MVP + Feedback.

Aura Alert was put on the App Store as a ‘Minimum Viable Product’. ie to have the basic functionality, but easy to abandon or develop further depending on feedback. Creating it I have learned a lot and so happy to move on to my ‘real’ game-like game. However due to the feedback I have had so far, I have decided to extend it to a sense of more completion.

Feedback has been interesting:

  1. Mates in the pub. Basic feedback on the ‘Toy’ mechanic of Aura  reading has been that it is ‘fun’ and the humour has been better received than expected. As something to pass around at a party Aura-scanning works on a basic level.
  2. I have had one negative email from a woman who thought Aura Alert didn’t fulfil it’s mandate of ‘analysing her aura’. Despite the language on the description in iTunes having phrases like ‘going into a foreboding forest to find a Seer’ and ‘Accusations of this app being powered by trapped souls are almost completely unfounded’. I seem to be getting people who take it not only at face value, but quite seriously. I have not marketed Aura Alert at all, yet a few people every week seem to find and buy it. Looking up this woman I see she has written several books on horoscopes which are complete poppycock. Loons seem to be my core audience thus far.
  3. Expected feedback. I have had some nice feedback from people who have tried it but then not got very far with it. ie  petered out after a short time, without discovering the story elements. This is what I was expecting as the main experience, considering global app fatigue and that the story elements are supposed to be a surprise.
  4. Unexpected feedback. One person ‘completed•’ Aura Alert in about two days. This is insane. It is supposed to take several weeks. There is a hidden ‘God Mode’ used for testing, where you can advance quickly. But it is protected with a pin number based on a real date surely too obscure for this concrete salesmen from Derby to have figured out. Impressive anyway. I am guessing that he just got into a groove of the central mechanic and caned it to the end, maybe with the help of artificial stimulants.

Where to go from here:

2 Modes. F2P?
In the first update I made a ‘Friend Mode’ ie one that has the basic ‘toy’ mechanic of Aura Reading, but separate from the progression bit or stories.
I was thinking to make this mode a Free to Play lite version, to encourage downloads, but for now : one small price, no In-App-Purchases and no adverts feels best, at least until I start marketing.

Finish the narratives and puzzle !
When I first created this the narratives and puzzle were not, and still are not ‘finished. * what completed means for the guy who completed it (so far), is a bit of a secret, but he is the only one who has successfully done it.
However with every upload more of the story is released. As updates are free people who purchase early don’t lose out; they are ahead of the game if they are working on the puzzle.

Coming from artistic practices where one tends to be very precious ‘auteur’ and wanting everything to be polished before anyone sees it, it is liberating to work in a way where I release something unpolished and then reiterate it. Except for the one guy mentioned, let’s call him Dave, I wasn’t expecting anyone to get to the end before I released the next version, so the story would be added episodically and people would catch up to it.
Not only will I release ‘more’ of the story with each update, but I am also re-writing the story, I like this fluid way of working and working towards a ‘version’ rather than a final work.

Low attention spans are a real problem with narrative/text based work. The psychology of ‘gamification’ reward systems to keep engagement is fascinating. ‘Achievements’ can be used to keep motivation, for example in a language learning program, or cynically as evil, addictive components for monetisation as evidenced in the grinding of most (financially) successful MMOs and F2P mobile titles.
The progression version of AA does need some reward structure, this is currently in the form of ‘achievements’ that appear if you play it for long enough. ie you get to customise the screen or find a story fragment.
As there is no real gameplay (in the first part) these rewards are not for skill, but for persistence. They are really just to add some variety. I think the pacing of AA is a problem, I expect that most people will drop the game if they do not get some kind of variety/reward earlier, but then again I want rewards to be sparse enough that they are a surprise. I expect I will tweak pacing on each update depending on feedback.

The Mystery
Without giving any more spoilers, there will be a mystery to solve concerning 8 stories.
I would like to acknowledge the first person who solves it; however very aware of Peter Molyneux’s shoddy handling of this type of situation so I won’t over-promise anything, maybe not even advertise this and just reward the first solver in a low key but personalised way.

Apart from friends for testing, I have not marketed AA or given it to reviewers yet. I don’t think all puzzles have to be in place for it to be marketed, but want to make some pacing improvements before I do.
I submitted it to the App Store rather than use Testflight for beta testing etc. as I wanted to test the whole App store process including payments. This has been a good decision and taught me a lot, I may do more beta testing on ‘proper’ games.

Other stuff
I have the big ‘to do’ list for subsequent versions, which I may publish here if anyone is interested.