really appealing as well, it ties perfectly with the game mechanic and story itself, while creating a very unique world that I’ve never seen before. This game is a big inspiration for me, as a game developer and as a gamer.

SumiKen : Ink Blade Samurai gameplay screenshot

Before creating all the animation for SumiKen : Ink Blade Samurai, I had to know the general feel I wanted for the movement first. Finding the right feel for SumiKen took several iterations. At the initial prototype stage, there isn’t much movement to the player at all. I wanted the character to be a calm and controlled swordsman doing quick slashes, and the enemies would run towards him. I know I wanted the attack to feel fluid and not overly visceral. I imagined the swordsman to be calm and in control of his sword. You are a master swordsman, you slash in a cool way, you slash without looking back.

Onimusha 3 : Demon Siege

Well, let just say it doesn’t feel nice when I play test it, the game is too slow and doesn’t feel exciting at all. So I decided to change it to be the other way round. Now, the player would be running towards the enemies. It worked better and was more exciting with that sense of movement. I also happened to be watching a video called Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement.

In the video, Tony breaks down the type of movement in Akira Kurosawa’s films, and how the movements are masterfully designed to tell cinematic stories. I highly recommend you guys to watch it, it’s very insightful and inspiring for me.

sumiken samurai gameSumiKen : Ink Blade Samurai run animation

At it’s core, SumiKen is an endless runner game. And for an endless runner, the most important thing to get right first is the run itself, it has to feel good, it’s what the players see 80% of the time! For SumiKen, I wanted to make the run feels powerful and spontaneous, yet smooth. Coincidentally, one day when I was showing my prototype to my colleague, he showed me a short clip from Princess Kaguya by Studio Ghibli. There’s one scene where Kaguya is running away from the castle, it’s so dynamic and full of energy, that it immediately clicked for me.

I went and drew the run animation sketch in my sketchbook. Then I transferred those drawings to Photoshop and did some clean up. Then slowly, I polished the animation bits by bits, putting it into Unity to test it out in between and making sure it feels right all the time. To sum up the whole process, it all starts from an idea, goes to sketches, then cleaning up the line art, blocking in value, drawing the bold ink brush outline, adding in ink brush effect, then to polishing. I could make another post just to talk about the technical aspect of the whole animation process for SumiKen, if you guys are interested.

Kuro animation process breakdown

That’s it for my first post! I hope my dev log is a little insightful or interesting for you. If you like dev logs/ blog posts like this, subscribe to my newsletter by signing up at the right of the website page. Any comments, do let me know below, or if you prefer, message me through Facebook or Twitter and I will be happy to listen!

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