At the time of writing this, will be exactly one week after SOTW Steam release. How it went? ahem, let’s say it didn’t meet my expectations… 😀
Don’t get me wrong: a lot of people liked the game. But it didn’t do as well as I hoped. In short, game sold, rather well to be honest, but compared to the amount of work I’ve personally put on it, I wouldn’t do it again. Now I’ll get into the details and try to find possible causes of this:
- game length/price: this was my first mistake. The game, for the length, amount of work and resources put in it, should have been sold for $29.99 (is longer than Loren+DLC!). However, in nowadays market, is really not possible to offer a game at that price, it was better to split it in two, or do a DLC/expansion. So when I finished the game, I was “forced” to price it $25.
- gameplay: I wanted to put more RPG gameplay on this game, more combat, skills etc than Loren. It wasn’t a bad choice on itself, but the main issue was to put too much REQUIRED combat in it. I’m not talking about the random battles, or grinding. That one was also present in Loren but was entirely optional. If I count the required battles (to advance the plot) of Loren and the ones of SOTW, there are 3 or 4 times more in SOTW!! and most people didn’t like it. Also, the clever AI resulted in longer battles after act2 because they could heal/resurrect. It’s a mechanics that is fun to play once in a while but on every battle (for most people at least, there are exceptions of course). The DLC I’m working on is much more similar to Loren under this aspect.
- feature-creep disease: haha it is not a real disease, but it affects many game developers. The fight is nice, but why don’t you add custom battlefield conditions? the items are nice, but more variety? let’s add a random items generator! enemies AI is too dumb, let’s recode it completely! OK I’ll stop here, I think you got what I mean 🙂 Adding features is not a bad thing in general, but adding too many, without thinking about all the extra work needed to test? yep.
In conclusion: I am NOT saying that SOTW was a failure, or is a bad game, or anything. I still think is a great game, sold well and without doubts the best RPG I’ve made so far. However, as you know, when running a business you need to consider the time/resources spent vs money earned. You remember when I said that the game sold more than Loren the first month? Now 3 months have passed and comparing the first 3 months of Loren, SOTW sold less (not by much, but less).
And if I take into consideration Steam? Loren outsold SOTW by ten times or more! 🙁 this might not be about the game itself though, since even other very good games like Roommates didn’t do particularly well after they “opened the floodgates” and several new games are launched daily (Loren could stay in homepage for a whole week, SOTW for less than 8h). It seems you need to put a lot of fanservice to do well with manga games on Valve’s platform (this is a topic for another long post though).
And the problem is that this game budget was twice Loren’s, and the amount of time I’ve spent on it is longer by at least 50%… you do the math 🙂
So what happens now?
Well, I actually had FUN making SOTW. Not always (especially when fixing crazy bugs), but I had fun. However it doesn’t matter much really. If from now I was making always games like SOTW (taking me 10 months of hard work every time), I wouldn’t go out of business, but I would be in serious financial trouble in just 2-3 years… and probably I would be totally burned out (I still am, have problems coding for long hours now).
So I am sorry for those who loved SOTW, but I can say that for sure the upcoming RPGs will be:
- more focused on the story. After all, all my games are story-based, so makes sense to stick with it.
- with less required combat! I can leave grinding open as option. But those playing mainly for the story shouldn’t be forced to play 100 fights 🙂
- more “casual”: an easier interface and rules, so that even non RPG experts can understand and play it. This has nothing to do with actual game difficulty, only with fewer rules, easier to understand. An example: if SOTW was Magic: The Gathering, upcoming games should be Hearthstone 😉 Still very fun, but easy to learn and play.
- better balanced for length/price. Wait, I am not going to make only cheap/short games, I am talking only about my internal management/budget. In practice I need to make sure that I don’t add too much content and spend again so much time/money on a product that then can’t be sold at the price it should be sold!
Sadly my most precious resource now is my own time. To make an example, if I want to make a game more polished, is better to add 10 new CGs, even if artist takes 2 months to draw them, than adding feature XYZ using 2 months of my time. Also because, when I do stuff myself, for obvious reasons I can’t multitask and follow other projects as I should.
Anyway, with everything I’ve said, I’m quite optimistic for SOTW DLC, because it’s like Loren: it focuses on story/romance, has a lot of character romantic interactions, a few battles, a lot of lore and “tough choices” and plot twists 🙂 Hopefully will be out after the Summer!