Blog: How I wasted time and money developing a game that earned $30


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It is been 9 months for the reason that preliminary liberate of Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun for iOS and Android. I notice that I will have to have made a autopsy research in two weeks after the sport release whilst my reminiscences had been recent, however the recreation failed so laborious that I used to be in an overly fragile state and simply made up our minds to fail to remember about it for some time for the sake of my sanity. Its December, 2020 and I think like I will not finish this yr with out getting some more or less closure and the least I will be able to do is to practice up this undertaking with a autopsy.

Drunk Shotgun Logo

TL;DR

Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun is a top-down cell recreation the place you keep an eye on a personality with a shotgun, who’s repeatedly spinning and can not forestall as a result of he is simply too under the influence of alcohol. You faucet the display to shoot the shotgun to wreck goblins coming at you and to transport across the area. Personality himself can not transfer freely because of his situation, however the shotgun cringe strikes him permitting you to dodge assaults, accumulate persistent united statesand transfer in the course of the area to get a tactical benefit. You’ll be able to additionally faucet&hang to interact bullet time permitting you to time your shot exactly and analyze the placement. Bullet time isn’t endless and is replenished by means of defeating enemies. After defeating 99 goblins you face the general boss.

Thought

The unique concept was once to create a cell recreation this is simple to be told and tough to grasp. I used to be fascinated about Archero on the time – I preferred how it’s essential to play it throughout a ruin for a number of mins and it’s essential to best use one hand, so it’s essential to play it whilst commuting on a bus or subway and having your different hand unfastened to carry your bag or no matter. What I didn’t like about Archero was once that the sport was once too informal in a way that you just didn’t truly keep an eye on the aiming of the nature, despite the fact that it’s essential to (indirectly) prioritize goals.

In order that’s how the elemental necessities for the sport got here to be, it needed to be:

  • a cell recreation
  • that may be performed by means of one hand
  • portrait mode
  • lets you time and purpose your photographs
  • lets you keep an eye on persona motion
  • has brief recreation classes, ideally round five mins
  • has replay price

Mainly I sought after to create a fast paced hardcore area recreation that will make you’re feeling like you might be taking part in Doom (2016), however for your telephone whilst ready in a grocery store line on your flip to pay for groceries.

In the future of brainstorming keep an eye on schemes I have made up our minds to take a look at to make participant rotate routinely so you could possibly have some keep an eye on over aiming. That advanced into an concept of a participant being too under the influence of alcohol, so he begins seeing issues that had been more than likely no longer there and shoot them and that’s the reason how the concept that of Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun was once born.

Sport engine and renderer

Since I already had enjoy creating cell video games with Harmony I made up our minds to head with the similar engine. On the time of the improvement get started (October, 2019) Harmony has not too long ago introduced the strengthen for 2D lightning of their new Light-weight Rendering Pipeline, or LWRP for brief (now referred to as Common Rendering Pipeline or URP). I used to be truly inspired by means of the lights results and for the reason that recreation was once set at night time I sought after to make use of them up to conceivable so as to add to the ambience of the sport. Changing the undertaking between the default Renderer and LWRP was once just a little of a ache and the most efficient follow was once to make a choice the renderer from the beginning of construction and keep it up. So I have arrange a small undertaking to take a look at the 2D lights device out, because it regarded rather simple to make use of.

I have in an instant bumped into some graphical artifacts like “holes” within the emitted lighting fixtures that have been laborious to mend. Whilst researching for the answer, I have stumbled upon discussion board threads about 2D mild efficiency issues on cell gadgets and made up our minds that more than likely the device was once no longer able for manufacturing use.

So I have began the improvement with an older vintage renderer. Because it became out, that was once a proper factor to do.

In April 2020 I have participated in Ludum Dare Sport Jam #46 with my buddy, and we had been creating a recreation about an individual looking to harvest firewood to stay hearth for his camp throughout the night time. We made up our minds to make use of the 2D Lightning device and bumped into a number of issues (no strengthen for correct shadowcaster form adjusting for animated gadgets, no shadow culling, and so forth.), together with efficiency problems on desktop platforms and WebGL, so I’m satisfied I didn’t pass this manner with Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun – I’m really not positive how lengthy wouldn’t it take for me to liberate the sport in a different way.

Final game build does not utilize any 2D lightning, but uses transparent gradients for light halos

Ultimate recreation construct does no longer make the most of any 2D lightning, however makes use of clear gradients for mild halos

Sport Artwork

The cell marketplace on the time of construction was once plagued (and nonetheless is) with heaps of hyper informal cell video games that do not glance just right too just right, however relatively like one thing that one particular person put in combination throughout a weekend (which infrequently is the way it in truth was once executed), so I sought after the Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun to appear other – I needed to make it glance just right, one thing to be pleased with.

Since I made up our minds the sport to be a top-down shooter and having a replay price and brief classes result in the verdict of constructing the sport simple to be told and tough to grasp, I remembered of the old-school video games like Crimsonland and made up our minds that the artwork taste must be relatively equivalent.

It took rather some time to discover a proper particular person for the activity. I believe that I have by no means browsed ArtStation such a lot in my lifestyles looking for an individual whose artwork taste is relatively very similar to the references I collected for the sport

Sketches of main menu art

Sketches for the menu artwork

I have narrowed down the record to only one particular person. He was once eradicated after the interview, despite the fact that, since he was once within the procedure relocating to some other nation and was once to be had to begin operating on a undertaking in different months and I wanted an artist to begin once conceivable. I used to be feeling truly down for the reason that man looked to be best possible – he had a lot of related works and enjoy, and I have already spent a number of weeks simply looking for any individual with the proper artstyle.

I virtually gave up, however made up our minds to put up a task on one of the vital freelance services and products anyway, and unexpectedly Yury implemented to my activity. We scheduled a choice after which magic took place – I confirmed him my artwork references and guiding principle file I wrote for the artwork course, we mentioned the main points and he briefly set to work arising with a lot of artwork variants that had been nice.

The artwork became out to be similar to my imaginative and prescient of ways the sport will have to appear to be, even supposing I went over finances with artwork, so I didn’t have any finances left for the UI and I needed to design maximum of it myself, however I’m rather happy on the way it got here to be.

Final main menu art with UI elements

Ultimate menu artwork with UI components

Tune and sound

Proper from the beginning I felt just like the tune for the undertaking will have to be one thing heavy with distorted guitars, however no longer too heavy so it may not scare away extra informal avid gamers. So, extra DukeNukemish, much less Doomish.

Since my tune manufacturing abilities are rather low and I’m exceptionally unhealthy with guitars, I made up our minds that the one viable choice is to license the tune.

After the artwork was once able, I have browsed thru a large number of Royalty Unfastened tune on SoundCloud and in the end discovered two tracks that have compatibility the temper. There isn’t truly a lot else too say – individuals who play Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun normally both reward the tune or say not anything about it, so on the very least least it is not tense and does no longer really feel misplaced which is just right sufficient for a recreation that doesn’t have core mechanics tied in with the tune.

There isn’t such a lot to mention about sound design, too, since there aren’t a large number of sound results within the recreation. I most commonly used royalty unfastened sounds from zapsplat, and recorded/synthesized some sounds myself. Probably the most laborious ones to make a choice and convey had been the capturing sounds and the sound for showing discussion textual content, since they had been rather often encountered within the recreation and you’ve got to ensure they do not sound tense.

Several shells exploding at the same time

A number of shells exploding on the similar time

One surprising factor was once one thing that I stumbled upon when designing and checking out a power-up that made shotgun pellets explosive. Every time pellets hit a wall or enemy on the similar time, the explosion sounds multiplied, generating an overly tense sound. Because it became out, Harmony has a integrated strengthen or audio blending with results and limiters, that is helping to mitigate this sort of scenarios.

Structure

The former video games that I deigned had been slightly small and normally applied a Singleton elegance for Sport Controller or Stage Controller which in the future of construction developed in a large messy God Items which inevitably change into too advanced to debug and paintings with.

I sought after to keep away from this drawback up to conceivable in Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun, since I sought after so that you could briefly make adjustments to the sport proper from the beginning of prototyping, so I relied closely on Composition and preserving my categories as small as conceivable.

As with every undertaking any programmer have ever executed of their lives, I may not say that it became out completely, however I’d say that it was once just right sufficient. Every time I glance in the course of the undertaking I will be able to briefly inform what is going on even though I hadn’t touched it for months. I have additionally been reusing a large number of my categories from Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun in my different tasks for the reason that liberate and that claims one thing.

Animation

I went over finances with artwork, so I needed to animate the entirety myself. For the reason that recreation is 2D, I had two choices:

  1. Animate the entirety body by means of body
  2. Profit from skeletal animation

The primary choice is simply too time eating and I went with the second. There are two techniques of imposing skeletal 2D animation for Harmony: the use of paid the Third-party instrument like Backbone or the use of the brand new Harmony’s package deal for 2D animation.

I have thought to be the use of Backbone because it appear to have change into an trade usual of animation for 2D video games (a minimum of for indie ones), however my analysis led me to imagine that there is not any smart way of taking part in Skeletal animation again in Harmony instead of animating the entirety in Backbone after which exporting frame-by-frame animations. I’m really not positive if it is true, however I used to be no longer in a position to search out any operating examples; and exported frame-by-frame animations weren’t one thing I used to be able to reside with, as a result of that signifies that I may just no longer briefly change out weapon sprites in persona fingers and the full recreation measurement could be higher (and that’s the reason in particular no longer just right for cell apps normally, no longer simply video games).

The Harmony’s animation package deal became out to be rather just right, regardless of some preliminary issues of unintuitive UI. It even helps inverse kinematics, so you’ll simply animate limb actions, which is particularly nice for attack-related animations.

The animations became out to be rather easy because of restricted time, however I’m rather happy with the full appear and feel, the one factor that I feel sorry about is that goblins lack assault animations as I didn’t have sufficient time to animate and put in force them correctly, however that is extra of a recreation design factor than a real animation one.

Oh boy, the place do I get started?..

Iterating and prototype checking out

After the theory was once born it took me two evenings to place the primary prototype in combination. I used to be set on doing this undertaking the tilt method by means of iterating easy prototypes on family and friends to tweak the gameplay mechanics till I to find the sport to be amusing and attractive sufficient.

Prototype of Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun created with unfastened graphic belongings

It went as deliberate best by means of some extent. I did four iterations adjusting the sport in keeping with the supplied comments:

  • got rid of display distortions and chromatic aberration that had been used to improve the “under the influence of alcohol” impact, however caused headache to avid gamers
  • added bounciness to the participant after I spotted that some avid gamers put themselves right into a nook of area and stayed there
  • offered the bullet time gauge, as a result of endless bullet time made the sport to easy if all the time use it
  • tweaked the goblins so that they may not spawn too with reference to the participant
  • and so forth.

Then again, I notice now that there have been 3 issues of how I have executed the prototype checking out:

  1. I have examined it at the similar other folks each and every time
  2. I did too few iterations earlier than the real recreation construction section
  3. I didn’t hassle to search out the proper target market

The latter level is essentially the most painful. My pals discovered the sport to be “too laborious” and I believed that it is a just right factor, since the recreation was once intended to be simple to be told and tough to grasp. The issue is that folks that I have examined the sport on weren’t enthusiasts of hardcore video games, they had been merely no longer the supposed recreation target market and I didn’t take a look at the sport on any individual who was once intended to be the proper target market.

I may have posted the sport on-line, e.g. in /r/playmygame subreddit, however I used to be too fed on by means of the concept of a few hypercasual recreation corporate copying my recreation mechanic and striking it out at the retailer that I made up our minds to not do it. That was once a mistake, and I’m really not positive how precisely did I make it given my startup background and figuring out that concepts are value not anything, best execution is value one thing. I assume giving the recommendation of no longer being concerned about preserving an concept in secret to any individual one is simple, however it is tougher to practice it when it is your concept in query. You will have to practice it despite the fact that.

On reflection, even though some hypercasual recreation corporate took this concept and made it in a a hit recreation, it could in truth be more or less just right, since it will turn out that the theory is viable.

Since I didn’t take a look at the sport at the supposed target market, I overlooked an enormous alternative to make the sport higher and even exchange it totally earlier than beginning the manufacturing. I will be able to more than likely nonetheless do it now, however I have already misplaced a large number of time and sources and it is painful to switch one thing that has such a lot labored poured into, it is a lot more straightforward to take action on prototype degree.

Striking the sport mechanics apart, why did I even make a recreation about capturing goblins if other folks, it sounds as if, love to shoot zombies? Fact is: I didn’t like capturing zombies, however the target market would possibly find it irresistible. I did not hassle to even be informed it.

Gameplay development, problem curve and monetization

Best after striking in combination lots of the recreation I noticed that it lacks sense of development. That is one thing I may have have shyed away from if I saved iterating the prototype and fascinated about preserving the participant taking part in the sport relatively than giving it up after a number of tries (which I assumed was once k since I examined the sport at the target market that isn’t into laborious video games, however left out the truth that I did not attempt to the rest to stay them taking part in regardless of the trouble, let on my own discovering target market that likes laborious video games).

There’s merely no longer such a lot in Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun to stay the participant hooked. The one development components are:

  • kill counter, mainly a highscore this is capped round 100, since at 99 you face the boss
  • a number of enemy varieties (common goblin, speedy goblin, fireball-throwing goblin, juggernaut goblin, juggernaut goblin throwing double fireballs)
  • a brand new weapon (crossbow) that unlocks when defeating the boss for the primary time. The weapon is meant to alter the gameplay and supply a tougher problem – it shoots with one arrow at a time and penetrates a number of enemies

On the days of arcade cupboards and early flash and cell video games like flappy chicken this sort of development would more than likely hang up, however no longer as of late, when we have now sensible video games like Hades that can help you to change into higher and provide you with a super sense of development.

There was once additionally an issue that I didn’t truly know if the trouble curve is in truth too steep and the sport is simply too laborious for the objective target market, as a result of I by no means examined it on one.

As for monetization, I have made up our minds from the beginning that I’d no longer make an “ad observing simulator” like so much hypercasual recreation builders do and can appreciate my participant a minimum of on this side. So I have added an approach to get one further lifestyles consistent with run for observing an advert. This feature was once unlocked after the primary ten kills, as a result of in case you controlled to die earlier than touchdown 10 kills, you run is more than likely already spoiled and it is more straightforward to begin over.

I briefly learned the issue after release, as a large number of avid gamers did not even set up to land 10 kills, whilst folks that controlled to get to 50-60 kills most popular to begin the sport over as an alternative of observing advertisements. I have decreased the brink for purchasing an additional lifestyles to demise after touchdown five kills to get a minimum of some advert perspectives. I have additionally added advertisements that display up each and every four playthroughs in case you did not view select to view an advert for added lifestyles. That clearly didn’t assist with the crisis of what monetization on this recreation is.

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So, mainly, the avid gamers who had been just right on the recreation and loved it did not see advertisements and convey any earnings (with the exception of the few ones who made up our minds to strengthen me and purchase ad-free model) and those who had been just right on the recreation had their frustration fed with advertisements.

Pre-launch and release

Other people from the sport trade all the time say that the sport neighborhood must be constructed earlier than the sport is launched. I assumed that this doesn’t practice to cell video games given the fast paced marketplace and the large quantity of hyper informal video games that come and pass in a question of days or even weeks.

For some reason why I left out the truth that the sport I used to be making is neither a swiftly advanced one who you’ll make in a question of weeks solo and throw out to the marketplace to peer the way it reacts, nor an informal one, given the theme and problem. Or could also be I simply selected to forget about this truth, as a result of advertising is dull and design&construction is amusing (a minimum of for me) and if you end up operating in a crew you will have any individual to mention that you are are more than likely no longer prioritizing issues accurately, however when you find yourself operating on my own it is simple to lose center of attention (the artwork was once commissioned hourly, so I used to be mainly operating on my own all the time on the recreation advertising, design, and so forth.)

On a release date I simply revealed the sport on App Retailer and Google Play, posted in a few threads on reddit, my fb web page and twitter and, smartly, as you’ll are expecting not anything took place. No site visitors, no traction.

Uncommon individuals who downloaded the sport didn’t play it so much, I were given a few praising feedbacks and that’s the reason it.

Put up-launch Advertising and marketing

Then I attempted to arrange advert campaigns on Fb and Instagram and learned the most important factor that I did not notice earlier than: it is very laborious to marketplace video games that has weapons, violence, blood and alcohol references in it on those platforms which is rather unhealthy for me, since those platforms a the principle one for purchasing paid site visitors for cell apps normally.

I didn’t have a large number of advertising fabrics, principally the sport emblem, duvet and several other small gameplay trailers. I believed that gameplay trailers can be sufficient to hook avid gamers. The issue is that fb directly up rejected all my advertisements for having both weapons or violence in them and I didn’t need to be the fellow who makes the ones terrible clickbait advertisements with pictures that has not anything to do with the real recreation.

So I made up our minds to take a look at my good fortune with instagram, as a result of for some reason why the method of as approval in it’s other from fb. I ran the marketing campaign with gameplay trailer for a number of days after which were given my account banned for violating the foundations in each instagram and fb.

Gameplay video used for Instagram Advert

My fb advertisements account was once by no means unbanned, so I made up our minds to take a look at my good fortune with google advertisements, however they by no means generated sufficient perspectives and clicks.

I am getting now why recreation builders steadily attempt to paintings with publishers: no longer best since the means of going to marketplace is difficult, it is simply dull, you normally simply need to center of attention on creating a very good recreation enjoy. Additionally, the publishers in most cases know the target market significantly better, so that they may be able to let you know what will have to be modified.

The truth is that the promoting is what in truth defines if our recreation is a hit or no longer (however your recreation has not to suck on the very least).

Animation (as soon as once more)

Whilst I have advised you that I’m rather happy with how the sport animations became out, there have been verbal exchange problems with the artist about it. The artist didn’t have a large number of enjoy with skeletal animations and neither did I. That ended in me giving him a rather oversimplified requirement of simply making the nature and monster sprites damaged up into separate portions (limbs, torso, head).

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Instance of persona damaged up in movable portions from the design necessities file. Personality Artwork by means of Riley Gombart (opengameart.org)

The artist did as he was once recommended and when the paintings was once completed I nonetheless had my head within the gameplay programming, so I simply accredited all the artwork with out totally checking how the damaged portions are introduced within the supply recordsdata.

Best a number of weeks later after I began animating, I noticed that I needed to redo all persona sprites so when their limbs or heads are transferring the joints may not be visual. I additionally needed to reflect probably the most characters limbs so I may just make correct strolling animations.

Ultimately it became out to be alright but when I knew the nuances of having the artwork able for rigging and skeletal animation when commissioning the artwork, so I may just keep in touch them to the artist correctly, I’d have stored a large number of time.

Amusing truth: in the future I have learned that I’ve to make an in-game educational and inform some tale to justify what is taking place in recreation, so I added a phase with Jack, the protagonist, exiting a bar. He was once intended to be simply strolling out of the bar with none weapon visual earlier than preventing and figuring out that he can not stroll anymore after which get started spinning. The issue was once that Jack’s sprite had palms best within the shotgun-bearing pose and he had no legs, as a result of I assumed that legs animation on a spinning persona will best confuse the participant. So with the intention to make Jack appear to be he’s strolling together with his fingers within the wallet, I simply got rid of either one of his arm sprites, that is why he seems to be bizarre within the intro.

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Jack popping out of the bar

Bonus: Android Free up

There have been additionally two issues revolving across the Android liberate.

The primary one concerned the efficiency. I have examined the sport on Pixel 2 and it was once working buttery clean in wonderful 60 frames consistent with 2d. I have additionally examined it on a number of iPhones together with an outdated iPhone SE (launched greater than four years in the past, an entire life in smartphone phrases) that I borrowed from a pal – it ran completely. After I made up our minds to check the sport on my female friend’s Samsung (launched two years in the past) the efficiency was once worse, however nonetheless playable. I gave the sport construct to a number of various other folks and a few discovered troubles capturing and feeling that the sport lags on newer Android telephones.

I by no means totally found out the efficiency drawback on probably the most Android telephones, however it is transparent that for some reason why Harmony video games run on Android slower normally, even on contemporary gadgets with just right GPUs. I’m really not positive if it is a drawback with loss of low-level GPU get admission to (Vulkan API is more than likely going to unravel the issue if extra producers will adapt it).

The opposite drawback was once the screenshots. Whilst Apple had no drawback with the sport screenshots having blood on it, Google Play reviewer advised me that the screenshots aren’t appropriate, so with the intention to get the sport to the shop I needed to pull the oldest and stupidest trick within the guide.

I modified the colour of the blood from pink to yellow. And Google accredited it.

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Authentic screenshot vs Google Play Retailer model. I in truth begin to like the second higher.

I do not know why the colour of digital ketchup issues, I assume this youngsters that play violent video video games may not change into psychos. Or a minimum of they may not try to change into online game builders like I did – if best they modified the colour of digital blood when I used to be a youngster.

Worktime

I have began creating the prototype of Under the influence of alcohol Shotgun on the finish of 2019. A number of weeks after construction get started, I have joined Listenable as a full-time CTO, so I didn’t have a lot time to paintings at the recreation, and I basically labored on it on weekends, evenings and infrequently at night time, so it is laborious to calculate what number of paintings hours was once spent on it, however I attempted to more or less approximate it in accordance with my git devote historical past.

This doesn’t come with time spent on recreation ideas and time operating with an artist at the artwork course as it is laborious to estimate it (artist’s time additionally no longer incorporated right here).

  • ~ 50 paintings days spent on model 1.zero (authentic liberate)
  • ~ five paintings days spent on model 1.1.zero (visible results and high quality of lifestyles updates)
  • Paintings on prototype began on October five, 2019
  • Model 1.zero.zero was once launched on March 12, 2020
  • Model 1.1.zero (the most recent one) was once launched on June 24, 2020

Cash spent

  • recreation artwork – $three,220
  • cohesion plus subscription – $342
  • authorized tune – $180
  • advertisements on fb/instagram – $130
  • advertisements on google – $124
  • further sounds – $10
  • general spent: $four,006

I have extensively utilized EasyMobile plugin which I purchased whilst operating on one in every of my earlier video games, so I did not come with it right here. The cost was once round $70 on the time of acquire.

Advertisements conversion

Some stats in accordance with the advert campaigns that I ran on Instagram with gameplay video as advert inventive:

  • CPI – $zero.41
  • LTV – $zero.02 (all earnings divided by means of all installs)
  • CAC – $120 (worth of obtaining a paying person)

CPI isn’t so unhealthy, however as you’ll see, the sport fails to transform avid gamers to paying shoppers. The opposite drawback is that CPI does no longer subject if FB/Instagram will sooner or later block your advert account because of “violent” gameplay for your advertisements.

Income

There was once in truth some earnings, nevertheless it was once very small:

  • subscriptions: $16.63
  • in-game advertisements: $18.94
  • general earnings: $35.57

Right here what I promised myself to do after I get started my subsequent recreation undertaking in accordance with what I have realized:

  • iterate on you prototype so much. After which iterate a couple of extra instances
  • do not do playtests at the similar workforce each and every time, attempt to take a look at on as a lot other folks as conceivable
  • to find your target market earlier than speeding to manufacturing
  • construct your recreation’s neighborhood earlier than release
  • do not fail to remember concerning the recreation development and meta gameplay, your recreation will have to have one thing to stay avid gamers returning to it
  • take into accounts monetization from very early phases, it will have to supplement the gameplay, no longer contradict it
  • in case you aren’t skilled in recreation advertising and/or to find it dull, to find any individual skilled to spouse with
  • do not be petrified of other folks “stealing” your concepts, it is execution that truly issues
  • do not use generation that doesn’t appear manufacturing able, except your gameplay mechanics or artwork taste completely rely on it

Numerous issues on this record appear obtrusive and it’s essential to’ve learn them elsewhere. I do know that I have learn a few of them, too. But if it occurs to you infrequently you assume that someway the foundations simply don’t practice as your state of affairs is exclusive. Fact is: it is not and also you a more than likely simply selected to forget about one thing that can chunk you while you least be expecting it.

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P.S. Drink responsibly.

Intro, educational and gameplay video. Exact gameplay begins at 1:42

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