Advice on Mobile Adverts

An introduction

Having adverts on your mobile app or game is a great way to earn money from your project. The global revenue from mobile adverting has grown year on year, and shows little sign of slowing down.

However, it’s not as simple as just slapping some adverts willy-nilly in your app and hoping for the best. In fact having too many, or badly placed ads leads to a poor user experience, which in turn means lots of 1β˜… reviews, and poor user retention.

The first thing to decide is who’s adverts to show. There are many ad providers out there, each with their own benefits and downsides.

My personal favourite is Google Admob, it’s one of the largest Advert providers in the world, with 31% of all adverts seen being theirs. They have a large global reach, and are quick to implement new privacy settings, like GDPR and the New Apple iOS privacy rules.

Mobile Games

Having chosen your provider, and installed the SDK etc. It’s now time to decide what type of ads to show, and where to put them.

The best type of adverts to use for mobile games are Interstitial ads and Rewarded ads.

Rewarded ads work best when used in conjunction with free in game objects or currency.

For example, Rovio’s Angry Birds Friends uses rewarded ads to give the player the option for a double spin on the give away wheel.

Where as Elex’s The Walking Dead : Survivors offers players the chance to double the contents of reward boxes by watching a rewarded advert.

Rewarded ads are full screen adverts, which the player cannot skip through without losing the reward.

They are usually triggered by the player pressing on a button on screen.

You shouldn’t however try and trick users into watching rewarded ads by using them like normal interstitial ads.

For AdMob certainly, this is against the terms of service, and may result in your account being restricted or closed.

Interstitial adverts are full screen ads which may or not be videos. These are displayed by the game at specific points as specified by the developer.

It’s best to put these at natural break points in your game’s flow, like the end of the players turn, or after the Game Over message.

Putting them elsewhere, such as displaying an advert during gameplay, or having one appear every two minutes when the player is in the games main menu will feel jarring to the player, and break any immersion they may have in your game.

Applications

If your project is an app rather than a game, then I find it best to use a slightly different approach to using adverts.

Firstly, depending on what your app is, it’s quite likely that it doesn’t have the same flow as a game, nor natural break points. Because of this full screen interstitial ads aren’t so beneficial.

Instead I find placing a simple banner advert at the bottom of the screen is the best practice. Although ensure it’s not blocking any essential UI components or anything else the user needs to see or interactive with to use your app, again, this tends to lead to 1β˜… reviews and lots of uninstallations.

Depending on what your app does, it might be possible to implement a rewarded advert to unlock premium features for a limited amount of time, but I have found people are generally not interested in rewarded ads in applications.

Things to NEVER do

It is also quite important to make sure you never do any of the following with your adverts, or you risk being penalised or your account restricted.

NEVER EVER EVER click on your own adverts in your app. If you need to click on it to test the reward or for some other reason then make sure you switch to test adverts! Ad providers can 100% tell that you are doing this.

You’re also not allowed to ask users to click on your adverts.

And that’s about it

Hopefully you are now a little more knowledgeable about Mobile adverts and how best to use them in your projects.

I also find that it can be worthwhile to offer advert removal as an In App Purchase from inside the app or game, but that’s a blog for another day πŸ™‚

If you have any questions, then feel free to ask them on the Dev with Dave forum (which is >here<)

Good luck πŸ™‚

GDD Update

Click the button above to see the revised GDD for Flappy-vaders.

The modifications this time round are mostly oversights which got missed off the first time round. One which I hadn’t thought of, and one which I simply forgot to include (D’oh!)

For those interested, the modified/addition sections are as follows.

3.5 Player Death

The game ends when the player dies.

The player will die if the player character collides with any of the obstacles or enemy or gets shot down.

The player will also die if the ships y position gets too low on the screen.

3.7 Daily Bonus

To encourage player retention the game should include a daily bonus system.  The more days played consecutively, the larger the reward. 

Rewards can be either in game currency or powerups.

Powerup rewards cost in the store determines there value here.

The actual type/style of the daily bonus will be determined later.

Creating a game idea

The how/why of Flappy-vaders

The last thing I need to cover with regards to planning, is the how/why behind the idea of “Flappy-vaders”. Starting next week, the topic of conversation will be shifting to Programming.

In this post I’ll talk a little about the thought process behind the idea of Flappy-vaders.

Genre

The two biggest constraints for Flappy-vaders were time, and that I’d be writing it using a ridiculously low spec PC. Due to these factors I had already decided to create a simple casual style mobile game.

Again, for the sake of development time, I decided to take some already successful concepts from other games and combine them in a (fairly) unique way.

I decided to take the game mechanic from “Flappybird”, as it’s fairly simple, as well as being quite well known and fun/addictive to play.

I also decided to expand on this idea by adding elements from other games, such as the “zones” which you see in games like Jet Pack Joyride etc.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not simply copying Flappybird. This is going to be an original game in it’s own right, and I am 100% not encouraging people to create the utterly rubbish “asset flip” style games which are nothing more than a simple online tutorial which has been followed and the graphics replaced.

Visual Style

One of the things which makes games stand out at the store and in videos online is the visual style. I’d already decided to create a 2D game due to the hardware. I can’t imagine how the Linx tablet would run Blender, lol!

My initial inspiration for the graphical theme of Flappy-vaders was the menu screen for Fallout Shelter by Bethesda.

I loved the old style scan lines and the darkened edges of the screen, reminiscent of old CRT TVs. I imagined I could produce an effect similar to that of an 80’s era TV with a border and a scanlines overlay.

My next thought was about the type of games I’d have been playing on such a TV. Now in the 80s I had a ZX Spectrum, which had only 8 colours (well, 16 if you count brightness). I thought that palette would be a bit limiting, so I looked at other similar age devices before settling on the Sega Master System.

The Sega Master System has 256 available colours which should be more suitable for this project.

Monetisation

The last thing to do was decide on how the game will be monetised. Since it will be a casual mobile game, it will be free to download but include adverts. The player will be able to remove the ads by paying a small one off fee.

Another popular way of monetising mobile games is through the purchase of in game currency. This can be used to buy power-ups and upgrade the ship. Since I was planning on having power-ups and upgrades in the game, this seemed like a logical strategy to follow.

Conclusion

Overall it took me about a fortnight of thinking, researching and jotting down ideas. And then maybe as long again to refine them and be ready to create the GDD.

Unleash the Trello!

For those of you who don’t know, Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.

It’s available from https://www.trello.com and is free to use (although paid options are available)

I’ll be using Trello to manage the Flappyvaders project in conjunction with the GDD I shared last week. There is a link to the Flappyvaders Trello Board further down this page.

I usually set my Trello up as shown above, and here’s a quick explanation as to how it works.

The first column is for reference, or any notes relating to the project.

Next is the “Known bugs/issues” column, this is explained a bit further down.

The “Things to do” column contains cards which are ready to be taken ownership of and moved to the “In progress” column.

Each card in the “In Progress” column should have an owner. To take ownership of the card, you add your name as member, which adds your initials to the corner so you and other team members can see who is actioning that card. Once all tasks on a card are complete it is moved into the “Under review” column.

The “Under review” column contains cards which have been completed and are ready to be reviewed/evaluated by the project manager. During review any bugs or suggestions can be added to the card before its returned to the “Things to do” column.

If there is no further changes necessary then the card can be moved to the “Completed” column.

If an issue is discovered relating to a completed card, then the card can be moved to the “Known bugs/issues” column, as well as creating a sub card relating to the issue directly. If the issue does not relate to a completed card, then just add a card to the “Known bugs/issues” column to explain the issue.

Click the button below to view the Flappyvaders Trello Board in action for yourself.

If you have any questions about planning a project, creating a design document, managing a project with Trello, or anything else, then please feel free to ask it on our forum.

Flappyvaders Game Design Document

It’s taken a few days longer than expected, but I am finally sharing the GDD for Flappy Vaders! Simply click on the link below to read it.

This is the plan I will be following over the next few months as I build Flappy Vaders.

I’m midway through creating the Trello board for this project currently. I’ll share a link later so you guys can get a feel for how I’m using Trello for project management.

If you have any questions about planning a project, then please ask them on the “Dev with Dave” Forums.

God from the machinery.

Here is another classic GDD for you to look at. This one is was written in 1997 by Ion Storm Ltd, for a game with the working title of “Shooter: Majestic Revelations” which again, wasn’t the title that the game shipped with once it was finished.

This copy of the GDD is annotated by the developers, and gives you a good insight into how the game plan was changed during the course of it’s development.

Click the link below to have a read through and see if you can work out what the games final release title was?

I’ll give you a clue – It was one of the first 1st Person shooters which I played online, and from what I remember they kept the name of the protagonist the same in the final release.

A page out of history

Continuing on with the theme of Planning, here is the first of the actual Game Design Documents which I’m sharing with you. I should point out that I wasn’t involved in this project at all and am just sharing the GDD to demonstrate what a GDD actually looks like.

I wonder how many of you out there have heard of a game called “Race and Chase” by DMA Designs?

I’ll give you a clue, that it’s not the title the game was published with, and in the years since it’s release, the Studio have also become known by a different name.

Here’s the GDD for “Race and Chase” anyway. Have a look through and see if you can work out what the game was called on release πŸ™‚

Just click the “View PDF” button below to open the file.

For those of you who haven’t guessed yet here is a behind the scenes video from DMA Designs, giving a tour of the studio as well as talking about the game!

Did you guess from the GDD? That’s right, Race and Chase went on to become the very first GTA game!

Planning

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

The first step in making your game is creating the plan.  I cannot stress how important having a plan to follow is and how much more likely you are to finish the project if you have one.

If you’re a solo developer then you might be able to complete a simple game without having anything written down. For larger projects and certainly for people working as part of a team, then having a written plan to follow is essential.

The plan gives everyone involved with the project a point of reference and helps communicate ideas and concepts.

In the games industry these plans are called Game Design Documents (or GDDs for short) and they have been a cornerstone of game development for decades.

Traditionally GDDs are a word processor document, but I find using a Trello board as well makes keeping everything updated easier.  Wikis are also a popular alternative to a written document.

What goes into a Good GDD

What needs to be in the GDD depends on what type of game it is you are making.  It is normal for a GDD to start with a description of the game.  It only needs to be a few paragraphs long and should not contain any technical stuff.  Think of this as your elevator pitch.

If you are going to be pitching your plan to investors or publishers, it would be a good idea to include target audience and targeted platforms, and touch briefly on your monetization strategy next.

The next section should be setting the scenario for your game.  Describe the world, backstory, characters etc.  Obviously, this is would be more in depth in an epic Skyrim style RPG than in a casual mobile game.

Next comes styling, where you can describe themes and appearance.  Again, I prefer using a brief description of how you visualise the graphics, before breaking it down into smaller sections where you are free to describe individual aspects in greater detail.  I like including mock-ups or sketches in this section to really help people understand exactly what I am hoping to achieve.

It is also worthwhile to pay similar attention to the music and sound effects.  Listing any music which needs composing, and special effects which need creating.  It would also be a good idea here to reiterate any relevant information here from other sections which would help whoever is creating the audio.

Gameplay is next.  Start with a brief overview, before breaking each element down into its own section.  You will want to include things like player movement, scoring, win/lose conditions, enemies and how they behave etc.  Depending on how complex the game your making is, this section can get quite large.

Having described the themes and gameplay, its now time for the User Interface/Controls.  As always, start off with a summary describing the theme/aim of the UI, before dividing it up into more detailed descriptions of the individual elements.  I find that sketches/mock-ups of UI layouts can speed up development no end, and gives a head start on developing the user experience before too much of it is coded.

I like to include a more in depth look at your monetization strategy next.  If you are simply looking to sell your game for a fixed amount then this is not so important but is for other business models such as Freemium.

Keeping the GDD updated

As I said earlier on in this post, I find using a Trello board to be a very helpful tool in keeping your GDD up to date and making sure that each member of the team knows what they are doing.

I usually set up the Trello board with the following columns – Bugs/Know issues, Planned tasks, In Progress, Under Review and Completed.  Planned tasks would usually consist of cards made up of the individual points detailed in the GDD.

Each team member chooses there next task from the Planned tasks column, moves it to the in progress column and signs their name to it, then when it’s completed, it gets moved into the under review column for checking.

Progress is discussed in fortnightly meetings and any changes to the GDD can be bought up then.  If the team member needs something clarifying, or if it is decided to change an element or mechanic.

It is usually best that only one team member is responsible for keeping the GDD up to date.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped to explain just how important it is to have a solid plan to follow when developing a game and given you insight into what needs to be included in it.  I’ll be posting some example GDDs later in the week, as well as sharing the GDD for Flappy vaders.

If you have any questions, then either leave them in the comments below, or pop over to the forum and ask them there 😊