It’s been about a week since I released the GrandMasterPixel beta to the Android Market. It’s been an exciting time – what follows is a bunch of random things I’ve noticed.
A surprise – A pic that I’d never judged moving up into the top rankings. This is exciting for me, since over several months of casual testing, 90 % of pics I was judging were drawn by me (I had three accounts for testing). To see a successful pic I’d never seen before, in this case, a version of a Super Mario “Boo” ghost by Amandine, titled “Little ghost”, was a real buzz because it means there are interesting things happening in the game I don’t even know about.
There are some really talented people out there – I suspected that some people would be able to push 16×16 low-res pixel art to it’s limit, and I was right. There are some amazing little pics already moving up the ranks. I’m awestruck at the artistic talent that is out there. My own pics are humbled by some of the incredible creations that are moving up the ranks (*nods to RylandCorsair*).
Some interesting strategies – Someone drew a spider in black and white. Then levelled up and gained an extra color, added some red to the same pic and submitted it. Maybe this could be considered an ‘exploit’, based on the fact that GrandMasterPixel doesn’t clear the current pic you are working on when it is submitted, but I kind of like it. Players could easily redraw a mutation of a successful pic from scratch and this type of ‘resubmission’ would occur anyway. It’s a nice dynamic emerging that I didn’t really predict.
There have also been a few nice instances of ‘copycat’ pictures – rather than being unoriginal, these are cool because you can see the variations made in the new ‘tribute version’. One of my original testing pics was a badly drawn USA flag – I’ve seen at least two mutated versions of that submitted so far. There have also been some seasonal submissions – on St Patricks Day someone did a pic of a cute little leprechaun smoking a pipe (thanks ‘chaosengine’ – that was a fun little pic, hope it performs well).
You may have noticed I haven’t included any actual images of the pics I’m taking about in this post. I’m thinking about some ways to let pics be seen outside the game, but it has to be done carefully and correctly. So, for the moment, to see the pics you are just going to have to go and play the game :)
The first cock’n'balls appeared about 24 hours after the beta was released to the Market. You know, a cock’n'balls, the type of thing 14 year old boys love to draw on pretty much any and every surface (congratulations for twakd408, for the moving artwork entitled “peenisss”). Happily, users killed off this pic quickly, with only 3 wins and 10 loses – meaning it was only viewed 13 times before it disappeared from the Arena. To me, this is a wonderful thing – people are freely expressing themselves, and the community of players responded. I see the emergence of a cock’n'balls as a real success – nothing online has reached relevance until it receives some spam or trolling, and a cock’n'balls is one type of ‘trolling’ that may appear in GrandMasterPixel from time to time. There have also been at least three swastikas in the first week, presumably drawn by amateur World War 2 historians. Each are quite unsuccessful pics, so presumably other ‘Pixelers don’t share these artists taste for history, or alternatively acknowledge the limited artistic talent embodied by these pics.
The amazing range of subjects embodied by the pics submitted also raises some issues relating to the possibility of an iPhone release. I’d toyed with the idea, but from what I can tell Apple wouldn’t approve an app like GrandMasterPixel that has the possibility of user generated content being (*gasp*) seen by users. Based on past history, one cock’n'balls, no matter how pixelated, would probably be enough to get the app rejected. For the moment I don’t think I’m going to waste my time porting to the iPhone platform only to find the app can’t be distributed in the App Store. I’ve only very recently got an iPod Touch dev setup going, so comments from iPhone devs on any precedents for apps incorporating user generated content getting through the app store approval process are welcome.
On the technical side … here are some Google App Engine stats, particularly relating to requests to the main “Arena”, which take the most CPU time of the whole app. This is me playing Systems Analyst on the back of an envelope. At the moment, the GrandMasterPixel server is running within the free quota limits on Google App Engine – these quotas are reset every 24 hours. On March 16th, I can see that after 24 hours, 18 % of the CPU quota on App Engine is used by 684 Arena requests (so 100 % of the daily free CPU quota would be used by about ~ 3800 Arena requests). If one users plays once every 24 hours with 10 Arena requests, this would allow about ~ 380 users to play daily before the quota is exhausted. Or, alternatively, whatever the user base currently is, it can only grow by about 5x before the server exceeds the free quotas. It is clear that some optimization is required – my gut feeling is that I’m doing some datastore queries in a very inefficient way and once these are improved I should be able to support 1000+ active users easily within the free quotas.
In summary – I’m very happy that I released the beta rather than fiddling with it alone for another month. The game has been getting mostly positive feedback, a four out of five star rating on the Android Market, and a steady burst of downloads every time I release an update (only once so far). Looks like it has legs …