New Year Goals!

Here we are! Woohoo, 2020 has just started, and like all years, I’m going to write down some goals which I’ll inevitabily fail to reach through the year lol

It seems a joke, but when I look back at my post in the beginning of 2019, I was saying about Planet Stronghold 2 and Volleyball Heaven: “I think it’s safe to say that unless I get hit by a bus or something, both games should be finished this year. Of course I’m also going to finish Corona Borealis since we’re at very good point.”

And guess what? Of those 3 the only one to be released was Corona Borealis haha! However, as I posted already in previous blog, PS2 at least is done, with only proofread and testing left to do, and considering the game size it’s not a small thing.

This year’s goals

So, this time is really safe to say that I’ll finish both Planet Stronghold 2 and Volleyball Heaven. This time for real, it would be crazy if I didn’t, since the first one is done, and the second at very good point too. But what else? Let’s see. This time, I’ll be much more careful when predicting when I’ll finish them since clearly every time something unexpected happens to delay everything!!

The Curse Of Mantras (previously known as Undead Lily) – I’ll begin working on this game (I actually have already started working on it during past month) and as I already posted the biggest obstacle will be the gameplay, but even writing it will take time. It won’t have a big complex plot like PS2, that’s sure. But will still probably end up being at least 200k words long, with so many characters and romances! Prediction: game will be content complete before end of 2020, with beta next year

Secret Yuri Game – This is a particular case, since the game story is at very good point but I need to find a good artist for this game. I think I found it, but there are a lot of images to do so will take a while. It’s a simple VN (no stat raising) with a very original cast and optional more erotic content vs my past games Prediction: game will be out towards the end of the year

I have some other projects going on, but as I said, I’m not going to announce anything until it’s in a very advanced status. So in summary the 2020 might be something like:

Q1-Q2 2020: Planet Stronghold 2 and Volleyball Heaven release
Q3-Q4 2020: Secret Yuri Game release and Curse Of Mantras beta (but very likely this last one will slide to 2021 because of its size)

Beside the first two titles, if I managed to do a 3rd would be already a good year I think!!

Crowdfunding and blog

Something I also plan to start using this year is crowdfunding. I never tried it before, but I feel now it’s the time to do it. You know, spending one year on a game without a clue if your product will earn enough for a minimum wage might not be the ideal working conditions anymore, especially for someone anxious as me! I’ll probably talk about it in a future blog post.

Speaking of the blog, starting this year I’m going to do it regularly only monthly. First Friday of each month. I need to focus my efforts on making the games, my Patreon and this year for the first time also crowdfunding. Of course I might do some special posts occasionally for example when a new game is out, but otherwise I’m going to post here once a month.

Happy New Year to everyone!

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Happy Holidays (Planet Stronghold 2 is content complete!)

Lisa Nelson from Planet Stronghold 2 wishes you Happy Holidays!

First of all, like in past years my games are discounted for the holidays: https://winter-wolves.itch.io/

Current Planet Stronghold 2 status

It was a long journey, and it’s not over yet (after all this is just the beta) but I’m pleased to announce that at least the game is content complete! This doesn’t mean the beta is ready yet, though.

Yes, because the game final word-count turned out to be the crazy amount of over 350,000 words! And even if the editor is doing her best, and even if over half of those texts have already been checked, there’s still a lot of work left to do.

I don’t know how long this will take, but I suppose in a month it should be ready. As you imagine, I’m not rushing things because I want it to be done well. I’m sure that there’ll still be typos and errors left in any case, with such huge amount of texts! But luckily testers will catch them as it always happened in the past.

This year

This year was a hard one for me. Probably the hardest after 2011, when I lost many pets and my beloved uncle (who was the one to fuel my creativity more than anyone else). It was hard for personal reasons and for business reasons – after all, even if I always tried to minimize it, losing all the Google Play money from a month to the next was a hard blow too.

Yet, despite everything, things business-wise didn’t go too badly. I released only a game this year, Corona Borealis, and it was even a small one. So I expected that my sales would drop considerably. They dropped, but after hearing the experiences from other fellow indies, I definitely cannot complain! Many of my games on Steam went into the magic 80% positive reviews, and I still managed to do well selling directly on itch.io.

There are also some deals which I can’t talk yet, but that hopefully will bring my games in other platforms, where I think they could do pretty well.

Development-wise, most of this year was spent on Planet Stronghold 2. I think I did a very good job but of course the real test will be when it’s released and when people decide if it will be worth their time or not. Just know that I put 100% of myself in it.

I also spent a good amount of time this year to do some tests/experiments, but for this you can read the previous blog post πŸ™‚

The future

I will do a “new year goals” post as usual, but for now I want to talk about what are my future plans in general. As I’m writing this, I’ve already started planning Undead Lily. Yes because this is how you stay in business for 15 years – whenver you finish a game, you already start planning the next.

Of course, it’s holiday season so I’m not working like crazy, but I am still working, despite having just finished the biggest game of my indie career!

I have already in mind how to do Undead Lily from the main flow/writing side, while I will need to do a lot of experiments for the gameplay. The main issue will be adding enough cards to make it fun, and maybe also add some major features (like the heroes being able to use skills, a bit like what happens in Hearthstone). We’ll see how that goes, but I’m excited to be working on a card game again πŸ™‚

Regarding the other games, I still plan to do them of course. The ideal thing would be: a “big game” each year, like PS2, Undead Lily, etc. A big/complex game like a RPG, and then manage to release at least 1 or 2 other “regular” (and easier to code) dating sims. Basically what I did back in 2014 when I released Roommates and Seasons Of The Wolf. That would be the ideal situation. This will be my goal from now on in future.

Conclusions

This was a tough but also kind of enlightening year. I lost my most favorite pet ever. When you spend 14 years with a little furry ball always looking for you, always staying on your side or on your lap when you work, it’s hard to do without. My mom survived a cancer. Many other bad things happened this year, but I always tried to not show it much in public.

However this year I also realized what I want to do next, where I want to go (creatively speaking!) and what I hope to achieve in my life. Because even if I’m only 45 years old, you realize that you might not have the strength to do what you do in 15 years, or you might not be around for much long in this business. I know this sounds a bit pessimistic/extreme, but when you experience deaths or other traumatic events, you realize that while you need to stay positive, big changes can happen overnight. So, I’m not pessimistic, I’m only realistic: I want to make certain games before it’s too late and for any reason I can’t do them anymore.

It’s not a small thing to have cleared my mind. So while 2019 won’t be remembered as one of my favorite years, it will still be remembered for something at least: when I decided what I want to do for the rest of my career.

Happy holidays! And let’s hope 2020 will be a good year for everyone!

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Switching genres and creative struggles

This year has been a particular year for me. Many things happened behind the scenes, and most of them weren’t good things at all! But I’m not here to talk about this in general, but about one thing in particular.

The “other games” dilemma

I hope one day one of my games is featured on Vapor!

One of the main things I’ve doing this year was to review what I’ve done so far as indie, and what else I could do. I’ve already discussed in past blog posts the possibility to do other kind of games. They say that to make a good game you should be passionate about it yourself first. And I think there’s definitely some truth in it. However, it’s not so simple, because even if you like a particular genre, then you also need to be able to develop a decent game (for indie standards at least) in said genre!

For example, as player, I always liked tower defense games. But making one, it’s not so easy as it seems. I’d also love to do a realtime 3D game, nothing complex as a FPS, but something like an adventure, or even a story-based game like those walking simulators.

So during this year I did various experiments, and while I can’t say that I would never be able to do one, the real question is if I would be able to do a good/decent one! And, after some experiments, I think the answer is: maybe, but it’s hard.

Of course, many things are hard to make, not just games! But there’s more: as I was doing those tests, obviously I couldn’t use the engine I love, Ren’Py, to do them. I briefly looked at Gamemaker, Unity and even Unreal tutorials and examples.

I even had some fun prototypes working, but the process was painful. If you ask any indie, they’ll all tell you the same thing: that switching engine/system once you learn it, is really hard! And even doing the same things becomes harder. I know I have personally spoken with some people that moved from Ren’Py to Unity, and they said that to make the same GUI screen (for example an inventory, level up, skilltree screen) it takes you x3 the amount of time in Unity.

Does this mean that Unity is bad, is worse than Ren’Py? Haha of course not! But once you’re used to something, you can get much faster results. Switching engines means switching not just languages, interface, etc but also mentality and losing a series of things you’re used to.

Leaving a “legacy”

Another thing I also considered when I encountered those difficulties is: why I want to make different kind of games? For personal growth, sure. To break the monotony, yes. But it’s because I’m tired of making story-based games? No, definitely not.

Amber’s Magic Shop gameplay could have been better but I still liked doing it

I realized that I can still do things differently even if I stick to story based games, and I stick to Ren’Py. The RPG/VN I’m making, like Planet Stronghold 2 (by the way, it’s going to be content complete soon! I hope to be celebrating it the next blog post) or even various experiments (more or less successful) like PSCD, Amber’s Magic Shop and so on.

And even when doing “simpler” games like VN/dating sims, I can still do things that I enjoy making: comedy games like Roommates, mystery games like Nicole, and so on.

The “secret yuri game” I have been working since last Summer it’s like this. While I can’t reveal too much yet, the game has probably the most diverse cast of all my games: a disabled young lady, a latina MMA female fighter and a MILF πŸ˜›

But I have already some ideas about games that mix VN with other form of gameplay, an idea in particular that I think is very original (of course this doesn’t mean that will be surely good).

At the same time, during the recent months, I got a lot of positive feedback and supportive messages! On the social media, by email, as comments to my blog, etc. Thank you, thank you all! It was really enlightening: it was like “what you’re doing now is good, please keep at it!

In summary, people expect me to deliver story-based games and I think I should keep doing this in future. Maybe mix the VN with other forms of gameplay as I always do (and not necessarily RPGs) but keep doing this kind of games. Switching genres completely probably is not the answer to my creative struggles πŸ™‚

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Status update (or: finally some good news)

We’re heading towards the end of the year, and yes I know I only released one game so far – hides in shame – but let’s proceed in order while I try to make the point of situation.

Planet Stronghold 2

Poor Avae is pretending to be OK after PC Lisa told him they’re just friends! FRIENDZONED!

The reality is that Planet Stronghold 2 turned into “my biggest game ever” (once again lol). As I was writing it, I kept adding sidequests and plot events, but also since had so many love interests I wanted each one to be a satisfying path, and hopefully I managed to do that. Not just in words amount but also in quality. And this time I didn’t have an external writer to help me write (as I explained in past posts, this game was just too complex, with too much branching and variables to outsource it). So this is why it wasn’t ready sooner.

In any case, while I’m not sure yet about the final game wordcount (it still needs to be proofread/edited) I think that it will be at least 340-350k words. Let’s assume that the main plot is about half of that (I have no clue honestly but it’s possible) there are around 175k words left. In the game there are 10 romances, which means, on average, each love interest sub-plot has at least 17k words of length, which is definitely not a small amount!

Volleyball Heaven

I want to apologize again for the delays on this game but was due to circumstances beyond our control. In any case, even for this game we’re at super-very-good point, basically the biggest thing left is scripting and coding it (and doing some preliminary testing). But since right now I’m in full-immersion mode with PS2, I want first to finish coding that one. I really expect it to be finished early next year, depending how PS2 beta goes.

Secret” Yuri Game

As you might be aware if you follow me on social media I was also working on a “secret yuri game” since a few months. I am not ready to talk about it yet, though I can at least say that the story is basically finished, but still there’s long way to go (after all I only began working on it last Summer!).

As I said, for all future games I’ll announce them officially only when the release is a couple months away at maximum. Which means I have ALREADY coded and tested them (or like I’m missing minor things like achievements, gallery, etc). This because Murphy’s law is always there, ready to strike, whenever you dare to post “I think this game will be out SOON” and soon turns into 2 years X_X

So I’d like to say that the game will be out next year, but I won’t say it! Did you hear me Murphy?? I didn’t say anything about this game! lol

Undead Lily

Since some people asked: after I finish Planet Stronghold 2 and Volleyball Heaven, this will be my next “big project”. It will use same card system of PSCD (with several changes though) but differently from what I wrote in a blog post a few months ago, I might be not doing two versions. Originally I was planning to do a version with shorter cutscenes for those only interested in card games. But I thought that I could just put a skip button at beginning of each scene, or people can simply use Ren’Py built in autoskip after all !

Now in case you don’t know, that game has ten love interests, and male/female protagonist so that’s why I said “next big project”, since it’s basically the same amount of romance as PS2. This game though won’t have a big complex plot like PS2 (also because there wasn’t a prequel, no pre-existing conditions or romances, etc). Still it will probably be at least 180-200k words of plot.

It’s going to be a gameplay oriented game (even if there will be a VN Mode) which means I need to have full control over it to make sure gameplay and story mix well. But differently from PS2 I can outsource the writing (I’ll only need to write down the storyboards) so it shouldn’t take as much as PS2 did.
Hopefully these won’t be my last famous words! I guess we’ll see what happens next year.

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Analyzing Steam stats for my games

After the recent LGTB sale on Steam, I started checking my games’ stats more closely, trying to understand how their algorithm works. Of course nobody except them really knows and mine are just observations and suppositions !

I started looking at my latest RPG, Cursed Lands. It had a good number of impressions (how many people saw the game image in the store) and an average click through (of said image/banner).

Lifetime stats for my latest RPG Cursed Lands released 18 May 2018

This is extremely important because for example as I wrote on twitter, changing the banner image can lead to more clickthrough and ultimately, more visitors to your store page. More visistors means more sales? Not necessarily. For example, below is my other RPG Queen Of Thieves:

Lifetime stats for Queen Of Thieves, released 20 Jan 2017

It seems that I really nailed it with its banner, since it has the highest clickthrough of all my RPGs! Unfortunately, even if the game came out more than one year before Cursed Lands, my latest RPG crushed its sales after one week. Yes, the first week of sales of Cursed Lands were more than 3 years of Queen Of Thieves… but it’s not really QoT fault, as I said I think if a game like Cursed Lands came out shortly after Loren, it would have had almost the same success.

Also, let’s not forget that QoT has only GxB and GxG romances, while Cursed Lands has a bit for everyone, and a better overall story I think (it’s also much longer though not sure if players consider that before buying).

So I decided to compare with yet another RPG, the first Planet Stronghold. This one came out in 2014, so four years before Cursed Lands:

Lifetime stats for Planet Stronghold, released 5 May 2014

As expected, this one had a lot of impression but mainly because back then, Steam was a closed platform and getting in was really a great boost of visibility. But has done better than Cursed Lands? Once again, no – Cursed Lands sold almost twice the first Planet Stronghold!

Conclusions

What conclusions can I draw beside the fact that Cursed Lands ruled? Haha jokes apart, while games like that one are the main reasons why I’m still in business today, it also shows that yes, you can improve clickthrough rate with a better banner, you can get more traffic and visitors, but all that matters in the end is how “good” game is.

What is good?” Baby don’t hurt me, no more – ahem sorry

I know that “good” is hard to define, but basically I would describe it as something like: a game is good if it manages to catch/met the interest of its potential user base, as much as possible.

Then of course depends also how big that user base is – you can make a well received yaoi game (like Heirs & Graces, my game with highest review rating on Steam) but because of the smaller target market it won’t do as well as a game with more diversity of romances.

And that’s why for all future games, with the exception of a few yuri only games (I need to be forgiven from yuri fans for making them wait so much!) will have at least two romance combos (either choosing protagonist gender, or having both male and female romances).

So in summary, the better the game is, the more Steam algorithm will promote it. You can buy ads of course (how many indies can afford that though?) but if your game isn’t good to start with, you’ll be only throwing money away. Thing is, during the launch window, Steam already shows the game to a rather big amount of people. Now, I don’t remember it the exact number but I think it was 1million of impressions (might have changed now though). Considering even a low 1% of CTR, that is still 10000 users to your page, and if your game is “good” they’ll buy it.

Final thoughts: it’s true that the visibility is no longer what it used to be, completely true. But still, if you manage to do a “good first impression”, then the algorihm will help you.

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