WHERE THE HECK I'VE BEEN
So, as is becoming a habit around here, I sometimes disappear for weeks at a time without much posting. Let me explain where I've been and what's going on.
For one, there's been a lot of stuff going on in my family and community that's been taking me away from work, I estimate I've been putting in maybe half-time days for the past 2 weeks at best.
Next, the aftermath of our Steam launch has been a really interesting place development-wise. It used to be after you shipped a game you moved immediately on to the next, b/c sales would immediately drop off to nothing after a month or so. So far, that hasn't been the case - we've got a pretty healthy long tail on Defender's Quest 1 sales - even at full price during non sales periods. And of course, every sale is like a second, third, fourth, christmas. So this justifies continued development, support, and pursuing further opportunities.
However, I do also need to move forward on the sequel because without a second project we don't really have a future. So, here's a comprehensive report about everything I've been up to.
:2lr63xek]Managing the Steam Linux launch a few weeks back/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Writing articles, trying to keep up our media presence/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Exploring paid advertising (report forth-coming)/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Preparing for our GDC talk/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Launching a video podcast series/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Exploring porting the original game engine to Haxe/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Managing localization stuff/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Dealing with accounting/taxes (April is right around the corner)/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Paying out revenue shares to the team/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Recruiting talent for Defender's Quest 2/2lr63xek]
:2lr63xek]Getting onto the Humble Store/2lr63xek][/list:o:2lr63xek]
And a lot more stuff I can't even talk about. Suffice it to say I'm a bit overwhelmed Anyways, my goal is to knock things off this list so I can focus and get work done. One of the challenges of running a small business with only one full-timer is that you just have to multi-task and a bunch of stuff loves to hit all at one time. So let's talk about a few of the above things.
Sales, sales, sales
Sales are the life-blood of a modern digitally distributed game. Every time there's a sale we see a big uptick in activity and purchases, and our long tail gains a little more strength. I'm constantly pursuing new sales opportunities, and though I can't announce any details due to NDA, I'm always checking in with Steam, GOG, Kongregate, et al. about new ways to promote the game. The last sale we launched on was the Steam Linux launch sale and we did pretty well, http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/LarsDoucet/20130228/187569/Defenders_Quest__Our_Steam_Linux_Sale_Results.php
Quick announcement: Impulse has decided to drop us from their service. People who bought the game via Impulse (all 30 of them) can feel free to contact me if they have customer support issues and we'll service them directly from now on.
Most indies say advertising isn't worth it, but Cliffski of Positech games keeps telling me they really pay off for him. So I ran some experiments - Google AdWords, SomethingAwful, and Reddit ads. I'll write a full report soon, but basically - Google Adwords is super complicated and I have no idea what I'm doing, SomethingAwful paid for itself in 2 days and proceeded to generate profit for a full month, and I still need to analyze the Reddit results. We had the most success when we could laser-target our ads to a community we already had a presence in and could bank off of that credibility. Google stuff is poweful but I don't think I know how to use it well enough to make it profitable.
James and I are giving a talk at GDC, entitled "Storytelling as Problem Solving: Defender's Quest."
Storytelling as Problem Solving: Defender's Quest
Location: Room 2018, West Hall, Date: March 26, Time: 1:45PM - 2:10PM
If any of you will be there, please come see us! We'll try to make sure the talk is recorded.
Launching a Video Podcast
As I explain in http://www.fortressofdoors.com/2013/03/youtube-and-new-audiovisual-literacy.html, youtuber's now have as much or even more influence than traditional games journalists. So, James and I took a free day to recover from work burnout by recording a developer's commentary "let's play" of our own game. If you want to see what it's like design-wise behind the scene, check it out! This is a new way for us to reach a wider audience and has lower friction than other community-building tasks (such as this forum). Our first day of recording got us 2.5 hours of usable footage, enough for 5 episodes. We will push one out every Thursday, and if our efficiency increases, maybe one day we can start posting twice a week, and a single day's recording can get us somewhere around 5-6 hours of footage.
We have been constantly limited by the Flash engine our game is built on, and I've been very interested in exploring the open-source Haxe language, which uses a syntax very similar to AS3, but cross-compiles to a multitude of targets, including Flash and C++. I think this will be the future for our studio (I'm already using it for my side project, TouretteQuest), but the question is whether to port over the Defender's Quest 1 engine and use that as the foundation for DefQ2, or just stick with AS3 despite it's limitations. The http://www.haxeflixel.com/ project has made this much easier for me.
Since we want to give the game some major graphical overhauls, I'm leaning towards porting it over. We have enough residual revenue to stay alive, and initial results have been promising. I'll keep you all posted.
Making slow progress here. I've got a nearly complete Czech translation (thanks Coyot!) and our official German translation is basically done except for cutscenes, which our translator is making progress on. My goal is to get this finished by the end of the month. We have Korean, Polish, and various other translations in various stages of progress.
Accounting, Taxes, Money
Dear Lord this is a lot of work. Tax season is almost upon us here in America and I had to get revenue shares out to everybody, deal with all the paperwork, keep the accounts balanced, and make sure my personal and corporate tax returns are all in order. I have a great local accountant to help with this, but it's a lot of work and not nearly as glamorous and fun as making games.
We are currently recruiting new talent for Defender's Quest 2. We're retaining most of our original team, but we are moving in a new direction with our art style - our goal is to make sure that everything is coherent, polished, and high-quality. I loved Karen and Tyvon's work from the last game, but with our own legacy stuff mixed in from alpha and no coherent art direction solidified in the beginning things were kind of a hodge-podge. I'll have more announcements about what the art will look like coming shortly. I will say we're moving away from pixel art and towards a more consistent HD-style throughout so that we're not locked in to a single native resolution. This means Tyvon won't be joining us for the next game, but if you need an awesome pixel artist dude I can give you a recommendation
As for the new people we're recruiting, I can't announce anything yet, but I will simply say two high-profile individuals have expressed interest in our game and we're doing everything we can to land them.
We've been accepted onto the Humble Store and will be integrating that on to our site soon. We will be removing FastSpring as soon as we do that, but will still provide support to all of our old FastSpring customers.
Since Humble Store and the Humble Indie Bundle are run by the same people, I know the first question on your minds is, "will Defender's Quest be in the next bundle?" All I can say for certain about that is that now that I have an in with the Humble Store, they know about our game and I have made my pitch to them. From here on out it's up to them to decide -- if they do say yes, I'm guessing I won't be able to announce it.
So. That's a short list of what I've been doing. I am looking forward to sweeping as many of these things off my list as possible so I can just get back to development and support.