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Show HN: Math Attack – My side project of 3 years (play.google.com)
292 points by Sanctor on Jan 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments

Hey everyone!

I've been working on this game for about 3 years in my spare time. It's a simple puzzle game utilizing arithmetic operators. I made it using Unity3D. All the visual assets are made from scratch and the sound effects come from various free sound effect sites.

Although the idea is simple I've put a lot of effort into it to make it look polished. For example there is a day/night cycle which serves no other purpose than looking good :) City lights turn on and off, crickets chirp at night and birds tweet during the day. And lots of other details.

It is ad supported but ads are shown only after you've lost the game, not while you're playing. I hope you'll find it unobtrusive.

I know it may not be everyone's cup of tea but I'm very proud of it. I've finally released a personal project. I'd be very glad if you played it an gave me feedback. Also I'd be happy to answer any questions relating to the process of making and releasing the game if I'm able to do so.


Your game looks very nice, but I'm not a big fan of ads. Is there a way to pay a premium for an ad free version?

I can maybe add a "Remove Ads" IAP. This is such a niche game I didn't think anyone would be willing to pay for it. Also if you sell the game or offer IAPs you have to get into some sort of merchant agreement with Google, I don't quite know how that works.

But I'll work on it. Thanks for the feedback!

Yes, I second that... I'll pay for a good math game for my kid—I don't let him play ad-based games though.

Thirded. This game is a little advanced for my 4 y.o. but I would MUCH rather pay a couple dollars to have ad free games. Most of the free educational kids games are crappy to use for a 4 y.o. because they pop up ads over the game. Inevitably she clicks on them by accident and then ends up in the Play store and confused about what happened or how to get back to her game.

I made a math game that was ad-free. It started out with a $1 purchase price at first launch, but I decided to make it free since it was not being downloaded. I'm curious if you have any advice on how to market to your audience of "parents that will pay for ad-free kids' games".

Free to download, then $1 to remove ads or unlock the full game. I get the frustration, but I'm someone who pretty much never pays up front for an app, but the bar for getting me to pay $1 to remove ads or unlock features is extraordinarily low. I basically need about an hour or so of use before I'm willing to invest (which is unfortunately necessary thanks to the hundreds of essentially useless apps I've downloaded in the past).

Honestly I'm not sure. My process for buying a game would generally be: Open Play store, search for e.g. "toddler math", filter for "Paid" and then look for something with good reviews. Even with that criteria you are likely competing with 100's of other apps.

I understand. Most developers don't care once they've got their ad impression.

Although I don't assume people would outright buy the game without trying first. Especially from a first time developer. So the free version is a necessity for me.

It is decided then. I'll release an Education version without the ads.

I've learned this the hard way with interstitial and banner ads throughout releasing a dozen or so apps. You really need a rather large user base to make them even a bit worthwhile to a developer. Scratching out pennies will have a huge downside if it lowers the experience of the app to your whole userbase. It's an art form not to make the user feel like a product. Everyone thinks they know how but really so, so few do, myself included. I've also put down many apps because of ads. It's stopped one of apps from moving as quickly as it should. I've since moved away entirely and incorporated IAP that unlocks slightly more features or a straight up price tag from the get-go.

Anecdotal, but I believe this led to much less moaning and groaning from users, higher ratings, and a better overall experience (and yes, better returns)!

Thanks for sharing your experience. It's very valuable to me. I'm very much a stranger to this world, and I don't have anyone to ask for advice.

I don't like putting ads in the game. If nothing, it breaks the retro atmosphere I'm going for. But I also have the dream of doing game development for a living and have to make money somehow.

I'll try the paid method. I guess I couldn't imagine people willing to pay for something I do as a hobby for now.

> I guess I couldn't imagine people willing to pay for something I do as a hobby for now.

I've struggled with this myself. While there might be some who aren't willing to pay, many people are willing to pay for something they get value out of. That said, the sheer number of terrible apps I've downloaded stops me from paying up front for an app from an unknown developer, but as I mentioned before, my bar is very, very low for the amount of use I need before I'm willing to pay $1 to remove ads or unlock the rest of an app.

"If nothing, it breaks the retro atmosphere I'm going for"

I commented before about finding the ads annoying. But really, this is the crux of it. It completely breaks the experience, as I am playing a pixelized retro game and a modern looking clean ad appears on the screen.

Tangentially, why don't you consider also publishing the same game, but with a different art style. An art style that might be more relatable for kids these days (no idea which, just suggesting you research that).

It wouldn't be too much work to re-skin the game. I can maybe put a selection in the settings page that could switch between retro and modern.

This is the first time I've heard this suggestion. I will definitely consider this. Thank you!

> can maybe put a selection in the settings page that could switch between retro and modern

Oooh once you go that route, you can make skins "unlockable" from gamer progress! That's always fun (if the rest is, too)

Yep, I can second this. I can put up with ads myself, but I don't want my 5 year old to play a game with ads since they no longer know what they're doing once an ad pops up.

It may be worth noting that some parents wont let their kids play games with ads.

There are two good reasons that I can think of for this:

1. The content of some ads can be inappropriate, even in children's games.

2. Fear that an ad will lead to a purchase of some kind.

I think an IAP would be a good solution for you.

Reason 3: some of the ads are a downright scam.

Seriously, using some free apps makes me feel like it's 1998 again with the "you are visitor number 1,000,000" and "your phone might have a virus - click here for free removal" ads. I would not be comfortable with a kid playing games containing ads like that.

I'll start working on the ad free version ASAP.

It's also annoying for younger kids that accidentally open the ad and haven't learned how to get back into their app yet.

I look forward to buying it -- always looking for good/educational apps that both my kids and I can enjoy together.

I'm going to add on to the calls for a "Remove Ads" IAP. I don't typically buy games, but I will pay to remove ads in a game I like. I don't mind ads while I'm testing a game, but I hate how they break up the flow of the game, and they use a lot of data as well. I uninstall the game within a week or so if I can't get rid of the ads.

I haven't downloaded the game yet, so I can't really say if your ads would bother me, but I hate ads so much that I'd gladly pay to get rid of them.

The clearest message I got from this comments section is that there should be a way to remove ads. This will be my first priority.

I would also recommend a paid version without the ads. I had never saw a full screen mobile ad before. I was quite annoyed and surprised with that.

They are called Interstitial Ads. I know it's annoying but I think banner ads are worse. They are usually placed at clever positions so you'll click on them by accident.

I'll release a paid version.

Yes, these indeed look more professional and less dark pattern. Just a shock as a first time.

I would go a step further and just not include ads at all. I released several iOS games and the market is just too tough to make money especially off adds. Instead of likely collecting a few dollars the first few months (literally) , you may as well have a free beautiful game untainted by ads or monetization. If it really hits off I'm sure you can build in monetization, but from the beginning it's not even worth the extra time needed to integrate ads.

"Acquire users first, monetize later" is a strategy I might be willing to use in the future. This particular project is way too niche for this approach I think.

I must say you've chosen an auspicious name! :-)

Wow, your membership is older than my idea for the game.

Don't sue me please :)

I had an idea for a side project and you beat me to it. Massive props to you for being the one who is actually working on it. I am not the suing type of person. :-)

It looks interesting but I have not played it yet. Congratulations though on finishing your sideproject! :-)

Thank you! This is the first time anything I've made personally, can be enjoyed by the public. It's very exciting :)

Have you looked at Calculords? It's a similar type of game with an interesting IAP strategy of offering additional content.


I'm downloading this right now, will check it out.

Just downloaded and played it, very cool! One comment: the font is sometimes hard to read, especially the 8s on the balloon (at first) (at least for me, Nexus 6P) http://i.imgur.com/oz11sy3.png

Thanks for the feedback! I'll think of some way to improve it. Maybe another font.

Share it here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.livae.apph...

Disclaimer: it is my side project

I will, thank you!

edit: I logged into the app. It seems my account has to be at least one week old to be able to share apps. I will do so when the week is up.

Nice game,I appreciate the artwork in the background. The operator button could be make a little bigger though, and the balloon font could be more readable. Also I always have a hard time killing the first balloon of the level because I take a long amount of time to get acquainted with the numbers. Maybe the first balloon could wait a bit so you have time to look a the new numbers? This will also allow the player to make a little pause.

Awesome feedback! I will consider all of these.

I can't exit the app on a phone without hardware buttons.

Why is there an Manga girl? Don't think it is very appropiate.

My girlfriend and I are into anime. I asked for her to draw me a mascot and she came up with it :) I don't think there's anything inappropriate with it, but thanks for taking the time to download and play my game. I know it's not for everyone.


If there's a piece of art missing from the world. Make it yourself OK. Just because someone makes something a certain way, doesn't mean they are invalidating your world view. It's up to you to contribute.

When you want to grow revenue past what ads support look into purchasable themes. E.g. have zombies or godzilla skins (targeting boys), and similar for girls.

I had jumped on the app store bandwagon at the outset and did alright selling apps at 99¢-2.99 but was hesitant to switch to IAP. It turns out I was wrong and the kids apps that did switch faired well enough to continue. E.g. While I was fighting for 99¢ sales, other similar apps were selling $10 bundles for graphical skins. As a developer it makes me ill that the core experience is worth nothing, but some new flashy artwork can be sold for $10. Sigh, but it works.

Good luck.

>E.g. have zombies or godzilla skins (targeting boys), and similar for girls. Why go out of your way to perpetuate stereotypes? Just make skins, period. Don't contribute to kids growing up with artificial limitations by making everything target boys or girls specifically.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I will think about it.

Most of the games I see nowadays sell what's basically shortcuts to success. This creates a very crooked sense of value especially in children that play these games. But selling environment and character skins and other non-functional stuff might be a good idea.

If you look around, it obviously works. E.g. Triple-A games these days all have premium editions that add new character skins. What was less certain for me was if it would work for kids educational content. I was skeptical because kids games have shorter play lengths, e.g. kids spent a few minutes at a time on our games. But, observing both the market and my own children's later experience they were keen to have the shiny new thing in the app, even if it didn't change the gameplay. People are inherently tuned into wanting novelty, simply swapping out graphics plays to that human desire.

So, yeh, don't sell shortcuts to success, but do sell theme packs. It works.

By the way I don't normally use social platforms much but I created a twitter account for this. It's @DawnspriteGames

I haven't tweeted anything yet :), but I'll let you know when there is an update.

You can also send me E-Mails at support@dawnsprite.com. I'll reply from my personal E-Mail account.

I'd like to thank you all again! This is a wonderful community. I'll keep reading and responding to feedback here.

Great job! Coincidentally I was talking to my son today about needing to speed up his reaction time with simple multiplication. If there was an option to put this game into a mode where it asked multiplication questions only that would fit the bill perfectly. Taking this further, being able to choose addition only, or addition/subtraction only, or subtraction with/without negatives would make it playable by a lot of different ages. Also, I'd pay for an add-free version.

I am planning to implement a practice mode which will allow you to choose which operations and what kinds of numbers you want to practice with.

Your insight as a parent is very important for me. Thank you!

Just downloaded and played. Nice, fun. Easy tasks but that provoke an anxiety that makes it harder.

I would change something on the onboarding. I had no idea what to do when I started playing. The tips and numbers highlighting are good, but before that a short text or visual explanation that I must create the equation which result is the falling bomb would help a lot.

This is what I'm imagining:

After the first balloon is in view, the game is paused. It says "Assemble the equation by pressing on the operation and the numbers." And an animation of a pixel-art thumb coming down on the buttons in a sort of gif-loop until you complete the tutorial.

How does that sound?

Great! To be perfect, just use a less formal wording. Write in a way that a kid will understand and not find weird.

Awesome feedback! Something like "Let's create the equation!"

Better suggestion. Dont use words. It's a math game. You should be able to showcase what to do with ONLY visuals. Darken out the game on the first missile. Highlight the missile with a focus circle. Then point to one specific equation in the bottom (actually create it for the player). Show that 1 + 5 = 6. Something simple. Then have the missile explode, lighten out the tutorial intro, and let the player continue. Or add a secondary tutorial section with two missiles at once and a multiplication solution.

This also has the benefit that your game becomes internationally-friendly to play (independent of language).

Also, like others have said, dont put in ads. Not for an educational game. Not lucrative at all, and totally goes against what your audience (parents getting this game for their kids) want to see.

That is a brilliant suggestion. I was thinking of localization. Maybe I can replace more words, like play and settings buttons with play and cog icons.

And yes, I tried to select the education category from google play developer console, but it wouldn't let me because of the ads. I will most certainly release a paid ad-free version. People can try the free one and then make the purchase for their kids.

This looks awesome! I'm playing with Clojure(script) lately and I think the format of this game would perfectly suit the web.

Do you mind if I create an open-source version of this as a web-based game (with credits given accordingly, of course!)

Of course! I'd be willing to open source my own code if anyone is interested. It's not the best quality code I've written though, that's why I have reservations about open sourcing it :)

reminds me of this game: http://flippybitandtheattackofthehexadecimalsfrombase16.com/

there is also an android version.

Wow, awesome game. It IS really similar. I bookmarked it.

What game did you base yours on?

I was thinking of something like Missile Command, originally.

Congratulations. It requires so much dedication to finish a side project.

Thank you! It really does. The hardest part is getting at least passable skills in all the areas required for game development. I'm a full time programmer and I draw but I had no idea how to handle sound, things like that.

Hello, Played just once for now, really enjoyed it, love the fact that you can destroy multiple balloons having the same number ! Congratulations. Is it intentional that there is no pause button ?

It is, kind of... :) I envisioned this game to be very casual. Played in sessions, while you commuted or otherwise had to pass time. But a lot of my friends who played the game also requested a pause button. I might give in.

PS: You can just press the home button on your device, and when you come back, it will continue where you left it :)

might want to have a learning start button which allows pausing and negative points if you buy an answer. I have a second grader that I think would play it.

I'm planning a Practice mode which will help kids of all ages to choose whatever kind of play experience they are comfortable with. Thanks for the feedback!

This is great.

The main suggestion is to have finer grained difficulty settings - mainly so that younger children can use it. IE first graders can only add small numbers. Take a look at Sushi Monster.

I'll check it out. Difficulty setting is a great idea. I was also thinking about adding a practice section where you can select the operations you want as well as the types of numbers.

I had made a similar game, or all math games just look similar : http://mkagenius.github.io/

I just played it. Awesome! Such a simple idea, yet fast and fun. I bookmarked it in my "Interesting" folder :)

I also did something very similar:


It's supposed to be like the "numbers" round from the show Countdown in the UK.

I love that show! Especially the 8 out of 10 cats version.

Loved the game. I don't mind about the ads. It was well thought, because when you lose, you deserved ;)

As I suggestion. You didn't need to waste time in so much detail for the first version. If you haven't mentioned about the birds and the building lights I would never have notice. It is a nice to have, but surely it would be better to ship the game earlier. Even though, I would rather like different cities. The city is destroyed, no matter what :0

Yes, in hindsight I could have released it way sooner. Even now I couldn't implement half the things I wanted to implement. It's hard make compromises and cut things out. I wanted to deliver what was in my head perfectly. Let this be a lesson to everyone out there I guess :) Release, then iterate. Otherwise you miss out on so much valuable feedback for years.

Why does it need access to photos/media/files? (That's the only flagged permission request)

Also, I found it frustrating. There were some totals that could not be reached (e.g. "14" where there was no 6 and no 9, and you can't use a 7 twice), so that city unfairly dies. I killed enough cities as it is via "Missile Command" over the years as it is.

The "Share" functionality takes a screen shot and has to save it somewhere. That is the reason for that permission request. If you revoke that permission, the game will still work but you'll have to take the screen shots yourself if ever you want to share your score.

The totals are picked from the numbers that are given to you to use. There is no possibility of a total that cannot be reached by the numbers provided. But I'll check to see if I have some sort of bug in the code.

edit: I've added a notice to the store listing so there's no confusion.

Neat game! It would be interesting to hear about your ad revenue numbers, especially before and after pointing to HN.

Also, it sounds like you're thinking about a paid, ad-free version. It would be another interesting analysis to compare the revenue streams of both apps.

Cheers! Great work!

I will do that in a blog post, if ever there is anything of worth to write about :)

I've just checked and since this post I've made around 3 dollars :D I don't know if sharing this violates some agreement I've accepted without realizing.

Thank you!

Looks cool, very nice retro look for the high scores and sprites!

Thank you! I'm 27 and I never stopped enjoying the retro look I'm accustomed to from my childhood. I tried to replicate it.

When the hints stopped I had no idea how to determine which number I had to calculate

Edit:ah they're on the balloons. I assumed as they were so pixelated they couldn't

The short visual tutorial might help with this as well I imagine. I wrote it as an answer to another comment, I can't copy paste as I had to go on mobile.

Neat! I've never used unity, which bits did it provide for you? The missile tracking looks pretty cool for example, was that available from the library?

Unity provides all the low level engine stuff. Both the missile and the falling bomb are GameObjects in Unity jargon. They have positions as Vector3 types. I get them both and get the difference vector. Then according to the magnitude of that, I add acceleration to the rocket and so on...

The trail of the rockets and the smoke they produce are particle creators provided by Unity. You provide the sprites and tweak settings.

It is possible to find add-ons for unity in it's built in asset store to do most of the things but I haven't used it. Except for Google AdMob integration.

Although I've not played the game (I only have an iOS device), I'd like to say well done for finishing your side project!

Thank you! I bought a Mac Mini the same time I made my first commit on this project so I could build for iOS. I will definitely release an iOS version.

It's just that, I have to get an iPhone and pay $100 for the developer program. It's out of my price range for now :) I developed this game using my late 2012 Glaxy Note 2.

Just a note, to work on the port you don't need a device to run in the simulator and you don't need to pay the $100 until you want to submit to the store. As of last year you can install on personal devices without paying the $100 either.

I'll get XCode and check it out as soon as I can. I didn't know about the personal device thing.

Congrats, it looks fantastic, it is obvious you have worked hard on the details, (deceptively) simple graphics notwithstanding.

The core game mechanic was done in a couple of weeks. The rest took two and a half years :D Some more details:

There are multiple kinds of clouds, which can spawn at specific heights. They are spawned at semi-random intervals.

The stars only shine after midnight, they are dull at dusk.

Every object's colour values are separately changed according to the time of day. There is a delay between UI and scene dawn/dusk times because you're supposed to be far away and looking at the distant city.

I can write all day about this stuff, as I'm very excited but I'll control myself for now :)

Awesome, that's what I meant by 'deceptive' :) Simple on first glance, but somehow everything just looks good.

Core mechanics looks like in my game that I'm working on. Funny core principle are same but games are so much different.

Congrats on launch!

Thank you very much! I'd love to play your game as well.

Is there any plan to enable translations in the app? I'd love help adding a Brazillian Portuguese (pt-br) version.

Yes, definitely. I don't currently have a system implemented for this, but I will. Can I contact you about this once it's ready?

Sure. Please tiago.maluta@gmail.com / I'm also @maluta at Github.

Reminds me of the kind of games I played as a kid in the school computer lab. Well done!

Thank you! I'd be happy if kids played my game and remembered it somehow in their adulthood :)

Congrat on shipping. The game idea is very original and interesting. I will definitely give this a try (forgot to bring my phone today but thanks to the really nice feature of Play store that lets you install apps from browser, it should be installed on my phone already).

Thank you! I'd be happy to hear your opinion, either here or through e-mail once you've played it.

Just watched the video, looks real good. WELL DONE!

THANK YOU! That was done with Movie Maker :D

I'd pay for it on Apple Store!

Is this another Frog Fractions?

I hadn't heard of Frog Fractions. I'll check it out.

http://gcompris.net has a fine collection of puzzle games for learning.

Nothing seems quite like Frog Fractions...

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