Changing your mind

Before I explain, let’s start with some famous quotes:

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein
Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

I agree with them completely, and this applies to game development as well. What I am referring to, exactly?

The “indie freedom”

You probably hear  around the net the story that indies means independent, so are free to do what they want. Well, yes as indie you’re free to do any game you want. However if you want to survive doing commercial games, you CAN’T do what you want 😉

I don’t mean that you need to do what some “developers” do, that is looking at the top selling games and cloning them (also because very often this system doesn’t work at all). But I mean listening to your customers’ feedback, and analyzing sales to understand what people want, and not just what maybe a “vocal minority” says.

For example after the past year I clearly understood that what made people love Loren wasn’t the RPG part, but the story/romances. I understood that while SOTW was my best RPG, it wasn’t my best game (or at least the most popular). And so on.

Changing your mind means changing direction, and create the future games adapting to the market and what (the majority of) people want. Obviously, you can also just follow your personal interest and do niche products, as long as they provide enough income to support you (sadly with SOTW wouldn’t have been the case).

Prototyping and testing

This is not really new, but worth repeating for the few people who don’t know about it: an essential process of developing a game is brainstorming, testing the ideas and keep the good ones (at least the one you think are good of course).

For example, I’ve recently resumed coding Queen Of Thieves, in particular the “robbery missions”.

timelimitAs you can see in the screenshot above, I thought to use a very common stealth mechanic: each action would generate noise (even if in the game Joanne will use her magic to reduce it) and so it could increase by triggering traps, or fighting (guards, watchdogs, etc).

The only way to reduce it was to hide and wait, using time. Finally, you would have a certain amount of time to complete the robbery, before morning arrives.

The idea seemed fine: but when I asked for feedback in forums, I had the first doubts. People complained saying that it could lead to a luck-based gameplay, and as a consequence not really funny. I thought that since the mission are randomly generated, it wasn’t a big deal, but decided to make a few tests myself, and I discovered that indeed was a bad idea!

First because of what people said (good/bad luck would have too much weight) and also because the size / amount of rooms of those building won’t be really big. So the “hide and wait” mechanic was also a bit pointless if you could explore the buildings in 10-12 moves 😀

The result is that I’ve immediately discarded the idea, without even needing to do any public testing. Yes, I’ve changed my mind!

Making “tough business choices”

Somewhat related to the first point, I also realized in the course of the last two years, about certain choices that had to be done, despite I wasn’t really happy about it. The first one was to reduce the amount of complexity in games, a bit because they weren’t helping sales, but also because I was getting burned out while working on them.

It’s better to release a few more simpler games, than none at all for a year (like past year!). Also, even if you like a particular genre, but it’s hard to make and there’s the risk of getting you burned out, you need to take that into account. That’s why I’ve decided to keep making RPGs, but not so often as in the past.

Another “tough choice” I had to make was to treat people professionally and expect the same in exchange. If someone suddenly stopped responding, or delayed too much a project, in the past was chasing them, trying to understand what was going on, trying to motivate them, etc.

Thinking about it, I was a bit of a fool, and wasted of my own time. If someone that’s being paid to do something behaves that way, it’s his/her problem and not mine. This also led me to do some “selection process”, so the people I’m working with now are much more professional than what was happening in the past, and as a consequence more reliable 🙂

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37 Responses to Changing your mind

  1. 0xrenx0 says:

    I believe you need more games with cats. Cats are awesome. Cats are awesome. Cats are awesome. Look at the swinging pendulum: cats are awesome!

  2. lilypuff says:

    Actually, I liked everything about Loren, even the RPG elements, except for the part that I couldn’t take “time off” from story progression and instead focus on mindless grinding. As such Loren was more of a VN, as you could do nothing but move forward…but that’s cool, seeing as your games actually ARE based on the VN idea. The only way for me to have liked Loren better was if it had more…well, everything…again. More RPG. More weapons and armor. More graphics. Lots and LOTS more romance, shameless flirting and teasing (Chambara style!) and drama scenes. And more kissing. Seriously man, a single kissing scene (that even a Disney movie would’ve thought a bit sexually lacking) after all that romantic build-up was torture. Oh, and more cats, ofc. Can’t forget the cats 😉

    SOTW did indeed have a better RPG system and more graphics, but I found it quite a bit lacking in jawdroppingly hot romance. It seemed like you had decided to play it safe, maybe because you wanted to “go back to your roots” or in some other way distance yourself from Loren’s (and the upcoming sequel’s) more adult oriented romance theme. I guess it’s wrong of me to compare it to Loren, as SOTW was different in lots of ways, but Loren was my first Winterwolves game, and moved me on so many levels, while SOTW barely “plucked my string”. I really wanted my main character to sweep my love interest off her/his feet, or the other way around (it really didn’t matter…as long as SOMEONE fell into somebody’s arms), but as it turned out…there wasn’t any swooping. I don’t care what Alistair says, sometimes “swooping” is good. VERY good!

    Finally, and I’m just saying this…for no specific reason….that if someone just so happened to make an RPG MAKER version of Loren…well, whoever you are, my money are waiting for you.

    • admin says:

      Well while I did SOTW there have been a lot of events. You probably don’t remember it, but in practice until 2014 (Loren went on Steam January 2014) sexy or nudity in games was considered the bane of all players, Steam was censoring it, etc etc. Lots of complaints from gamers/journalists/whatever, bla bla. So when I planned SOTW, I played it safe as you said. Then somehow, hentai games made it on Steam, and hop! Everyone was happy to play porn games 😀 Including journalists that until the previous year were shaming people for playing them.
      That was my biggest WTF moment in recent developing career.
      Anyway, Loren 2 still has optional sexy stuff, and while not ALL my games will have it for obvious reasons (games like C14 dating or Never Forget Me are more on the cute side) from now on I won’t let myself to be influenced by what people say anymore regarding sexy content.

      • lilypuff says:

        …hentai games has made it to Steam? Really? I must have been sleeping, because this is the first time I’ve heard about it. But…it can’t be the real stuff…right? Maybe some some legs here, a couple of breasts there…but not true Ero games? I’m pretty sure that Steam would’ve been banned, sued and buried if that was the case.

        • Miakoda says:

          There are some games with sex scenes which can be reinstated with no censoring via adding a patch, or changing a file.

          Some people would call such a game as hentai, while others would say more hardcore stuff would qualify.

        • Franka says:

          Even the censored version of HuniePop is pretty hentai. I mean, all it adds is semi-transparent panties, as far as I can tell.

          Steam’s new policy seems to be pretty much anything goes, as long as there’s an age gate.

          • admin says:

            Yes the trick is having an age gate, AND a “workaround”. Like a patch to unlock the nudity.
            Otherwise, the only other way is to have an official rating, which costs thousands of dollars and are obviously out of the reach of indies like me (and even if I had the money for sure I’d rather spend it on making the games than getting a rating!! :D)

        • Wererat42 says:

          Kindred Spirits will be released on Steam with all erotic scenes intact. However if I’m not mistaken the sex scenes in that title are extremely softcore, don’t think you ever even see any genitals.

    • jules says:

      I agree with everything you said! And an RPG MAKER version of Loren would be great if the CG’s could be included at the main points of the history…

  3. Franka says:

    Working with other people is stressful. Most of us aren’t psychotic types who can turn off our feelings and concerns. During my education I was working with groups of people for nearly a decade, and I’ve worked with all types, from the reliable people, who always have their assignments ready on time, to the ones who either didn’t have the skills or the motivation to deliver anything at all. The worst thing you could do often was to try and get involved in solving their problems or trying to motivate them.

    While I was ultimately not responsible for how well each person did, it’s impossible not to feel responsible for the project as a whole, and when one person drags the whole thing down, everybody suffers. When your work ends up being graded as a group effort, you have to cover for the weak links in the group. I wish I could have outsourced instead and fired those people. 🙂

    As an employer, a boss, at least you’re in a position to make the hard decisions. It can be rough, but I’m glad to hear you’ve toughened up a bit, because in that situation it’s not your responsibility to cover for the weak links. In the end, as the publisher, you’re the only one who will really be graded, regardless of who you employed to do what. So you’d better employ the people who make you look best!

    • admin says:

      Thanks. Yes I unfortunately was a bit too “soft” (or other might say friendly, understanding). However in last year I clearly discovered that doing it wouldn’t work. It would also be a pity vs all the other people who worked on a game. To be fair I was also a bit badly organized myself.
      Now I think I’ve found a good system:
      1) first I’ll do all the writing for the story
      2) then do the art
      3) as last the coding

      2 and 3 could change depending on game type, for example in a RPG you change the GUI/gameplay so often that probably is better to wait before commissioning the art 🙂
      But this way, I only need to check 1 thing at time. First the writing, then art, then assemble everything.
      Last year I was in a CRAZY situation in which I had to check 7-8 writers, 5-6 artists, on 8-9 different project. It was already hard to just remember what everyone was supposed to do 😀
      Now when I see someone is slowing down one part of the process I give an “ultimatum” (in reality I’m still quite friendly) but if they cannot met a deadline I change them. It’s better than having to wait. And for artist knowing exactly what they must do from start to finish is better even for them, to organize everything.

  4. Ronda says:

    Sorry I have not yet played PSCD like my earlier comment I had the name mixed up with the original Planet stronghold. But plan on buying PSCD in the next 2 weeks. And I hope this year goes better with all you have learned. I love the stroys you write for games and I plan to keep buying them

  5. redsimon says:

    Quick question: When will PSCD be released on Steam?
    And if we have bought PSCD already, will we get a Steam key then?

    • admin says:

      Yes you’ll get a Steam key like always. I recommend buying direct so you can play immediately, since I have no clue when will be on Steam, might pass even 3-4 months. They’re very slow replying now, and I don’t have time to do a Greenlight page for the game 😛 Besides, this time should be possible to sync the achievements unlocked on Steam directly 🙂

  6. Michael says:

    hmm. I’m guessing by the sound of things, that the Yuri Nicole will be put into the basement and left down there for a while. As a fan of yours; I both respect the decision, and am saddened by it at the same (if indeed that’s one of the sacrifices you’re making).

    I think you should definitely pump more of the Heileen type games (dating, jobs, etc.) since you already have the formula down. Just add special touches here and there like you always do 🙂

    Good luck, and I’ll be wishing you a healthy 2016, in every sense of the word.

  7. Alex Brossart says:

    As I said though emails I liked it not because of the romance, though I won’t lie and say it was part of the reasons I bought it, but as time went on I liked because you making a game cheaper/last as long as huge game studios did I.E. KOTOR again I know bioware has romance in practically every game but it’s the length and replayibity I am talking about.

    • admin says:

      Well my games are considered “short” when are 100k words only… for many other companies, 100k is a medium/long game… so… 😀
      Wolves Power!!! mouhahaha!

      • Alex Brossart says:

        Well I just wanted to say that I can’t beat Planet stronghold or bionic heart 1 or 2 on final note.

        • admin says:

          Check forums. I don’t have time to reply personally to everyone with walkthrough or tips, otherwise I would get nothing done, sorry.

  8. Ronda says:

    sorry lost my forum login stuff so I found a bug in PSCD episode 10 or 11 it switched the names for Ex whater guy and the prince in hiding guy.. so that the pictures are the same but the name under the pic is wrong and the person that shows in event is wrong guy

    • admin says:

      Uhm sorry I don’t understand, the speaker name is wrong ? if you press F1 you’ll see a text on top-left of screen, can you tell me what it says (so I can see in which point of the code is the problem).

      • Ronda says:

        The reason I don’t bug test… I checked the page you have for the game and the names on my characters are correct I just somehow had the names and faces switched in my head . Going to restart and try to memorize them

        • Miakoda says:

          It’s alright. There are a lot of characters. I promise the next *name withheld* game will be much smaller 😉

          • Ronda says:

            spoiler..YOU DID THE JEALOUS SCENES!!!!
            I was (sob) just trying to cut corners and have to replay less for each ending and and then I got those scenes and after the first one I knew what they were but I ended up breaking my heart with guilt watching every cheater scene I had earned before reloading at way earlier save I made because I knew this was a possibility. Sorry can’t complete the game were I rip someones heart out. (actually love how my actions have an effect on the game but sob I feel so bad >.< ) spoiler

          • Miakoda says:

            Sorry to cause you anguish on the jealousy scenes.

            More seriously, there will be other jealousy scenes in the DLC romances. I did have to make a generic one for some of the additional ones, but there will still be a good number of original ones.

  9. Alexander Brossart says:

    Sorry for spamming you with emails I just never got a reply and I know this isn’t the best place to put them but if you want me to instead I can.

    • Ronda says:

      once a game is old enough jake err admin is great about having walkthroughs in the forums just click the forums then the name of game unless it is new there is a walkthrough or link to one (reasons why I love these games walkthroughs save my sanity with so little free time)

    • Miakoda says:

      Ronda is right. And if you have a specific question, a lot of other people will even give you some tips/tactics on how to beat some games as well there.

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