I haven’t posted on the blog in a little while so I thought I’d give a little update as to what is going on. Since we were unsuccessful in the Kickstarter campaign we are shifting our focus to the PC version of the game, which we will release first. This means we don’t have to buy any new hardware or pay development fees which allows us to continue working on the game. Right now I am porting the code from the iOS version to the PC version. There are a few things we need to reconsider in the process and a few extra things I need to account for like variable resolutions and different input methods. Things are going nicely though and I’m currently testing a couple of new features which I hope will make Sunset Over Lievnos even better! We’ll have more info very soon, so stay tuned!
Our Kickstarter campaign for Sunset Over Lievnos (Click here to see the campaign page) has just come to an end and unfortunately we were unsuccessful at reaching our goal of $8000. On the plus side the whole process was a great learning experience and I took away some valuable lessons. I thought I would share my experiences which I hope will give insight into this project and it’s future as well perhaps help other people who are launching their own campaign.
So, what went wrong?
Target Audience and platform.
When we very first started thinking about this project it was about two years ago and at that time I was really getting into creating Apps for iOS since it was a growing market and it didn’t have a lot of games that had a lot of depth. Furthermore, the touch interface works well with turn-based games and I thought Sunset Over Lievnos would be well suited for iPad. Since then, the industry has shifted somewhat and my understanding has changed about the App Store and what types of games sell.
From the feedback I’m getting and from the articles I’ve read, people who buy games from the App Store aren’t interested in a deep experience and they certainly aren’t willing to pay more than a few dollars for anything. The market won’t pay for deep games and so gamemakers don’t create them. What you end up with is a huge marketplace for casual games, but not much else. While that is all well and good, I enjoy a good solitaire or puzzle game, it just doesn’t seem like a great home for Sunset Over Lievnos.
In addition, most people who buy from the App Store don’t do extensive research about their games, they buy what’s on the charts or some ranked list. iOs users aren’t interested in up-and-coming games, they aren’t a part of the gaming industry, and they don’t go out of their way to support indie developers. Finding an audience of iOS gamers who like niche strategy titles or who support indies is very challenging, if not impossible. Launching a Kickstarter campaign to get money from them up front is therefore not going to work well.
In my previous promotional outings I had received a bit of feedback from people who wanted a PC version so initially I had a stretch goal for a PC version. It was pointed out to me through some feedback that this actually is alienating the PC crowd who might consider pledging but would end up with nothing if the stretch goal wasn’t met. With that in mind my partner and I decided mid-campaign so bite the bullet and officially commit to creating a PC port if our initial funding goal was met, thereby ensuring our PC supporters a game they could play. Confirming my suspicions about the iOS as a platform being difficult to get supporters from, the majority of our pledges came after we announced a PC version.
While we didn’t receive any specific feedback that our rewards were bad, and in fact the feedback we did get was that they were in-line with other projects, we had very few people subscribe to the higher levels. Ultimately people ended up just preordering the game and that made up the bulk of our pledges. While I think this is probably how most campaigns work, we didn’t get nearly enough people at higher levels to bring in bigger cash inflow. I would still like to hear opinions on our rewards levels and I would look at those much more closely if I ever did another campaign.
Not Enough To Show
I think one of the biggest problems we had was that the game just isn’t far along enough in development to show a lot of actual game play. This means that it was difficult to communicate to others what the game is about. If you haven’t played Gemfire or Romance of the Three Kingdoms then it’s a bit difficult to get someone to understand how the game flows without showing them. Unfortunately we were/are stuck in a bit of a paradox. We need funding to get the tools we need to create the game, but we are unable to get funding because there isn’t enough of the game completed to inspire people to fund us. We had several comments about how we didn’t have any of the soundtrack available. The reason for that is that I need the funding money to buy the software and hardware in order to make the soundtrack. We had hoped that launching a campaign early in development would allow us to procure the tools to speed up development. My Macbook Air just isn’t up to the task and compiling and running the game takes up to a minute each time. Often, especially when tweaking user interface and graphic positions I could compile and run the game 4 or 5 times a minute if my computer could process faster. And because the screen is smaller with such a low resolution I end up with fewer lines of code on the screen and I have to do more scrolling. It slows down how fast I can analyze my code or find specific lines I’m looking for. The Air is capable of outputting to an external monitor, but it turns out that doing it causes the Air to overheat and the performance takes a huge nose-dive.
Because we are so early in development we haven’t had a lot of time to promote the game before the Kickstarter campaign. This means we went into the campaign with just about no following. I also didn’t spend enough time in the indie communities until the campaign was live. I’m actually really enjoying being part of these communities and I think that in the long run making some connections here will help out so I intend on continuing my participation. The one thing that this campaign was great for was in promoting the game. Especially after we announced the PC version we received a fair amount of support which was encouraging.
The Future of Sunset Over Lievnos
At this point, since our funding has failed and we don’t owe anything to anyone, I’m debating about whether it is worthwhile to finish the iPad version at all and whether I should just set to work on the PC version straight away. It doesn’t seem like there isn’t much of an audience for this game on iPad and it would also mean I wouldn’t have to buy the hardware I need to make the iPad version. There would of course be a bit of a delay since I would have to port all of the code I currently have, but it may be worth doing now rather than later. Erika and I are still both committed to making this game happen. Right now we’re taking a look at our options.
I would LOVE to hear what our supporters are thinking. What did we do that you liked? What did you not like about the campaign? Is anyone at all interested in the iPad version or should I scrap it in favour of an earlier PC release? Let us know! I also wanted to thank Rya Reisender, Raifeld, Bob The Hamster, Dragon Atma, Hideo Kuze, and Starry Knights who really went out of their way to give me some solid feedback, analysis, and discussion about the campaign and the game itself. Your input was greatly appreciated. Of course, I also want to thank everyone who pledged and showed their support for this project! Please check back soon, we’ll let everyone know more about what happens next as soon as we figure it all out.
Well, we were off to a bit of a slow start, which I anticipated since we are still working on getting the word out about the game. The promotion aspect of an indie game is much harder than I thought it would be. As a pretty hard core gamer, one who is particularly into the indie scene, I do a lot of searching myself and I find a lot of great projects. What I forget is that the general population doesn’t do that and so reaching that audience is quite difficult. I have spent a ton of time reading and researching ideas on how to promote yourself and I spend about an hour a day trying to get the word out but I haven’t found sure-fire technique. An hour a day isn’t that much I guess but it’s really all I can afford between work and trying to actually get the game done. Perhaps there isn’t one guaranteed technique and it’s about a collection of sources that eventually lead up to some semblance of mainstream exposure. I know there are a lot of services out there who help promotion, but if we had money to buy into those services we probably wouldn’t need to Kickstarter.
Even so, I think we are doing pretty good. We have had a few people buy the higher tiers, which is awesome since it drives our number up quickly. I’m also excited about finding some new people who are interested in the game and I have received some very positive feedback about the project. It’s nice to know there are still some strategy gamers out there who are excited about a game like this. few of you are even helping us get the word out and I’m finding the name “Sunset Over Lievnos” pop up around the web, which is fantastic! I definitely want to thank our early adopters who are getting the ball rolling, it really does mean a lot to us! As of this post we are at 14% funding with just under $1200 made toward our goal with 42 days left.
I’ll have more news about the game itself soon, so check back!
We have just launched our Kickstarter Campaign! Please help by telling your friends! We are hoping to raise $8000 which will allow us to purchase some hardware that we need to finish the game and to increase the speed of production. We’re also looking for feedback, so comment here and tell us what you think about the campaign, the reward levels, and the game itself.
This is something I have wanted to do for a long time. Thankfully I have my good friend Tyson to edit my video!
I am drawing and painting one of the characters for the game. Using a good reference photo, and my (now) well practiced portrait technique, this is 3 hours of illustrating time distilled down to 14 minutes of viewing.
Oh man! The day we have been waiting for is finally here, and we are doing our best to be as close to out of the gate as possible.
We are editing videos, designing prints, stickers, pin-back buttons, and creating downloads. All as things to give away to the fine folks who support our campaign.
Here is a preview of a few of the reward levels we will be listing.
#1 – $1 – As a Thank You we will include your name in the credits of the game.
#2 – $10 – A set of three nifty pinback buttons with artwork from the game & a promotional wallpaper download you can use on your desktop and phone.
#3 – $25 – A sticker pack with artwork from the game to decorate any surface & a promotional wallpaper download you can use on your desktop and phone.
#4 – $50 – A download of the original Sunset Over Lievnos Soundtrack (when it becomes available).
*Plus, a selection of promotional materials from the previous reward levels!
#5 – *Limited Quantities*
$100 x 10 – We will name a selected character after you! or you choose that characters name ! ( We reserve final approval ).
*Plus, a signed 11x 14 custom print from one of our Lievnos royal families. Featuring Erika’s illustrated portraits.
After Level 5 things get AWESOME! Believe me, you will be offered some really special rewards.
Stay tuned! We will be letting everyone know when our Kickstarter is up an running. It wont be long now.
The last couple of weeks of work has been really challenging and the root cause is basically being the sole coder. I have finished my restructuring and I am now moving forward again but I’m now a bit preoccupied with making sure that things are done right so that I don’t need to reorganize my code in such a big way again. The problem is that I’m finding it difficult to come up with ‘the best design’ without having anyone to bounce ideas off of or point out weaknesses in my logic. What ends up happening is that I become hesitant in making a final decision on which direction I should take and end up doing nothing but thinking and weighing pros and cons. When I have made the decision and I know what to do my productivity is very high which only means I get to my next roadblock faster!
I have searched online for code architecture ideas but unfortunately 99% of tutorials online are aimed at beginners or fairly simple situations. There are very few high-level practical examples to be found. I understand design patterns, and they give great direction, but sometimes it’s nice to get a solid view of how, for example, the best way to handle sliding or animating menus on/off a screen in succession where one menu won’t start until the next menu has finished (which is my current problem by the way). At this point I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do but I’m not fully confident I won’t be revisiting this again at some point.
So, if there are any indie devs (or programmers in general) reading this, what strategies do you have to push through complex decisions? I’ll return to this topic as I do some research and come up with some solutions that work for me!
Alright, so remember when I said I was back on track? Well, it turns out I had more work to do on the restructuring than I thought. The problem was that I was creating a bunch of custom objects and special cases for each menu, and since the game is heavily menu-driven, I was increasing the complexity of my main classes and cluttering them up with massive amounts of code. Luckily I stumbled up on this beautiful little article: http://rivermanmedia.com/object-oriented-game-programming-the-gui-stack/ by the guys at Riverman Media which gave me a bunch of great ideas on how to handle my menus. So now I have a system that handles switching and tracking of menus easily and each menu is its own self-contained class which keeps my code a lot more manageable.
The ideas I gleaned from that article I’m also applying to a bunch of other things like events and widgets. I would be a bit worried that I was over-engineering things if I hadn’t already coded myself into a corner and these steps are rapidly solving all of the problems I was having. So I have yet to actually start on the data layer but my re-worked system is much easier to modify and expand upon. I’m actually nearing the same levels of excitement and drive as I was before my laptop was stolen, so I’m very happy about that!
Have a good weekend everyone!
Alright, so I obviously I haven’t put up any new screenshots lately. What has happened is that I have reached a point in development where I basically have coded myself into a corner. It has become very difficult to add new features with the way the code is structured. I have spent the better part of the last two weeks restructuring the code and creating more re-usable and maintainable sub systems. I’m back on track though now and I have reworked the entire event system. My next task is going to be reworking/expanding the data layer to get all that data into the game.
In other news, I am now on Tumblr! I was recommended by a friend (Thanks Sarah!) about how awesome the community is and she is certainly right! I have been reading blogs from a bunch of other indie devs and have taken a bit of solace in the fact that other devs are also struggling to keep motivated and balance life, work, and game development. Check me out if you are on Tumblr: http://officialcrownnation.tumblr.com/.