Game Business Blog

'Make Isometric Games'

How to Make Isometric Games

By | Buildbox Tutorials, Game Business Blog | No Comments

In our new ‘How to make isometric games’ video series, you’ll learn how to build your own 2.5D style game with Buildbox. You don’t need to create 3D graphics, and in fact, you won’t need any game art at all. We’re going to show you step-by-step how to start from the beginning.  You’ll see how to create isometric game art from scratch using free vector graphics tools available online.

In this series, led by instructor Heath Close (a professional game developer and co-founder of MindCarve Studios), we’ll make a simple 2.5d jumper game using the ISO Jump preset in Buildbox.

There’s no prior coding, design, or technical skills required for this course. All you need is Buildbox. ;)

This course, called ‘How to Make 2D Isometric Games’,  is broken down into three in-depth tutorials covering:

  • What is Isometric Art?
  • How to Make Your Own Isometric Game Art and the Tools to Use?
  • How to Make an Isometric Game in Buildbox?

Ready to get started?

Building Isometric Games in Buildbox

Part 1 – What Is Isometric Art?

In the first video of this 3-part tutorial series, led by instructor, Heath Close, you’ll learn all about isometrics, how they’re created and why developers use them in games. You’ll then learn where the word comes from, its origins and some interesting terminology commonly used when working with isometric art.

There’s also a few fun facts included in the lesson, just for those trivia buffs out there.

In this tutorial, we’ll also closely examine what makes an image isometric. You’ll learn the most common angle measurements necessary to create them. Plus, you’ll gain an overall better understanding of isometrics and how they’re used:


Part 2 – How Do I Make Isometric Art?

In the second video of our Building Isometric Games series, you’ll learn step-by-step how to make your own isometric game art. We’ll also take a look at two different program options for making isometric art, discuss their features, and walk you through a complete isometric game art tutorial.

The first tool is the free open source 2D vector graphics program called Inkscape. Since it’s completely free to use, the lesson will primarily be focused on Inkscape. The program is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

The second tool is called Hexels 2. It’s a 2D grid-based painting tool for creating game art. Hexel 2 is a paid tool, however, they do have a free 14-day trial available for both Windows & Mac that you can try. This program is slightly more advanced but both are great options for making isometric art.

In this tutorial you’ll learn how to download the programs, setting up your project’s properties and settings. How to use the pen tool, add layers, create a platform for your character to run on and much more:

Part 3 – How Do I Make an Isometric Game in Buildbox?

In the third and final video in our tutorial on Building Isometric Games, you’ll finally learn how to make an isometric game within Buildbox. We’ll walk you through the process of exporting your game art from Inkscape, which we made in the previous video. Then you’ll learn how to use the creator tool to start quickly building out levels in your isometric game.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to correctly set up your collision shapes, edit animations, get the right scene length, and add advanced character moves and more. And we’ll also reveal some helpful sizing and collision guide tips.

By the end of this tutorial you’ll be able to create your own isometric games like a Pro:


NOTE: If you’re new to using Buildbox be sure to check out the ‘Make Your Own Game’ series also led by instructor, Heath Close. It’s a 10-part video course on making games in Buildbox that we highly recommend for beginners to really learn the ins and outs of the software.


App Store Optimization Is Dead

By | Game Business Blog | 19 Comments

We’ve seen the app store go through a lot of changes over the years, but this could be the biggest one.  I really didn’t think there would be a day when I would make a post like this, but I’ve been researching, analyzing, and talking to successful developers… so I’m going to come out and say it.  App Store Optimization (ASO) is dead.

To create any successful business you need two things:  traffic and conversions.  This is true regardless if you’re a SAAS company like Buildbox, a car company like Tesla or if you make mobile games.  In theory, conversions are pretty simple.  You have to have a great product and some system to convert that product into dollars.  With mobile games, this has always been either a premium or freemium business model.  Either charge the money up front, or make money with ads and in app purchases.  Pretty simple, but the traffic side of the business?  Not simple at all.

When I started in 2010, there wasn’t a lot of competition in the app store.  My first game, which was OK, but not amazing, got featured by Apple.  If you got featured on Touch Arcade, you would be in the Top 100 games.  I could email my newsletter list and break the Top 100 of a game category.  Now, that might seem like the “golden years”, but that’s not really true.  While it was easier to rank, it was also a LOT less people on mobile devices.  This year, Apple announced it had sold 1 billion iPhones.  Not only that, including iPad, they have over 1 billion different devices currently active.  That is insane. To put that in perspective, in 2010 when I started there were only 42 million iPhones sold.

So, was it easier to rank in 2010 than 2016?  Yes, but your app was seen by 4% as many people.  Easier launches, much less top side.  This is one reason we’ve generated more revenue in the past 18 months than we have the previous 4 years. The other reason is, the traffic model…

App Traffic

Now let’s discuss traffic, because this is the real lifeblood of any business, and it’s always been sketchy when it comes to apps.  There has often been some sort of short lived “secret” that people would figure out and run as hard as possible until it quit working, and typically this worked around ASO.

Let me give you some examples:

In 2010, people got traffic from Apple features or outside sources like press mentions or email lists.  Again, it was easy to rank then, but less upside because of so few people on mobile devices.

In 2012, people started figuring out App Store Optimization (ASO).  This started earlier, and used to be called App Store SEO, but this is around the time it really took off.  If you’re not familiar, ASO is simply showing up in search results in the app store.

If you can figure out how to rank #1 for “running game”, then your running game is going to get a lot of downloads. Around this time is when people started figuring out tricks. For example, we found out that for a short while Apple was ranking the developer’s company name higher than anything else.  If you made a company called “Best Game, Inc”, then you would rank #1 for the extremely competitive keyword “best game”.  We also found out if you named your app a single name with a period after it, that you would rank #1.  I had a game called “Games.” and another one called “Music.” and ranked #1 for both terms.  To be clear, I didn’t make these up, as a community we were all figuring it out and sharing.  The problem is, it turned into a game of cat and mouse.  None of these tricks work anymore and Apple was constantly trying to shut down the loopholes it created.  They took this very far the past few years making insane changes to the way search works on iPhone.

What App Search Looked Like When ASO Wasn't Dead

In 2016, Apple continued to make changes until they completely killed App Store Optimization as a business model.  At the time of this writing, I do not personally know a single person who is significantly growing a mobile game business based on ASO.  Even the people who had legacy rankings (i.e. they ranked high for terms in 2012) have slipped down the search results.  This proposed a major problem for developers.  App Store Optimization is how I got my first 10,000,000 downloads, and was the de facto way for indie entrepreneurs to make it in the game market.

Now we’re in 2017.  This is a new era, and as typical in these situations, a few other options have risen up to take place of the falling model.  Yes, App Store Optimization is dead.  It’s a crowded market that now gives the games on top even more leverage, but this does not mean it’s the end for the indie game owner.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  I’m happy to say our business is growing faster than ever and the new model that has replaced ASO for us is here to stay.  It’s actually consistent, which App Store Optimization never was for us.

Before I explain exactly what we’re doing, let me show you every option that is currently working for people right now.

What Works Now

There are a few things that work right now in the mobile market.  Some are harder than others, but I’ll list them all out below, then explain what we’re doing (as well as our most successful customers).

Social Influencers

We’ve seen a lot of people doing well by either hiring or partnering with social influencers.  Obviously there are the really big deals done with Kim Kardashian, but this has also worked out on a smaller scale.  We’ve seen people partnering with Vine (RIP) stars, Instagram famous people and more.  It’s a good approach if you have a big following, are great at networking or don’t mind spending some money to promote your game.

App Store Feature

This is a tough one to base your business on, but I do know one person, who is not a publisher, who does it.  He literally has built a business solely based on getting featured.  The key here is to first meet someone from the editorial or business development team, and then make sure to add as many new features to your game as possible, and create polished products. Even then though, it’s a bit of a lottery.  If you can somehow make yourself desirable – and have Apple or Google chasing after you – then you have a real strong shot at getting lots of features… but again, easier said than done.

Buying Installs

Buying installs is a huge market dominated by big players like MZ, makers of Game of War, and King, makers of Candy Crush. Because this upper echelon of developer has nearly unlimited financial resources, it’s made purchasing traffic extremely expensive for game developers.  I’ve heard you can gain chart position buying Facebook ads for some more obscure non-game app types because they are less competitive, but as a general rule, it’s not easy at all to get profitable buying installs on arcade games.  The one exception I often see is the Piano Tiles which is now owned by the Chinese company, Cheetah Mobile.  I haven’t quite figured out their strategy yet, but they often advertise what seems like a pretty simple game.  Probably worth investigating ;)

Getting Published

The final option you have to get traffic is also the most consistent one.  The only other option that might match it in consistency is partnering with a social influencer, but that largely depends on the outside success of the influencer themselves overtime.

Regardless, probably at no surprise to anyone, getting published is our option of choice to get traffic to our games.  The reason we pick this over other models is because:

  1. Diversification – You’re not locked down to one single source (Apple Feature) or the monetary value of a market (buying installs).  Just like every other major media market, there are many publishers to choose from and the list is only growing.
  2. Creation Guidance – We create games by analyzing what is working for publishers.  This vastly helps us decide what to create, and ensures that we have at least a decent shot of the game doing well (we don’t always hit home runs, but we almost always make it on base).  If you get featured, partner with a celebrity or buy installs, you are pretty much on your own.  There is no roadmap to follow or guidance on what you should make.
  3. Ease of use – Not having to worry at all about the marketing has been a huge stress relief on our company.  I used to stay up all night trying to figure out the latest ASO hack when we would get delisted.  Now we just focus on one thing:  Making good games.

Most importantly, it’s been the most consistent way to grow a game business that I have ever seen.  This is how every Buildbox customer who is crushing it has dominated the App Store.  In fact, 70% of the games on our All Star list were published.

'Making Games'

Making Games with Model and Improve

By | Game Business Blog | 3 Comments

What’s the secret to making games? How did some of the mega apps like Angry Birds, Clash of Clans, Candy Crush and Minecraft climb their way to the top? Was it through raw innovation or blind luck?

The answer might be surprising. They did what every major company from Hollywood movie studios to Ford Motor Company has done, they modeled and improved.

How to Model & Improve

The concept behind model and improve is very simple. A company first does research and identifies a very successful previous product in a related market. After studying the product, they figure out what they can improve and bring this new innovative product to market.

For example, did you know that was not the first book store on the internet? The first online book store was actually named Book Stacks Unlimited and owned the domain In the early days of the internet they had 500,000 books for sale and were delivering to hundreds of thousands to people around the globe each month. They were first successful e-commerce website ever launched.

Amazon came along and decided now that the e-commerce was a proven market, they could beat Book Stacks Unlimited by modeling and improving. Not only did they offer a larger variety of books by brokering with publishers (Book Stacks was stocking every book sold where Amazon was not), they also implemented many never before seen innovations including suggestions feature based on purchases, one click checkout options and faster delivery service.

Even more interesting, Jeff Bezos’ goal from the beginning was to create a store that sold everything “from a to z”, but he knew the path to success was to model what was already working and first conquer a small niche before branching out. Their growth was astounding and within 2 years they became the largest e-commerce site on the planet and today they generate more revenue than Google.

If you dig deep, you’ll start seeing this trend in nearly every successful company ever built:

  • Walmart wasn’t the first big box store, Meijer pioneered the superstore concept more than 20 years before Walmart opened their first super-center.
  • The Graphical User Interface (GUI) concept, made famous by Microsoft Windows was originally created by Xerox.
  • Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile, band-aids didn’t create the first band-aid, and Kleenex didn’t invent the tissue paper.

You would be hard pressed to find a popular product that didn’t supersede something less successful, but it should be noted, there is a huge difference between modeling and cloning. We do not endorse or encourage cloning of other people’s products in any way. With modeling and improving, you always want to try and improve what has already proven to be successful. Whether you’re launching a new product or making games, this method works. Using the model and improve technique when you’re making games will give you an advantage over other apps. This method is exactly what all four of the most well-known games on the app store did.

'making games that are popular'

Angry Birds

Angry Birds sparked a global phenomenon and is often credited with kicking off the true forward movement of the app store. While it’s debatable if it was truly the game itself or just the timing, the significance of this game is so huge it’s hard to comprehend.

Not only did Angry Birds lead apps into being the largest media category in the world (overtaking all of Hollywood in 2015), it also single-handedly created the video game merchandising space. Before Angry Birds there were no huge merchandising runs for games except for retro games to marginal niche markets.

With all of these accolades, they had to invent the whole gameplay idea by themselves right? Actually no, they didn’t. They modeled — in some opinions too closely — a very popular flash game called Crush The Castle. While it is a similar game, they definitely did improve the original with better graphics, smoother gameplay and a much wider theme that would appeal to all ages.

Crush The Castle predates Angry Birds by 6 months and was one of the most played flash games of all time. At the time of this writing they rank #4 on Armor Games with 25,699,831 plays.

How similar is it? Take a look for yourself:

'Crush the Castle and Angry Birds Making Games' 

Clash of Clans

Now we know that Angry Birds closely modeled Crush the Castle, but what about the legendary app store ruler of grossing charts, Clash of Clans?

As you might expect, they also closely modeled a game, but their story is a little different. Clash of Clans is created by Supercell. On their old website, you’ll notice 4 of the 6 founders were from a previous game company called Digital Chocolate.

The founders all left Digital Chocolate to pursue their own game, Clash of Clans, and little did they know they were about to create one of the most valuable companies ever. Supercell grew from zero to a $3 billion valuation in just 3 years.

That’s great, but where did they get the initial idea?

The company they left, Digital Chocolate, happen to make a successful game called Galaxy Life. Not only does Galaxy Life look like Clash of Clans, it plays like Clash of Clans. The premise is exactly the same, you hold down your fort and attack the enemy’s fort. However it goes beyond that. It’s so similar the original Clash of Clans tutorial was nearly a scene for scene remake.

So did they rip it off?

No, they added in a lot of unique features including multiple villages, better multiplayer support and most importantly a better theme. As we’ll soon discuss, theme is extremely important to your game. Fantasy is one of the most popular themes ever in gaming and bugs are notoriously difficult to sell.

They modeled and improved. They took a game they thought was good and made it even better. This is the key to making games.

Candy Crush

Possibly the best example in these games is Candy Crush. Candy Crush is based on the time tested and proven gameplay style called Match 3, but did they invent Match 3? Not even close.

Match 3 games evolved from the more broader tile match gameplay type seen in everything from Tetris to Mahjong. So how long has tile matching games, and more specifically match 3, been around?

Believe it or not, Match 3 style games are believed to have been around since the Roman times. It’s one of the oldest game design principles of humankind. It dates back to the creation of checkers, chess and backgammon.

The first video game version of Match 3 was made in 1974 in Japan. It was called Doku-Go.


Why did Candy Crush become so successful?

It’s no secret wildly successful games such as Super Puzzle Fighter, Puzzle Quest, Bejeweled and countless others made popular games with the match 3 style years ago. And while they were all hit games, none of them came close to the global phenomenon of Candy Crush.

Similar to Clash of Clans before them, Candy Crush came out with a new game based on a proven gameplay type and put an insane amount of focus on the theme. Candy, similar to Birds as we’ll soon discuss, is the ultimate theme. Everyone loves Candy including boys, girls, adults and children. It’s possibly the widest demographic known to mankind.

Of course, they also created a very solid game with mountains of levels and carefully crafted gameplay mechanics. They definitely modeled what worked, but they spent years consistently improving until they reached perfection.


Now, Minecraft made its beloved owner a billionaire and has completely taken over the lives of millions of kids across the universe. It was also heavily based on another popular game before it.

'Minecraft image'

The picture above is not of an alpha version of Minecraft. It’s from an open source game created by Zachary Barth called Infiniminer.

Minecraft creator, Markus Persson, has directly stated this is where his inspiration came from and that after playing Infiniminer he “decided it was the game he wanted to do”.

You’re probably wondering how Barth feels about Minecraft becoming bigger than Infiniminer. He’s stated in interviews it’s complicated, but when talking with Paper, Rock Shotgun he said, ”The act of borrowing ideas is integral to the creative process. There are games that came before Infiniminer, and there are games that will come after Minecraft. That’s how it works.”

Ready to Start Making Games …

Always remember when you’re making games to take time to really think of a great idea. Study other similar games and look for ways to model and improve. Picasso once said “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. Borrowing ideas from successful games should be mandatory when deciding your game idea. Try to respect the original creators and never copy, clone or reskin. Add something special to it. To do it correctly really breakdown the gameplay elements and then think of ways to improve each aspect.  You’ll have an entirely new game that’s much better than before. Not only will it keep you out of hot water, it will also vastly increase your chances of success.

This technique is the secret ingredient that all of the most successful game developers and entrepreneurs use. If making games is your goal, using the model and improve method is important.

Marketing Your Mobile App

Marketing Your Mobile App

By | Game Business Blog | 2 Comments

Every game developer should have a mobile marketing strategy in place for their app. Creating a solid plan, using app promotion techniques, and having the right pricing structure are all essential for success.

The amount of revenue that your game earns is completely tied to app marketing. It’s a determining factor in the amount of downloads you will get and how well the game will monetize.

So, how much revenue can you expect to make on a game?

As you probably would imagine, this question has many answers. It’s as varied as the very nature of games themselves. Often it’s not uncommon for a top indie game to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars during the first few months in the app store. It’s also not uncommon for a great game to completely flop and generate next to nothing.

In the end, it’s completely related to the visibility your game will get, the viral nature it will withhold and how it will generate revenue.  To really succeed in your mobile marketing efforts you need a solid plan with all of these key points.

Let’s tackle these points individually, starting with revenue.

Game Pricing

It’s important to select the pricing of your game, before diving into monetization. Whether or not your game is going to be paid or free will have a major impact on your mobile marketing approach.

I’ve personally tested this internally many times over the years, and free games generate more revenue (and obviously downloads) every single time. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to make a paid version at all, but if you’re going to decide between the two then always go freemium.

So what exactly is freemium? This simply means a free game that monetizes with in-app purchases somehow in the game.

Freemium games do not have to incorporate complex economies or currency systems, but I do recommend at bare minimum to include a remove ads in-app purchase. Not only can this be a decent source of revenue, it will also provide a better experience for your most hard core users who choose to remove ads so they can enjoy your game more.

Regardless of your in-app purchase options, you will most likely generate a much larger share of revenue on ads. The only exception to this is if you create a massive social game like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans.

Just how much will be made in ads instead of in-app purchases? As always, it’s best to look at real numbers to gather a true perspective of the industry.

Luckily, I was able to get a hold of some valuable mobile marketing data to share, courtesy of Buildbox CEO, Trey Smith. Not only did he agree to share his recorded data for the hit game Phases, but he also provided me with some deeper insights on pricing analysis.

phasesPhases:  Pricing Analysis

“First off, we decided to initially test a paid version of the game before releasing the free version. Strangely, this was not by choice,” said Smith.

“The real reason we initially launched Phases as a paid game was because it was created with an alpha version of our game creation software, Buildbox.”

“At the time of release we didn’t have ad networks setup in Buildbox, so we decided to test out the waters with the paid version to verify the paid store still wasn’t as effective as the free.”

Due to contract obligations, Smith was not at liberty to discuss the financial monetary numbers of Phases, but he was able to further discuss the breakdown percentages of the various monetization paths that he discovered worked the best.

After testing both pricing options, he realized the free version of the game performed the best download wise.

“The paid version bombed and at this point we changed to free for 4 days (even though we had no monetization in the game) and then removed it from the store because Ketchapp wanted to publish it under their umbrella. However, Phases did really well on its own once we moved it to free. We got over 25,000 downloads in those first 4 days before we pulled it down,” stated Smith.

app marketing data

“After pulling the game from the app store, we had to get it ready for Ketchapp. This meant more than just tweaking gameplay and adding in the changes they requested, it also required us to add in true monetization paths. Luckily, by this time we were gearing up for the release of Buildbox and had many options at our disposal.”

Here’s what he decided to include for monetization:

  1. Interstitial ads (AdMob)
  2. Banner Ads (Admob & iAds)
  3. Remove Ads In-App Purchase ($1.99)
  4. Skip Level In-App Purchase ($.99)

“There are a few odd things here, starting with the $1.99 price point for remove ads. We typically go with .99 and to be honest, this was an initial mistake on our part, but it ended up monetizing decently so we left it as is.

The second odd part of this setup was displaying the full screen (i.e. interstitial) ad on the Game Over every 7 times. Originally we had this display every 5 times which would be more standard in a game like this. The problem is in Phases you die fairly often, so we decided to change it,” said Smith.

Now let’s see each of these monetization steps broken down:

Ad data and mobile marketing stats

As you can see, AdMob had the lion share of the revenue. That’s because AdMob is where he served the full screen interstitial ads. They typically by far make the most money.

AdMob also shared a majority of the banner placement, though iAds converted very well and brought in an extra 8% revenue.  iAds is no longer an available option, but Admob is still a very popular choice that serves banner ads.

Another hidden benefit of AdMob is the vast reach they hold in smaller countries. With AdMob you rarely have to worry about inventory because they have such a large network. You might find iAds won’t show up in Turkey because they currently don’t have any advertisers in that area, where AdMob is extremely consistent.

According to the data, remove ads was a lowly 3%, even though it was at the $1.99 price point, but this is actually fine.  The goal of remove ads is not to generate revenue, it’s to please your hardcore players who really like your game.

It’s quite surprising, that skip level was responsible for more than 20% of all revenue from Phases.

“This was a shocker, and what’s even better was we threw it in at the last minute. We literally decided to add this option in 2 nights with the night before submitting the final build. We were shocked, but probably shouldn’t have been. The psychology behind it makes sense. People prefer to spend money on things that advance their gameplay,” said Smith.

“We did not include banners on the game field of Phases. This was a design choice because we felt it detracted too much from the game. We did put banners on the game field of Bounce and it increased the revenue by a larger percentage. If monetization is your main goal, then you might want to keep this in mind from the beginning,” added Smith.

Your Monetization Plan & Mobile Marketing

Now that we’ve examined some excellent data analyzing ad techniques and pricing, it’s time to develop a plan. When it comes to mobile marketing and app promotion having a plan is key. I recommend following what Smith did in Phases. Try using an interstitial on the game over screen in conjunction with a banner.

Remember to design your game around a game field banner. If this is something you want to incorporate, and in some cases (like Phases) it definitely does make sense to leave it out.

Think about your game’s design and interface. Consider the gameplay type as well when you’re deciding which ads and tactics to use.

It’s a great idea to add an in-app purchase to remove ads. Think about what in- app purchases you can add that will increase the gameplay experience. Some popular examples are special power-ups, continue playing options on the game over screen and skipping levels.

Have a strategy in place and know what you want to integrate. Write everything down and test it out as you go. Following these steps will lead you in the right direction for mobile marketing success.

How to Make Game Art Image

How to Make Game Art

By | Game Business Blog | 5 Comments

Game art design is another aspect of the game development process. In order to make your game stand out and really get noticed, having quality art is a must. You can create your own game art using various tools or find free art through different game resources available online.

You can also outsource an artist to make game art for you. As a game dev, I’ve tried all of these methods at various times. The method you choose depends primarily on your personal preference, allotted time, and budget.

Game Art & Sound

The following three methods are the most common ways to get game art and sound for your projects:
1. Make it yourself
2. Buy pre-made game assets
3. Outsource an artist and sound designer

Let’s further explore each of these options and best practices for each.

Making Game Art & Sound

You don’t have to be Picasso to make your own game art. However it does require some patience and a little creativity. If you choose this route, then you’ll want to keep things extremely simple especially if you’re a newbie. Try to start off by creating a minimal style game with a nice bright color palette. Buildbox founder, Trey Smith, did this with his game Phases.

He used the tool Pixelmator to create simple shapes. Pixelmator is an image editing alternative to Photoshop but either tools can be used to make quick game art. There’s plenty of tutorials on YouTube that show you in-detail how to design various shapes.

If you decide to go with a minimal art style then check out palettes from sites like Colour Lovers or Adobe Color. They are great resources to help you choose the right color combinations to use so you’re game will look more polished.

For sound, you might be surprised what you can record just with a simple mic and some ingenuity. For instance, the ball bouncing in the game Bounce (created by Trey Smith and Buildbox customer Mike Davidson) was a sample of Trey thumping his mouth. The breaking noise of the green lines was multiple recordings of clicking the tongue layered together. Often times when you need sounds, you can just turn on a mic and try to emulate the sound you need. The trick here is to always layer. A single thump or click will sound awkward, but if you put five different ones together, it will work in your game.

You don’t always have to resort to mouth recordings either. Any type of object or tool is fair game. It’s possible to record sticks breaking, stomping on the ground and even revving an engine of a car to get that perfect sound effect. Of course, if you know a musical instrument that is always a bonus. You can record a few key notes for various aspects of your game.

The Best Sites to Find Game Art, Game Assets & Game Development Resources

Everything you need to make 2D games, from game assets to sound effects can also be easily found if you know where to look. Searching game resources or free game art sites is the easiest and most popular approach to getting assets for your game. There are a multitude of sites that sell both art and sound files. Here are some great places to look:

Game Art Asset Sites:

Graphic River – Great game art site with decent prices
Shutterstock – If you buy a lot of art, they have a subscription plan.
Fotolia – One of the largest sites out there for stock images
iStockPhoto – Another large and notable stock image site
Scirra Store – Graphic store for Construct
Game Buffet – New site dedicated to game graphics
Open Game Art – Site featuring free game art that is open source
Atelier Store – Few pixel art items here sold in sets

Free Game Art Assets at Dumbmanex Image

2D Game Art & Assets

Dumbanex – Features a handful of free game art assets that can be used commercially if given proper credit.
Kenney Assets – Kenney has free 2D game art, 3D assets and audio available for download.
GameDev Market – Large marketplace for high quality affordable game assets.
Reddit/GameAssets/ – Reddit subcategories are a great place to find free or relatively low cost game art. – Over 1200 game art assets ranging from free to $15 or less.
Game Art 2D – Site dedicated to royalty free 2D game assets. Nice selection to choose from.
Reiner’s Tilesets – Reiner has wide variety of free game graphics plus 3D grapics and sound fx.
Craftpix – Craftpix offers free and reasonably priced 2D game assets, icons, sprites, tilesets and characters.

Game Art Assets at gamedevmarket image

Sound Asset Sites:

Audio Jungle – High quality sound effects and music
SoundSnap – Massive database of commercial sound effects and music uploaded by users – Free sound database (not all offered/verified royalty free)
Public Domain Sound – Public domain sound database (not all offered/verified royalty free)

Outsourcing Art & Sound

It’s not the cheapest or quickest, but if you want a truly custom game, then this is the best option.
Price is extremely interesting with art. Different artist value the price of the work on vastly different planes and it’s not always relative to quality. You can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $2,000 for game art, so it’s very important to get multiple quotes and shop around.

Sound is similar in the battle for quality and cost, but it’s less widely varied and the cost is much cheaper.
As for the hiring and interview practices, the rules apply that were posted in the “How to Hire Your First Employee” post. I’ve found the best outsource sites for design and sound are Upwork and Freelancer, though most of the others provide these services as well.

The final place you can look for artist and sound engineers who might be above the average quality seen on outsource sites is places where the elite hang out. Check out highly rated designers on sites like Dribbble and Behance. For sound engineers you can check forums like GearSlutz or FutureProducers.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2016 and was updated in February 2017 for accuracy. 

If you want to learn more about game art and how to make your own games check out our free tutorial course called ‘Make Your Own Game.’

outsourcing hiring first employee

How to Hire Your First Employee

By | Game Business Blog | 2 Comments

Outsourcing is one of the most popular ways to hire an artist, coder or both. Using the right strategy, you can hire talented people from outsource sites to create games for you and jump start your business. There are multiple outsourcing websites available online that you can use. When you’re hiring your first employee, outsourcing is a cost effective method. Personally, I’ve used nearly every outsource site available during the beginning stages of my game business.

The following sites have great support and a fairly large database of programmers, artists and designers:

Outsourcing 101: Writing the Ad

Once you’ve selected the outsource site that you want to use, you’ll need to create an ad. Here are some tips to help you craft ads that will attract the right type of employee:

  1. Write ads quickly – You’re about to see a very common thread in all of this: Don’t get bogged down and move quickly.  This starts with the ad.  Keep your ads short and sweet. Avoid discussing in-depth project details. Instead focus on the fact that the project is unique and discuss the core details.  Try to write your ad in one pass. Take about 5-6 minutes to do this. Review and edit if needed.
  2. Don’t search for people, wait for them to come to you – This reason is simple… people that respond to your ad are hungry for work and interested in what you are doing.  Random people you contact probably are not.
  3. Post multiple ads – Post on multiple sites and post multiple times.  Sometimes you’ll need to post 10 ads before hiring someone. Most of the time when someone is having problems with hiring, they’ve only posted just a few ads.  Think about it this way. If every time you hire someone you go through 200 applicants and someone else goes through 20, who do you think will end up with the best guy?
  4. Always go with your gut – If someone doesn’t reply quick enough, gives a strange answer or just doesn’t make you feel comfortable, then don’t hire them. If you automatically just “click” with someone, then you might want to give them a shot. Your gut is extremely important in the hiring decision.
  5. Move quickly though applicants – It’s better to scan 200 people quickly than review 20 people slowly. Don’t get bogged down on each one. One tip is to ask a few questions, if all questions aren’t answered then skip immediately. If they don’t take the time to apply correctly, they most likely will not benefit your business.

hiring via outsourcing writing your adYou’ll want to post these ads in as many relevant categories as possible. If there is an option to post in game development and mobile development, then post in both. Your main goal here is to cast a wide net so you’ll have many applicants to sift through at a fast pace.

By the time you’re done with this task, you’ll be able to take a closer look at a handful of perfect candidates.

Interview Tips and Techniques

Before you interview an applicant, you should have a few things in place:

  1. Your basic design document describing the various sections of your game
  2. An idea on what your budget is for this game (expect to pay $2,000 for a simple game and up to $5,000 for a more complex game).
  3. A list of questions which you will discuss
  4. Bonus: Have a screen recording of a PowerPoint presentation describing your game idea. This isn’t required, but can be helpful and make the interview process smoother. Jing is a great free screen recording platform you can use.

I prefer to interview applicants using Skype, but you can use any chat based software that is publicly available. It’s completely up to you.

Another quick interview technique that I recommend is sticking with text chat instead of voice chat, as voice chat can be awkward for both parties, especially if the native language is different.

Here’s a few tips to use during the interview process:

Interview Tips for Skype

  1. If they don’t respond quickly during an interview, close the interview immediately – This happens more often than you would think. Don’t wait around longer than 3 minutes for each response.  If you notice that it is taking longer than normal for them to respond during the chat, simply tell them it’s not working out and move on. Remember, this interview is the first impression you’ll see of their communication style. Communication is extremely important when working via Skype.
  2. If they are sarcastic, close the interview immediately – This one is rather baffling, but does happen.  Sometimes, more often than you might think, we have situations where the coder has a poor attitude and is sarcastic or demeaning. This advice is very important for the people who might not be technical. It is 100% OK if you are not overly technical. Just like most people in a leadership position, you’re job is to hire someone smarter than you in certain areas and for them to explain things to you when needed. You’re job is to manage them, not to know more than them.
  3. Dive deep into their answers – This is a very important one to follow when you’re outsourcing. The premise is simple, once you ask them a question you dive deep into the answer. If you ask them “What was your best project to date?” then don’t answer with “Ok great”. Instead answer with “That’s interesting, how long did it take?” When they tell you how long it took, dive deeper into that answer as well with something like “Interesting, what took the longest? Did you feel it could have been shorter?” Like the movie Inception, you keep going deeper into their answers until you’ve hit the bottom and there is no where else to go. Then move on to your next question. You’ll not only learn more about the skill of the candidates, you’ll learn more about them as a person. You’ll suddenly start understanding how they work and find out if you’re truly compatible.
  4. Play their previous games – Extremely important, very simple, yet often overlooked. Before you interview someone, test out their previous games. If you’re hiring a programmer or coder, don’t worry about the art. Focus on how buggy the game is. See if it moves quickly or feels sluggish. If the game is not good, then cancel the interview.
  5. Only hire people that you bond with – There is more to a successful working relationship than skill, especially with games. Games are art and for you to create something amazing you have to be on the same page as your programmer. If you don’t feel like this is someone you would want to spend an enormous amount of time with, then don’t hire them.
  6. If you are unsure of either the price or their ability, offer a small portion of the project – This is for the time that you’re on the fence and don’t have any strong gut feelings about the applicant… and you haven’t found anyone else. When this combination of events happens, then you might want to offer a small portion of your game for a very cheap price to see how well you work together. Maybe just have them create the basic user interface structure and go from there.

Hiring your first employee is a major step in any business, especially in a business where you’re making games. You can find a large number of books not only on outsourcing, but also team creation and hiring. Following these tips will give you a solid strategy to find the right employee to help you build your game.

Making app icon image

Making Your App Icon

By | Game Business Blog | One Comment

Why is an app icon important?

There are literally millions of apps in the App Store, with the number growing by the thousands each day. The App Store receives about 54,000 app submissions every month, and almost 14,000 of those submissions are games. The App Store is ever expanding, and with an increasing number of competitors, how can you possibly make your app stand out? When it comes to apps, do people really judge by the cover?—or, in the case of apps, the app icon?

Yes. Your app icon is very important because it’s the first thing that people see when they visit the App Store. People don’t normally tap on an app if they don’t like the icon or if gives off the impression that it was poorly made—they’ll just scroll right past it. So you want your app to make a good first impression with its icon. You also want your icon to reflect the quality of your app. If the icon doesn’t look professional or interesting, people will assume that your app isn’t either.

So when making an app icon, you should remember that it needs to be well-made, as well as give an idea of what your game or app is about.

Take the following app icons as examples:

'app icon examples image'

The first two icons (Clone Rush and Color Switch) are more minimalistic in design. Still, they are visually pleasing, and they perfectly reflect the simplicity of the games they represent. The colors in these icons also match the colors within the games, a detail which gives the player a sense of continuity between the icon and the game itself.

Meanwhile, the last two icons (Jump Paths and Parrot) are more detailed. Instead of a simple color matching, the designers of these icons decided to showcase some elements from the game. This design choice works too, but only for certain apps. It actually depends on the genre of your game and on the trends of your specific genre. This is why you should do some research before making an app icon. You have to familiarize yourself to what your competitors are doing, so you can use and improve their approach to your advantage. Here are some more examples, according to genre:

'Farmville Icons Image'

Farm Story, FarmVille 2: Country Escape, and Hay Day are all farm-themed simulation games. As you can see, their icons are cartoonish yet simplistic—the icons only exhibit a single element from the games.

crime based app icons images

Meanwhile, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Criminal Case, and Urban Crimes are all mystery adventure games. Their icons exhibit a portrait of one or two of the characters that players will encounter in the game.

Minimalist icon images

Lastly, these minimalist games (Line Zen, Wire Bounce, and TwinsJump) show action or movement in their icons. Most minimalist games have an element of motion in their icons so as to create interest with their simple designs.

From the above pictures, it is clear that each game genre has an icon trend that developers use to attract more people. Once you have recognized the trend, you need to improve on it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are certain games in your chosen genre more successful that others? What did they do right? 

Remember, the success of the game doesn’t rely on the icon alone. Sure, the icon is your gateway to new downloads. But if the game itself is not as good as your competitors’, bad reviews will come in, downloads will be discouraged, and your app will ultimately fail.

  • What are their design cues? What is the trend among the icons of the games in your genre?

Looking back at the examples shown earlier, the design cue in the icons of the farm-themed simulation games come from an element within the games. Meanwhile, the design cue in the icons of the mystery adventure games come from a character that the player will encounter when playing the game. Lastly, the design cue for the minimalist games is motion or action. These design cues are often the trend as well, but you also have to look at how they are presented in the icon. For example, the farm-themed simulation games have cartoonish icons, the mystery adventure games have a more serious tone to them, and the minimalist games stick to the simplistic design of the games they represent.

  • How can you improve on your competitors’ designs?

The best way to improve on your competitors’ designs is to think of ways on how you can apply their approach to your own game. Does your game have a plot? What emotion do you want the players to feel while playing your game? What is the theme of the game? What can players expect from the game? Your answers to these questions should also reflect in your icon, one way or another. Again, the icon must show the identity of your game. What sets your game apart from the rest? Translate that uniqueness into your icon.

iOS Icons vs Android Icons

If you want to sell your game to both Apple and Android devices, you have to know the difference between iOS and Android icons. While iOS doesn’t support transparent backgrounds, this format is acceptable in Android. iOS is also strict with the shape of your app icons. If it isn’t square, iOS will fill the background with black, and this may ruin the whole effect of your design. So if you want to use a non-square icon for Android devices (such as diamond or circle), then you will have to create a separate icon for iOS. Tweak your design so that it fits inside a square icon. Or, to avoid the trouble altogether, just use a square icon for both Android and iOS devices.

Icon generators: How can they help?

Icon generators are great tools to help you imagine a starting point for your design. However, they shouldn’t, in any way whatsoever, be the final icon that you use to represent your app. You should apply the same principles of when you’re looking at your competitors’ icons and using the trend as the foundation of your design. After creating a startup icon using an app icon generator, improve on it by translating the identity of your game or app into the design.

Nonetheless, here are five simple icon generators that you can use to create an initial icon for your app:

X-Icon Editor allows you to create app icons in different sizes. You can choose from four preset sizes: 16 by 16, 24 by 24, 32 by 32, and 64 by 64. Aside from a custom size, you can also change the colors and font depending on what best suits your icon. The X-Icon Editor has a simple interface, so even inexperienced app creators can use it without any problems.

Icons Flow has an array of preset badges from which you can choose from. You can fill each preset with your desired color scheme. You can also add effects on the icon if you like. Change it up a bit with a drop shadow, an inner shadow, or a gloss effect. The presets will make the process a lot easier because you can choose the focus point of your design with just a simple click.

Junior Icon Editor looks a lot like Microsoft’s Paint, but it will still help you create a simple initial design for your icon. If you want to be more creative, you can also adjust the size of the image outside of the restraints of a typical app icon. It has a more pixelized look to it too, so if you’re a bit old school, this is the icon generator for you.

MakeAppIcon has a simple user interface that any app creator of any level of expertise can easily understand and utilize. With this app icon maker, you can also create icons in bulk. If you’re developing multiple apps at once, you’ll have a one-stop shop for your icons with MakeAppIcon.

Android Asset Studio is an Android icon generator that gives you a wide range of options when it comes to the size of your icon. You can create an icon from as small as 12 by 12 to as big as 1024 by 1024. It may have a simple user interface, but the editing options are not limited. You can upload an image, add a text, apply effects, and change the colors of your icon if you like. The Android Asset Studio provides you with different settings that will make your generated icon look professional.

To sum it up…

Here are a few things that you need to remember when creating your app icon:

  • Your app icon must reflect the uniqueness of your game. It must be interesting and visually pleasing.
  • Do not use a generated icon as your final app icon. It can be your foundation. It can also stand as a placeholder while you’re finalizing the details of your true icon. But it should never be the representation of your app. Nothing screams mediocre and unprofessional more than a generated app icon.
  • The best icon generator for your game depends on what you want the icon to look like. Choose from the list given above, or do more research on the subject.
  • The icon will not compensate for a poorly developed game. If you want your app to sell, both icon and game should be well-made.
  • iOS and Android icons have different specifications. iOS doesn’t allow non-square icons and transparent backgrounds. Android, on the other hand, allows these designs.
  • You can use the “model and improve” approach when brainstorming for design ideas: Look at what your competitors are doing, and then improve on it by applying their approach to the overall theme and plot of your own game.
  • Icons have trends for a reason. Your icon has a higher success rate if it follows the trend.
  • When creating an app icon, don’t be afraid to put your own twist and to make your own statement. Again, your game must be unique, and your individuality is important if you want your icon to stand out.
Game Business Guide

The Buildbox Game Business Guide

By | Game Business Blog | 2 Comments

We’re excited to announce the release of The Buildbox Game Business Guide. Written by Buildbox CEO & Founder, Trey Smith, this new guide shares his personal thoughts on game marketing and creating a mobile business from the ground up.

Before developing the game development software, Buildbox, Trey started his own mobile video game company. To-date the company has amassed over 55,000,000 downloads and created many Top 25 games including Jump Pack, Monster Magic, Maze+, Phases, The Line Zen and more.

This guide is designed to help you create a successful game business. From coming up with the app idea to the final stages in the launch process, Trey provides in-depth instructions on exactly what you need to do to succeed.

The Buildbox Game Business Guide

You’ll discover the three main factors for mobile game domination: making a game people want to play, building your app on a budget, and getting the most downloads.

“90% of the people who release apps don’t spend the required amount of time thinking of these aspects before moving forward. Just the fact that you’re reading this guide right now, means you have a far better chance of getting more traction than the competition.” – Buildbox Founder, Trey Smith

The Buildbox Game Business Guide will teach you what it takes to make a good game and the app marketing skills you need for true visibility in the App Store. You’ll get step-by-step instructions on how to get game art, alternative game creation options for every budget and more.

Also included in this guide is a bonus section featuring inside secrets and unique tricks to better monetize your game. You’ll learn 54 of our favorite app tactics and how to use them in your next game. There are also tons of tips and resources to help you gain a competitive edge.

If you want to really excel in the mobile business and take things to the next level this guide is definitely worth a read.

To download The Buildbox Game Business Guide for FREE today, simply click on the button below:


'how to make a game'

How to Make a Game

By | Game Business Blog | 6 Comments

Making a game essentially involves turning one’s imagination into a product that others can enjoy. Unfortunately, many people who have great imaginative ideas are put off doing this by the prospect of complex coding. Buildbox has been developed to help game makers of all backgrounds bypass coding. Of course, there are many different types of games and the potential game maker must first determine whether Buildbox is the right tool to assist them in the creation of their prototype.

Buildbox: Right for You?

Buildbox was tailored for the development of mobile app games with simple, 2D illustrations. It is not appropriate for creating MMORPG games or apps that require a lot of memory. Examples are available under All-Stars and Showcase. All game makers should take a look at these before signing up for the free 30-day trial and downloading Buildbox.

The Game Maker’s Need

Buildbox is the bridge between creativity and a marketable mobile app game prototype. Buildbox’s drag-and-drop interface is as intuitive as a user interface gets on a game creation platform. Even experienced programmers will find it remarkably convenient.

Pre-Buildbox: Creating the Game

Creativity in terms of the game itself involves a skill-set and a mindset outside software development.  The idea needs to be explored and then analyzed for both its playability and its enjoyability. For originality, the game should be compared to others of similar design and gameplay. Playing existing games by others also helps clarify whether an idea will yield a successful game.

The design stage involves a checklist of requirements that involves knowledge of aesthetics and psychology. For new game makers, here are some of the common attributes of the successful mobile games.

A good mobile game is:

  1. Intuitive. Mobile app games, like any other feature in any mobile device, need to have an intuitively-designed user interface. Features or functions that are not self-explanatory on initial contact might encourage the user to delete your app and give another game maker the opportunity to enthrall them.
  2. Challenging. Gameplay, genre, and story must synergize to serve the overall purpose of the game. Gameplay has to be engaging and evolve with the player’s progress. The goal is to keep the player interested despite the limits intrinsic to a mobile game. A good algorithm for challenging the user can contribute to the game’s addictiveness—which is a highly desirable quality.
  3. Socially engaging. Mobile app games should be shareable with other players. Games are an easy topic to open conversations, and users intuitively seek games that are fun to talk about and share.
  4. Aesthetically pleasing. Successful games are usually beautiful. Successful and memorable designs tend to be simple, yet cleverly colored and defined to provide an edge over competitors’ games. There is a reason why candies and fruits are so popular: they are simple, colorful, fun, and easily recognizable. There are so many ways to use them in different designs! Nobody wants to stare at messy, convoluted graphics. Keeping things simple and recognizable helps to keep the user interface intuitive.
  5. Original. While it’s possible to borrow themes and art from brands and independent artists and authors, the gameplay and other factors about the design should instantly display the kind of originality that can serve to identify your work in future. The decision is sometimes subjective; borrowing does happen. Copyrights need to be considered, and if a game is clearly derivative, the company responsible for the original should be contacted for discussion.

Once the mental sketch is done, the game maker can use Buildbox to let their product materialize and make changes where necessary. The tutorials in Make Your Own Game series can help with all technicalities of bringing the game maker’s concept online.

Testing the Prototype

Like any marketable product, a finished game should be thoroughly tested. The game maker should invite family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to closed beta testing to help decide their game’s marketability. The game maker should also continuously test changes that have been made due to constructive feedback.

Post-Buildbox: More Help

When the game maker feels confident about the game’s playability and enjoyability, they can use Buildbox’s checklist to begin finalizing the game for publication.

One can also approach experts on LinkedIn or Quora for more help with the creative process. Both of these require user registration. There are many developers on these sites who are generous with both advice and answering questions. LinkedIn is a respected online network for professionals and a worthwhile platform to meet experts with credentials. As game makers come from diverse backgrounds, always ensure that the person being asked for advice or assistance is suitably knowledgeable in the particular game genre.

make games image

Announcing the Make Your Own Game Series

By | Game Business Blog | 2 Comments

We’re excited to announce the release of our Make Your Own Game series. It’s a FREE game development course designed to teach anyone how to make games. There’s no prior coding or programming skills necessary to get started. You’ll learn how to make a game app without coding from start to finish, using our video game software, Buildbox.

The course features 10 very in-depth tutorial videos, led by instructor Heath Close (a professional game developer and co-founder of MindCarve Studios). Each lesson includes a step-by-step tutorial video and a downloadable BBDOC file that you can work with as you’re following along.

For the entire Make Your Own Game series you’ll be working on creating a wall jumper game called GLTCH. This game looks amazing! Our talented artist Dani, created some stunning graphics for the series.

Throughout each lesson you’ll learn inside tips and tricks to creating games like some of the top game publishers. This course was designed to not only teach you how to create a game but how to really use Buildbox to make a successful game, that’s worthy of topping the charts.

In the Make Your Own Game series we’ll cover:

  • Creating the Basics
  • Collision Shapes & Object Settings
  • Building Your First Levels
  • Making Your Game Unique
  • Adding Actions & Special Effects
  • Animated Menus & Sound
  • Making Multiple Game Modes
  • Coin Shop & Unlockable Characters
  • Exporting Your Game
  • Best Tips, Tricks & Hacks

Are you ready to make games?

Everything you need to start learning how to make a game app without coding is available on our official Make Your Own Game course page. If you don’t already have Buildbox, you’ll be able to download a free copy for 30 days. This special trial version will include every option, including the export feature so you can complete your game.