Planet Stronghold 2 is out on Steam and future RPGs

The game has been out since a while on my site and a few days on Steam:

Before I go on with the bad news, I want to be clear: the game isn’t doing bad, indeed is more or less in line with my other RPGs, but it’s definitely way below my expectations. It’s still early days of course, but I can already see a bit the future trend since launch week is the most important in a game and you can already see the long term outcome. And it’s not just Steam, even sales on my own sites during past months weren’t what I expected, but I was hoping that maybe most people were waiting to get it on Steam.

Now I’ve tried to understand why, since considering the amount of effort, I expected much much more. I thought about the setting (sci-fi will ALWAYS lose against fantasy, no matter what your opinion is about it) or the fact that was a sequel, or the bad release timing due to global pandemic or top AAA titles… the reality is that it could be all of those or none.

As I said, it’s not like the game “flopped”, also because it’s too early to say. It could just be “the new normal”, since talking with other indies they all had really terrible launches recently (something that after taxes and Steam cut, aren’t even enough for minimum wage!).

Future RPGs (the bad news for some)

this scene with Milo was some kind of prophecy? πŸ™‚

In any case, even if maybe it’s just a bad moment and in future sales might pick up again, I realized that I simply cannot do such a thing anymore. I mean, embark on the journey of making such a big game. I’m not talking about “all RPG” in general, but the combination of big cast, long story and RPG gameplay. Of course, this means for example a game like Loren 2 is on permanent hiatus until further notice.

Doing this game really wore me out, both physically and emotionally and it’s pretty clear that I need to change. No worries I’ll still be making games: visual novels, maybe with some simple gameplay (card games or adventure or puzzle or things like this), but much “shorter” ones, and this time for real (they’ll still probably be much longer than the average though!). And maybe I’ll start exploring other game genres as well.

This doesn’t mean will slow down the releases, on the opposite once I recover from this burn out I might actually be increasing them (still trying to keep a good quality, because short doesn’t mean bad). Volleyball Heaven should be out in a couple of months max (last parts are being scripted right now). I expect maybe Summer In Trigue to be out too later this year.

But big long and complex games? Curse Of Mantras will likely be the LAST big game I’ll ever make (seriously 10 love interests!). Since I already started working on it and spent already a lot of money, I don’t want to give up (plus I really enjoy card games myself).

However, other RPGs like… Roger Steel? That one is canceled, sadly. I offered the rights back to the original writer so maybe he’ll still be able to make something out of it and I wish him luck. There’s a lot of art, so maybe I’ll see if I can put together a simple game (match3 or something) for cheap so people can see them and maybe I can recoup the costs a bit. But in any case, such big games are no longer in my immediate plans, for two simple reasons.

First, I fear doing such games it’s not economically feasible anymore in this climate/market. Cursed Lands did very well but it was 2 years ago (and it had “only” 6 love interests, not 10!!!), and 2 years is a lot of time in this business. But even if was economically possible…

It’s too draining (you might not believe it, but it is). It requires an insane effort on my side, and when I’m done, I am completely stressed and burned out. I kept doing it after Loren because I saw that fans seemed to like them, but I need also to think about my health. I’m not as young as before, and I noticed I get tired much easily. And this is of course bad for business. If I get burned out like this, means that other games will get delayed too. Thank God Volleyball Heaven was almost done beside some scripting. If I had to write it myself, or just the storyboard, I would be KO for months.

Also doing VN/RPG means people will judge both the writing and the gameplay. It’s much harder to please people with both things. If you make a game with a good story, like Heirs & Graces, it will have great ratings on Steam. If you make a game with gameplay too, people might love the story but not gameplay. Thumbs down. People might like gameplay but hate the story. Thumbs down. Etc etc you got what I mean.

Conclusions and future

In conclusion I’m sad for those who liked my big huge RPGs, but from now on I can’t possibly see myself doing another. Maybe I’ll change my mind in future but if this happens will be in YEARS. Not next year, not in two years. For real.

On the positive side (because I’m an optimist and I like to always look at the bright side) those who liked my more “simple” games will be happy since that’s what I’ll do next. And it doesn’t mean only games like Bionic Heart, C14 Dating, Nicole, Roommates. Also fantasy games. Because even if I don’t want to do insanely big games anymore, I can still make fantasy VNs set in Aravorn! And I can mix in some strategy or adventure or other gameplay elements. Just something that won’t require me to code 150 skills, draw 50 isometric maps, design 120+ enemies, playtest 100 encounters, etc etc πŸ˜›

I have already some story ideas in mind. Stay tuned.

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41 Responses to Planet Stronghold 2 is out on Steam and future RPGs

  1. Errapel says:

    As sad as I am, I really get it. Your health and wellbeing is far more important. I do love your work and will continue to buy it.

    I haven’t bought Planet Stronghold 2 yet because my home internet is down so I can’t download it. But it is a game I’m looking forward to playing.

    • admin says:

      Thank you! <3
      And yeah, I'm sad too, it's kind of end of an era for me. To be honest, already at beginning of PS2 development I was sort of dreading the insane effort that was before me. When I finished it I was really happy since I think is my best game (of course it's OK if you don't like sci-fi etc) but I was totally exhausted, angry, etc. I remember my wife was very worried for me. I don't want to make her so worried again πŸ™‚
      Besides I think focusing on smaller games might actually turn out to be a better thing also for the quality, I guess we'll see.

  2. Hekatontarch says:

    If it’s any comfort, I’m still looking forward to this, but I’m an iOS player. So I will have to wait till it’s released there.

    • admin says:

      Sorry but I don’t think I’ll release games anymore on iOS – the coder I was using is too busy and not sure if/when he’ll have time to do it πŸ™

  3. Katic says:

    Sorry to hear man. Do you think Loren 2 is a bad idea? Wasnt the first your best selling game?

    Kinda think you may have been affected by the pandemic. Lot of US people arent working at the moment and the government is doing practically nothing to help.

    • admin says:

      A game like Loren 2 isn’t necessarily a bad idea on itself, but simply I don’t think I can do it anymore. One of my writers suggested splitting the game into several smaller stories or something. That is already something I could think about.
      And yes it could be the pandemic but in any case it’s really not about the sales, but that such big games wear me out and I’m too burned out. I don’t want to experience this again anytime soon πŸ˜›

  4. Bitow says:

    That really sucks, i am one the RPG/VN lovers wanting Loren 2. But it is understandable and i hope things get better for you soon.

    I hope that even if you stop doing the RPG/VN in the future, for some reason, Loren 2 can still come out as a VN only. But i will keep playing your games anyway, i loved all of them so far. (I played the ones that had yuri in it =X)

    Wish you the best!!

    • admin says:

      Thank you πŸ™‚
      Yeah if it’s only a VN and maybe split in smaller games, it would be something feasible I think!

      • Seenstar says:

        As someone who got into your games when Loren was released and appeared in the Steam store homepage, I am disappointed about Loren 2 being canceled, but I do understand.

        I would fully support Loren 2 going full VN with no RPG elements. At the least please use the new LIs, like Selith and Breza, in other games. Especially my favorite bad girl Jul!

        • admin says:

          Yes I’m currently thinking what to do, but I wouldn’t want to waste all that art, so worse case I’ll try to come up with some smaller VNs featuring some love interests. Not soon in any case since I need first to finish a few more games (CoM etc) πŸ˜›

          • Bitow says:

            It is good to know there is a possibility, I so want to see a Chambara continuation. She was my favorite in the game

          • admin says:

            Of course! Loren 2 was a project, but because I’m no longer making that, doesn’t mean we can’t see those characters anymore in other games πŸ™‚ I had already planned several other games with Chambara as cameo/NPC for example.

  5. Cay Reet says:

    I actually came to Winter Wolves for the two Vera Blanc game first of all, but I’ve bought your RPGs and a lot of your VNs as well. I’m a huge fan of your life sims/dating sims and I’m looking forward to new stories, no matter the genre you work in. A second Loren would have been great, but I can understand that it’s a lot of work and there’s a lot of energy going into it. I’m definitely looking forward to your upcoming VNs and curious about gameplay elements you might introduce with them.

    • admin says:

      Thank you! Yes there are many other gameplay types that aren’t as complex as RPGs, or even RPG but done in a simpler way than I’m doing now πŸ™‚

  6. LaD1x says:

    I am new to your games, but I have enjoyed all of them, and I will buy and support your work (as long it has yuri in it),and like my mom says ” Your health is first or I beat the shit out of you”.

    Love and support from a Danish BOYYYYYYYY

  7. FormulaWars says:

    That’s understandable. I hadn’t picked it up since I wasn’t making many recreational purchases during COVID, but did grab a copy just now.

    I found Winter Wolves via Loren, with Seasons being my favorite title. I can’t imagine the work that goes into scripting and making an RPG, so backing off isn’t something I can condemn. But at the same time, I’m mainly an RPG fan and not really into VNs. So while I’m looking forward to PS2, I’m not sure how many more smaller VNs I’d wind up picking up.

    Either way, games are all well and good, but your health (especially for us closer to middle age than youth) is key. Hopefully you can take a breather with the game launched.

    • admin says:

      Thank you. As said, while I’m probably doing a few VNs next, I can still make RPG or strategy/sim/etc. They just don’t need to be so big. Big RPG+big cast/story = burn out πŸ˜€
      Smaller cast, more casual RPG are OK. I want to do a Puzzle Quest RPG style for example. Those kind of stuff can still be done πŸ™‚

  8. Chiquili says:

    Is planet stronghold 2 so big that it has exhausted you? I’ve only played Loren and seasons, and next week I’m thinking of buying planet stronghold 2 on steam.

    Thx for the work.

    • admin says:

      Yes! It’s the biggest game. 350k words of story, a LOT of branching, you can continue previous romances/story, you can break up with existing romances, etc. Plus the RPG part with isometric map, crafting, etc. It was CRAZY πŸ˜€

  9. Robby W says:

    As much as I love your work, you seem a bit delusional those days. You are expecting good sales in the middle of a pandemic and mass lockdowns?! A lot of people in the world don’t even know if they will have food to eat next week, there are mass unemployment in many countries, others are mourning their losses, it’s only natural that non-essential things (like games) will suffer from low sales.

    I was hyped for this game since last year but now I won’t be able to buy it for at least 3 or 4 months and I believe that many others are in the same boat. Perhaps you could do a similar post after all this and compare with the current one to see how things changed.

    Anyway, I wish you good luck and good health!

    • admin says:

      Wait, I know it’s a bad moment now, but as I posted (at least I think I did) even the early pre-orders/sales back in Summer/Fall 2019 weren’t as good as I expected.
      Anyway, for sure I’ll see what happens when this madness is over! πŸ™‚
      Thanks and stay safe too.

  10. blitzen says:

    I’m very sad to hear that Loren 2 is cancelled as it’s the one I have been most looking forward to. But I completely understand about being burned out. Your mental and physical health are the most important thing. I hope you take care of yourself.

    If it helps, I have been playing Planet Stronghold 2, and it’s everything I expected it to be and more. Congratulations, you’ve made a really good, complex, and fun game. So many choices and outcomes, so many different romances! I’m going to play it through again this weekend. It was a really really long wait for this game, but it was worth it in the end. Thanks for your hard work and dedication.

    • admin says:

      Thanks, as I posted in other comments, I still plan to find an use for all the art (maybe make some “smaller” games with 4-5 love interests). And there can still be cameos or NPCs featuring Loren characters like I did in Cursed Lands for example.
      Cool about PS2, basically everyone who played it said it’s my best game, so that’s why I was a bit disappointed by the launch results πŸ˜›

  11. yuri says:

    I feel like you are indeed taking the right step in moving away from Loren 2 right now. However, cancelling it outright is the wrong move! You’re burnt out from doing all the work on a large project like PS2, what you need right now is a 1-2 year break and working on small projects is the way to go. Afterwards, when you see the amount of work you already did for Loren 2 you’ll be more reinvigorated and ready to tackle it head on!

    • admin says:

      Yes perhaps you’re right. But also splitting it, reusing the characters into smaller games is a good idea too. Also because it’s hard to give enough time to each romance when you do a big game. Instead splitting it like into 4 parts with 4 love interests each, each story would be much longer. Need to think about it since obviously it’s not something that will happen in the immediate anyway πŸ™‚

  12. camelotcrusade says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and creativity with us, as always. Your games have always been a bright spot in my life. As a fellow creative, I believe at some point we *need* to create to feel fulfilled, so I know you will be back at it soon. ?

    Moving on to Plant Stronghold 2, you’re very self-aware so your remarks surprised me. You are already are of the dangers of “build and they will come,” and you’ve learned firsthand that effort can yield good reviews but it doesn’t predict strong sales — at least, not nearly as much as price point, setting, and appeal do. What made you think it would be different this time?

    You knew PS2 was a niche game, so you also knew the tremendous effort you put into it had an opportunity cost. For example, even a mediocre Loren 2 might have been a bigger seller, to say nothing of a “worth the wait” version. Did you feel PS2 had to be exceptional to be successful? If so that’s another sign of risk that you probably recognized. (You might have said all this in a blog already, too; I’m just thinking out loud here).

    All that said, I understand that the muse “is what it is” and forcing yourself to make something you aren’t ready (or don’t want to) make can be unpleasant (even excruciating). I guess figuring out how to work *with* your inspiration rather than in spite of it is what makes this job viable, and I’m so sorry it didn’t meet your expectations this time. I’m still planning to buy the game, once my addition to Anno 1800 wears off. :p

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your nice words πŸ™‚
      Yes probably could be that with PS2 simply I had too high expectations ! to be clear as I already pointed out in hte blog it didn’t do bad, but considering the effort I expected more.
      It might simply be that niche games like mine have a sort of maximum threshold of popularity/sales that cannot be exceeded anyway – so it’s just pointless to try to break it, and just make the games accordingly.
      For sure this was more a work of passion than something I calculated well from the commercial point of view – because in that case even the “already expensive for indie standards” price of $25 was definitely too low considering the amount of content πŸ˜›

      • camelotcrusade says:

        Thanks for your reply, sir, and I agree the market realities are unforgiving. I also think they can be surpassed at times (and I know you do, too) but I must ultimately agree that’s a white elephant and nothing to plan on when bills are due.

        Also: I wanted you to know I just bought the PS2 game today — full price — to support you. I plan to play it soon and add to the growing list of happy reviews. ?

        PS – And whatever more you do in Aravorn, I will be there!

        • admin says:

          Haha thank you for the support! πŸ™‚
          And yes I am already planning more fantasy games after this steampunk match3 and Curse Of Mantras.

          • camelotcrusade says:

            Jack, I’ve played the game now for about 25 hours and I’m just SO impressed with what you’ve done with the platform and the experience. I can’t believe it’s a VN, an RPG, and on the same engine other people can barely use to tell a story. You’re truly one of a kind and I’m so glad you share your creativity with us!

          • admin says:

            Haha wow, thank you a lot! It was indeed a LOT of effort πŸ˜€ I’ve never been so burned out after finishing a game like this time. Even removing the RPG aspect, just considering the plot only, it has so many variations and branches (and when you get to the endings, you’ll see it’s even “worse” lol)! Glad you’re enjoying the game πŸ™‚

  13. vic says:

    When I was searching for Planet Stronghold 2 on Steam, I found the first one, the colonial one, but the 2nd one was harder to find. Could that be a factor?

  14. camelotcrusade says:

    @vic @admin

    I think Steam a while ago introduced content filters where you can block certain game types or genres (sports, horror, etc.) from showing up if you just aren’t interested in them, and you can pick “hide ignored games.” It’s been a while since I’ve fiddled with it, but it could be something like that?

    In any case, why not send them to a direct link?

  15. sj says:

    I’m super late to this, because I only just now finished (playing it while also working from home and trying to be a somewhat responsible adult… but I did it!). I’ve bought several of your games in the past and enjoyed them all, both rpg and visual novel. I wanted to actually leave a comment this time, because of the blog posts. I understand your decision completely, and I’ll be there to buy your new games, no matter what they are. But I also want to tell you that I enjoyed PS2 the most out of any of your games so far, and I’ve been playing since Loren (which, until now, still stood as my favorite). I know it took a lot out of you to make, and that you aren’t sure whether or not such an effort is worth it in the end. But please know that I really enjoyed this game, for what it’s worth, and I was surprised at how emotional it was. The ending actually impacted me far more than I thought it would, and it left me thinking – which is one of the things I look for in a game, and I don’t often find. I was more attached to some characters (you can probably guess) than I thought! And while I liked the gameplay a lot (I was a big fan of the different skill sets), in my mind the rpg stuff isn’t what makes your games interesting to play. I’ll still be there for the rest of it!

    Anyways, all of this is just to say thank you for the work you spent on this game, and I really loved it. I can’t wait to see what you do next!

    • admin says:

      Thanks! Yes I consider it too my best game but since I wrote it myself, I could be considered not impartial so I didn’t want to say it too loudly πŸ˜›

      I discovered that the Steam launch traffic was weird (I posted on twitter) so, “somehow” (because there isn’t clear data) the game launch was completely ruined by some bug on Steam that basically zeroed the traffic for a week.

      Still, I don’t plan to make such big games anymore for reasons explained it the post. I hope to make some shorter games but that can still leave people thinking after they’ve finished playing, because I agree with you that’s the best thing for any story (not just games).

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