Galactic Fire – Leaderboards, analytics and more for Windows Phone 7 games

[crossposted from my blog]

Hi all! Hijacking a bit of your time to discuss leader boards and analytics in the indie game space.

Throughout casual play testing, one of the recurring feature requests for Galactic Fire (now available on the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace!) was leaderboards. Initially, one could only compete with themselves for a high score on the local device and, while appealing, it doesn’t necessarily capture the same competitive edge as seeing how one ranked world-wide. Leaderboards sounded like fun, and folks wanted to see how they compared to other players in the office.

Being overzealously protective of my spare time, I dismissed the idea of leaderboards. The game was more or less feature complete, was already for sale in the WP7 Marketplace, and I didn’t want to build or maintain a leaderboard service. Even once it was built, I’d have to cover hosting costs, troubleshoot uptime and availability issues, and it sounded like a bunch of problems I ultimately didn’t have time for.

One of the key differentiating features between Galactic Fire and its free/trial counterparts ended up being work that I didn’t have to do at all, and that’s largely thanks to a service called Mogade. Mogade advertises “free solutions for casual game developers“, and one of the free solutions happens to be leaderboard support with corresponding Windows Phone 7 client source and binaries.

As far as I can tell, Mogade is a small handful of folks learning and building services for an area that they are passionate about, and monetization is currently on the back burner. From the Mogade FAQ:

Why build mogade? Why make it for free? Why open source it? Ultimately, we believe in gaming, and we believing in the casual gaming revolution brought about by new devices. We grew up on video games and we want to do our little part to make sure others get the same benefit. It currently costs roughly $100/month to run mogade on redundant hardware. It’s a manageable expense.

I ended up using the free Mogade-hosted leaderboard service, but if the idea of someone else hosting your app’s functionality makes you uncomfortable, then you have the option of forking the Mogade source on Github and hosting it on your own servers.

In addition to leaderboard support, I took advantage of some other Mogade-provided features to add some basic instrumentation to track game launches and unique users. This has the net effect of tracking downloads, unique users and game launches in a way that is far more immediate than the App Hub tools. In fact, I could see the build with instrumentation going through certification as the number of unique users spiked in advance of the game’s marketplace launch.

Mogade offers great functionality at a cost that I can’t argue with. For indie developers and small studios, it’s hard not to recommend taking a look.

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