Monthly Archives: January 2013


I’m trying to wrap up the high- and mid-level design for Project Smart Birds (see 1st listing under “My Projects” here), and one of the topics I’m dealing with is monetization — how to make money from the game. My current plan is for it to be a paid app with optional in-app purchases (IAP). But such an approach can hurt gameplay and feel exploitative — see Ben Kuchera’s article on the IAP for Final Fantasy: All The Bravest (FF:ATB) for an example of what not to do — and it’s very important to me that I avoid those pitfalls.

(To be clear, my problem with FF:ATB’s IAP isn’t the slot machine-style character purchasing — choosing not to purchase those characters doesn’t really hurt the core game. In contrast, the game’s Hourglass mechanic, where when your party loses you either need to wait an hour or buy an IAP Hourglass to continue immediately. And since the game is a paid app, this really rubs me the wrong way.)

My game will be a paid app, and for its IAP I have 3 guidelines:

  • IAP should not directly affect core gameplay
  • IAP should not feel exploitative (to reasonable people; I understand that some may consider any IAP to be exploitative)
  • IAP should still be worthwhile enough that some players will want to buy it

In line with those guidelines, my plan is for the IAP to affect only the meta-game, not gameplay itself. Without going into specifics about Project Smart Birds, the best way to describe my intent is with an analogy. Let’s pretend that Animal Crossing was a paid (not free) iOS game with IAP. Further, let’s narrow our focus to the game’s fishing gameplay, which is pretty simple: buy a rod, go to the water, play a timing-based mini-game to catch fish, and later sell them at the shop for Bells (the Animal Crossing currency).

If Square-Enix was making IAP for Animal Crossing fishing, given what they did for FF:ATB, it might go like this:

If a fish gets away, your rod has an 15% chance of breaking. If your rod breaks, either A) wait an hour to receive a replacement rod for free, or B) buy an IAP rod to continue fishing immediately.

For a paid app I find that appalling, so in contrast, my approach would be something like this:

If you want to make more Bells from fishing, you can buy an IAP Fishing Badge. When you activate the badge, all fish you catch on that same calendar day will be worth twice as many Bells.

Sure, both approaches give a benefit to IAP buyers, but I think that my approach is a compromise that is worthwhile but doesn’t hurt the game for the players who choose not to buy the IAP. Luckily, since Project Smart Birds is still early in development, there’s still time to revise the design if I find a better fit. But for now, I’m pretty happy with this idea.

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog! I’ll use it to post news and interesting info about my indie video game development, as well as other thoughts and musings. I hope you find it worth reading.

To kick things off, here’s the info from the blog’s original About page. Of course, the About page will be revised as time goes on, but this will stay here for history and posterity.


Who am I?

I’m Andrew P. Bilyk (pronounced BILL-ick), a video game developer. I live in Springfield, MO with my lovely wife Camille and our two cats.

I wanted to make video games since I was 9 years old. I got a computer science degree from Missouri State University, and shortly after college I formed a tiny game development company, Dungeon Monkey Studios, with my friend Doug Hill. Within a year, our company was acquired by Black Lantern Studios, and we began working there.

I worked at Black Lantern for 7.5+ years, in programming, production, and design roles. I was credited on 52 released games — mostly licensed kids games, across a wide variety of genres. But this past November (2012), I was terminated as a result of a company restructuring.

I want to continue making games professionally, and I also want to continue living in Springfield, MO. But game development here is sparse, and there aren’t any job openings right now. The only option that would allow me to continue making games here in Springfield is independent development. I know that the odds of financial success are low, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

Though I am continuing to look for work in case something pops up, in the meantime I’m developing a small game for iOS, which I plan to release on the App Store this Spring (2013). If it turns out to be successful, then I can continue indie development. But if it fails, then I’ll have to move on and expand my job search — to another field, another city, or both.


My Projects

Project Smart Birds

The “small game for iOS” mentioned above. It’s not an Angry Birds ripoff, I promise — that’s just a code name. I’m keeping the details close to my chest for now, but I can say that it’s a Popcap-style puzzle game that I believe will have a wide appeal. If the iOS version is successful, I will port it to Android, PC, Mac, and perhaps other platforms too.

Captain Dynamite and the Fallen Hero / Invisible Games

Captain Dynamite and the Fallen Hero is an audio-only rhythm game, and Invisible Games is my development label for audio games. The game is similar to classic rhythm games like Space Channel 5 and Parappa the Rapper, but there are no visual cues, only audio. It’s essentially a radio drama (audio movie) about heroes and villains, with rhythm gameplay during the action scenes.

I worked on this as a side project separate from Black Lantern, alongside some very talented collaborators including composer Chad Seiter. We created the first quarter of the game in late 2010 and submitted it to several indie game competitions, and in 2011 I released a playable Windows PC demo to the public. But nothing came from those competition submissions, and I’ve dragged my feet on development since then. I do intend for us to finish it eventually, but I feel that right now my time is better spent on Project Smart Birds, which I believe has a greater chance of financial success.