Happy holidays and a few postmortems

Lol the title sounds funny, doesn’t it? Since recently I released many games, this year instead of the usual “end of year thoughts”, I’m going to make a sort of quick postmortem for each of them. I’ll talk about the difficulties I had, the ROI (Return of Investment, in other word how much profitable the game was) and so on.

But first of all, my games are discounted on Steam and itchio:

https://store.steampowered.com/pub/winterwolves
https://winter-wolves.itch.io/

TFTU: Hazel

A very Happy Holidays from Hazel

This game really saved my mental health. I was recovering after Planet Stronghold 2 burn-out, and the realization that big games are no longer viable (at least for me) and I was unsure what to do. Then I wrote this game’s first draft almost all at once, in 2 months (about 60k words, more were added later). I went for a cheaper game, even if of course I had the usual “is too expensive” complaints (when in reality there are other VN with not even half of the wordcount and shallow characters sold for same amount lol).

But it went very well. Very good KS, good sales, had a lot of fun doing it. So far one of my best experiences of the last few years.

At Your Feet

Lucy wishing you Happy Holidays

Every time I talk about this game, a smile forms on my face lol. However, I was really pleased by how it did. Despite an average KS, the game itself on Steam did well. And the ROI was good. Most importantly, I laughed a lot while doing it from start to finish. Something that not always happens with all my games. I like writing deep serious stories, political intrigue, fantasy stuff but… sometimes you just want to try something crazy!

Love Notes

A more manga version of Rachel wishing you happy holidays

A game that went OK both on Kickstarter and sales, and fans of the first title seems to really have liked it. From my experience though, nowadays on Steam if you don’t have at least nudity (not erotic stuff, but at least some scenes with tasteful nudity) you can’t possibly hope to get any good sales, and unfortunately this game was no exception.

I don’t think will do any other games that don’t offer at least some optional spicy content, and this of course will limit the number of artists I can use (not many are OK with that).

The Curse Of Mantras

I like this pinup version of Gambaron

Despite the average Steam reviews, this game did well. Not exceptional, but good. However I clearly see some mistakes I did. Premise: I’m already happy that I managed to finish it, considering the super mess that it was. As I posted before, this game wasn’t really planned well, I acted on impulse (started it 8 years ago!) riding the wave of enthusiasm of forum people who kept screaming “add more romances! add male protagonist!” and so on 🙂 My fault of course, but that happened.

It’s one of those games that in today’s market, either are a hit (for my standards of course), or average sellers and in general, give bad ROI. As you can imagine such a big game took a lot of time, money, efforts. And the result … well, since for once I dared to focus not on romance but mainly on the mystery and the various characters backstories, a few people didn’t like the game for that, leaving negative reviews on Steam. Also, many people playing in VN Mode quickly finished it and said there wasn’t enough content. Of course, if you skip the whole card gameplay which can offer at least 25-30h of playtime…!! Perhaps allowing people to skip the card game wasn’t a good move, even if it’s hard to say (I can imagine if I didn’t make the optional VN Mode I’d have complaints anyway).

I had fun during some parts of the development, creating all the cards and so on, but I had to take a lot of breaks to avoid burn-out, and it felt like a chore during the final stages of testing (making sure all the plot worked, testing battles for the 10th time, etc).

Don’t misunderstand thinking it sold badly: it has the highest Kickstarter funding for me so far, and even direct and Steam sales were pretty good. It’s only the same old story repeating, what happened for Planet Stronghold 2: if a game takes 10-12 months of hard work, the ROI needs to be much higher. Otherwise, it’s better to do 2-3 smaller games, and in case of pure VN I don’t even have to go nuts with coding (which of course also add more long-term support because you can find bugs even months after the release!).

I’m not including TFTU: After Midnight of course since it’s too early, but so far impression seems very positive, could be one of the best games I released in last 2-3 years!

Conclusions

Luckily for me, I had fun doing all the games mentioned. For some I had tougher moments, but I think it’s still related to the burn-out I had back in 2020. It’s really bad – is like a disease that I got, and it can resurface anytime I try to do something too complex. When others told me about that I wouldn’t believe it – now that I’ve experienced it myself first-hand I realize that it’s real and is bad.

As I posted earlier this month, I have some eye issues too so it adds to everything.

Anyway, I still plan to finish The Beastmaster Princess and ToA: An Elven Marriage next year, then maybe a couple of smaller and simpler titles, then the next ToA game and so on, until I’ve finished all the four spin-offs! Then I really think might not do RPGs anymore, since they are too time-consuming, unless somehow the next one sells 2-3 times Planet Stronghold 2. But there’s still plenty of time to take that decision.

That’s all for this year. Happy holidays and happy new year!

4 thoughts on “Happy holidays and a few postmortems

  1. JJ

    Happy holidays and thanks for all of your hard work creating these games. I am especially glad to read the positive thoughts about Hazel. That is one of my top two favorite games that you have released (along with Loren The Amazon Princess). I didn’t know what to expect with Hazel because I wasn’t sure about the Tales From The Under-Realm concept, but everything about Hazel was so great. All the major characters were wonderful. The art was fantastic. The theme song was really well done and catchy. The decisions were very interesting. I liked all the major endings. It was a fun ride all the way through.

    Reply
      1. JJ

        I’ll play After Midnight soon. I’ve purchased it and it will be one of the next two visual novels I play. I am looking forward to it. I tend to switch between playing games in several different genres and I’ve been playing strategy games recently.

        Reply

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