Xeno bits

Pirate Cat released

At last the game is released and you can now grab it for free before the start of June!

Check out the trailer


Dream Build Play

Every year Microsoft is organizing a big challenge to promote XNA, the Dream Build Play challenge offer to developers to submit their game, which will be reviewed by judges, and the winners get some money and a possible Xbox Live publishing. ( check here for more info )

This year for the first time DBP is open to WP7 games, and that was for a good incentive to finish the game in time. DONE! I just submitted Pirate Cat for the challenge, it's not and would never have been polished enough but I'm pretty satisfied with the result, especially considering the beta test I've done last week, where I did not get any bad feedback about the game, so either testers were polite either I can consider that this game is not so bad.

What's next ? I submitted last week the game for marketplace certification, which passed at first try, I just have to finish doing some marketing stuff and I should proudly press the publish button probably next week. Then only half of the work will remain by promoting it ;p







Project Icarus has an official name

Things are going pretty well on project Icarus, it should be feature complete this week end and I'll start working on polishing and looking for beta testers.

I finally take a decision regarding the name, it will be :

Pirate cat : The flying pirate

Like in old cartoons, the hero has its own name "Pirate cat" and this specific "cartoon" episode (even if I don't know if there will ever be other episode) is named "The flying pirate"

Now regarding the progress, I've got most of the assets for the tutorial, I'll now work on improving the texts, I want to keep it short but ensure everything is clear enough as it will introduce the game context.

Shooting tutorial

Few more screenshots from the game:

I've made some improvement on the aiming mechanics, I realized player was not aware of the slingshot strenght limit, so I decided to draw the aiming mark in yellow once the limit reached and make it rumble. Hope it'll work better.

Aiming improvement

Baloon full of feathers sent from the boat

The steam engine

Rain and full moon

Speed boost



Windows phone in France – some fresh stats

Thanks again to Flurry analytics  and Distimo I was able to extract some precious data from Belote World Tour usage and extrapolate a bit on the current state of Windows Phone in France.

The game itself is currently ranked 146 in french marketplace Top Overall and 61 in Top Games, I've made the chart below, representing the downloads and ranking between 1st and 25th february, in order to find how downloads impact ranking  but it does not appear to be that simple!



The daily downloads are not really decreasing, but my ranking is, I guess it's some kind of Microsoft magic in order to avoid apps trusting the top ranks, or maybe user base is growing fast and so is the downloads / rank ratio but I really doubt so based on the previous months evolution.

Now regarding the devices, it's really tight between Nokia Lumia, Lg E900 and Samsung Omnia 7, but remember that Lumia was launched in november, it's clearly the fastest growing.

One last about carriers, Flurry does not seem perfectly able to detect them right now but I guess that the second one is SFR, no Free in sight yet, but maybe it's included in Orange.

Now once again all those stats are provided by third parties, and I have to admit that I have noticable differences between distimo/app hub and flurry downloads stats for example, but it still can help to get an estimate on how are going Windows Phone in France.

Edit: One last important figure that I forgot to mention in the original post is the OS version repartition, it's interesting to see that today more than 1/4 of the devices are still not running Mango.


Next project – things are beginning to take shape

I've started to work on this game since 1 year now and all I can say is that things were not going really fast so far.

But I managed to find a talented artist and hope to finally finish and release it within 2 month.

The game is about a pirate, cat pirate more precisely, that have to reach the moon during the night.

To do so one of his fellows constructed a pair of wings covered with feathers, the downside is that feathers are not very well fixed and player will have to constantly shot birds he encounter in order to keep flying.

So yeah at first sight it sound a bit like a shoot'em up but in my mind it was never really related to this genre.

This week I started to implement new assets for the hero, those are not finals and will receive minor changes soon.




For those curious to see the thing in motion, check this video, a bit older:



Ad providers comparison

When I started to introduce ads in my game I was a bit puzzled by which provider to use, windows phone is a pretty young platform and options were at that time (end august 2011) pretty limited for none US developer like me.

  • There was Microsoft own solution (Pubcenter) which was available only to US developers.
  • Google had released a "beta" sdk for AdMob
  • And there was various other "minor" providers that looks good on paper but I was not able to find any user story about them.
So I decided to experiment, which was a big hazardous as I already had almost 4000 downloads at that time.

Downloads states between 08/25/2011 and 09/25/2011

I've put 3 different ads in game,
  • 1 during game (MS Pubcenter as I've seen on their forum that I should be able to receive my payment once the platform would be open to international developers, more on this later on)
  • 2  on an unskippable 5 seconds screen after each game round, Smaato (http://www.smaato.com/) and Inneractive (http://inner-active.com/)
What, no Google? yep, after trying to use their sdk I discoverd that it simply ruined performances of my application, so it was a no-go. Last time I checked their SDK was still in beta and I was not even able to run their last provided samples on Mango. I guess that WP7 is not a priority for them.
Once done needless to say that users were pretty upset after downloading an update including so much ads, and I've got many bad reviews during this period, sacrifice was worthy, in the name of science!
After one month of experiment here are the figures :

Inneractive stats

Inneractive figures

Smaato stats

Pubcenter impressions

Pubcenter figures

Let's try to see what's going on here :

  • Smaato ecpm are crappy : 0.075 ??? seriously
  • Inneractive ecpm are a bit better, but their sdk report 1/5 of displayed ads compared to other providers, I contacted them regarding the issue and they advised to use exclusively their SDK to solve the issue, that looked a little bit too magical  to me (and risky considering time needed to revert this choice, although I can use ad rotator  (http://wp7adrotator.codeplex.com/) to ease the process) .
  • Pubcenter ecpm are not stellar but at least they are the best, even if I had no idea when I would be able to get my money.

In the end I kept only the pubcenter banner, removed the unskippable ad screen, and user started to be happy again.

Few month after this experience here is my opinion about those providers:

  • Smaato will not let you earn much, but at least today they are the only ones from who I received money. Their sdk is pretty good and site is the best I tried so far, especially regarding analytics.
  • Inneractive tools are easy to use, I was easily able to contact their support and they spent some time to help me solve my issues by chat, but I was disappointed by their answer to my displayed ads amounts issue.
  • Pubcenter sdk is the best for sure, their site not so much (I need to use IE in 32 bits version in order to use it...). I finally succeded to setup my account in order to be paid at the end of november, as they were opening pubcenter to new countries including my. But I still have not received any money from them so far.... I heard many times that I had to be patient with microsoft (same thing for paid version of my app...)

Hope this will help few people out there.


Belote world tour on the marketplace

The Pro version can be found here:


And here is the free one:



Belote World Tour

Belote World Tour is our first game released on WP7.

It's a card game based on very popular Belote, popular only in France unfortunately.

First free version was released on 13th of july, it helped us to improve the game based on users feedbacks and include more features.

After some iterations we judged the game was ready to be released as a paid app at the end of August, in the meantime we started to include some ads in the free version , but more on this soon in a dedicated post.

I do not have to complain regarding the attention the app received, I launched it with absolutely no PR and it succeeded to reach pretty easily the top 50 of free apps (thanks to the popularity of the card game itself and the fact that it was the only app representing it), it stayed there during few month and since october it's slowly going down in the rankings.

After 5 month here are the download stats:

Free version

Not much to comment here, except that considering its ranking in the marketplace we can only conclude that WP7 devices are not that popular in France so far.

Paid version

This one is a little bit more interesting, first we can see that it's nothing compared to the free version, no need to explain that, but in the meantime at the beginning of november we added a new game mode, exclusive to the paid version, and sales started to become relevant, thanks, in my opinion, to the existing users of the free version, seeing new locked feature and ready to pay to unlock it. Moreover the price doubled from 1.49 to 2.99 during this update(for science purpose only ;p) but it did not seemed to be a blocker issue for a lot of players.

Now for the numbers lovers here a few more stats regarding the application usage thanks to Flurry analytics, a very convenient tool to understand better how people are using your application.

Median session length : 6.2 minutes

Daily active users :

Session frequency by day / week / month