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RPG => Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game => Topic started by: Vince on February 13, 2018, 10:51:13 am



Title: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on February 13, 2018, 10:51:13 am
Even though we worked on our first game for more than 10 years (mainly due to inexperience and working part-time), I count 2016 as Year One. Before that we were a Fellowship (of the RPG) and now we’re a Business with multiple revenue streams.  In a Fellowship, hoping for the best is a sound business strategy: you’re working on your first game and hope it will do well. Then the game is out, it does great (meaning it doesn’t fail outright, which is as great as it gets these days, especially if you’re an indie with a shoestring budget), your Fellowship gets upgraded into a Business, gets its own IRS number, and you face an existential question that has plagued mankind ever since we crawled out of caves:
 
Now what?

The goal is to make more RPGs, of course, but:
 
  • We’ll work full-time from now on, meaning we’ll have to rely on the first game’s revenues to pay for the second game’s development. We’ll make the second game twice as fast, but twice as fast still means 4-5 years, which sounds about right considering that full-scale RPGs take 3-4 years for proper studios with proper budgets, which means that:
  • We’ll have to boost our revenues with a short-term project (expansion or spin-off), which means that we’ll have to make a small-scale game that sells. Easier said than done these days.
  • Our second full-scale RPG should be different enough to dodge the dreadful ‘more of the same’ stigma while keeping the design core intact, be better than the first one (meaning the design flaws must be fixed and the design core expanded), AND sell more than the first one. Now that we figured out what we want, all we need is a genie to grant us these 3 wishes.

To chart through these treacherous waters, we need to know what works and what doesn’t (aka a frame of reference when it comes to business decisions). Unfortunately, such info isn’t really available, so indie developers have no choice but to sail without maps or compass, doomed to learn from their own mistakes in an industry where your first mistake might be your last. Thus we turn to SteamSpy’s data and achievements, reading them the way people used to read the tea leaves and entrails (and just as accurately).
 
Essentially, this article is part 1 of our business diary to be posted over the years. Hopefully, someone might find it interesting. Ideally, other developers will share their own stories and contribute to the indie knowledge base.
 
The Age of Decadence (our first full-scale RPG)

We released it in Oct 2015 and I’m happy to report it’s still selling and still being mentioned favorably here and there (which is why it’s still selling, I assume). We’ve sold 126,295 copies to-date at an average rate of $13.51 per copy. The price reflects not just the discounts during the sale events but the regional pricing as well, which is an equally strong factor.
 
Year by year it goes something like this:
 
  • 2013-2014 (Early Access & Direct Pre-Orders): 13,124 copies – $320,157 – $24.39 avg.
  • 2015: 20,771 – $472,869 – $22.76
  • 2016 48,798 – $620,914 – $12.72  (50% discount is introduced in March)
  • 2017 43,808 – $293,714 – $6.70 (75% off on sale events throughout the year)

The moral of this story is twofold:
 
First, the number of copies sold never tells you the full picture. In 2017 we sold twice as many copies as in 2015 and almost the same as in 2016 but got less than half of 2016’s revenue.
 
Second, 95% of what you sell is sold during the sale events so your sale price (lowered further by the regional pricing) becomes your effective price during that year.  It’s also worth noting the increase of copies sold as we increased the discounts.  73% of copies were sold at 50-75% off.
 
In January 2018 we reduced the price from $29.99 to $19.99 to boost non-sale sales and mainly to see what happens (i.e. gather more data).

Dead State (the first joint project)

In late 2009 we partnered up with Brian Mitsoda to work on Dead State, a zombie survival RPG. We had the engine (Torque engine upgraded for some serious RPG work), the tools, and experience, so it made sense to offer it to developers lacking the tech base and explore this 'business model'. Brian would handle the design, writing, and scripting, we'd handle programming, art, and animations. Our thinking was that by the time AoD hits the final stage, when the focus is mainly on quests and scripting, our programmer, artist, and animator would be able to switch to Dead State without affecting AoD. Of course, it didn't work out quite like that, but we did deliver and learned quite a lot in the process.

As indie developers we were excited to hastily implement things the moment we could (only to be forced to redo them a few months later), but Brian followed a more structural and organized way of game development. Since that's not something any of us was ever exposed to, it was a very useful practical lesson. Unfortunately, working on two projects at once put quite a strain on the team, so it's not something we'd ever do again. While theoretically we can hire and train another team and let them handle joint projects as it's certainly a profitable venture, it's a very different business model that would eventually turn us into project managers rather than game developers.

Since we can't disclose the financial aspects of this project, they aren't included in the revenues posted in this article.
 
Post-AoD-Release Plans

When the post-release dust settled, we had a well-received (87% Steam approval at the time) niche RPG that sold about 40,000 copies. Neither a success nor a failure, so let’s call it a promising start! The question was what to do next.
 
Question #1: Do we make a sequel or a brand new game for our long-term project?
 
As you probably noticed a number of indie and not so indie sequels have done very poorly lately, selling a lot less than the original, according to SteamSpy:
 
  • Legend of Grimrock: 1,037,095 vs 421,351
  • Blackguards: 598,208 vs 248,752 (and that’s heavily discounted)
  • The Banner Saga: 804,625 vs 328,163 (it would be interesting to see how well the third game does)
  • Shadowrun: 1,161,596 vs 829,676 vs 587,436

Keep in mind that copies sold ! = revenue as ‘bundles’ can easily inflate the number of copies sold without boosting neither the revenues nor the number of active players.  If we look at the players rather than owners, we’ll see a very different picture (% represents players vs owners)
 
  • Legend of Grimrock: 616,936 (64%) vs 226,741 (57%)
  • Blackguards: 261,263 (45%) vs 85,257 (32%)
  • The Banner Saga: 601,244 (78%) vs 116,640 (39%)
  • Shadowrun: 817,525 (74%) vs 434,653 (54%) vs 220,465 (38%)

It seems that success of the first game often fools developers into thinking that they can do even better or at least as good with a second 'bigger and better' game, but as you can see it's not always the case. The obvious conclusion is that unless you have a AAA blockbuster with massive sex appeal, don’t go for a sequel because it will be seen as more of the same and sell less.
 
For the record, I think that Legend of Grimrock and the Shadowrun sequels were fantastic games that surpassed the originals and addressed the criticism, but it hardly mattered in the end because people assumed they offered more of the same.  
 
Now, let's be optimistic and assume that the breakdown goes something like that (based on our reviews and impressions):
 
  • core supporters - 25% - love it, want more.
  • core haters - 10% - fucking hate it, will never buy another ITS game again.
  • kinda liked it - 50% - liked it but ... This "but" ranges from minor to major issues.
  • meh - 15% - played for a couple of hours and moved on, no strong emotions, no urge to play more.

So if we make AoD 2, we get the core supporters and some % of the ‘kinda liked it’ camp. We'll also get some new players, probably no more than 15-20%. So our best case scenario is selling 3/4 of what AoD sold, worst case - less than half. Considering that AoD sold rather modestly, either scenario would put us out of business.
 
Thus moving to a brand new setting with different systems is the safest bet even though it looks like the riskiest. We settled on The New World, a sci-fi RPG inspired by Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky. Our goal is to offer a very different experience while keeping the design core that attracted people in the first place.
 
So we shifted to sci-fi from fantasy, party-based from single-character, focus on ranged from  melee, increase by use from skill points, focus on exploration from working your way up in a faction, feats from skills' passives, while retaining and enhancing our design core: TB combat, skill-based system, stats & skills affecting non-combat interactions, multiple quest solutions, non-combat paths, non-linearity & replayability.
 
Naturally, when you change the recipe, there’s always a chance that you’ll lose some customers, but we don’t want to box ourselves in either and spend the next 20 years remaking the same game. The rewards (having the freedom to experiment and try new things) outweigh the potential risks here.
 
Question #2: Do we make an expansion or a tactical spin-off for our short-term project?
 
So now that the long-term project was settled, we had to pick a short-term project: expansion or a spin-off. Either option would boost sales but I feel that an expansion’s sales potential has a hard limit regardless of its quality (about 15-30%, if I have to guess – the core supporters and people who want more).
 
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: 23% of players got the easiest Missing Link achievement
  • Pillars of Eternity: only 8.6% got Soulbinder achievement, only 5.2% opened the Battery. Granted the achievements are a very unreliable tool but still…
  • XCOM2: 15.7% completed The New Alliance mission in the new and much improved expansion
  • Witcher 3: 18.9% got the Witcher’s Gone South achievement, although in this case it represents a million players.

Another problem with expansions is that they usually add content in the middle after players have already reached the end, so the ask to the players is not ‘come try new content’ but ‘replay a bunch of old content, and then find new content’, which brings us right back to the risks and dangers of offering more of the same.
 
Of course, the undisputed advantage is that an expansion is relatively easy to make as you’re using the existing engine, systems, and art assets, but the same logic applies to a stand-alone spin-off, which is why we decided to bet on the latter and go with a stand-alone tactical game set in the same world.
 
Dungeon Rats (the tactical spin-off)

Let’s start with the goals, in the order of importance.
 
  • Our main goal was to support our full scale RPGs with tactical spin-offs. Full-scale RPGs take many years (3-4 years for proper studios with proper budgets; we hope to do it in 4-5 years), so we desperately need a revenue booster.
  • The New World will be a party-based RPG where your Charisma determines how many followers you can have and the experience is split between the party members so a smaller party would always be further ahead.  We had no experience in this area (we didn’t even know if we’d be able to balance it), so we decided to try these features in Dungeon Rats first and get the hands-on experience  and feedback from thousands of players.
  • Since AoD was in development for over 10 years, it was important to show people that we can stick with a proper schedule and deliver a game on time. A faith-building exercise.

We hit goals #2 and 3, but it’s too early to say about goal #1. I hoped that Dungeon Rats would sell 100,000 copies in the first year on the strength of the combat system and the low price ($8.99, under $5 during sale events), but in the first 14 months it sold only 33,027 copies at $5.55 avg. Of course, without proper statistics it’s hard to say whether DR did as well as it could under the circumstances or failed miserably.

Overall though, AoD always sells more and and there wasn't a single day when DR sold even half as much. The obvious conclusion is that a strong seller (relatively speaking) has to be a “full-scale” game, whether choice-driven or strictly tactical. Anything else would have a very limited appeal by default.
 
Still, the idea to make tactical spin-offs to boost revenues had merits and while the first year sales are below our expectations, I hope that the game will keep selling over the next 3 years and make a more convincing case when it’s time to make a decision.
 
What worked well there (although not for everyone) is the scarcity of resources (food and alchemical reagents). Originally, we did it simply because there are no healers and stores in a prison mine, but it did evolve into an interesting feature. While we won’t be able to add complex quests with multiple solutions to our tactical spin-offs (it would double the development time but not the revenues), we’ll be able to improve the survival aspects and develop them further.
 
So IF Dungeon Rats will keep selling while maintaining a decent rating, the next tactical game (The New World’s spin-off) will take place during the Mutiny and feature a fully customizable squad (you’ll be able to create an entire party yourself), mission-based structure, base building and defense.
 
If you think it’s the right direction (and if you liked Dungeon Rats to begin with), take a moment and write a review. So far AoD got 1,553 reviews with 81% rating while DR is sitting with 210 reviews and 79% rating. If you have suggestions on how to improve the tactical design, we’d love to hear from you as well.
 
Anyway, if we make adjustments for two games, then our annual revenues look like this:
 
  • 2013-2014: $320,157
  • 2015: $472,869
  • 2016: $703,199
  • 2017: $389,114

Markets & Revenues

AoD’s top 10 markets:                   DR’s top 10 markets:                      
 
  • The United States – 34%         The United States – 35%
  • Russian Federation – 17%        Russian Federation – 16%
  • United Kingdom – 7%               United Kingdom – 7%
  • Canada – 6%                           Canada – 6%
  • Germany – 6%                         Germany – 5%
  • Australia – 4%                         Australia – 3%
  • France – 2%                            France – 3%
  • Spain – 2%                              Spain – 2%
  • Sweden – 2%                          China – 2%
  • Norway – 2%                          Poland – 2%
  • Other – 20%                           Other – 19%

The only conclusion here is that some countries like hardcore RPGs a lot more than others. Sadly, it has a very limited application as there isn’t much we can do about it, one way or another. It's worth noting that even though Russia is our second biggest market in terms of copies sold, the revenue share is only 5.2% due to regional pricing.
 
Colony Ship (the second full-scale RPG)

We started working on the game in 2017 after wrapping up post-release support for Dungeon Rats. We did a lot of groundwork in 2016 calling it pre-production: mainly working with the new engine (Unreal 4) and developing the setting, systems (on paper), and key concepts.
 
2017 was a busy year: we did a lot of programming and animation work, produced a lot of art assets, defined locations (quests, places of interest, key characters), factions (leaders, relationships, goals), expanded the Pit’s quests, finalized the systems, and did a lot of work on the first two locations, so we started 2018 in a pretty good shape.
 
Our main goal for this year is to release a combat demo.  It’s a major milestone as it’s practically a game in itself. We do that, it means we have the engine (fully customized for what we need), all systems except stealth, all art assets and animation, interface, and TONS of small things that take a lot of time. It’s a massive amount of work and it took us 5.5 years to reach this point with AoD. If we do it in 2 years this time around, it will mean that we’re right on schedule for 2020 release and give us 2 years to work on quests and locations.
 
Kickstarter & Support

Whether we would use Kickstarter is frequently asked question, so I might as well address it here since it falls under ‘business decision’ category. We’ve decided not to use Kickstarter for 3 simple reasons:
 
  • It’s not about funding development, it’s about raising some money and hoping for the best. If you honestly state how much you need to make a game, you will be laughed at and fail. In 2007 Feargus Urquhart was asked if he wants to make Baldur’s Gate 3. He said, "If you'll put a real budget behind it: it can't be $10 million, it needs to be $20 million, $25 million." To be fair, he was talking about a Dragon Age-like game but still... Yet Obsidian asked for $1.1 mil on Kickstarter for a game marketed as a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate. Fortunately, they raised about $4 mil but the game cost twice as much to make ($7.5 mil). Now imagine for a moment if Obsidian only got the asking price…
  • The setup itself forces you to upsell via stretch goals and “rewards”.  The rewards will almost always cost more than you hoped and the stretch goals can easily double the projected development time. You don’t have to upsell, of course, but then you won’t do well. Promising anything in the heat of the moment is easy: a mega dungeon, another major city, even an expansion; delivering on the money you raise - not so much.
  • Unless you have a full demo showing all aspects of the game, you’re selling promises and good intentions . There is a HUGE difference between what the developers envision and the final product. Ideas always sound great on paper, imaginary games are always awesome, and it seems that everyone is convinced that a year or two at most is more than enough to make a complex RPG.

Thus, step 1 is releasing a proper demo (not the combat demo I mentioned earlier but a full demo coming somewhere in 2019). At this point we’ll be 6 months away from launching the game on Steam’s Early Access, which is a more straightforward way to boost revenues for the final stretch: no promises, no stretch goals, hundreds of players’ reviews, open discussions, fair price.
 
If you want to support us now, the best way to do is to participate in various design discussions. Our design approach was once described as:
 
  • Designer develops strong vision internally.
  • Designer then seeks criticism and suggestions around that vision.
  • Designer and critics argue relative merits.
  • Designer improves his vision accordingly.

So if you have something to say, now is the time.

But wait, there is more!

Feargus Urquhart requires no introduction but I'm going to introduce him anyway. He's been managing Obsidian Entertainment for the last 15 years and he's the reason the company is still around, which is a no small feat. Under his stewardship, Obsidian prevailed where so many other studios either have failed or were absorbed by various gelatinous cubes preying on the weak, so I have nothing but the highest respect for the man and his uncanny ability to manage business.

Anyway, he did like the article and was kind enough to answer a few questions relevant to to the topic at hand:

1. What's your take on sequels and expansions? Obviously, Pillars of Eternity 2 and three planned DLCs suggest you're a strong believer. At the same time, its new 'nautical-leaning setting' and ship combat offer something very different to entice players to come back and try something new. Is this the best way to go then?

I’m a big believer in sequels, but I’m both a maker and player of RPGs. I think RPGs are great to sequelize due to their focus on story, characters, and growth. When I finish a RPG, I usually want to play with that character again, or play in that world again. Now, not everyone is like me, but I think there are quite a few of us. For all games, but particularly, for RPGs, we create these complex engines and design methods, and we can give players an even grander experience when we can use as much of that as possible from game to game. Of course, we can’t just make the same game again, and sequels need to be more than a big expansion pack. But, so much of our time goes into what players play (quests, areas, companions, dialogs), and when we create all of those again for a sequel with a different, or continuing, story - that’s a new game.

The challenge sequels are fighting with non-sequels is for attention. It is easier to get someone’s attention with things that feel new, so a sequel does need something new and interesting. This could be a big feature like the world map and ship combat in Pillars 2, but it could also be an incredible story; the core of which grabs your attention, and anyone else’s when they hear about it. I don’t know where the line is, but I think we all get a feeling for it. One of the things we did on Icewind Dale 2 at Black Isle Studios was to re-do the HUD. It looks and feels entirely different than all the other Infinity Engine games, and allowed us to also add in some tweaks, but it was not an entire re-write. One could argue that what we did was “skin” the UI, which isn’t really a benefit to players. I think it gave the game a fresh look, gave players more of the world to see, and created an easier way to interact with the characters and game controls at the same time. Either way IWD2 felt new and different because of it.

2. Pillars of Eternity sold more than Wasteland 2 and new Torment combined. At the same time Tyranny sold about a quarter of what PoE did, despite being a unique and innovative RPG. What made one game a hit and the other "a largely underappreciated gem", as Paradox put it?

I don’t know. :) After 27 years in the industry, you would think that I would have a better answer. It probably seems odd for me to say that, however what we do is creative and can have a lot to do with timing – sometimes that means ideas catch on, and sometimes they don’t. It is very possible that the idea of Tyranny was interesting to people, and made them stop and take a look, but at a deeper level it just wasn’t interesting or compelling. While Planescape: Torment (the original) is now a very successful game, it was not as successful and Baldur’s Gate, or Icewind Dale, early on. That doesn’t meant it wasn’t successful, I think there are some urban myths about how Torment wasn’t a financial success early on. It was.

3. What business advice would you give to indie developers?

Funnily enough I was part of a panel talking about game funding yesterday, and I was the person there to talk from the perspective of independent developers. Not that your question, I’m guessing, is entirely about funding. To answer, I’m probably going to throw out a bunch of random advice. :)

  • Get known for making a type of game. Some developers, including us, try to be a one sized fits all developer. They can make any kind of genre of game. By doing that they don’t grow an audience, and publishers (if they want to go that route) just put them in a pile with every other developer. They become a commodity, and not a specialty tool. After our first couple years, we focused entirely on being an RPG maker, and didn’t try to sell ourselves as something else. That means we turned down products that might have made us some money, or even helped us keep people rather than laying them off – but it would have been the wrong decision to take a game that diluted who we were.

  • Find, then protect, your fans. Everyone needs people who love their games, want to play them, and want to talk about them. They are also the people who we learn from when it comes to whether our new ideas are fun, or not. Having a great relationship with your fans means engaging with them, being honest with them, and truly considering their feedback. We luckily have fans who have been with us for over twenty years – if we didn’t do the above most of the time, they probably wouldn’t still be with us.

  • Play your game more than most of your players. We even have a hard time with this sometimes, but the more we play our games, and play them early, the better decisions we make about what to add, what to take out, what to tweak, and what to re-design.

  • Understand your costs. I was asked what our man-month rate was in the panel, and I could answer it. By knowing that number, I can always be going calculations in my head as to what it takes to make a game, if we’ll have enough money in two months, or is a feature worth it. 9 man-months for a throw away NPC that’s not interesting to players is probably not worth $117K. Not saying our NPCs take 9 months, but just an example.

  • When talking to anyone about your game, be able to convey the concept in a few words – no more than a sentence. This helps core your game down for yourself to what it really is at a high level, and it helps you grab someone’s attention so that they will stay to listen to your more detailed information.

  • Video and GIFs are better than screenshots, which are better than text. :) However, 30 screenshots of the same level, showing the same stuff, with everyone in the shot standing around – probably not better than text.

  • Figure out which hats you can wear, and which ones you can’t. Running a developer means having to be involved in HR, Legal, Accounting, Business Development, and Operations. When we are small, someone has to probably wear almost every one of those hats. But, as humans, there are things we are individually not good at. Be honest about identifying those, and then finding people, or even contractors, that can do those things.

  • Don’t dwell or hold grudges. I see developers at all ends of the spectrum start making bad decisions (me included) and get burned out. This, of course, can be due to long hours and too much crunch time. But, it can also be due the bad decisions or mistakes they have made, or that they have been subject to. If I dwelled on every bad decision I’ve made, I would probably be in the corner whimpering right now. I screwed up, I’m going to screw up again. The thing to focus on is how to do what I do better and let the milk that has been spilled be forgotten. However, it is not to have the attitude “I’m going to show them, and not let them screw me again”. That leads to decisions made for the wrong reasons.

  • Love games, and love making them. If you don’t have both, don’t do this – it’s hard. When you love what you do it is infectious. When you love games, you want to talk about them. When you love making games, you are always thinking about how to make them better. If you can’t love what you do, and what you’ve done, why will anyone else?

* * *


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: 7twenty on February 13, 2018, 02:28:02 pm
Wow, this is pretty detailed. I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I started reading, but I don't regret it! So, when it comes to design for the new game and their spin offs: I love Sci-fi. Base building, resource management, and running a full squad in the spin off? I like it a lot, but it would be nice to have some basic side quests and character building, for obvious reasons. It doesn't have to be a lot, follow the Dungeon Rats style, that one was great. As for The New World, something to ask yourself: Is it Science FICTION of Science FANTASY? Pick one and stick with it, no matter what. Think carefully what falls into each category, separate them into two piles, and ask: Will the game be better if I add these all together? Will fantastical events like Psionics or Alien Supertech make sense? Will they ADD to the story or simply act as a distraction? Just food for thought!


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Ammo on February 13, 2018, 04:52:13 pm
You guys certainly are not printing money there.

I really enjoyed Dungeon Rats and thought it was a great value - that only real issue I had is that if I didn't know it was associated with The Age of Decadence I would have never bought it. If you don't want to use "2" or "AOD" in the title then you may want to consider using "Iron Tower Presents" or something.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Vince on February 13, 2018, 05:11:47 pm
So, when it comes to design for the new game and their spin offs: I love Sci-fi. Base building, resource management, and running a full squad in the spin off? I like it a lot, but it would be nice to have some basic side quests and character building, for obvious reasons. It doesn't have to be a lot, follow the Dungeon Rats style, that one was great.
Well, DR didn't have any side quests (it had a couple of optional areas here and there), but overall it will be similar to DR in terms of quests and storytelling, which is a problem because most people wanted more. I'd say that 'we wanted a game like AoD but got a pure combat game instead' is one of the top complaints. We can't do better, not in 10 months, and we can't double the development time either, but we can expand the mechanics IF it solves the problem.

If not, we can kill it and focus on full-scale RPGs instead, which is why we want to hear from people and hopefully see more reviews. We planned to set the game during the mutiny. You're an inexperienced lieutenant tasked with fortifying an area and holding it until relieved. Hint: you won't get relieved so it's going to end up Alamo-style. You need supplies and local reinforcements, you need to fortify the base, weaken the gathering enemies, deal with the local sympathizers, etc. So:

- mission structure with pros and cons, can't do all missions, so you'd have to prioritize toward some strategy, make tough decisions, all building up for the grand finale.
- base fortifications and defense playing a vital role as that's what the story revolves around.
- resource management, from medical supplies and boosters to ammo and gas masks.

Any suggestions within this framework are welcome.

Quote
As for The New World, something to ask yourself: Is it Science FICTION of Science FANTASY?
Definitely not fantasy. No psionics or alien supertech.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: AbounI on February 13, 2018, 06:17:14 pm
Does it mean we still got a chance to see more content for DR? You know, that added content about how some NPC ended down in the Second Chance.
I'm not sure it could boost the sales, though, but still act as answer to those who were asking that, which is always a benefit for the love of ITS' community. And is it not too late for that? Got to be sure it will force them to make a return in the prison. Otherwise, I would say it doesn't worth the effort, even at a low investment rate : I mean DR was good for his own mechanics (party management, combat setting) and the lore service, but not for his adventure or C&C dimension. Will such added content could show anything that DR hasn't? Moreover, could you consider that adding more content will act as an extra experience for you if it shows nothing new?
IMO, I would prefer to know ITS working on TNW than on DR if it is just to give more minor content. DR was good for you as a phase-test, and as good as a more combat fan service game. It's also time to say goodbye to Torque, no? No need to waste more time with this engine (except if it's about the linux version of both Aod and DR, assuming it's still a possibility).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Vince on February 13, 2018, 07:09:17 pm
Does it mean we still got a chance to see more content for DR? You know, that added content about how some NPC ended down in the Second Chance.
No chance. We did have plans to add personal stories in form of stand-alone missions but the game didn't sell enough to warrant extra development time.

Quote
Otherwise, I would say it doesn't worth the effort, even at a low investment rate : I mean DR was good for his own mechanics (party management, combat setting) and the lore service, but not for his adventure or C&C dimension.
It was designed and advertised as an inexpensive combat game with 50 fights, with party-based combat as the main new feature. It's impossible to do more in 10 months and we were upfront about it. If what we did (or what I outlined above) isn't good enough, then we should consider it a failed experiment and stick to what we actually do best.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: StaticSpine on February 14, 2018, 01:17:51 am
I'm biased, I'm a 100% core supporter, but I don't have a strong opinion about tactical spin-offs (though I'll always buy them to support ITS).

I liked DR not as much as AoD. I do love tactical challenges and I got that from DR. On the other hand the game didn't have and wasn't supposed to have a strong storyline (which is also one of the most important things for me).

Anyway I'll go and write a Steam review right now.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Sparacul on February 14, 2018, 06:05:57 am
I believe that spin-off should be connected with the main character. Hardcore games like AoD are extremely fun in their most challenging combat moments, that stuff will stick in your memory. For me one of the most fun parts of the hardcore indie RPGs is leveling - build and develop your character so he could overcome "impossible" challenges. When I was finishing AoD I had this awesome badass dude but I knew that he would soon go no existant after the ending. With some general words as an epitaph on his story, he will be gone forever. There will be no sequel about him, nor dlc. All I could think of is just how badly I want some more post-endgame content that will challenge your character's skills to the max. Or at least ability to reach this level of power earlier so you could have more time to enjoy it. I would have bought DR in a heart beat - full price - if it was possible to transfer the character from the main game.

I remember playing awakening addon for dragon age and how nearly any new skill, ability or even an item were borderline op. The balance of the game was completely broken, but damn it was fun! You were actually playing your character after he ascended to legendary status while still having your ass kicked by overbuffed bosses.

I know that direct story continuation is pretty hard to weave into the main story but it does not have to be. By the end of the game, you are (if alive) usually a person of renown so people are coming to you with their "quests".


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Vince on February 14, 2018, 07:46:46 am
I believe that spin-off should be connected with the main character. Hardcore games like AoD are extremely fun in their most challenging combat moments, that stuff will stick in your memory. For me one of the most fun parts of the hardcore indie RPGs is leveling - build and develop your character so he could overcome "impossible" challenges. When I was finishing AoD I had this awesome badass dude but I knew that he would soon go no existant after the ending. With some general words as an epitaph on his story, he will be gone forever. There will be no sequel about him, nor dlc. All I could think of is just how badly I want some more post-endgame content that will challenge your character's skills to the max. Or at least ability to reach this level of power earlier so you could have more time to enjoy it. I would have bought DR in a heart beat - full price - if it was possible to transfer the character from the main game.
That's expansion vs stand-alone spin-off debate. In PoE or Dragon Age, for example, your endgame character is the ultimate badass regardless of your class. In AoD you can be a fighting machine, a talker suffering from tuberculosis, or anything in between. A combat expansion would be impossible to balance and a proper expansion (combat and non-combat) would have to consider all the scenarios (the Imperial Guards alone have 3 main endings: the Guards sided with Gaelius and Paullus is the commander of Gaelius' armies; the Guards sided with Meru and became the Templars, guardians of the Temple; the Guards are split into two factions, your former Commander is now Meru's First Sword), which would be a massive project in itself.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Sparacul on February 14, 2018, 09:42:05 am
Quote
That's expansion vs stand-alone spin-off debate. In PoE or Dragon Age, for example, your endgame character is the ultimate badass regardless of your class. In AoD you can be a fighting machine, a talker suffering from tuberculosis, or anything in between. A combat expansion would be impossible to balance and a proper expansion (combat and non-combat) would have to consider all the scenarios (the Imperial Guards alone have 3 main endings: the Guards sided with Gaelius and Paullus is the commander of Gaelius' armies; the Guards sided with Meru and became the Templars, guardians of the Temple; the Guards are split into two factions, your former Commander is now Meru's First Sword), which would be a massive project in itself.
All valid points of course. But there are always workarounds. Dragon Age had this another standalone combat dlc - Golems of Amgarrak. It completely ignored both awakening and base game because it was not connected to it and could be started anytime (after origins, awakening or independent). You were hired on an expedition because of your renown and skill. What happened to your character before that was not important because the storyline was isolated from the rest of the game world. It works like it is happening in hero's future and allows the player to go on one last epic adventure with their favorite character. If your character is dead or otherwise not qualified his place is taken by another completely unrelated individual that anyone can play.

Concerning balance, combat expansion could warn the player that it contains most challenging encounters. If the player for some reason decides to start it with a talker he simply sends one of his underlings. Maybe simplistic minigame in which depending on your noncombat skills you can hire people of different skill level.

Concerning TNW, even if it could be potentially interesting to know more about ship's past it would still be far more interesting to play after the end game with your protagonist. Because you have teammates you can still be non-combat char while your killers do the gunning. Again because of different endings and world states the addon always can be removed from the main plot by any number of different ideas. Maybe a new terrorist/doomsday faction that captured part of the ship and threatens its integrity and you are leading combat operation to stop them. Maybe someone thought to fuck with you and this is a revenge crusade. Or maybe something trivial, like a rapidly growing gang that if uses its momentum can potentially destabilize the region and you decide to go for "workout" (of course you later find out that they are backed by hidden threat which is why they are endgame hard).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: aratuk on February 14, 2018, 09:04:59 pm
What about an expansion that could also be played as a standalone game?

In expansion mode, the game integrates the player character from the main game, but without too much integration of the main game's world and all the numerous contingencies that would have to be accounted for. Completion of expansion content could provide some new (but non-crucial) insight into the main game's world, as well as some material benefit.

In spinoff mode, you roll a character (or select a premade) with a starting level equivalent to where an expansion player would be at that point. A spinoff where the player isn't starting at square one could be more approachable to some people. Premade, comic-book-archetype player characters as a mercenary experiment with appealing to a broader audience. How many people bought Dungeon Rats who didn't play AoD?


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Scott on February 15, 2018, 11:06:24 am
I really like killing things, so for me a tactics only spinoff is a no-brainer. Getting rid of the CHA ceiling on party members would be a must (still wish you'd get rid of it for TNW but please don't explain again why you can't).

I'm also very skeptical of base building, mostly because of the way it has been implemented by Bethesda/Obsidian/Bioware. We'll have to see how it pans out in TNW.

But for the love Christ, one thing everyone agrees you must do for a spinoff: come up with a decent name!


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Goral on February 15, 2018, 02:10:22 pm
(...) one thing everyone agrees you must do for a spinoff: come up with a decent name!
QFT. "Dungeon Rats" is a terrible name, "The New World" is too. On the Codex and here I've seen better proposals.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Hektor on February 15, 2018, 03:19:28 pm
Thanks for sharing all that stuff, i'd love to read more of that in the future.

As i love strategy games, tactical spinoffs are something i'm generally inclined to buy, however i didn't enjoyed the combat of AoD enough to really enjoy TR, so i'm not sure i'd buy a The New World equivalent thereof. It's a mix of presentation, not enough variety (i.e. limited selection of Weapons/Items/Enemy Types etc.) and that missing hits somehow feels a lot more upsetting than it does in X-COM or Xenonauts for a reason i can't quite explain.

However, given the futuristic setting of TNW, i can imagine that the issue of variety will solve itself.

Quote from:
Another problem with expansions is that they usually add content in the middle after players have already reached the end, so the ask to the players is not ‘come try new content’ but ‘replay a bunch of old content, and then find new content’, which brings us right back to the risks and dangers of offering more of the same.

While this is definitely a true thing - i myself haven't played the PoE expansion yet for that exact reason - i don't think this logic applies quite the same way to a game like AoD, as it was on the much shorter end of RPG's and felt more designed around replayablity.

My shortest playthrough as a loremaster (my third playthrough in total, so i knew about a lot of things going in) took me only a bit above 5 or so hours.
As such i would be much more inclined to replay AoD with "Add-In-the-middle" type of content than i would be for a game that requires 20 hours just to get to the new content.

If The New World follows a similar template of length/replayability i think its an idea worthy trying, if you can afford to take the risk.


Wish you and your team best of luck with your upcoming projects



Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Vince on February 16, 2018, 08:51:47 am
..."The New World" is too. On the Codex and here I've seen better proposals.
We ran it by GOG, they liked it.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: dmonin on February 16, 2018, 11:28:38 am
Thank you Vince. It's really interesting information. And I really surprised that RF is the second market for RPG's. Thats really cool. But I can't understand - percents of steam and gog doesn't included? If it not a secret, of course.

P.S.: But anyway Shadowrun sequels are selling good... Over 500K not all games can make such sales.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Vince on February 16, 2018, 12:12:00 pm
Thank you Vince. It's really interesting information. And I really surprised that RF is the second market for RPG's. Thats really cool. But I can't understand - percents of steam and gog doesn't included? If it not a secret, of course.
I'm not sure what we can and can't disclose, so I'd rather stick to the overall numbers that include Steam, GOG, GamersGate, and direct sales.

Quote
P.S.: But anyway Shadowrun sequels are selling good... Over 500K not all games can make such sales.
True but it also depends on the size of your company. For example, Shadow Tactics sold 421,828 ± 20,493 which would have been a spectacular success for us but it nearly bankrupted them.

https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/310894/Postmortem_Mimimis_Shadow_Tactics_Blades_of_the_Shogun.php (https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/310894/Postmortem_Mimimis_Shadow_Tactics_Blades_of_the_Shogun.php)

"As stated above, the launch of Shadow Tactics was a dream come true: we made a successful game with better ratings than ever expected.

Also, two follow-up projects were canceled shortly before the game’s release, we were nearly bankrupt and half the team, including some of our earliest team members, had already received their termination to ensure that we could finish the console version with the money left and a minimal work force.

While the “all in”-success-story probably sounded romantic in some way, it was an absolutely awful experience. And we had predicted it: by adding four more months to the project, the game became much better, but all our savings were gone. When we realized that our backup plans for new projects didn’t work out as planned, we knew we were screwed. Because we exclusively focused on Shadow Tactics, we didn’t invest in any new pitches and had nearly nothing to offer to new partners. On top of that, they understandably waited for the release and the first weeks of SteamSpy data before they wanted to sign a project.

That left us in a horrible spot to be in: the whole team walking onto the stage in front of the whole German games industry, winning awards, being happy and at the same time knowing that it might be the last month of the studio.

Part luck, part delivering a decent game, we had been able to talk to publishers after the release and none of them took advantage of our situation or tried to rip us off with a bad deal. Negotiations that normally can take up months went through quickly and fair. In the end we surprisingly had to choose between projects, all of which we’d wholeheartedly loved to develop. I vividly remember being on the train on December 23rd, the very day before Christmas, and writing the final email to the team, letting them know that the contract had finally been signed and we were safe for the time being."


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Scott on February 16, 2018, 08:31:17 pm
These kinds of hanging-by-fingernails stories, the layoffs, brutally long hours, and uncertain futures really tell you that the games industry as a whole is a truly awful place to work.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: energyecon on February 16, 2018, 10:39:53 pm
Thanks for the phenomenally detailed information - loved AoD, DS, & DR - all in for whatever Iron Tower brings to market and best of luck.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Spyros on February 18, 2018, 05:00:51 am
Some thoughts on why, if you want a software company, it should not be a game company (Patrick writes a lot for software engineers who would like to become businessmen):

https://twitter.com/patio11/status/933606709464985600 (https://twitter.com/patio11/status/933606709464985600)


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Vince on February 18, 2018, 04:15:12 pm
He isn't wrong, of course, but making games was never about making money. You make games because that's your passion. Essentially, either you do what you love or you do what pays well. I was really good at managing sales but I was more afraid of doing it for the rest of my life than of trying this game development thing and failing a couple of years down the road.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Sparacul on February 20, 2018, 12:03:23 pm
We ran it by GOG, they liked it.
Do they really care though? I think they will like everything that is not offensive/uncensored.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Vince on February 20, 2018, 01:54:51 pm
Well, the nature of the reply did indicate that they considered it (i.e. it wasn't "yeah, sure, cool, whatever" but a thoughtful reply).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Gareth on February 21, 2018, 06:04:22 am
Very interesting.

About sequels not making as much as the original game - it may be (in part) because they were released later and steam sales seem to be worse across the board (unless you're a viral hit like PUBG). Which may be related to the increasing glut of games (http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2018/01/10/over-7600-games-were-released-on-steam-in-2017.aspx) being released on Steam.

But yeah, even in the best of times, I suspect that a new game is more exciting than a known quality like a sequel or an expansion, regardless, and thus has more potential sales.

I know that, for System Crash, I hesitate on making sequels/expansions because, even though I'd love to grow the game further, the base game is not yet profitable, and as you say, an expansion would probably only achieve 30% of the sales figures. But I'm resolved to make one expansion just to get the data point. Maybe I'm wrong and it will be a worthwhile venture.



Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: SuperElement on February 22, 2018, 01:10:24 am
For what it's worth I was very undecided on buying AoD despite knowing about it for as long as two or three years before I finally bought it. I was conflicted because each time I looked at it considering purchasing it, I immediately turned to the reviews, which often have people complaining about merciless checks and being unable to access a lot of content without min-maxing.

After I finally hankered down and bought it on sale, I fell in love with it. The reviews that scared me away at first were wrong, but they're still there. There are multiple branching paths, and you literally cannot experience every part of the game in one playthrough. I think the issue is that these people come from a game like Skyrim or Fable where your choices are limited to one reward or another from a quest, unlike old Fallout or any branching story RPG in which whole situations in the game are mutually exclusive for one reason or another. It's not a casual game, but it's an excellent RPG, for people who like cRPGs.

Now that I understand why I enjoy the game and why the reviews were a poor indicator of the game I've left a review that I hope may dispel the doubts others may have had like myself. It is an indie game though, and like as was mentioned the game has run its course for the larger chunk of its revenue.

On a small note though, I wish more creators of things I enjoyed had a means of patronage. Though the audience for such is often small, I wouldn't mind donating. Especially when I'm often too late for kickstarters and other campaigns.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Wrath of Dagon on February 22, 2018, 02:40:28 pm
If you want to donate to ITS, you can just buy another copy or several directly from them: http://irontowerstudio.com/age-of-decadence-buy-now (http://irontowerstudio.com/age-of-decadence-buy-now)


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: SuperElement on February 23, 2018, 08:16:31 am
If you want to donate to ITS, you can just buy another copy or several directly from them: http://irontowerstudio.com/age-of-decadence-buy-now (http://irontowerstudio.com/age-of-decadence-buy-now)

Actually a pretty good point, as a direct sale does ITS get the full proceeds (aside from transaction processing)? I could buy it several times then, aside from buying it for some friends who'll want it on Steam.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business - 2018
Post by: Oscar on February 23, 2018, 03:21:51 pm
If you want to donate to ITS, you can just buy another copy or several directly from them: http://irontowerstudio.com/age-of-decadence-buy-now (http://irontowerstudio.com/age-of-decadence-buy-now)

Actually a pretty good point, as a direct sale does ITS get the full proceeds (aside from transaction processing)? I could buy it several times then, aside from buying it for some friends who'll want it on Steam.

Yeah, but if your friends like it their positive reviews won't count, which as this point is something harder to get. Many people that are on the fence wait until a sale to buy the game and when they don't like it they leave a negative review.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sunfire on March 01, 2018, 06:46:38 am
The only conclusion here is that some countries like hardcore RPGs a lot more than others. Sadly, it has a very limited application as there isn’t much we can do about it, one way or another. It's worth noting that even though Russia is our second biggest market in terms of copies sold, the revenue share is only 5.2% due to regional pricing.
That's 'cause of PC platform is dominating in Russian video games' market over all others, while an average income of such gamers is rather low. And Russian video gamers likes hardcore RPGs so much.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: AbounI on March 03, 2018, 10:09:37 am
Is there something you can do for the positive reviews from those who get a steam key while they got it for free after a BMT support ? Many from this option are the longtime fans of your game(s), but if Steam doesn't take in account their reviews, it's unfair I guess.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on March 04, 2018, 10:13:41 am
Is there something you can do for the positive reviews from those who get a steam key while they got it for free after a BMT support ? Many from this option are the longtime fans of your game(s), but if Steam doesn't take in account their reviews, it's unfair I guess.
We can't do anything about it (other than moving away from direct sales in the future). I understand why Steam did it - developers get as many keys as they need and often traded them for reviews (there was even a mini-industry quickly developing to offer this 'service' to developers). The only way to stop it was to remove 'free key' reviews from the total rating.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: AbounI on March 04, 2018, 11:56:22 am
Sounds rather logical. I hope you won't choose to stop your direct sales like BMT for TNW  ;)


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on March 04, 2018, 01:07:17 pm
Hard to say. We lost over 200 reviews when Steam changed the system, which dropped the rating from 86% to 81. Had it pushed AoD to 79%, sales would have suffered. So while direct sales offer a short-term benefit, the long-term benefit of selling only via Steam and GOG would have to be considered as well.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Goral on March 04, 2018, 01:54:01 pm
How much does BMT take of your profits? Steam takes away 30%, GOG probably something similar but what about BMT? And I wonder how long will the links be valid.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on March 04, 2018, 02:10:25 pm
How much does BMT take of your profits?
10% which is fair. We can't set up credit card payments and demo hosting for less. Credit card % is based on volume, so very low volume like ours would cost us 8% if we do it ourselves. Plus all the hassle of processing payments, dealing with fraudulent transactions, etc.

Quote
Steam takes away 30%, GOG probably something similar but what about BMT? And I wonder how long will the links be valid.
For as long as we remain their customers I assume. I can easily generate new download links for every customer so it's not a problem.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: AbounI on March 04, 2018, 02:31:16 pm
And obviously, no mention of boxed edition for TNW ? I wonder if a steam key from a simple boxed game can count in their review system.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on March 04, 2018, 02:44:13 pm
And obviously, no mention of boxed edition for TNW?
Too early to gauge interest in the game in general.

Quote
I wonder if a steam key from a simple boxed game can count in their review system.
Steam has no way of tracking whether a key is bought or given away for free (in exchange for a review).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Scott on March 07, 2018, 09:25:26 am
I feel like devs seriously underestimate the costs associated with boxed editions, especially the time cost. Hard to imagine it ever being worth it.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Stellavore on March 23, 2018, 07:12:08 pm
Much respect to feargus, ive been following him around since fallout 2. I will definitely go review dungeon rats when i get home as i thoroughly enjoyed it. Id put myself in the 25% playerbase for ITS but i thought id mention a few things. I found out about AOD through splattercat, an indie reviewer on youtube. I feel like youtube reviews are your strongest promotion medium because on initial glance your game looks like a potato made for the N64. Obviously AOD is not a potato but first impressions are important.
Second as a major buyer on steam and someone who has way more games than ill ever play i really have to cherry pick what i buy or i risk wasting money and hitting myself over the head for that. For that reason i spend less time contenplating if the price is worth it but more time contemplating if i will actually play and finish this game. Not saying to jack up your price, as i really held back on wasteland 2 as i thought it was overpriced for a shitty looking indie game (they were riding the brand name for sure), but i dont think pricepoint is as important as you think it is (to hit it home the thing i regret the most about puchasing wasteland 2 isnt how much i paid but the fact that i couldnt finish it because it was boring), what im saying is in the same set amount of time if you jack up the price to 30 and have it on sale for 15 you will sell more copies than just selling it for 15 outright, as a mildly financially successful gamer my time is much more important than my gaming money, and keep in mind that as old school rpg makers you are appealing to an older crowd who might feel the same way as i do, maybe.....
On to more design related things, what makes AOD great is the world its in, when i was a kid i played this game called Dark Sun: Shattered Lands and AOD instantly took me back. You cant roleplay in an RPG if you dont have an interesting exciting and immersive world to roleplay in, its what drew me to fallout shadowrun and even older ones like betrayal at krondor, that said one thing that peeves me about tyranny wasteland and shadowrun is you cannot make the character you want, if you are going to let us make our own character then give us visual options to do so, or else put effort into making interesting players to choose from. Customizeable characters arent a box you just check off. Going back to my time being worth more than my money one thing i think you guys dont do right is denying part of the game/story based on your player build. Its realistic which i can appreciate but incovenient, replaying a game, unlike rereading a book is the laziest form of filler. I realize people might disagree on this, but when i played AOD the first time i saw probably half the content, it really turned me off and the 2nd time i attempted the game much much later i scoured the internet for a do everything build and basicslly followed a walkthrough, not fun. The art of it is making hard things feel accomplished while making them accessable to everyone, not just people who replay it many times or go data mining for stat requirements.
I think thats everything that i could think of as i was reading the article. One thing i should say is that i envy you guys, ive always been a gamer and wanted to design my own but abandoned that idea for what i thought (and still think i guess) was a more financially stable career. You guys are living my dream in a small way, and hopefully when i get older i can take a step in that direction.
And maybe its just me, but i thought shadowrun hong kong was fucking awesome, 10x better than the original, and i didnt even finish dragonfall.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sodomy on May 02, 2018, 04:14:32 pm
Quote
  • core supporters - 25% - love it, want more.
  • core haters - 10% - fucking hate it, will never buy another ITS game again.
  • kinda liked it - 50% - liked it but ... This "but" ranges from minor to major issues.
  • meh - 15% - played for a couple of hours and moved on, no strong emotions, no urge to play more.

There's a fifth category; people who fucking hated AoD but liked Dead State enough that they might be interested in further ITS stuff when the price falls hard enough.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on May 02, 2018, 06:30:48 pm
That's a pretty big might, considering that Dead State was written and designed by another developer (i.e. no reason for them to expect a game like DS from us ever again).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sodomy on May 02, 2018, 06:55:35 pm
Y'all parted ways with Annie and Brian entirely?  Damn :(

Guess I don't need to be interested in future ITS stuff :(

(Also, I hadn't even heard of Dungeon Rats until reading this thread earlier today, so the marketing effort -- or lack thereof -- might have a role in its disappointing sales.)


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on May 02, 2018, 09:30:40 pm
Y'all parted ways with Annie and Brian entirely?  Damn :(
It was a one-time thing from the start. We were happy to help Brian but we don't have the resources to work on multiple projects on a regular basis.

Quote
Guess I don't need to be interested in future ITS stuff :(
Looks like it.

Quote
Also, I hadn't even heard of Dungeon Rats until reading this thread earlier today, so the marketing effort -- or lack thereof -- might have a role in its disappointing sales.
Such games are nearly impossible to market, especially for small indie studios. It's a combat spin-off so even if the media wanted to write something nice about it, they wouldn't be able to say much.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on May 09, 2018, 10:21:59 am
Sales 2018 year-to-date:

AoD: 5,917 copies, $42,498, $7.18 avg
DR: 2,810 copies, $11,765, $4.19 avg

$54,263 in 4 months. If the trend continues we should expect to sell roughly 20,000 copies of AoD vs 43,000 last year and about 10,000 copies of DR in 2018. Between 150 and 180k for the year, which is less than half of what we sold in 2017 ($389,114).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Pladio on May 09, 2018, 03:52:32 pm
Sales 2018 year-to-date:

AoD: 5,917 copies, $42,498, $7.18 avg
DR: 2,810 copies, $11,765, $4.19 avg

$54,263 in 4 months. If the trend continues we should expect to sell roughly 20,000 copies of AoD vs 43,000 last year and about 10,000 copies of DR in 2018. Between 150 and 180k for the year, which is less than half of what we sold in 2017 ($389,114).


Would that be an issue financially for you and the team ?


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on May 09, 2018, 05:31:47 pm
Shouldn't be a problem because we budgeted for it (we treated AoD revenues as TNW budget and stretched them to make sure they cover us until we hit Early Access).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Pladio on May 10, 2018, 03:36:58 pm
 :salute: :approve:


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Lgrayman on May 16, 2018, 04:37:53 am
I don't know why but it really didn't hit me how much money this game has made until this thread. To me that seems like a crazy amount of money for such a niche game, but I suppose it was 10 years of your life and you were previously working a high salary job so it might not be as big of a deal to you. Still, though - millions of dollars from an old school indie hardcore RPG, I would've never thought that would happen. I also expected the hype to be mostly limited to the RPG Codex sphere and some older RPG fans and then die down after the first year, but it's still going strong at almost 50,000 copies last year? Amazing.

It also makes me think how unbelievably lucrative games like, say, Stardew Valley or Undertale must be. All (or mostly) made by one person and relatively simple systems/graphics, obviously selling magnitudes more than AoD. The developers of those games must be absolutely rolling in it.

On another note, I just saw this thread (https://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/8jbr6e/pillars_of_eternity_ii_deadfire_seems_to_be/) and thought to come back to this thread. The logic in that thread is a bit spotty but it does line up with what you've said regarding sequels. Shame because I'm really enjoying PoE2 so far (would love to hear your impressions of it at some point, Vince).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on May 16, 2018, 06:41:42 am
Keep in mind that the revenues are neither profit nor a reward for 10 years of work but the operating budget for the next 4-5 years. We have 6 people working full-time plus several contractors. From this perspective it's just enough (hopefully) to make it to the next game's release without much room to expand the team further (I wouldn't mind hiring a couple of level designers but I don't want to stretch our resources too thin).

Massive hits like Stardew Valley or Undertale or Minecraft (Notch made a fortune on it, then sold it for 2.5 billion) are indeed very lucrative but massive hits are always lucrative, no matter the industry.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sotnik on May 21, 2018, 08:29:54 am
Thank you for your enlightening article. 2 ideas:

1) I don't think that parallels between AoD/DR and TNW/tactical TNW are totally fair. The visuals have a serious impact on the niche the game takes. Many people who are not fans of TB RPGs might be interested by a TB RPG with pretty graphics and vice versa. It took several years for me to overcome my disgust of AoD's 3D and finally buy it. A friend of mine (he loves true RPGs too) still hesitates despite all my compliments to the game for the same reason.

2) As for the tactical TNW spin-off, it is generally better to make a sequel (or a story without a specified timeline) than a prequel. I always lose much interest to a game/movie if I know where the story led to.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Yosharian on June 06, 2018, 01:03:10 am
I feel like I have spent the last few years under a rock or something.  How did I miss this game (AoD)?  I plan on buying it ASAP, it definitely looks like my sort of game.  I am really interested in your new game too, as I feel like there are relatively few decent science-fiction RPGs around lately.

Anyway, that's it, just wanted to let you know that you've definitely got a new fan here.  Keep it up, you're doing god's work.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Nick on June 07, 2018, 01:49:49 pm
 :salute:


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: menyalin on June 08, 2018, 01:41:38 am
Vince, I'm curious why you didn't let out any DLC with bonus materials like artbook or soundtrack? It seems to be a very common practice for indie developers, while quite acceptable by players. Have you decided that it will not pay back the resources spent or have abandoned it for ideological reasons?


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on June 08, 2018, 08:24:06 am
Vince, I'm curious why you didn't let out any DLC with bonus materials like artbook or soundtrack? It seems to be a very common practice for indie developers, while quite acceptable by players. Have you decided that it will not pay back the resources spent or have abandoned it for ideological reasons?
I woudn't call it ideological but I believe such things should be free.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: menyalin on June 21, 2018, 05:57:18 am
Quote
Neither a success nor a failure, so let’s call it a promising start!
Thinking about it: I would say that it is quite a success, given the lack of experience and reputation, as well as a brave, but very risky design decision to make so many full and unique storylines. Now you have experience, some reputation, and you could even stay in business, collecting money for a new game without the support of publishers - it IS success.

Maybe the survivor's error, too?  :)


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Scott on June 21, 2018, 10:54:11 am
The reputation part is very real. Every developer I talk to, even if they haven't played it themselves, has heard of Age of Decadence and heard it praised.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Ravn7 on July 15, 2018, 01:35:52 pm
About the crowdfunding campaign. Obviously it has its pros and cons. But I think it may be very important. Just for different reasons you discussed in this thread.

It’s the PR. Kickstarter campaigns get press coverage. And create opportunities for more coverage. News, previews, interviews, etc. People become more interested, many of them receive updates. Also, in the campaign description you can present the game and its features in details. And the video. You can put there a good trailer. A few years back some studies showed trailers have greater impact on sales than demos. Of course there are also youtubers these days but they rarely cover indie games (although you can always try to give free copies to some just before release).

After the campaign it may be easier to raise funds by pre-orders. Most probably it’s best to offer a few tiers on a website. Recently Julian Gollop said in one of his interviews they sell so many tiers it’s enough for their studio continuous upkeep. And it almost certainly wouldn’t be possible without the crowdfunding campaign.

Since you and many others see drawbacks of crowdfunding campaigns, shouldn’t it be possible to avoid most of them? There’s no need to make stretch goals that break awesometers. Just some realistic ones. Better music, radio chatter, etc. Sure, stretch goals should be interesting and “catchy” but this isn’t a game for casuals and children who generate most hype. There isn’t going to be any great AAA-style hype at all. It’s going to be a serious project for serious players who know what they want. I mean not necessarily too serious. Making the game more appealing for casual players boosts sales. And I don’t see why some reasonable compromise couldn’t be achieved. I’ll be watching closely Phoenix Point to see how it turns out for them. Although, for me it already tries too hard to achieve awesomeness but it doesn’t mean the game won’t be rich and complex. Even if not serious enough for my taste. But that won’t be the case with TNW.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on July 16, 2018, 09:30:54 am
It’s the PR. Kickstarter campaigns get press coverage. And create opportunities for more coverage. News, previews, interviews, etc.
In the early days, yes. When KS was still new and exciting, a promise of great things to come, the press was all over it. Now you get what you can get on your own (i.e. indie-friendly sites). They already cover The New World. Either way, I don't think that launching a KS without a demo is a good idea. By the time we have the demo, we'll be 6 months away from the Early Access, which, like I said in the article, is a more straight-forward way of raising funds during development.

Quote
People become more interested, many of them receive updates. Also, in the campaign description you can present the game and its features in details. And the video. You can put there a good trailer. A few years back some studies showed trailers have greater impact on sales than demos.
A Steam page has all that.

Quote
After the campaign it may be easier to raise funds by pre-orders. Most probably it’s best to offer a few tiers on a website. Recently Julian Gollop said in one of his interviews they sell so many tiers it’s enough for their studio continuous upkeep. And it almost certainly wouldn’t be possible without the crowdfunding campaign.
Well... first, it's Julian Gollop, second, the game has great visuals, which is a very important factor when it comes to sales. That's why he raised 750k, while Xenonauts 2 raised only 200k. Mind you, Xenonauts is a MUCH bigger 'brand' than AoD.

Quote
Since you and many others see drawbacks of crowdfunding campaigns, shouldn’t it be possible to avoid most of them? There’s no need to make stretch goals that break awesometers. Just some realistic ones. Better music, radio chatter, etc. Sure, stretch goals should be interesting and “catchy”...
Exactly. The stretch goals' purpose is to generate excitement and drive up sales. Low-key goals don't work.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sparacul on November 12, 2018, 04:44:06 am
>Obviously, Pillars of Eternity 2 and three planned DLCs suggest you're a strong believer.
I wonder if he is still a believer after PoE 2 flopped. I mean...300k copies sold, ouch. Anyone got a comment on this situation? Share your thoughts.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Dr.Eleven on November 12, 2018, 08:53:40 am
>Obviously, Pillars of Eternity 2 and three planned DLCs suggest you're a strong believer.
I wonder if he is still a believer after PoE 2 flopped. I mean...300k copies sold, ouch. Anyone got a comment on this situation? Share your thoughts.

Hmm, heard that PoE2 is inferior to PoE1, maybe that's the reason. Reviews aren't so great, the game lacking depth and complexity of the first part.
Haven't played it yet, will try PoE2, I don't take what is said in the reviews for granted.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: CaesarCzech on November 13, 2018, 04:04:58 pm
>Obviously, Pillars of Eternity 2 and three planned DLCs suggest you're a strong believer.
I wonder if he is still a believer after PoE 2 flopped. I mean...300k copies sold, ouch. Anyone got a comment on this situation? Share your thoughts.

I think Sawyer attempts to make something non traditional and in a way progresive  by not focusing on the western basis of stories had something to do with this. It simply wasnt setting that would get people interested.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: DorkMage on November 14, 2018, 11:44:11 pm
>Obviously, Pillars of Eternity 2 and three planned DLCs suggest you're a strong believer.
I wonder if he is still a believer after PoE 2 flopped. I mean...300k copies sold, ouch. Anyone got a comment on this situation? Share your thoughts.

Obsidian and InXile were just picked up by Microsoft.  Probably because they didn't have funding to continue on their own.

Vince is being realistic in revenue expectations and is planning the development budget accordingly.  Many studios don't.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Dr.Eleven on November 15, 2018, 04:38:20 am
>Obviously, Pillars of Eternity 2 and three planned DLCs suggest you're a strong believer.
I wonder if he is still a believer after PoE 2 flopped. I mean...300k copies sold, ouch. Anyone got a comment on this situation? Share your thoughts.

Obsidian and InXile were just picked up by Microsoft.  Probably because they didn't have funding to continue on their own.

Vince is being realistic in revenue expectations and is planning the development budget accordingly.  Many studios don't.


Very saddened. Don't expect something like PoE now form Obsidian. Will get something like  Dragons Age, boring stuff for the mass market :'(


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Kirov89 on November 16, 2018, 07:31:29 am
Quote
Obsidian and InXile were just picked up by Microsoft. Probably because they didn't have funding to continue on their own.

Damn! And at the same time, too.

Quote
Very saddened. Don't expect something like PoE now form Obsidian.

You can be sure of it. These corporate monstrosities have a way of sucking the originality out of everything. I remember watching X-Men TAS when I was a kid and at one point the animation studio behind the series was bought by Disney. The very first episode under the new management was about elves and dwarves. I understand staying on the safe side and keep applying the same old formula that worked for you in the past but that was ridiculous. 

Quote
Vince is being realistic in revenue expectations and is planning the development budget accordingly.

Ah... Vince, you were very honest about Iron Tower's finances in the past so I'm gonna ask without beating around the bush: how is ITS holding up financially as of this moment? Are you secure until, let's say... Fall 2020?


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 16, 2018, 09:43:13 am
You can be sure of it. These corporate monstrosities have a way of sucking the originality out of everything.
Originality is a very risky bet. It can pay off spectacularly (and launch a 10-game franchise) or fail miserably. 9 out of 10 fail miserably.

Quote
Ah... Vince, you were very honest about Iron Tower's finances in the past so I'm gonna ask without beating around the bush: how is ITS holding up financially as of this moment? Are you secure until, let's say... Fall 2020?
Naturally, sales continue to drop. AoD was released 3 years ago so by today's standards it's a miracle it keeps selling. So far we sold $120k in 2018. Minis Steam's and GOG's cut, minus expenses ($43k paid to contractors this year), minus corporate taxes and accounting. Split what's left between 5 people. It's not a lot but then again anyone who wants to make hardcore RPGs to make money is in the wrong business. You do it because you love the genre.

Our only concern is the design as it's the only thing that matters. Both personally to us and financially when the game is released. See the Underworld Ascension trainwreck.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Kirov89 on November 16, 2018, 12:28:09 pm
Well, I honestly hope it works out for you guys. I thought real RPGs would make a comeback now as gamers get tired of "bang-bang!" and pretty lights but the opposite seems to be happening. To each their own, of course, but it's obscene how much money a few giant game developers make simply by milking a (mediocre at best) franchise to oblivion.

Quote
See the Underworld Ascension trainwreck.

I take it you meant Underworld Ascendant. I admit, I never heard of it until now but I see it's only been released yesterday on Steam and even the few favorable reviews it generated only applaud the effort, not the outcome. Ouch! And this project apparently came from the creators of System Shock and Thief. Point taken. Tough industry, indeed...


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sparacul on November 16, 2018, 06:20:23 pm
Vince, when this interview was taken did you expect such a financial outcome for POE2? I mean pillars is a somewhat weird game with questionable setting but still such low sales for a game this well done (in pure quality at least) and funding - this is unexpected. As a veteran game designer do you have an educated guess for a reason for this that regular players might not see? Is it because kickstarters are excluded from profit gains or is it a larger sign for old-school RPG market?


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 16, 2018, 09:50:41 pm
Vince, when this interview was taken did you expect such a financial outcome for POE2?
I didn't expect PoE 2 to sell more than half of what the original sold. I don't think Obsidian had a choice there: they had the engine, all systems and assets, which is a HUGE amount of work, so making a different game simply wasn't an option. They did their best to make it as different as they could but it just wasn't enough.

Quote
I mean pillars is a somewhat weird game with questionable setting but still such low sales for a game this well done (in pure quality at least) and funding...
It has nothing to do with quality or funding. If you offer what seems like more of the same at a glance, it won't do as well as the first game. We had PoE and a pretty big expansion. Only 25% of players completed Act 2, only 7% entered the fort in the expansion.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sparacul on November 17, 2018, 10:38:35 am
We had PoE and a pretty big expansion. Only 25% of players completed Act 2, only 7% entered the fort in the expansion.
Damn...I never cared for achievements but a guess it is a good tracker system. Never thought it was that bad. Never thought gamers are so fickle either.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 17, 2018, 11:00:17 am
Yes, achievements are great at tracking progress and choices. AoD - 46.1% of players reached Maadoran, 26.6% reached Ganezzar.  Dungeon Rats - 40% killed Barca and reached the upper level, 17% eliminated all 3 gangs. The story is the same across the board, even for mega popular games like Witcher 3: only 27% beat the game on any difficulty.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Wrath of Dagon on November 17, 2018, 01:00:43 pm
To be fair, Witcher 3 is extremely long and doesn't really keep you hooked as the RPG systems suck. I'll finish it some day though. But it's true that most people prefer to start a new game to finishing an old one.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 17, 2018, 01:51:40 pm
Well, only 31% found Ciri (the main quest, about halfway into the game).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Wrath of Dagon on November 17, 2018, 04:09:06 pm
At level 22 I still  haven't found her, because when you complete one side quest you get two new ones, the game isn't exactly focused. And if you try to do all the places of interest, it's even that much longer.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 17, 2018, 04:10:23 pm
At level 22 I still  haven't found her...
You lack focus and discipline :)


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Ergil on November 18, 2018, 04:44:05 pm
No, Witcher 3 just sucks. Hope to hell Cyberpunk 2077 is at least halfway decent, I can't take another good company going to shit.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Dr.Eleven on November 20, 2018, 06:30:37 am
Vince, when this interview was taken did you expect such a financial outcome for POE2? I mean pillars is a somewhat weird game with questionable setting but still such low sales for a game this well done (in pure quality at least) and funding - this is unexpected. As a veteran game designer do you have an educated guess for a reason for this that regular players might not see? Is it because kickstarters are excluded from profit gains or is it a larger sign for old-school RPG market?

Just curious, why did you find POE setting questionable? I mean you may like the look and feel of it or not, but questionable? Actually I find POE setting, story and narrative absolutely superb. Especially - narrative, -  it's just the best what I've seen in CRPGS


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Dr.Eleven on November 20, 2018, 06:37:27 am
Vince, when this interview was taken did you expect such a financial outcome for POE2?
I didn't expect PoE 2 to sell more than half of what the original sold. I don't think Obsidian had a choice there: they had the engine, all systems and assets, which is a HUGE amount of work, so making a different game simply wasn't an option. They did their best to make it as different as they could but it just wasn't enough.

Quote
I mean pillars is a somewhat weird game with questionable setting but still such low sales for a game this well done (in pure quality at least) and funding...
It has nothing to do with quality or funding. If you offer what seems like more of the same at a glance, it won't do as well as the first game. We had PoE and a pretty big expansion. Only 25% of players completed Act 2, only 7% entered the fort in the expansion.

Hmm... Looks like that's the reason. But Baldurs Gate 2, Fallout 2, Elder Scrolls 3,4 offered "more of the same" and did just fine.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 20, 2018, 10:48:32 am
Elder Scrolls 3-4-5 aren't really sequels, more like new games in the series, released 5-6 years apart. Daggerfall - 1996, Morrowind - 2002, Oblivion - 2006 (only 4 years but the biggest jump in graphics), Skyrim - 2011, TES6 - no earlier than 2020-2021, i.e. 10 years apart. Had Bethesda released a sequel to Skyrim two years after the game, I doubt it would have sold as much the original.

Plus, we're talking about the open world games that are all about the visuals (i.e. it's a top feature). Upgrade the visuals and it's no longer more of the same, especially if you take the player to a different part of the world (i.e. Skyrim vs Oblivion; they look so different, might as well be different games). PoE2 looks and plays exactly like PoE.

Fallout 2 - well, we don't know anything about its sales numbers, but I assume that had it sold well, cash-strapped Interplay would have gladly milked that engine for all it was worth. Fallout sold less than half of what Baldur's Gate sold, so most likely Fallout 2 sold less than Fallout.

Baldur's Gate 3 - the only proven exception. If I have to guess the novelty of unheard of before visuals (amazingly detailed handpainted backgrounds) was still a strong factor, but Bioware did a  great job enticing the players to come back for more. BG was fairly low-key in terms of power and adventure, which sets up the stage for Act 2 BG2: more spells, tons of creatures including dragons and beholders, epic loot, cool locations such as the Underdark, epic adventure in general. In BG you could hit level 7, iirc, 8-9 with the expansion. The players were craving more and Bioware delivered that in spades. I don't think any developer can replicate that today.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sparacul on November 21, 2018, 11:43:48 am
Vince, when this interview was taken did you expect such a financial outcome for POE2? I mean pillars is a somewhat weird game with questionable setting but still such low sales for a game this well done (in pure quality at least) and funding - this is unexpected. As a veteran game designer do you have an educated guess for a reason for this that regular players might not see? Is it because kickstarters are excluded from profit gains or is it a larger sign for old-school RPG market?

Just curious, why did you find POE setting questionable? I mean you may like the look and feel of it or not, but questionable? Actually I find POE setting, story and narrative absolutely superb. Especially - narrative, -  it's just the best what I've seen in CRPGS
To me, it just felt weird all over. I liked pillars and I clocked probably more than 500 hours but this feeling was always there. It seemed to me they tried to create original setting but they were bound to their DnD predecessors too much and the settings suffers from it. They should have either made something completely original and unchained or conform to common fantasy tropes instead of making a hybrid. Pillars feels like it stopped midway. They got all the classic races (dwarfs elves humans) but they feel the same. There is no great elven empire, elves are not arrogant and nigh-immortal but are just more slender humans that live for a few hundreds longer. Same with dwarves no great under empire just forgotten keeps of old and dwarfs suddenly don't like to stay underground but are the traveler race (short legs are good for traveling apparently).

The different races are assimilated so much they feel completely mundane and human. Like the Aedyr a country of elves and men melded into one boring nation (Britain on a colony spree). Other nations are defined by similar regular world drives, these guys are traders (valians the black Italians), these have big fleet (ruatai the world dominance contender), and other countries are too weak to be special...all of it feels unnecessary realistic and that is my main displeasure with the setting. They take fantasy and make it more "real" but it just becomes bland in the end. Replace all nations in PoE with humans with different skin color and nothing will change radically in the world because they are already human in all but name.

I also don't like this fetish of taking known fantasy name and warping it for no reason. The dnd kobolds are transformed into xaurips but are the same dragon worshiping goblin-lizards in essence. The banshie becomes cyn gwela, the spriggan - adragan, elemental - blight, zombies - darguls, mind flayers are vithrack, vampire...fampyr. Sometimes they warp established tropes instead: fampyr have almost no relation to a classic vampire being pathetic cannibals, the undead of the setting are not soulless husks animated by necromancy but are powered by the same soul. Said about races earlier. Was all of it really necessary? If you copy a creature from another setting why do you need to twist it? It feels whimsical. You know, dwarves and elves get a pass but I don't like hobbits. Let's give them long hairy ears and name them orlans instead! Four races are not enough though, so let's make a custom one - I know, shark people! Can't be aquatic though, that's too different from human norm, can't have that.

There are a plethora of less noticeable things like strange attributes and infamous bodybuilding mages because "might" apparently also means spiritual strength and yet never this attribute is used as a magical one in a dialogue. In the end, it felt like pillars setting desperately tried to be different and yet it was shackled by an artificial directive to be like other games before it.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sunfire on November 21, 2018, 11:52:54 am
I couldn't even finish PoE - it's just too boring.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Sparacul on November 21, 2018, 12:13:03 pm
I couldn't even finish PoE - it's just too boring.
Yes, I know the feeling. I started and abandoned it many times before actually completing it. Over time it grew on me but it was a tough love. I know for sure though if there were no "godlike" race in the game I would've never even played it.

The second game though I like much less because they redesigned their rigid systems and the game feels unpleasant and wrong after getting used to the first game.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: menyalin on November 22, 2018, 01:23:33 am
Baldur's Gate 3 - the only proven exception...
What About Divinity OS 2? Judging by official statements and steam reviews it sells a lot better then first one. And i wouldn't say that second game is something completely new except DM mode.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Dr.Eleven on November 22, 2018, 05:21:09 am
Vince, when this interview was taken did you expect such a financial outcome for POE2? I mean pillars is a somewhat weird game with questionable setting but still such low sales for a game this well done (in pure quality at least) and funding - this is unexpected. As a veteran game designer do you have an educated guess for a reason for this that regular players might not see? Is it because kickstarters are excluded from profit gains or is it a larger sign for old-school RPG market?

Just curious, why did you find POE setting questionable? I mean you may like the look and feel of it or not, but questionable? Actually I find POE setting, story and narrative absolutely superb. Especially - narrative, -  it's just the best what I've seen in CRPGS
To me, it just felt weird all over. I liked pillars and I clocked probably more than 500 hours but this feeling was always there. It seemed to me they tried to create original setting but they were bound to their DnD predecessors too much and the settings suffers from it. They should have either made something completely original and unchained or conform to common fantasy tropes instead of making a hybrid. Pillars feels like it stopped midway. They got all the classic races (dwarfs elves humans) but they feel the same. There is no great elven empire, elves are not arrogant and nigh-immortal but are just more slender humans that live for a few hundreds longer. Same with dwarves no great under empire just forgotten keeps of old and dwarfs suddenly don't like to stay underground but are the traveler race (short legs are good for traveling apparently).

The different races are assimilated so much they feel completely mundane and human. Like the Aedyr a country of elves and men melded into one boring nation (Britain on a colony spree). Other nations are defined by similar regular world drives, these guys are traders (valians the black Italians), these have big fleet (ruatai the world dominance contender), and other countries are too weak to be special...all of it feels unnecessary realistic and that is my main displeasure with the setting. They take fantasy and make it more "real" but it just becomes bland in the end. Replace all nations in PoE with humans with different skin color and nothing will change radically in the world because they are already human in all but name.

I also don't like this fetish of taking known fantasy name and warping it for no reason. The dnd kobolds are transformed into xaurips but are the same dragon worshiping goblin-lizards in essence. The banshie becomes cyn gwela, the spriggan - adragan, elemental - blight, zombies - darguls, mind flayers are vithrack, vampire...fampyr. Sometimes they warp established tropes instead: fampyr have almost no relation to a classic vampire being pathetic cannibals, the undead of the setting are not soulless husks animated by necromancy but are powered by the same soul. Said about races earlier. Was all of it really necessary? If you copy a creature from another setting why do you need to twist it? It feels whimsical. You know, dwarves and elves get a pass but I don't like hobbits. Let's give them long hairy ears and name them orlans instead! Four races are not enough though, so let's make a custom one - I know, shark people! Can't be aquatic though, that's too different from human norm, can't have that.

There are a plethora of less noticeable things like strange attributes and infamous bodybuilding mages because "might" apparently also means spiritual strength and yet never this attribute is used as a magical one in a dialogue. In the end, it felt like pillars setting desperately tried to be different and yet it was shackled by an artificial directive to be like other games before it.

I see now. Never tried try tag everything in fictional settings with our Earthly analogs, like you've said Aedyr = England.
For me this is pointless. Only the "look and feel" is important either the setting is a breathing living world or it's just a static morbid scene set for actors.
Btw, DnD is not a setting it's a ruleset - mechanics, math.
Speaking about DnD settings - Forgotten Realms is my favourite, it just feels alive thanks to wonderful talented contributors and authors.
And yes, AoD setting is also, like I said palpable, living although being comppletely opposite to high fantasy FR.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 22, 2018, 08:52:38 am
Baldur's Gate 3 - the only proven exception...
What About Divinity OS 2? Judging by official statements and steam reviews it sells a lot better then first one. And i wouldn't say that second game is something completely new except DM mode.
In my opinion, co-op was the key factor and D:OS was designed as a game you can play with a friend from day one. Multiplayer generates a different kind of content, so it's never more of the same even if the foundation is.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: NewAgeOfPower on November 22, 2018, 11:24:58 am
In my opinion, co-op was the key factor and D:OS was designed as a game you can play with a friend from day one. Multiplayer generates a different kind of content, so it's never more of the same even if the foundation is.
That reminds me. ITS mostly seeks to produce hardcore RPG masterpieces, but Dungeon Rats was designed to be a cheap combat filler/fundraiser.

However, it involved handcrafted, hand designed levels/characters/battle setup, which consumes non-trivial amounts of man hours, for a limited amount of replayability - after all, the vast majority of players (even hardcore ITS enthusiasts with 91% AoD/100% DR achievements *cough like me cough*) will recieve diminishing returns from replaying the exact same fight with a half dozen different builds.

On the other hand, with partial procedural generation I believe Iron Tower could have produced a superior pseudo Battle Brothers using the Age of Decadence engine, assets, and setting, in a timeframe shorter than Overhype's development of 'Battle Brothers', and more importantly, would justify a higher price point than Dungeon Rats sold at, and it would be sufficiently 'different' in nature from AoD to attract a large sales volume.

While BB is significantly inferior to AoD (in my opinion), it still hit the RPG codex's GOTY charts, and it offers dramatically more replayability - I've spent over 150 hours in AoD, but something liks 300 in Battle Brothers. Sure, difficulty/skill scaling is unbalanced in games with (basically) unlimited grinding, but Dungeon Rats is supposed to be filler/fundraiser, right?

If Age of Decadence is a high quality steak that consumes huge amounts of 'resources' (manhours) to produce, and 'available' (replayable) in a limited quantity per player, then a combat filler should be like a crate of hamburgers, less emphasis on detailed perfection, balance and whatnot, but achieving a high quality (this *is* Vince we are talking about) product using 'leftover meat' (assets) without consuming too many 'resources' (manhours) that is able to achieve a high sales volume at a sufficient price, and gives the customers a feeling of being full.

TLDR consider unlimited combats/grinding and using some procedural generation on future 'fundraising filler' for a product that feels significantly different from "handcrafted RPG perfection" yet uses the same assets, engine, setting, for good return on investment while leaving the playerbase feeling satisfied.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 22, 2018, 12:05:19 pm
On the other hand, with partial procedural generation I believe Iron Tower could have produced a superior pseudo Battle Brothers using the Age of Decadence engine, assets, and setting, in a timeframe shorter than Overhype's development of 'Battle Brothers', and more importantly, would justify a higher price point than Dungeon Rats sold at, and it would be sufficiently 'different' in nature from AoD to attract a large sales volume.
There are many ways in which Dungeon Rats could have been a far better and more interesting game, including the one you mentioned, but none of them could be done in 10 months.

BB was announced in Feb 2014 and they already had a pre-alpha gameplay footage. It was released 3 years later, so it took them at least 4-5 years to make this game. To be honest, I'm very tempted to explore this concept but it would have to be a full-scale game not something we put together in 10 months.

Why only 10 months? We have a year of pre-production (developing the setting and systems) between full-scale RPGs, which translates into 10 months development and 2 months post-release support. We did our best with Dungeon Rats, meaning we can't do better in the future. We can maybe add 2 more months tops to development but no more than that. For the next tactical game, we can try a different structure (missions) and incorporate all the extra features from Colony Ship (base) but still there's only so much we can do in 10-12 months.



Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: NewAgeOfPower on November 22, 2018, 04:12:51 pm
Why only 10 months? We have a year of pre-production (developing the setting and systems) between full-scale RPGs, which translates into 10 months development and 2 months post-release support. We did our best with Dungeon Rats, meaning we can't do better in the future. We can maybe add 2 more months tops to development but no more than that. For the next tactical game, we can try a different structure (missions) and incorporate all the extra features from Colony Ship (base) but still there's only so much we can do in 10-12 months.
I strongly prefer a continuous RPG character experience (even if watered down) over that of small story slices with pregenerated, presetup characters.

I mean, even adding an "infinite arena" with increasing numbers of enemies per wave (and a resting/crafting/alchemy area between multiple waves) would offer a significant increase in replayability with procedural generation.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 22, 2018, 04:31:16 pm
Why only 10 months? We have a year of pre-production (developing the setting and systems) between full-scale RPGs, which translates into 10 months development and 2 months post-release support. We did our best with Dungeon Rats, meaning we can't do better in the future. We can maybe add 2 more months tops to development but no more than that. For the next tactical game, we can try a different structure (missions) and incorporate all the extra features from Colony Ship (base) but still there's only so much we can do in 10-12 months.
I strongly prefer a continuous RPG character experience (even if watered down) over that of small story slices with pregenerated, presetup characters.

I mean, even adding an "infinite arena" with increasing numbers of enemies per wave (and a resting/crafting/alchemy area between multiple waves) would offer a significant increase in replayability with procedural generation.
I hear you but we have neither experience in that area nor understanding of the market. If anything, we're at the opposite end of the spectrum - high quality hand-crafted content (by high quality I mean no kill X creatures or bring X items or other filler). Common sense suggests that we should set up a camp there and fortify it, not rush across the spectrum to try something new and hope we get it right. Thus even if we do make a game inspired by Battle Brothers, it won't be procedural but hand-crafted with branching questlines (i.e. what we do best).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: menyalin on November 23, 2018, 01:20:26 am
What About Divinity OS 2? Judging by official statements and steam reviews it sells a lot better then first one. And i wouldn't say that second game is something completely new except DM mode.
In my opinion, co-op was the key factor and D:OS was designed as a game you can play with a friend from day one. Multiplayer generates a different kind of content, so it's never more of the same even if the foundation is.
Makes sense. Playing it recently in single mode and just couldn't understand why such quite mediocre game has such a good ratings.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: kjl on November 23, 2018, 01:08:35 pm
Quote
Iron Tower Studio is a premier destination for all your hardcore RPG needs.
Proudly serving 0.003% of the Global Gaming Market since 2015. The remaining 99.997% need not apply.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JSV1ei6OjY

with partial procedural generation I believe Iron Tower could have produced a superior pseudo Battle Brothers
As in "it would cater to the other 99.997%"? As a disgruntled member of the other 0.003%: thanks but no thanks.

BB (...) hit the RPG codex's GOTY charts[/b]
Skyrim got the 3rd place in 2011.

and it offers dramatically more replayability
No game offered me as much replayability as AoD did. That includes ADoM, ToME, Crawl, DoomRL...

- I've spent over 150 hours in AoD, but something liks 300 in Battle Brothers.
I've spent 0 hours in Battle Brothers. As for AoD/DR, Pie Iesu Domine - who can count?

Sure, difficulty/skill scaling is unbalanced in games with (basically) unlimited grinding, but
There's no but. Been obsessed with RPGs since Betrayal at Krondor and found AoD/DR to be the first games ever to truly treat the player seriously. No grinding. No filler. No exploits.

Dungeon Rats is supposed to be filler/fundraiser, right?
Some filler. I don't recall having as much fun with a purely combat focused rpg.
Shameless fundraising is probably better accomplished by peddling porn or mobile tetris-like games with ads, no?

gives the customers a feeling of being full.
Full after consuming 'Le Big Mac' over and over again? Also, hardened arteries.

TLDR consider unlimited combats/grinding and using some procedural generation on future 'fundraising filler'
TLDR please don't.

hand-crafted with branching questlines (i.e. what we do best).
Best in the business.

As for revenue, I'd gladly buy AoD/DR soundtracks in flac.


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: Vince on November 23, 2018, 01:37:32 pm
We don't want to squeeze more money from the existing "customers", plus things like soundtracks should be free with the purchase anyway (and it is).


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: kjl on November 23, 2018, 01:53:41 pm
We don't want to squeeze more money from the existing "customers", plus things like soundtracks should be free with the purchase anyway (and it is).

I know and I appreciate you taking the high road (rare in the age of rampant kickstarter campaigns).  Meant no disrespect.
That was my way of saying "AoD/DR soundtracks are really good, I'd like to get my hands on lossless files, I know putting them up entails an opportunity cost so I'm willing to pay for them".


Title: Re: Taking Care of Business, now with afterword by Feargus Urquhart
Post by: NewAgeOfPower on November 23, 2018, 02:34:44 pm
I hear you but we have neither experience in that area nor understanding of the market. If anything, we're at the opposite end of the spectrum - high quality hand-crafted content (by high quality I mean no kill X creatures or bring X items or other filler). Common sense suggests that we should set up a camp there and fortify it, not rush across the spectrum to try something new and hope we get it right. Thus even if we do make a game inspired by Battle Brothers, it won't be procedural but hand-crafted with branching questlines (i.e. what we do best).
Ehhhh.

To me, Iron Tower's defining trait, even more than handcrafted branching questlines with hard choices, is the excellent Stats/Skills/Combat system and the way they synergize with each other.

Obviously, if ITS could handcraft 500+ hours of branching questlines and excellent combat, that would be the best. Since that's not remotely plausible...