Tappy Donut: A Brief History Of My First Game

Gameplay footage of the last build uploaded to itch.io and IndieGala

Tappy Donut was my first game. Released on May 20th, it was a fairly simple casual game built with Buildbox 3, using their flappy bird template to help understand how games work and how their particular software worked. 

It was the only successful prototype released. The initial idea was called Trials of a Martian Flyboy and it was going to be a fun casual endless runner set on Mars. Unfortunately, it didn't look right. Graphics were too pixellated and there wasn't any joy in avoiding the same killer robots over and over again. 

There were additional problems with how the game looked in previews - borders were all over the place and it was a mess.

Perhaps the biggest issue was Android performance. A debug APK revealed the underlying truth: it was just too slow. Even though it was a 2D game and was fairly simple in its design, melting chocolate was far quicker. There were complaints on the Buildbox forum about the 3D performance on Android devices, but I wonder if there were also issues with 2D games?

Anyhow, it just couldn't be released to the public. Anyone playing would be frustrated and delete immediately.

Creating Tappy Donut

Next came Tappy Donut. The first prototype was initially derived from an excellent Buildbox user called Smart Penguins. He has a great YouTube video explaining how to build a very simple 2D game. That was followed to the letter and it worked great until the problems occurred. 

First the background stuttered. It was a layered image and the foreground started to stutter. Then came the rotating ground issue. The ground started to rotate on its on. The player would move from screen one to two and encounter rotating ground. 

Then the game crashed, and when it was opened, all of the functions such as player movement were undone. You can reconnect them, easy right? This had the noticeable effect of doing absolutely nothing at all. 

At this point, it was getting frustrating. Emailing support didn't help because they took two days to respond. 

During this time I decided to start from scratch again. I sourced new assets for the game (fast food themed) along with a new background and music. Everything worked okay, fingers crossed. The debugged APK was stable, albeit a little slow. 

First version screenshots

The first version looked like this:

tappy donuttappy donuttappy donut

Launching the game

Out of curiosity, I decided to unleash the game onto the unsuspecting public through publishing on Google Play. I wondered how many people would actually play the thing? My marketing strategy would consist of social media (especially the idea of "shout outs" on Instagram) and ASO. I even tried marketing on TikTok but these resulted in only a couple of installs. Posting the APK on alternative app stores such as Amazon and Yandex resulted in only a few more. 

Conclusion: what happened to Tappy Donut?

Lately, I came to the conclusion that investing more time in the project wasn't worth it. To improve things, I had redesigned several elements and updated the APK. No changes. I spent almost a whole day creating graphics from scratch in Inkscape but they looked awful. 

I decided, in the end, to end the project and take down the game from Google Play. I uploaded the final build (created in Buildbox 2.3.9) on itch.io today

Was the experience worth it? Totally. Parts of it were extremely frustrating, but it was actually pretty cool to have a game you built on your smartphone. 

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