Wanderer; where we came from and where we're (hopefully) going

What's up, gang? I'd like to take a minute to cover our newly released mobile game, Wanderer, and drop some hints on what's for sure to come and what can hopefully come after that.

Unsurprisingly, the original idea came to me after Pokemon Go came out. It's a fine game and I enjoyed it but I also saw some glaring flaws, namely how pokemon and pokestops ("Points of interest", or POIs) are reflective of real-world locations and cell phone data usage. While it is cool to go to the museum and see a bunch of pokestops and to have lots of pokemon around bars, it's certainty less cool when you live in suburbia, or in the boondocks, or in other "cultural deserts". And just the uncoolest if you can't easily travel to populated game spaces because you're bed/home bound, don't have a car, or there simply isn't that much around you. I'd say that's the biggest (geo-location wise) difference between that game and ours; POIs aren't generated via real-life data but are instead randomly (but consistently across platforms) distributed. Not only does it make the game more equitable (and more reliable, since the POIs are generated on your phone instead of on our server), it also makes it more engaging because you can check the map no matter where you are and find things, instead of experiencing the "feast or famine" style they have. It's also a better approach from a safety standard, as you don't need to go to certain locations to get certain things, but a digress.

So the game is "out" (for android) and the initial release is going smoothly. iOS is in the works, but still no ETA on that release. We're keeping an eye on our server to make sure it's beefy enough to handle everyone playing. I'm also happy to say that through playtesting we've found that the density of points of interest (to get resources and unlockables) is fairly packed; not so much that you're flooded with POIs but enough that those who are location-locked can still play the game.

There are a few issues we know about and that we plan on fixing. Nothing game breaking, the worst issue is a bug that can only be encountered once and is easily solved by re-launching the app. The plan right now is to eventually release a few bug fixes, along with an iOS version, and some new content (namely more furniture).

So, what's next after that? There are a multitude of things we could do, both from a technical stand point as well as a gameplay one. I'd love to develop these ideas more, but can only do so as as money/time permits. In no particular order:

  • Improving user accounts and integrating google/apple accounts, to make it easier to start playing the game
  • Migrating user saves (what you have unlocked, resource count, etc) to also be backed up on our servers. As it stands, if you delete the app/clear your cache all your hard work is gone and that's not very chill
  • Adding an in-game report function for bugs and suggestions
  • Completing a couple of technical fixes that aren't glamorous but would definitely be felt: improving decoration dragging, better pinch and zoom movement, expanding upon the crafting/unlockables window, etc
  • Improving how colors and furniture is unlocked. Right now it's very random (for furniture) and static (for colors), I'd like to give the player more choice in how both are acquired
  • Adding community generated content, such as building up a "community" POI that unlocks unique furniture, colors, and activities
  • A collection activity, whether that's sight-seeing birds, catching bugs, collecting unique rocks, or cataloguing plants
  • Some sort of village manager, where you start off with your house and slowly expand your virtual neighborhood to include NPCs and potentially other players
  • Adding more house customization, such as wallpaper/floor choices, house layouts, and lawn themes

Plus tons of new features that would mesh very well with the game as it already is. Adding a day/night cycle, as well as incorporating local weather (and weather warnings) is well within our reach. There's of course more furniture to add, as well as potentially new mini games, resources, and colors for such things.

But alas, we'll see how far it goes. I made a game that I thought was fun to play, if others agree then I'd gladly (ecstatically) continue to improve and build upon this base.

Finally, there's the issue of in-game monetization. Right now, there is none. And to better fund the development of the game *some* type of revenue stream is needed. Obviously the game wouldn't be fit for industry standard monetization but I do have a few ideas. Having opt-in ads, branded store/company partnerships (available to everyone, not just those around the brick and mortar locations), and certain kinds of lootboxes (like ones that only speed up your gameplay, not replace, and also give the player choice in what they unlock) are okay in my book. But I'm mostly interested in what the players and community would like to see and be ok with. If everyone hates those ideas then there are many, many different avenues to explore, but I'm mainly looking at those that fit the gameplay, don't offer completely exclusive content/items, and aren't intrusive to the player's experience. Let me know if y'all have any thoughts on the matter.

So that's it for now, hopefully I'll have more to say soon! Until next time, take it easy

-Richard @ Comfy Fox

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