Arduboy AMA

Any questions for me?

I’m thinking about doing a quick little video update for the site.

I gotta figure out something that helps new customers understand that it’s one person running the show without discouraging them from buying.

But anything in general is open, let me know!

2 Likes

Your current issues are slipping delivery date and supply issues not the fact that you are a one-man show so I wouldn’t dwell on that much. People like the idea of dealing with small companies and those that promote an inclusive community so present that side … the forum is very welcoming of everyone from game players to wanna be developers and everything in-between.

Remind everyone that the FX is building on a very successful platform and that you are not leaving existing customers behind - games written on the old platform will run on the new and so forth. Five or six years of accumulated knowledge in the forum is still relevant.

Remind them why it is successful. The platform encourages new starters with a much lower entry barrier of entry that some other platforms. I have seen many games completed on the Arduboy - probably due to its simple graphics and sound options, mature library, documentation, etc - whereas on some other platforms you have to really invest a lot of time to learn enough to actually produce something worthwhile.

2 Likes

Not entirely true because I loose days at a time doing fulfillment or other stuff.

I think I got into hot water because the fact that “Arduboy” has some how gained sentience and like become somewhat of a recognized brand of some sorts. So when people saw something was for “pre-order” or whatever they just ignored the backorder notice and they ignored the “estimated” part of the ship date and just really wanted it.

See here is the thing: I thought I was gonna sell maybe 100 or 200 of these things, and I thought it was going to be a push to get that by christmas.

My whole plan was to just exhaust the supply of Arduboy so that Seeed studio would be sorta “forced” to make more units if they wanted to continue their own sales.

But instead I got 10 times that, and demand from my distributors for the new product was also much higher than I anticipated so I was like, ok shit.

I spent an entire month trying to figure out if it was possible, and trying to get together everything I needed for another production batch. I didn’t want to announce it straight away because there was a chance that it could be too expensive, or the logistics etc wouldn’t work.

That work also included actually finalizing the PCB and artwork for the new production. Luckily I had already planning on having this ready… but next year some time.

Again, I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to do at that time. Really I thought maybe I would just have to cancel all of the orders I couldn’t fulfill.

I’ve already been accused of “overpromising and underdeliving” on this product launch by making it potentially 4 months late, but really what has transpired is the result of me trying to save everyone’s orders, lock in the next production batch, and have confidence about THE NEW timeline.

Things changed very rapidly when I put up the pre-orders, I started to plan for this contingency probably sometime in the first few weeks.

I’ve also been in contact with @mr.blinky about all of this too, and while he hasn’t been responsible for any of the decisions he has always been a very helpful sanity check for me as far as the decisions I’m making and if they are fair for the customer.

For example, he suggested that we verify ALL of the mod chips, even if they weren’t being pre-programmed in order to catch any problems with the boards. I thought this was a lot of extra work, considering another mod chip could easily be sent out, but I realized that he is looking out for the customer experience, nobody wants a DOA mod chip.

So I tested each and every mod-chip and found a whole 3 that failed. But then I think about that, that’s actually pretty cool. Because he mentioned it, and I spent a couple extra hours doing it for everyone… it actually made a real difference to 3 people.

2 Likes

If your web site was clear at the time about delivery times then what do you do?

Always a good problem to have! But I guess you would love to be able to plan this stuff.

Its easy for people who do not understand the financial risk you would be taking to complain when you want to be sure before committing to a large order or whatever. You cannot satisfy everybody - all you can do is keep people informed and offer to cancel orders (as you have done) when things slip.

Even when everything is perfect, you will get complainers. Some people see complaining as a sport.

I am guessing the factory cannot do that - or cannot do that economically?

Yes it is a big deal … I for one are really crap when it comes to soldering and finding out that a mod-chip was a dud would be horrible. I hate having to repair or redo soldering jobs as they always end up a mess for me. But worse - how would I know it was a dud rather than my soldering? Would you recognize it as a dud for warranty purposes or assume it was my fault?

I used JLCpcb to make these mod chips, and I asked about programming but they said no. I’m sure Seeed could do it but they would charge me an arm and a leg and I would have to order a lot more.

The mod chips themselves ended up being right-sized for the production batch.

I was totally overwhelmed by the number of people that wanted to grab the pre-mod, I didn’t really consider it.

1 Like

I think I’d be interested in hearing more of the history of the project. I just started on this journey this summer and while there’s a lot of information compiled, it would be neat to get a narrative of all the highlights. I actually came into this via the Tiny Arcade units – I read up on hacking them and found the story on how they were engineered which led me to getting one that I knew I could program. Knowing that I’m buying into something with a nice community made it more attractive.

The story of the FX

The short version is that @mr.blinky developed the flash mod and the bootloader, and I saw how people were doing this on the home made and wanted to make it official.

I actually tried doing a soft launch of the product under a different name back in September of 2018 but realized I still had several thousand Arduboy still in stock that I had to get rid of first.

In the middle of 2019 I had an opportunity to launch the FX as a set of dev kits that would be sponsored by hackster and have a bunch given out for free by them and by me as game jam prizes, but that fell through when Seeed wanted to charge too much to make them and it was too late for me to try to find another supplier.

So I switched focus back onto the mod chip, and that’s when I had the idea to have it “self bootload” so you wouldn’t need an external programmer to install:

This development took a little bit of time so that added a few months. I also ran into some big problems with the business and life that forced me to move around a bunch, so I couldn’t really work on it in earnest.

Then it turned into 2020 and in the beginning of the year, actually I had mostly all but lost interest in it feeling like I’d never get through the remaining Arduboy inventory. (It was about 1,000ish at the beginning of the year)

At the start of the year, before the pandemic, I completely switched focus at this time and started brushing up on my own software development skills and learned unreal engine 4. The plan was to make a small game demo that I could show off at some game studio that combined with what I did with Arduboy I was hoping to go to Game Developers Conference and see about getting a job in the video game industry.

Then the pandemic hit and everything just kind of went crazy / on pause. After seeing so many people losing their jobs, sick or even dying so much made me grateful for what I had. I’m working very remote now outside of the bay area and the risk of infection is about as low as it could get. There isn’t any problem with civil unrest, and mostly it’s been life as usual out here.

I noticed after the first couple months sales really started to pick up on the Arduboy and that’s when I realized that it’s kind of a great thing right now because it’s self directed learning and there really is no limit to the amount of fun you can have with it. It’s also something that I can just DO and not have to worry about finding a job or whatever, it is still the best source of income that I’ve got.

So, after stopping feeling sorry for myself, refocused efforts and worked closely with @mr.blinky about April, I think? Started making prototypes and actually developing a plan to make it happen. A big part of this was actually just the increased sales volume, particularly through distributors as a lot of people seem to pick it up as a hobby at home.

I think pretty much everything was up and running around July or August and then was just a matter of working on the logistics of the launch details.

The rest, as they say is history…

If you’ve enjoyed this episode of Arduboy Memory lane be sure to check out other episodes covering earlier periods of the Arduboy story:

2 Likes

Oh yeah, several months this year was spent making the cart ready.

I’d like to add that the project started with the development of the custom bootloader.

Shortly after I got my Arduboy I had the desire to select and play games on the go and the key part for that would be a modified bootloader. So I started optimizing the bootloader and adding Arduboy features. Once I was able to reduced the core bootloader into under 2K I knew a loader menu would be possible and I started working on the flash cart.

In the early stages it was just a flash chip, a levelshifter hooked to my Arduino Leonardo ‘Arduboy’ devkit and didn’t turn into a flash cart until @n602 designed his replacement backplate and added the suggested expansion connector.

Don’t forget the development of the modchip, tweaking the bootloader, making the FX activator.

4 Likes

And the test jig took a lot of time too!

Thanks for posting the test program on GitHub.

2 Likes

So only one question from me. Do you know why arduboy was so cool and like everyone talked about it 1-1,5 years ago? Now people think that Arduboy and it’s community is extinct :frowning: except ppl who remained loyal to this community (BIG RESPECT)

Well it was actually most popular 4-5 years ago so that in it’s own says something.

I think the peak of excitement of making new games and seeing what the platform can do is in the past. There were a lot of developers to which this was something “new” and so it was a fun thing to play and explore with.

Hopefully the FX will give some chance for other people to push and find some newness.

But also, I think practically a lot of people went over to Pokkito since that is a “new” platform and it offers more challenges.

Basically, nothing lasts forever and I’ve been extremely lucky with all this time I’ve had with managing the platform. It’s clear that it’s time for something new, but for me I think that is trying to make it more accessible to more people, not coming up with more features.

1 Like

Pokkito

What is that?

Hmm looks familiar… :face_with_monocle:

Also sometime in 2018 I started giving a priority to my personal life because I had given up on it completely since starting the business. I lost Ross and Celine’s help from the company and ever since then it’s just been the best that I can do to keep things afloat.

1 Like

Who thinks that?

Most Discourse forums look like that.
Few people bother to mess around with the default CSS settings.


In fairness I don’t think that’s the case.
Speaking as someone who visits both forums, the Pokitto forum rarely gets any new visitors, or at least not any that actually post anything.

The vast majority of activity is from the same group of regular users, of whom only a few are also members of the Arduboy forum, and of that few a sizeable chunk are still involved with the Arduboy (i.e. they participate in both, not just one).

Over here on the Arduboy forum there’s a smaller number of regular users and a higher throughput of non-regulars.

1 Like

I mean, sure there are a lot of reasons but it is true that all of the metrics for the site are down from last year.

Between my day job and freelancing, I’d just say set expectations - which I think you have with the banner. Or maybe my previous experiences got me prepared for this haha.

You can’t control people’s actions, but you can always be honest. Good and bad, with the truth people can make the best decisions

3 Likes

When you know the change in electronic since the Arduboy is born, it’s an amazing success to be so active and it’s because of the philosophy of the console, i think. Now, you have alot of possibility to have a console to program games but Arduboy forum, users and activity is not reach by the other consoles (not for a long time: some have a big activity for some months). I was using another console but i fall i love of this community…

2 Likes