This is the first in a four-part series about mobile game growth featuring Animal Revolt Battle Simulator (ARBS). Follow along with Lam Trinh Hoang on his journey to establish VDimension Studios and scale his first cross-platform hit game.
Are you passionate about gaming? Maybe you make games in your spare time and dream of turning them into a business but just aren’t sure how to make it happen. Well, Meet Lam Trinh Hoang, creator of Animal Revolt Battle Simulator (ARBS), the popular physics-based sandbox game, and follow along with us through this four-part series focusing on his early beginnings to gaming success to publishing his game with Yodo1.
Originally from Vietnam but now UK-based, Lam started his career in the financial services industry, making games in his spare time. When the opportunity arose for a career change, he knew It was now or never—bored of the tedium of the financial field, he wanted to try his hand at something creative and fun.
“I’d done some work on a VR game, which made only a little money, as the market for it was still too small then. I didn’t want to jump into game development again without really understanding the market, so before I started making ARBS, I researched what kind of games actually sell: specifically those made by small and solo developers,” said Lam. “I quickly realized sandbox-type games, ones where the player has a lot of freedom to do things inside the game, rather than constrained to a narrative, were among the most popular—like Minecraft, which was also initially created by just one person. This is super important for developers to know: people love games that give them a lot of freedom,” he explained. “They are also into games that involve a lot of physics because hitting things and watching them fly around is something that makes video games so much fun, and these are the exact things we love when we are kids!”
After deciding on the genre, Lam continued his research on Steam and YouTube, reading about, watching, and playing various games to learn what was popular in the market before finally arriving at his final decision: an animal-based battle simulator.
Even after he found his niche, the development process itself was not without challenges.
“As an indie developer, especially if you work solo, you must wear many hats. I did all the coding myself, but I outsourced some parts, like the 3D modeling and music,” said Lam.
He had to figure out how to make the game fun to play, as well as expand his skills beyond writing code; learning Photoshop, GIMP, and 3D modeling software. Lam’s not complaining, though: “I had an absolute blast making Animal Revolt!” he said.
Unlike many developers who went straight into mobile, after two years of development, Lam chose to release ARBS on Steam first, in June 2020. In fact, when Lam first made ARBS, he hadn’t planned to turn it into a mobile game at all. But as the game became increasingly successful, he wanted to capitalize on it and wondered whether it was possible to port his title to mobile.
“I realized that I could bring the game to mobile players because on the computer you’re using a mouse to select, point, and build things, which is actually quite easily transferable to mobile, where you use your finger in the same way,” he explained.
That’s one of the big advantages of working on your own: you know where things are and how they all work, and can adapt your game much easier to changes and new opportunities.
Lam first learned about Yodo1’s Managed Ad Services (MAS) through another developer, Ivan Panasenko, whose YouTube video detailed his monetization experience using various ad services, running the numbers, and detailing the increase in earnings once he’d switched to MAS. “I found it interesting because I was using another monetization provider. And once I tried MAS, immediately the earnings went up without the downloads changing at all. When I found that for the same number of downloads and users I could increase my earnings, it was a very easy win for me. So whatever magic you guys are doing behind the scenes is definitely working!”
The ‘magic’ of MAS is a combination of human expertise and AI optimization, which work together to ensure your game’s ad revenue is always maximized.
The personalized support is also a big part of what Lam loves about using MAS.
“Whenever I had an issue, Ismael [from the Customer Success team] would jump on it right away and connect me with the right support staff very quickly. So that was very useful, and something that you definitely cannot get from any other monetization partner: MAS is a clear winner in this department. The support you provide for developers is way beyond anything else you can get anywhere else: personalized support where you can actually speak to someone, which is just unheard of, and they react, they respond to you immediately.”
The MAS team also provided data on ad optimization and placement, leading Lam to incorporate rewarded ads in addition to the interstitials he’d been using, further boosting ARBS’s revenue and improving the player experience.
“Big props to you guys for being so hands on with developers on how to maximize revenue, because I really doubt I would get that anywhere else. I would absolutely recommend MAS to any other mobile developer out there who’s deciding what to use for game monetization. It is the best choice both in terms of extra revenue compared to other networks, and the support that you receive. It just doesn’t compare. MAS is definitely the number one choice for me and it should be the number one choice for anyone that wants to make money from their mobile game.”
Lam’s advice for other indie developers reading this article is simple: “Make sure that you enjoy the work you’re doing. Don’t get into it expecting to become a millionaire but be passionate about games and about your idea. Do your research: ensure the market wants what you’re making. And lastly, make sure you have a good work-life balance. Work reasonable hours and go out and enjoy the sunshine and spend time with your friends and family and do things apart from just game development. It doesn’t matter how fast you make the game: if it is good it will sell. So don’t kill yourself working hundred-hour weeks.”
Invaluable advice not just for indie game developers, but for anyone working in a creative field! Learn more about Lam’s journey from using MAS to publishing with Yodo1 in the next part of this ARBS article series!
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