First of all, an update – ToA: An Elven Marriage beta could be out this Fall, September or October (much depends on editor right now).
I’ve been working on this RPG since past year, taking frequent breaks. It’s taking me so long due to my eye issues (now solved in one eye, but likely will need to do surgery on the other as well) and to avoid burn-out. But also because, making RPGs is very very very hard.
Personal quests design and coding
Just an example, I decided to have even in this game the personal quests. Personal quests are optional quests you can do, for each character in your party. In this case, since the party is made of six people, the personal quests are five (I’m excluding the protagonist).
Each quest consist on a unique storyline, takes into account success/fail (you can fail them and still go on with the story) and offers a custom battle and custom item reward (or in Lydia’s case, a custom new book with alchemy recipes).
Now you can clearly understand how much work is that. Think about the scene, write it (2-3k words of length), design new enemies, design the item reward, balance it, etc. All of this for something that’s also completely optional. In the same amount of time, I could surely have written 20,000 words for a “regular” VN!!!
You can easily see that doing a RPGs is much more complex than a simple VN (if you want to do it properly and not just reuse assets, enemies, items, etc). And you can also see why after I make this game, I’ll need to see how it goes before doing more RPGs.
Doing indie RPGs is no longer viable?
Already after Planet Stronghold 2, which is the most long, and complex game I’ve ever made (easily offering 50h of gameplay) I had my doubts if it was a good move or not to keep going with the RPGs. I decided to do this one because I love doing RPGs and also, because this one is fantasy, vs Planet Stronghold 2 that was sci-fi.
But if even this one will give me disappointing result in sales, then I’ll definitely need to stop and think. I was doing RPGs in the past because each one would earn me from x5 times to x10 times a normal VN. In recent times however, this has changed, especially considering the time spent vs revenues. How? Let me explain.
It’s all about the return of investment (or time)
I’ve already talked about this in the past, but I want to repeat it: even Planet Stronghold 2 sold x3-x4 the amont of a normal VN like the ones I released after (TFTU series, At Your Feet, Volleyball Heaven, etc). So it’s not like the game did badly, not at all. The problem is that took me 1 year full-time to make since I had to do everything myself (design, writing, coding).
For An Elven Marriage I wanted to do it faster, and I tried, but just the design part already took me 4-5 months, and even on the writing side I’m already past 185k words (editing might make it closer to 200k)! Differently from Planet Stronghold 2 though, this time I had Kickstarter funds which will help to recover some of the money and time already invested.
I don’t remember if I already explained this, but for each game I try to keep track of expenses, and the development time (in months, I’m not too accurate). Then, I divide the earnings by the months, getting a sort of “virtual salary”, basically how much I earned each month making that game.
Of course, the longer the development time and the bigger the expenses, the harder is to have a good virtual salary. For example, a simple game like At Your Feet has a higher virtual salary than Planet Stronghold 2… I think I said all lol!
Plan for the future RPGs
Anyway, too early to talk about this. And in any case, don’t worry – I still plan to do all the four Elenor/Saren spin-offs, worse case, they’ll just be simpler VN, or I’ll come up with some other gameplay idea but that’s not as complex as doing a party-based RPG like the one I’m currently doing (an idea could be doing a RPG in which you control just one character and not a party, that would simplify things a lot already I think).