It sounds impossible, doesn’t it?
While talking with some other developers last day, it appears clear that to survive in the struggle that is happening right now in the shareware games (in which we are seeing the return of middlemen, cutting indie revenues even more) there’s only one effective way: do online / MMO games.
As a player personally I hate them. I was a long-time player of Everquest, but when I started working I didn’t had hours to spend (waste) into that kind of game anymore. Anyway, as developer, I can clearly see how this is the only viable solution for long-term revenues nowadays.
Problem: how do I integrate online/multiplayer/MMO with a story-based game ? I’ve come up with some ideas, nothing really new of course:
- making simple flash / JS singleplayer online games – this would mainly have the purpose to eliminate completely piracy, but no particular advantages for the player
- do some sort of series of games centered around a character – somewhat similar to what I’m doing with Vera Blanc, but not simple offline downloadable games, but a series of games connected each other, using achievements and maybe even some RPG elements. However this is a big risk since if the first episode for some reason doesn’t sell, it’s really not worthwhile to continue the others
- a MMO based on missions, each mission with a story, still playable as single player, maybe with some limited player to player interactions (but not real-time) – I like this idea, like a collection of stories, each story representing a mission (like in a fantasy or sci-fi RPG) that the player must complete, playing as single player game
I think it is possible to come up with something like that, keeping in mind to focus on the single player experience. I would love for example to do a sequel for Bionic Heart, but apart some art problems (I would still need to wait for the artist Rebecca to be free, which will be next year anyway!!) I would need more guarantees to make it. The first game was VERY popular amongst male, sci-fi userbase, as much that I got lots of emails asking me about a sequel. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, there’s also lots of piracy in that market segment: so much that clearly damaged the direct sales, demotivating me from even just considering the option to make a sequel!
This is one of the most common situations for a developer and I hate it: have a game that has a good following of “true-fans” (people who would instantly buy a sequel) but that unfortunately has also a lot of piracy, so that makes me think twice before starting a sequel 🙁 So it’s really not a surprise that many of my developer friends completely abandoned the road of single-player offline games, and I believe many will in the near future.
I would love to start something new like this. Imagine a normal game like my others, but that could connect and auto-update, downloading new chapters, books or missions. I could add the new content anytime, after 2 weeks, after 1 year, of the initial game release (of course with some sort of notification like email/newsletter). Each content could be only a small fee, so there would be less risk for me and less money to pay for the player.
Yes I like this solution, maybe I could try it already with my next game Planet Stronghold… by the way an alpha is coming out very soon!