Interview with Shahed from OnekSoft
With all things indie games. There stands out one developer who makes it just a bit easier to gather all your information into one place. He just doesn’t provide a Sales Data Analyzer, he also provides an XNA Starter Kit for those just starting out in XNA. I myself plan to use the tools that Shahed from OnekSoft provided the public. A man of many talents and a lover of Zombie Ninja Cats, I had time to get the info on OnekSoft and the possible future we can expect from them.
VVGtv: Hey Shahed. Thanks for taking a moment to answer some questions we had about OnekSoftLabs and OnekSoftGames.
Shahed: Hey Ryan, thanks for reaching out to me for this interview.
VVGtv: First things first, you have gained quite the popularity in the Sales Data Analyzer. What made you put together this useful tool for the XNA Community?
Shahed: It started out as a simple spreadsheet I had set up for myself. But it became quite tedious to manually generate my spreadsheets and charts every time I downloaded my sales data. So, I built the web-based interface from scratch and revised it a couple of times, based on user feedback.
I wanted to start a new R&D initiative for OnekSoft Games, so I named it OnekSoft Labs, and got a new domain name for it: http://OnekSoftLabs.com. I published the 1-click XBLIG Sales Data Analyzer, and word spread quickly around the globe. The site was further promoted in the Indie media through The Indie Mine (interview), Armless Octopus (blog posts) and Indie Gamer Chick (dev article).
VVGtv: In a short summary, how does the Sales Data Analyzer Work?
Shahed: It is written entirely in C# (just like XNA games) but runs on Microsoft’s IIS web server as an ASP.NET application.
There are 3 steps to using the Analyzer.
- Paste your sales data (either tab-delimited, or comma-separated values)
- (optional): Select one or more countries and a date range to filter by.
- Click the Analyze button to see your data and charts for the selections you made.
If you skip Step 2, the Analyzer will automatically detect the date range, and will include all countries possible.
There are 2 chart types at the moment:
- Sales by Country: stacked column chart of total sales by country
- Running Total: cumulative totals over time
VVGtv: Who can use the Sales Data Analyzer?
Shahed: Any XNA developer who has received sales data from Microsoft can start using the Sales Data Analyzer immediately. Note that there are major performance issues for top-sellers, since the Analyzer has not been optimized for big data at this time. For a full-featured optimized version, I am also working on mySDA, which is essentially the Analyzer on steroids.
See my FAQ section for details on mySDA:
One example of “big data” is FortressCraft from Projector Games, which had such massive sales that the developer was unable to use the Analyzer on my web server due to timeout issues. To generate the FortressCraft charts, the developer emailed me the sales data, which I ran through the Analyzer on my laptop for several minutes.
You can see the Featured section to compare game sales from various developers who have emailed me their sales data.
Another good example to showcase the Analyzer is Take Arms from Discord Games. You can see a massive spike in sales following a price drop from $3 to $1.
VVGtv: Any Plans to expand the use of the Sales Data Analyzer to use other imported numbers from iOS, Android and multiple sales CSV file types?
Shahed: The short answer is “yes”.
Right now, I support both tab-delimited files and comma-separated values in the current Analyzer. After I publish at least 1 game on iOS and Android, I plan to expand the Analyzer to support other platforms as well. But, I am focusing on my XNA Basic Starter Kit, which I am improving in parallel with developing my first game based on the Kit. This game was supposed to be a tech demo to showcase my Starter Kit, but I plan on releasing it on XBLIG and also submitting to Dream.Build.Play.
VVGtv: Let’s talk about your game Angry Zombie Ninja Cats. Why are these Zombie Ninja Cats so Angry?
Shahed: Haha, they’re angry for a couple of reasons. When I started using the Platformer Starter Kit, I knew that I would have to replace all the graphics and sounds, then change the default behavior/abilities of the protagonist and the enemies. The enemies in the PSK would only walk left and right, so I added in the “angry” gene, so that they rush towards the feline hero if you get too close in their line of sight.
I also wanted to use a name that begins with the letter “A” and had considered “Awesome” and “Angry” before I settled on Angry. The word describes the basic enemy AI, and also happens to be used in a popular mobile game with Birds in it.
VVGtv: What inspired AZNC?
Shahed: When I lived in Bangladesh as a child, I built some “paper games” using ink for the backgrounds and pencils for the “sprites”. All movements and attacks were accomplished by flicking the pencil on the paper.
I made over 100+ paper games, and one of them was called “Ninja Warriors”, similar to actual video games The Revenge of Shinobi or the classic Ninja Gaiden. As a new Indie game developer in 2011, I wanted to bring my childhood game to life, and decided to use Zombies and Cats for their popularity on the Internet.
VVGtv: The games you develop look fairly simple, not too flashy. Why is this?
Shahed: My first game 2D Math Panic was something I put together in 1 evening after work. I had just finished reading “Learning XNA 4.0”, and used my lessons from the book to put together a working game. All the graphics were crudely built in PowerPoint, hence the simple look. I submitted it to see what would happen, and it ended up selling enough to make back my $100 investment into my App Hub membership.
My second game was Angry Zombie Ninja Cats, which I built on top of the Platformer Starter Kit (within 2 weeks) in my spare time. It spent more time in playtesting and review, and also went through 2 post-release updates to address initial user feedback. Once again, all the graphics were put together in PowerPoint.
I was frequently asked to hire a graphics artist for future games. However, I actually draw quite well, so I decided to publish my own drawings on my Facebook page to showcase my drawing skill:
My drawings are done in different styles and with various tools: pencil, pen, tablet, Corel Draw and Toon Boom Animation Studio. Some of my drawings have also been featured on Otaku Dante’s Gaming Inferno, a popular game review blog. In fact, the “Art of the Month” for May 2012 features a drawing of mine.
My DBP entry will feature simple graphics once again, but I have started to work on a fighting game with hand-drawn characters.
VVGtv: Any plans on starting a kickstarter?
Shahed: Not at the moment. I think that KickStarter should be used as a fundraiser by developers who have already proven themselves in the market.
With mySDA coming up soon, I want to first build a solid product that developers want to use. I can rely on their goodwill if they choose to donate, or publish an offline tool that they can pay for.
If I keep building incrementally better games, I hope to create a game that is well received by both critics and gamers alike. If that happens, I can consider hiring additional Indie developers or artists for future games. A kickstarter could then be used for 1-time costs such as paying an artist or buying new hardware/software.
I would prefer to be very open about what the money will be used for.
VVGtv: Once again Shahed, it was a pleasure to send these questions to you. I love what you are doing for the community. I hope you can continue to give us the great tools and personality.
Shahed: Thanks, my work with the Microsoft/XNA Community has also helped me in my career and my day job.
As a result, I got a lot of things lined up in 2012:
* XBLIG Sales Data Analyzer released
* XNA Basic Starter Kit published
* Media coverage by ArmlessOctopus.com
* Continued development of the Sales Data Analyzer and the Basic Starter Kit.
* Media Interview by TheIndieMine.com
* International Game Developers Association invite by XNA MVP Jim Perry.
* Tales from the Dev Side article on IndieGamerChick.com
* MS TechEd 2012 invite by my employer (all-expense paid free trip to Florida!).
* Selected at work to speak on “XNA Lessons Learned.”
* Selected at work to start R&D on Kinect for the Workplace
* MonoGame Team asked if I would release my Kit for iOS/Android
* My first entry in Dream.Build.Play
* Another dev article for IndieGamerChick.com (coming soon!)
* Interview with Master Blud of VVGTV.com! 🙂