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TorQueMoD
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« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2016, 01:58:14 pm »

Not sure what VD did in AoD that was so original...

He highlights them in bullet point form for you in the original post...
  • More meaningful choices than you can shake a stick at
  • Parallel questlines showing events from different angles and points of view
  • Radically different "Craft Your Own Story" playthroughs

They didn't claim that the gameplay itself was completely unique. You have to have something for people to relate to and familiar gameplay is the best way to do this.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2016, 04:54:22 pm by TorQueMoD » Logged
TorQueMoD
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« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2016, 02:06:03 pm »

...One thing people tend to overlook about Kickstarter is that participation is a month-long marketing blitz...

My apologies for posting 4 times in a row but I just discovered this thread and there are a lot of comments I want to respond to.

After running my own failed Kickstarter I can tell you that Kickstarter does not provide ANY sort of media blitz that you might think (as I mistakenly did). The total number of people who viewed my campaign that came from Kickstarter was 16. No, that's not a typo. I did everything I could to get people to know about my campaign including spending several thousand on targeted advertising and sending out press releases to every gaming website known to man. The bottom line, if people don't know who you are before you start your campaign, you're not likely to get legions of people backing your campaign on Kickstarter. Granted, you might get lucky or just have an incredibly awesome concept/game but I wouldn't rely on Kickstarter alone to give you any extra attention.
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Vince
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« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2016, 05:59:25 pm »

A very well written article overall but I think you've missed one very important step... Start Small.
I thought about it quite often over the years, thinking that we should have started small and built it up with each subsequent game but looking back I think it would have been a mistake. A small game would have still taken years but gone unnoticed (see Step 1).
« Last Edit: July 11, 2016, 06:01:05 pm by Vince » Logged
TorQueMoD
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« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2016, 07:34:56 pm »

I thought about it quite often over the years, thinking that we should have started small and built it up with each subsequent game but looking back I think it would have been a mistake. A small game would have still taken years but gone unnoticed (see Step 1).

It completely depends on what type of game you make. When I say start small, I don't mean necessarily a simple idea, but one that doesn't require complex systems and loads of assets. A platformer is a good example of this because essentially all you need to do is create the core gameplay mechanics (jumping, dashing, wall sliding or jumping and attacking for example) and then you create maybe 6 level pieces (wall, floor, platform, door, etc.) and maybe 3 visual variations of those pieces (industrial, wilderness, normal) and then you've got the ability to mix an match them into a much more robust set of levels. You make a dozen different missions and you call it complete. On to the next title. You could easily finish this in a year and it could do quite well. As I said, it won't be a top seller, but it'll be enough to keep you working on games and much better than a McJob. And lets say you manage to crank out 3 smaller games in 3 years. It's much more likely that combined, they'll get you more attention and more income than 1 big game. The key is to reign in your ambition.

The problem is that most indie designers look at modern AAA games as an example of what they want to emulate because for the most part we play AAA games most frequently. So you fall in love with a game like Skyrim or Fallout or Shadow Of Colossus and naturally you want to make a game like that. But as an indie designer with anywhere from 1 - 5 people working on the project, you get trapped working on the game for 11 years as you guys did. If you're going to try to emulate any type of game as a first project, you need to go back in time and look at your favorite SNES games or N64 games and see if you can make your own version of one of those. At least that would be more achievable.  I mean, props to you and your team that you had the discipline and dedication to keep working on AOD for as long as you did and actually let it see the light of day but in all honesty its not something that most people can do. Most developers, heck most artists of any discipline will tell you to start small. Its not like you see someone who's only been playing piano for a year trying to write their own equivalent of Moonlight Sonata or the Nutcracker Suite. You'll more than likely fail if you try. And as I said earlier you're more likely to see success with a half dozen smaller titles over a decade than you would 1 or 2 bigger games. I don't think anyone should try to work on a game of any significant scope until they've at least got a few hundred grand to bank roll it.

Then again, I often don't even follow my own advice so take it with a grain of salt Tongue
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Vince
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« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2016, 06:50:14 am »

It completely depends on what type of game you make. When I say start small, I don't mean necessarily a simple idea, but one that doesn't require complex systems and loads of assets.

The question is would such a game sell enough to keep you in business and encourage you to continue? How many players would rather buy this particular game with simple systems and few assets instead of thousands of other games?

Quote
A platformer is a good example of this because essentially all you need to do is create the core gameplay mechanics (jumping, dashing, wall sliding or jumping and attacking for example) and then you create maybe 6 level pieces (wall, floor, platform, door, etc.) and maybe 3 visual variations of those pieces (industrial, wilderness, normal) and then you've got the ability to mix an match them into a much more robust set of levels. You make a dozen different missions and you call it complete. On to the next title. You could easily finish this in a year and it could do quite well. As I said, it won't be a top seller, but it'll be enough to keep you working on games and much better than a McJob. And lets say you manage to crank out 3 smaller games in 3 years. It's much more likely that combined, they'll get you more attention and more income than 1 big game. The key is to reign in your ambition.

Is there any data that backs it up? I'm just curious.

From what I've heard, such games usually make money only during a narrow launch window and then during the first couple of sales, then they are dead in the water. The amounts raised often fall short and the competition grows with every year. Sure, you may get lucky but you don't want to rely on luck alone.

Here is another indie game's story:

http://imgur.com/gallery/bGLAQ
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Sunfire
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« Reply #20 on: July 12, 2016, 08:39:37 am »

Here is an article that may somewhat be related to this topic.

In short:
1. Your game intro sucks
2. Your game’s sessions are too long
3. You are not targeting the right audience for your project
4. You are targeting a saturated fringe of the market
5. You didn’t run enough tests
6. Your tutorial slows down the player
7. Your game is too hard to pick up
8. Sudden rises in difficulty
Uninstalls in the later stages of the game
9. Grosbilling or a backfiring grind
10. The game relies too much on grinding, lacks intrinsic rewards
11. The game requires a big time investment to become enjoyable
The specifics of social and Free to Play games
12. A toxic community
13. Resources are too scarce
14. Your game sessions feel empty
15. Your game punishes inactive players
16. Updates are not coming fast enough

Summary
Players leave your games for 2 key reasons:
-  Boredom
-  Frustration, or anxiety
Those are your greatest enemies as a game designer. The antagonists of flow.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2016, 11:57:49 am by Sunfire » Logged

Scott
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« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2016, 11:21:20 am »

I think if you're planning to make your 5th game your dream game, you won't have a studio by the time you get there. Even a "real" studio, like Troika, was lucky to produce three games before going under, simply because none of them were hits. I don't think many indies running on nothing but sweat and vapors are going to last that long.

Platformers are indeed easier and quicker to make. The part about doing something original and engaging is certainly a must... but then you have to get people to look at your platformer. A quick search on Steam for the tag "Platformer" gives 1959 results. So where are your efforts better spent, in making the game you want to make (or at least a part of it, as you suggested), or in making a series of smaller games with no greater chance of turning a profit?

And regarding Kickstarter, I was referring to Iron Tower's case where they will have published three games (Age of Decadence, Dead State, Combat Crawler) by the time they could approach KS for Colony Ship Game. At that point I hope a dev can get more than 16 hits.
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TorQueMoD
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« Reply #22 on: July 12, 2016, 02:58:50 pm »

All valid points you guys have made. No idea on the statistics, I'm talking out my @ss as I normally do Tongue
I'd love to read the article in the first link but it just went to their main blog and I couldn't find the specific article. That game looks amazing though. Love robots!

The 16 reasons why players leave your games was also a good article. Notice though that "Scope" isn't mentioned anywhere. A big or ambitious game isn't what makes a game awesome. Its how much fun you have while playing it. A perfect example, when Skyrim launched I played it for 10 days straight until I had completed the story (opposite of what I did with Oblivion) and then never touched it again. I thought it was an awesome experience though. A few days later I decided to play Limbo. I bought the game on steam and beat it in 3 hours but I was more blown away and impressed by those 3 hours than I was with my 60+ hours in Skyrim.

You absolutely HAVE to be in love with your project otherwise there won't be any motivation to continue working on it (so you definitely don't want to sacrifice on the idea and design to force it to be smaller) which is why I'm sure you guys were able to keep working on AOD for as long as you did. BTW, great work with the little details... I was really impressed with the animation for spearing an enemy that was shown in the Steam video... the little shake when the guy hit the top of the arc was fantastic!

A platformer was just a quick off the top of my head idea. I didn't necessarily mean that everyone should make one, just a game that's a little easier to tackle than an RPG. RPGs are one of the hardest and longest games you could make. And there's a lot you can do with a standard game mode like a platformer to make it unique and stand out against the crowd. Look at Braid and Super Meat Boy and Limbo. You could do similar things with other genres too. Also in this day and age of game design another thing to think about is buying assets from online stores like the Unity store and Unreal Marketplace. I used to have the viewpoint that I didn't want to use assets that someone else could be using in their game because it would make my game less unique but in all honesty for the majority of your items, pre-made assets save you so much time and can be easily modified to look unique. Not to mention how much money you can save.

Ok there's another problem though... comparing yourself to AAA studios. Trokia wasn't an indie studio. They were fully AAA and the reason they went under after their 3rd game not turning a profit was due to the amount of money going into those games which was probably in the millions. When you're a AAA dev, you often have to make a deal with a publisher that essentially see you being pre-paid for your work which covers the development, but not seeing a cent of profit once the game sells. I'll be you that the publisher did end up seeing a small amount of profit from Arcanum and Vampire alike, they just likely didn't clear the amount required by the contract for some of those profits to go back to the devs.

Its a lot easier for an indie studio to become profitable than it is for a AAA studio. On your first project as an indie dev, a lot of the time people are volunteering their time, so technically speaking, any amount in sales is purely profit. Whether or not its enough to pay your employees for the work they did on the game and then fund a follow up completely depends on the company structure. In my case, I'm refusing to work with anyone else on my project so that I don't have to worry about revenue sharing and I know that everything I make on the first game is simply going to go towards covering my living expenses so that I can work on a second. I'm not seeking a profit so much as the ability to keep myself afloat long enough to continue doing what I love. Also something to consider as an indie is not making your team members employees but contract workers. Again the idea of founding a company and hiring employees is something we take from AAA development but it doesn't really make sense at the indie level. You could instead have 2 or 3 main employees and make everyone else contractors. Pay them on a per job basis and let them know that your intention is to continue contracting them for future projects as long as you're able to but there's no benefit to splitting the profits 10 or 15 ways when you could really be throwing most of it back into future projects. Also the idea of Royalty Capped contracts is a great idea for compensating contractors as well. You will be paid 15% of sales until we've paid you $XX. Once the contractor has been paid a fair dollar amount for their work, their royalties stop. Its an idea that a programmer I worked with in the past introduced me to and before hearing it I had always thought that royalty payments would continue in perpetuity which is a really absurd thought in hindsight.

And again looking at Trokia as an example, what kind of games did they dedicate themselves to making? RPGs. The most difficult type of game to make. Its a lot harder to turn a profit on a game that you spend 5 years making than one you spend a year and a half working on.

I just feel that there are a lot of ways that indie developers can shoot themselves in the foot along the way and over ambitious game design is probably the number one way to do so. I've done it to myself many times over the last decade.

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Scott
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« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2016, 09:10:48 am »

I have an opinion on this one:
Quote
Also the idea of Royalty Capped contracts is a great idea for compensating contractors as well. You will be paid 15% of sales until we've paid you $XX. Once the contractor has been paid a fair dollar amount for their work, their royalties stop.
That absolutely sucks and I'm having a hard time imagining I would ever agree to such a contract.

Someone who is being paid on contingency (if the game makes money, you make money) is in reality getting paid nothing. You're getting a piece of a "maybe". Plenty of games don't get finished. The carrot in this case is the game not only getting finished but being successful. The only reason to accept nothing for your work is the gamble that it will turn into something. You're suggesting that if the game does make money, the contractor gets paid fairly. If the game is very successful, the contractor.... still gets paid.

It's like playing roulette where the biggest payout is exactly what you wagered.
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Sunfire
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« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2016, 09:49:50 am »

pp.1,2,7,8,11 applies to Dark Souls Smile
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TorQueMoD
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« Reply #25 on: July 13, 2016, 11:46:42 am »

That absolutely sucks and I'm having a hard time imagining I would ever agree to such a contract...

I can understand that viewpoint but the reality is that if you're working for a studio you'll only get paid $X for said work you do. Why should it be any different just because you're working for a smaller studio. I'm not suggesting contractors should just sign up with any group of developers either. Likely this model would work well for pre-established studios who have already released a game previously and its obviously up to the two parties involved to come to terms that both can agree on. Maybe the amount pays double what it normally would to negate the risk. Also keep in mind that often times you volunteer your time on indie projects to gain experience so I'd think in those cases the contractor would be expecting to volunteer their time anyway and the payout is simply icing on the cake rather than something they're hoping to pay the bills with.
I've been a freelancer on other projects before and this sort of contract wouldn't bother me any. To each their own though.
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Euchrid
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« Reply #26 on: July 30, 2016, 08:32:03 pm »

It completely depends on what type of game you make. When I say start small, I don't mean necessarily a simple idea, but one that doesn't require complex systems and loads of assets.

The question is would such a game sell enough to keep you in business and encourage you to continue? How many players would rather buy this particular game with simple systems and few assets instead of thousands of other games?

Quote
A platformer is a good example of this because essentially all you need to do is create the core gameplay mechanics (jumping, dashing, wall sliding or jumping and attacking for example) and then you create maybe 6 level pieces (wall, floor, platform, door, etc.) and maybe 3 visual variations of those pieces (industrial, wilderness, normal) and then you've got the ability to mix an match them into a much more robust set of levels. You make a dozen different missions and you call it complete. On to the next title. You could easily finish this in a year and it could do quite well. As I said, it won't be a top seller, but it'll be enough to keep you working on games and much better than a McJob. And lets say you manage to crank out 3 smaller games in 3 years. It's much more likely that combined, they'll get you more attention and more income than 1 big game. The key is to reign in your ambition.

Is there any data that backs it up? I'm just curious.

From what I've heard, such games usually make money only during a narrow launch window and then during the first couple of sales, then they are dead in the water. The amounts raised often fall short and the competition grows with every year. Sure, you may get lucky but you don't want to rely on luck alone.

Here is another indie game's story:

http://imgur.com/gallery/bGLAQ


I don't think "starting small" is bad advice, but doing so with a game that is very different to your "dream game" would be a mistake. You spend years making the best platformer or linear combat-only RPG you can and in the very best scenario, despite the saturated market, it gets some attention and a decent following. How much of that following would you lose for your next game which is your real passion project? How much of what you learned is transferrable? I think if you're going to start small it should be a small scale version of everything the studio is about. Limiting the content scope not the core game design. This reduces the development time and increases the likelihood of a polished and complete product. With a game like AOD though, this will still take a long time and  you may not be seen as "real developers" until you release a full scale game.

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TorQueMoD
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« Reply #27 on: July 31, 2016, 03:46:57 am »

I don't think "starting small" is bad advice, but doing so with a game that is very different to your "dream game" would be a mistake. You spend years making the best platformer or linear combat-only RPG you can and in the very best scenario, despite the saturated market, it gets some attention and a decent following. How much of that following would you lose for your next game which is your real passion project? How much of what you learned is transferrable? I think if you're going to start small it should be a small scale version of everything the studio is about. Limiting the content scope not the core game design. This reduces the development time and increases the likelihood of a polished and complete product. With a game like AOD though, this will still take a long time and  you may not be seen as "real developers" until you release a full scale game.

I actually agree with a lot of what you say but I have a different perspective.
Absolutely I think you want to work on a game that you're passionate about as it just makes your job as an indie designer easier. That said, it's unlikely that you're only passionate about one type of game or subject matter so I'm suggesting that designers start with something they're passionate about but on a smaller scale as you suggested.
As I mentioned earlier, I think it would have been a better approach to do the opposite of what the AOD team did/is doing. Make the small(er) scale sword play game first and THEN transform it into a full RPG after. This also prevents what you mentioned - not meeting fan expectations. If you start with a small game and go up, then its progress. If you start with a large game then scale back, its often viewed as regression. Granted, I personally wouldn't worry too much about what fans think because something else that people don't often consider is that if you alienate your existing fan base, you'll likely find a new one and really your fan base will only grow overall (old fans may come back for a future game). I digress however, back to the original thought...

So many huge and expansive games could be boiled down into a much simpler and smaller game that's still incredibly fun to play with just a bit of thought, and as I also said before I think a real problem is when indie studios (especially for their first title) try to emulate bigger previously established studios. Making a game like AOD is not easy in any sense of the word. Huge kudos to the team for pulling it off, but I wouldn't suggest that anyone else follow in their footsteps as the chance of success is really slim. I'd be interested to hear from the developers if there were any big hiccups that they experienced along the way  during their decade long development period. I'd imagine there were a few in regards to keeping the team motivated, technology changing etc. It's just such a huge undertaking with so much risk involved that a lot of new designers wouldn't even consider before starting development.

Also, I think there's a big misconception in the indie scene (I myself struggled with it for years) that you only get one chance or one opportunity to make your dream game and to "make it" as a developer. Like its some all or nothing scenario. This couldn't be further from the truth. The same can be said of any industry really. You learn from your mistakes. You can't succeed if you don't try and even if you mess up royally, you can always recover. Name a single studio that's never made a bad game. Its pretty much impossible to do. Even the "Gods" of the industry make bad games. Blizzard is my go to example; some would argue that they've never made a bad game. I would say that they've never RELEASED a bad game but they have made them (Warcraft Adventures). Now name a developer that's made a fantastic game after making a piece of crap game... I could name dozens. Rocksteady comes to mind most recently.
So the whole idea of losing your fan base because you didn't make something fantastic or not aiming for the top of the mountain - so to speak - with your first title being this horrible thing is just people giving in to worry and fear. In fact, in my experience working as a developer, I'd say that aiming too high has caused me more grief than good. You can't climb a mountain from the top down, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. This holds true for everything you do in life and even in those rare moments where you aim high and succeed, you'll soon find a higher peak so really its pointless to worry about it.
 
Going back to the idea of starting small, I actually think a really good approach to game design that more developers should take (and more will be due to Early Access) is to build your game out in iterations. This is an idea I had (and wrote into a full business plan) more than a year before Early Access was actually a thing and it came to me from my experience working as a mod designer. Don't try to build your game in one giant stretch before you release it. Break it down into pieces and release each one as you finish them. Counter-Strike is the perfect example of this. As someone who played the game from day one, I remember all of the stages to the game. A lot of people don't know this actually  but CS started as a simple mod for Half-Life Death match. They introduced real world weaponry instead of the sci-fi stuff, they created the money system so you had to buy weapons instead of finding them in the world and they created a single character model that was re-skinned for each team so the CTs and Ts looked almost identical. There was no objective beyond eliminating the other team and earning money for killing enemies so you could buy different weapons in the next round.

Then in another update they introduced hostage rescue and the first new game mode was born. Then they added in new character models and tweaked the weapons. Then they eventually added in Bomb Defusion as an alternate game mode and then Escape and Assassination game modes that were later dropped. The entire game was built from a core concept and expanded upon with each new release. A year later the game was the top multiplayer shooter on the market and arguably it still is. I also think this is exactly WHY the game was so successful because they were able to quickly get a feel for what worked and what didn't and fine tune it into an amazing game.

This is the same strategy that any business professional or life coach will tell you to adopt when trying to achieve a goal. The goal itself should be seen as the final step, the complete picture. You then take the goal and break it into a dozen (or more) smaller goals. Then as you accomplish each one, you cross it off your list and you can see that you're making real progress. This helps to motivate you because you can visibly see that you're moving forward and in the case of game design, it gives your fans a taste of what's to come and something to get excited about. Granted you need to take care that each piece, each iteration, is a good representation of the whole, but it makes the entire process so much easier.

So, if you're absolutely intent on making a huge epic masterpiece, break it into a bunch of smaller more easily accomplished pieces. Figure out what the core mechanics are (melee combat and character leveling for example) focus on getting those systems built out in a rudimentary form, make a few missions and release it. Then keep building on top of that foundation. The game will only get better with time, you'll start to build a fan base early on, you'll figure out what works and what doesn't far more quickly and you'll have the bonus of bringing in money during the development period. I also think the cost of the game should scale with each release. Don't tell fans "we're making an epic, sprawling RPG on par with Skyrim" and then release your first iteration with an hour of gameplay and charge $50 a copy. Tell them what your plan is and release the first iteration for $2. Then up the price by another $2 with each new release until you hit your target price. This means fans aren't going to feel like they're taking a risk with your game because the initial investment is really small. People who don't like the direction the game is going in can walk away at any point, and those who do get more of what they love. Its win win for both parties.



« Last Edit: July 31, 2016, 04:02:08 am by TorQueMoD » Logged
NewAgeOfPower
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« Reply #28 on: August 17, 2016, 10:00:21 pm »

From what I've heard, such games usually make money only during a narrow launch window and then during the first couple of sales, then they are dead in the water. The amounts raised often fall short and the competition grows with every year. Sure, you may get lucky but you don't want to rely on luck alone.

Here is another indie game's story:

http://imgur.com/gallery/bGLAQ



I bought Brigador because of your post. Salute
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