Crabitron Update and GDC!

This year Two Lives Left will be heading to GDC! We intend to use this as an opportunity to network with and participate in wider circles of the game development community. This is our first time attending an industry conference of this magnitude. It is both exciting and somewhat humbling to think that there will be 22,000+ attendees, 3-4 parties each night to attend, meetings, and various other activities we will be a part of. Personally I’m excited to meet and greet many of the developers I’ve met online but not in person. Kudos to Adelaide’s game dev community for helping us to prepare with helpful advice, contacts and encouragement.

When we first started showing Crabitron to people, an idea that kept coming up was that it would be a natural fit for the Kinect. Recently we’ve been working on doing  just that!

This is just a prototype to demonstrate the concept and show that it’s a viable control scheme. We found it works better than expected. You can control the claws with quite a bit of finesse and even open and close the claws by opening and closing your hands. We used the original Kinect and open source drivers to get it working on OSX (this was much easier because we could use the iPad version as a base). Getting the controls to feel good was a challenge and more effort will be required to adapt the game to work with motion controls but we are confident that we can do it. After GDC, I’ll write another post regarding the technical challenges we had to overcome to make the Kinect controls work.

Also – Crabitron got a great mention on YOGSCAST Mobile Mondays!


I’m writing this post to summarise a few exciting developments that happened in the last week or so.


For those who don’t know, last week was the annual Game Connect Asia Pacific conference (GCAP) held in Melbourne, Australia. Several years ago this replaced AGDC (The Australian Game Developer Conference). Earlier in October we submitted Crabitron for the Australian Game Developer Awards, and it became a finalist in the Innovation and Excellence in Design categories. The awards are part of GCAP so I decided that it would be a good idea to attend the conference and awards night.

There were some pretty interesting talks throughout the conference, with panels made up of people like Mario Wynands from PikPok and Tony Albrecht from Overbyte. There were some interesting revelations for me when it came to just how large Asian mobile markets are and how much users don’t care about ads in their games. These coupled with some very enlightening chats during the conference and after party gave me some good ideas for how to move forward with Crabitron in the future.


I was pretty nervous as they were announcing each finalist since I’d never attended a shindig of these proportions before. I had a hunch that Crabitron would have a good chance of winning the Innovation award. Then they read out some quotes from the judges about the winning game:

There is nothing else out there like this game – it
is a genre unto itself. It is simply the definition
of innovation. Not only that, it is also a lot of fun
and looks and sounds great. The studio behind
this innovative title deserve a lot of success from
this game.

I was fairly certain at this point and quite excited too. After they announced Crabitron as the winner I went up to the podium and accepted the awards and thanked several people and couldn’t stop smiling. Recognition for years of hard work feels pretty good, and this was no exception.

After this I went back to my girlfriend, put my backpack back on and didn’t give winning another award a second thought, until:

This game is a perfect example of a crazy idea
taken to its logical conclusion. As a candidate
for best design, I thought it stood out for exactly
that reason – great game design is the art of
doing a lot with a little.

And Crabitron won its second award of the night! This completely took me by surprise and I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride as you can see in the photo below.


YOGSCAST Lewis & Simon

A few days ago we saw a spike in Crabitron related tweets and the ranking in several countries shot up as if by magic. This appeared to be coming from a video on YouTube by YOGSCAST. From what I can tell YOGSCAST is a collective of YouTube channels who do reviews and Let’s Plays of games. They are also ridiculously popular. Crabitron was only mentioned at the start of the video but featured prominently in the title and thumbnail. One of the reviewers had great praise for the game and said several times that “It’s the best game on iPad”.

With 6 million subscribers and over 400K views on the video to date, this has had a dramatic effect on sales. To put this in perspective, we were barely holding a top-200 chart position for the game subcategories Action and Simulation. During the height of the video’s traffic we reached #59 in US iPad Top Selling and #6 in UK iPad Top Selling. This pushed the daily game sales from an average of $15 a day to well over $2000 during its peak. We are now seeing the sales and ranking subside but we are still overjoyed with the response. This proves that the game still has loads of potential customers, we just need to find new ways to reach them.

UK Rankings

From our experience and what others have been saying, games often survive through a series of spikes where sales surge in response to short lived exposure to a large number of potential customers. This includes things such as, New & Noteworthy or Editors Choice as well as popular YouTube channels and Websites. So far we’ve seen the most impactful responses from YouTube channels and Apple features but there may be other yet untapped sources of exposure.

Crabitron OUT NOW!

Crabitron, available on the App Store, April 19th

April 19, 2013 – Two Lives Left has released Crabitron, a lovingly crafted iPad game about destroying the universe as a Giant Space Crab. It is available for $4.99 on the App Store.

Crabitron is designed around multi-touch interaction, encouraging players to play with four fingers at once for best results. Players place two fingers on each giant claw and can then pinch, snap and fling them to cause destruction.

John Millard, co-founder of Two Lives Left describes Crabitron as, “Like a huge, physics-driven puppet that players can push and pull with their fingers. He’s this loveable, ugly crab with a wonderful personality.”

In addition to releasing Crabitron, Two Lives Left has announced their reverse-funding campaign “Crabstarter” . Crabstarter is a semi-serious parody of Kickstarter that bills itself as a “reverse Kickstarter” campaign.

Crabstarter presents Crabitron as a fully funded and finished game and asks players to back the project by buying the game on the App Store. All sales data for Crabitron, such as revenue and chart position, are made available to the public directly on the Crabstarter website.

Two Lives Left co-founder Simeon Saëns comments, “We’ll be making all of our sales data public. You’ll be able to see exactly how much we’re earning, whether Crabitron is succeeding or failing, and where it sits in the charts.”

Two Lives Left has estimated that Crabitron cost approximately $100,000 to develop, and this has become the funding goal for their Crabstarter campaign. In addition, Two Lives Left has added “stretch goals” for additional features and updates to Crabitron once the initial funding goal has been reached.

Crabitron can be found on the App Store at, videos and additional media can be found at

Accidental Crab

We decided to approach Crabitron’s development like this:

Create a bare-minimum version (lets call this Version Alpha) and submit it to the app store but leave it unreleased

Continue to work on an improved and extended version (lets call this Version Beta)

This way, we could release Version Alpha whenever we wanted.

We also needed an initial version because we had already created the app in iTunes to reserve the name Crabitron and there is a time-limit in which we have to use the name (upload a binary) or lose it forever.

Unfortunately there was one little snag. Once you upload the first binary for an app, you have to set the release date and that date can only be a late as Dec 31st next year. Well, because development took quite a bit longer than expected, that day actually came and the game was automatically released. Luckily we had a google alert setup for the search term “Crabitron” and the alert notified us of the itunes page and we could change the date to the next year. Problem solved, right? Development continued to take much longer than we wanted, due to having full-time jobs and other projects that demand time, such as Codea.

It happened again! And this time we were alerted by a third party. After the game had been released for a few days. No big deal except…


Okay, so some people bought Version Alpha. These sales were purely from new app categories and sites that index them. Sales even seemed to pick up a little by day 4. Still, the game wasn’t in a state that we were happy to sell so we pulled it from the store. Even with the basic state the game was in at least one customer was happy.



That brought a smile to my face. I hope whoever wrote that review enjoys the final version :)

Cargo-Bot Released

Cargo-Bot – The first game on the App Store programmed on an iPad – has been released.

The Press Release follows.


The First Game Programmed on iPad

Adelaide, Australia – April 24, 2012 – Two Lives Left and Rui Viana have released Cargo-Bot, a puzzle game where the player commands a robot to sort crates. Cargo-Bot presents players with fiendishly clever puzzles and features stunning retina graphics. It is available for free on the App Store.

Cargo-Bot was programmed entirely on iPad using Codea, a touch-based programming app for iPad created by Two Lives Left.

It’s the first game of its kind, prototyped, programmed and polished on iPad. Cargo-Bot was created by Rui Viana, a Codea user who developed his initial prototype and shared it with the Codea community. Two Lives Left reached out to Rui in order to turn his prototype into a published App Store game. They also enlisted the aid of Fred Bogg, a composer who developed a music library for Codea, to create the music for Cargo-Bot.

Coinciding with the release of Cargo-Bot, Two Lives Left is releasing the Codea Runtime Library source code under the Apache License Version 2.0. Registered Apple iOS Developers will be able to export their Codea projects into the Codea Runtime Library in order to release them as standalone apps, just like Cargo-Bot.

Cargo-Bot can be found on the App Store, videos and additional media can be found at

The Codea Runtime Library source code and documentation can be found at

Continue reading

The Case of the Coffee Smart Cover

I bought a new iPad a few weeks ago. With it, I also purchased the tan leather Smart Cover.

I’m not too careful with my cover. I chose the leather cover thinking the more scuffed and damaged it got, the better. I wanted it to look worn. Unfortunately after only two weeks of use it did start to look worn — on one side only.

As you can see in the above photos the right side of the cover is darkened in the place I usually hold it while reading.

This asymmetry wouldn’t do. I had a wonderful, horrible idea: I’d stain the cover with coffee.

I prepared a double shot of coffee using fresh beans.

I had no idea whether this would work. But I reasoned at worst I’d end up with an interesting experiment and an utterly ruined Smart Cover. And even if it looked terrible, it would still function as a cover.

I got a brush and started brushing the coffee onto the cover.

(This is one of those rubber bristled brushes. For cooking. It’s all I could find when rooting through the kitchen drawers.)

Here’s the cover soaked in coffee. The first pass.

I let it sit for a few minutes and then dried it by dabbing gently with a paper towel. The excess coffee came off and it looked much darker.

I wasn’t too pleased with how it looked after the first pass. So I gave it a few more coats. Then, after drying it gently, I scrubbed it with an old tea-towel. This gave the cover a subtle texture and it looked more pleasing.

It still wasn’t right, though. And thinking that I might experiment some more I decided to scrub the cover with ground coffee. So I ground some coffee at the coarsest grind setting and tipped it onto the cover.

I rubbed the coffee into the cover using my fingers. At the time I wondered what on Earth this would actually achieve. Regardless, I continued.

I wiped away the excess coffee granules and saw that it didn’t turn out too bad. I actually liked the resulting cover more than the original. Success!

Here are some photos of the finished cover. It has dulled a little since taking these, but I still like it more than the original tan colour.