Using bitcoins for donations or in-game currency

Bitcoin is a virtual distributed currency that allows people to make very small payments (less than one cent) without any transaction fee. We’re already using it as a possible method for making a donation, but we’re considering using it as an in-game currency for some future projects. The biggest selling point is not having to bother with the legal implications of using “real” money ask asking people to use paypal or whatever.

So far, the biggest problem is that users would have to have bitcoins. Unless they’re willing to install a software to their computer, they would have to create an account on something like MyBitcoin and fill it with bitcoins bought with money. This makes a lot of steps. However, if several games use bitcoins as a currency, there could be a big enough incentive.

The other problem is that many people don’t trust bitcoin. Bitcoin is as reliable as the cryptographic problems it relies on, but its user base is so far full of strange people who rant about the abuses of the government and the federal reserve. Bitcoin even comes with its own Ponzi Scheme that will earn you money… but only if you’re one of the early adopters.

What do you think ? Do you know of other methods that could work across applications, and minimize the transaction fees and legal troubles ?

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Micropayment instead of ads, and opensourcing

Micropayment

I don’t like ads in my mobile application; who does ? But developing application costs money; we need to host our websites, we need to buy test devices to ensure everything works alright, and of course, we need to eat. So we do have ads in our applications.

I don’t believe the Android Market is ready for micropayments. Most people won’t pay $1 for small applications. I’m sure some of them do want to support us, and do that by clicking our ads, but I would like for them to have an easier way, and a way that could send a message to the developers. For this purpose, I believe application developers could use Flattr (and I would like to see that integrated into Android).

We created a Flattr button you can use to support us:

Flattr this

(If you wonder what we do, check out our applications here: http://www.electric-goat.net.)

Opensourcing

We already made a few bucks with ad revenue and various distribution deals with vendors. This means that, for some of our apps, there is a hope that we can reach a point where we feel they have been paid for. And we would love to open-source them. So we’re thinking about that: how we could make a page where you can see how much we earned from any given app, and how those apps could be automatically open-sourced when we reach a certain amount, say $500 or $1000 for a small app.

The big question is: would users care ?

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Buying good reviews on the Android Market ?

Two things I noticed recently, and it’s possible they could be related:

  1. A while back, I noticed strange comments on the Android Market regarding some of our applications, and some of other people’s applications too. For example, let’s take BusinessBingo: it’s a fairly simple application, it’s just for fun, and most people wouldn’t find a use for it. So, it’s perfectly expected to receive some bad reviews. However, some of them sound strange. Someone complains that it’s difficult to control, but there is nothing to control, really, you just tap on words. Someone else complains that “audio doesn’t work”, but nothing in the application can make you believe that there should be sound. Those comments seem quite random and generic.

    In a lot of applications, you can read uninformative comments like “Lame. Uninstall.” Even in very good applications. The user doesn’t explain what he doesn’t like, and the comment is always the same.

  2. More recently, I received an offer to buy bulk positive comments and rankings for our applications. Which made me think: if some people are willing to sell positive reviews by the thousand, why wouldn’t they also spam negative reviews on applications that don’t use their services ? It may sound paranoid, but if other developers have experienced the same, I’d like to have their opinion.

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Is Google doing any cleanup of the Android Market ?

A few days ago, I flagged a few applications on the Android Market as inappropriate, because they were ripoffs of our applications (Renverse, Footsteps and BusinessBingo). Not just remakes, that wouldn’t be illegal; they were completely identical. Only the AndroidManifest.xml file had been altered to change the version and, of course, the AdMob publisher ID. The applications even claimed “by Electric Goat” when launched.

Today, nothing has changed. Adam Gates, the “developer” who copied our applications, added many more new applications and I’m sure most of those are equally stolen from other developers. Why hasn’t Google acted on my reports ? I even gave the package name of the stolen applications in my comments, so that it would be easy to check. We are in the process of fixing the problem in our applications, but we have no way of finding who are the owners of the other “adam gates” applications. If one of our users hadn’t warned us, we would never have noticed

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Stealing games to make money

An easy way to make money with Android: steal a game, change the AndroidManifest file, and upload it back. That’s what a certain Adam Gates has been doing with our games. Check yours.

Any idea on how to protect against that ? Is there a way to check the admob key from inside th app ?

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The end of boring business meetings

Every time I have to sit through a meeting, I wish I could play a game of Business Bingo (also known as Buzzword Bingo) to pass the time. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any software to do that in the Android Market. I’m proud to announce that it finally is available. Boring meetings will never be the same.

The game is best played with friends. On each phone, a different list of buzzwords. When the speaker says a word from your list, touch it. When you have filled your list, say “Bingo!” (or any other signal on which all players agreed beforehand).

Coming soon: the possibility to create your own buzzword lists, so you can play seminar bingo or whatever.

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Updates of the week

Since we don’t want to spam on our game updates, we’ll try to make at most one post per week on the subject. News of the previous week:

Footsteps, our bidding game for two players, gained a better computer opponent (and some bug fixes). We were glad to receive some positive comments on the game. We were afraid that people would dismiss it because it looked so simple, and wouldn’t play long enough to enjoy it. It can be addictive, especially if you play with friends and the loser pays the beers.

We’re working on different levels of computer opponents. Building AIs for bidding games is fun but quite a lot of work.

Poketris, our mix between Tetris and Poker, gained global high scores. We’re quite fond of this game (I play it a lot while commuting) but it hasn’t found its audience yet. We’ve had reports of non-responsiveness on some devices and will be looking into it.

In the meantime, if you want to train your memory, your reflexes and your ability to mentally juggle with poker hands, don’t hesitate to try our game. And please don’t hesitate to report on bugs or offer suggestions.

Finally, Renverse, our puzzle game, also gained global high scores, but only for the hardest Marathon mode, which we think offers the most challenge. There already are some very good times; some of your are good !

Next in line: more puzzles, high scores also for “Lights” mode when we have enough difficult puzzles to enable the hardest Marathon mode, and in the future, another game mode.

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Adding global high scores

There are a few things that players expect to find in a good game today: achievements and global high scores, aka leaderboards. For the developer, they both have the advantage of encouraging the players to play more, or to try new things in the game, so we’re happy to implement them. Since we’re in the process of adding global high score to our games, I’ll show how we do it, both as a tutorial and in the hope that others will tell about their experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

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Renverse 2.2

Version 2.2 of Renverse if out. It doesn’t contain any new features, only more “Lights” puzzles, because it lacked any really difficult ones. It also introduces ads on the playing screen, something we hesitated about. It may not stay that way, but it seems like the only way to get some ad impressions, so we’ll see.

The reason this version doesn’t really contain anything new is that it’s a first step towards the next version, which should introduce global high scores, as soon as our web backend is ready.

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A good host for web applications

In order to use the online capabilities of android devices, we need to be able to host some applications online. There were two big constraints:

  • we don’t like PHP, and we’d rather use a more advanced language. Ruby on Rails would be a perfect framework, but few hosting services offer a Rails platform.
  • our ad-supported applications don’t earn enough money (yet) to pay for a dedicated server.

Then we discovered Dreamhost, which is relatively cheap ($9 a month plus discounts, see below), can host Ruby or Python applications, offers automated installs of many open-source applications and, last but not least, offers an SSH access and an up-to-date GNU/Linux operating system.

Even better: you can get a big discount by using their referral system. For example, if you use the referral code ELECTRICGOAT while registering, you’ll save $50 on a one-year contract (of about $120), and we’ll save $47 on our next payment. And you don’t pay on registration, you pay after a two week trial period.

I expect we’ll be using Dreamhost for a long while if the service continues to be as good as it is now. However, we’ll probably need a dedicated server when some of our bigger applications are released. If any of our readers knows good deals, I’d like to hear about them.

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