Category Archives: online games

Downloadables are dead, long live downloadables


In the picture above, Otello happily posing in middle of the flowers. I love spring 🙂

As you could guess from the title, this is a rant-post. I’ve heard so many discussions recently about the dying downloadables, how online games is the future, and so on. It’s a very complex discussion, so I’m not going into every detail (also because I want to talk about my games) however I feel the need to say a few things:

  • “dead markets” doesn’t mean that you cannot make any profit in them. It only means that the main hype moved elsewhere. Also, since there’s less hype, means that there’s also less competition. I believe that as indie, having less competition is much more important than having a bigger potential target market.
  • speaking for my games, in general story-based games works best as single player. I’ve never played a multiplayer game that also was immersive or told me a good story, simply because storytelling requires only one viewer/spectator. If you give other people the possibility to influence a plot or ruin the mood, don’t worry, they’ll absolutely do it (anyone who played a MMORPG surely has met people that would destroy the fantasy setting atmosphere in a second with some typical US-slang words :D)
  • remember that very big portals are still using the downloadables model. Big Fish Games in the casual world, Steam, D2D, Gamersgate, Impulse and others for the more “hardcore/niche” games. They’re not going to disappear overnight, and I believe not even in 5-10 years
  • also as indie, we’re different from big publishers and most of the discussions don’t apply. Look at Spiderweb games. Old-school RPG are dead, right? since about 1990. He is not doing well indeed. He is doing extremely well! As indie (especially if you work alone or in a small team) you don’t necessarily need to sell a $1 game to 100,000 people in a week, but you can have better luck trying to sell a $20 game to “only” 10000 in several years. That makes quite a difference!

That said, of course online games/web games can be profitable! I never said the opposite. Only that they require a completely different subset of skills vs the traditional downloadables, and also on marketing. I am currently doing research to make some online games as well, but it’s a big step for me. Most of the successful online games are run by a team, with a few exceptions, and don’t want to committ myself to something “too big” yet. I could do some experiments though.

For example, an idea I recently had was to add an online mode to Planet Stronghold. You would play online battles (not PvP though, at least initially) and as you win you would get experience, money to spend on better equipment or buying skills, and so on. It would be completely separated from the main game, so that I was even thinking to sell it as stand alone game or maybe use the free-to-play model. However I’m not sure if there’s enough interest to justify the time I’d have to spend to do this (especially coding the server part), even if it wouldn’t be a completely new game since I would be able to reuse good part of the normal offline game system.

In general I think that while visual novel, dating sims, and other similar games gain zero benefits from being online, other kind of games like RPG, simulation, strategy games can become more interesting with new online features.

Speaking of dating / life sim, I’ve made more progresses on Remember Me this week, and some events are really cool like the one below:


Who is this mysterious secret admirer? you’ll have to play the game to find out, even if honestly is not that difficult!

I’ve also got some important news about the other games in development. Flower Shop: Winter In Fairbrook is getting close to the release! I don’t have yet an exact date, but should be before next June, so not much left to wait. I’m currently writing (with help of external writers) and getting the art done for the simulation/RPG game Queen Of Thieves and the comic-RPG game Loren: Amazon Princess. My sports simulation game Universal Boxing Manager 2 is also going on well, even if right now there’s not enough to make a video, since the coder is mostly doing stuff that appears behind the scenes (statistics, AI, gameplay, and so on).

My planned release schedule (which surely will be messed up completely) would be:

  1. Mid/End-April – Remember Me
  2. End of May/June – Flower Shop: Winter In Fairbrook
  3. July/August – Loren The Amazon Princess
  4. September/October – Queen of Thieves
  5. November/December – either the superheroes game or maybe UBM2

Friday catblogging – Happy New Year

Gilda in a basket in the bathroom of my old home. Because we have so many cats, we never had a decorated Christmas Tree, otherwise would be instantly destroyed… 🙂

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone! I have released Planet Stronghold alpha 0.8, which features lot of new content! If you’re interested in trying the demo or buying the game please visit the game website.

Then, a quick update on what you can expect in the next months:

Role Playing Games

Beside Planet Stronghold, which will be finished at end of January 2011, I plan to start 2-3 more RPGs. I love RPGs and I always wanted to make them, but in the past I was lacking proper funds and/or technical knowledge to make decent ones. Now, using Planet Stronghold RPG framework I can expand it and create new RPGs. Most of them will be in fantasy setting though, since it’s the most common/popular one (unless Planet Stronghold is so successful that convinces me to make add-on/sequels). I have already a good collaborator of mine who is starting creating the main game plot, character sketches, and so on. Another one should start hopefully in next months, and I want to do another myself as well. So the 2011 will be surely full of RPGs!

Adventure Games

I am still in love with my character of Vera Blanc, despite the first two episodes not being really topsellers. As I posted several times if I make a third episode, it will be an adventure (first person) and not a visual novel, since the adventure style integrates better with that kind of game. I have already a plot for the story, but since it requires lot of money, it’s still a risky decision, so if I make it, won’t be before next summer, or even later during Fall/Winter of 2011.

Visual Novels / Dating Sims

Of course I’ll keep making them! Flower Shop 2 release is really close, is just a matter of few months. But since is tied to external factors (artists finishing some pieces) I won’t dare to name a date for it. Instead I can already say that very likely the otome game “Remember Me” will be ready around February/March 2011, since the plot is completely written and need only to code the “simulation part” of it and do testing/balancing. Depending how my other projects go, I could make more VN/Dating Sims, but they’ll be mixed with simulation games.

Strategy / Simulation Games

In 2011 perhaps I will finally release the sequel of Spirited Heart. I have yet to start coding it though, so is probably more accurate to say that in 2011 I’ll begin coding it, which is a bit different. It won’t be ready probably before 2012, also because I have in mind some online-features (probably optional) that could improve the gameplay a lot, so I am not sure yet I’ll use Ren’Py to code this one.
There will be for sure more strategy/simulation games coming in 2011 though. A remake of my game Universal Boxing Manager, this time with the fights completlely in 3d realtime, is under production! Is made in partnership with a good 3d coder who is going to use Unity3d to power the 3d simulation. It’s probably my biggest/most ambitious game to date and the 2011 will be mainly focused on it. I hope will do well since I’d like to port more of my old games into 3d or start new ones.
As I said I might also find the time to do a sort of light-strategy/time management game based on Heileen settings. In particular, Heileen 2 settings (pirates, the caribbean). The game could be played as normal strategy game or with visual novel cut-scenes (they’ll be optional). This will be a sort of experiment since I am not sure if/when I’ll finish it. Let’s say I’ll work on it on my spare time and when it’s done, is done 🙂

Online Games

Almost every year I say “next year I’ll make one”. So, this time I won’t say it! But, I would like to try making one, even if I am not sure I’ll find the time…or better, if I’ll find the right person, since I’m probably going to outsource the coding (will be most likely done in Flash or HTML5). Or if the new interesting BRL:monkey project from Mark Sibly (creator of Blitzmax) gets released, I might use that and do everything myself.

So in conclusion, looks like the 2011 will be a year full of new releases! Happy New Year again!!

Vera Blanc: Full Moon on iPhone / iPad and web

Vera Blanc in Full Moon
Just a short blog post to inform everyone that the game Vera Blanc: Full Moon is now available for the iPhone, iPad, and as a webgame.
Check the links below:

The web version in particular is quite interesting since it plays until the demo ends, and you can then purchase the game and enter the purchase email and resume playing the game immediately. Let me know what you think about this solution since I might adopt it even for future episodes of Vera series (which won’t be out before next year, as I said).

Why you shouldn’t compare adventures with other kind of games

Was talking by email with Dave Gilbert of WadjetEyeGames yesterday about some complaints from players for the length of story-based games like adventures or visual novels. Some would say that for $20 they expected at leat 8-10h of “gameplay”, since most other games you find (especially in portals) offers you that.

As I wrote already a few weeks ago in my “how long is it” post, you can’t really compare such kind of games with other games. Take a look at the Hidden Object Games you see in portals: they offer usually 4-5h of gameplay, but they do that using several tricks:

  • first of all, there’s much less text/narration. This isn’t necessarily bad: many people don’t like to read much texts, and that’s why I want also to make some more classic adventure games alongside my actual Visual Novel and Dating Sims. But is much easier to write a story with less dialogues, than come up with a long story rich of plot twists and interesting situations, as you can imagine
  • then they’re filled by minigames. Many minigames are mini-puzzles, so it depends also how skilled you are. But should that count towards the gameplay length? If so, the problem then is not the actual story/plot length but the kind of minigames that are in it. Also the risk is of breaking the narration by putting too many minigames, so there will always be someone unhappy
  • reusing content. Many games reuse locations, for example the same background, but you have to find different set of objects. That’s ok of course, as a game designer I know perfectly that you often have to find a compromise. But is the player really happy about that? I mean, why stretch the story/gameplay recycling stuff, just to “reach 5h of gameplay”?

I understand the complaint of some people, but you need also to understand the amount of work that’s behind those games. Is much easier to come up with a new “reskin” of time management games or even strategy games (unless you put something different). Many RPG made with RPGMaker XP uses all the same tilesets/sprites! So you need to understand how hard is to make adventures, since you can’t recycle/reuse stuff, but everything needs to be drawn from scratch, a interesting story needs to be written, and so on. There is a reason if mainstream AAA companies left adventure games a few years ago. Now they’re coming back a bit because with 3d content is indeed possible to re-use many assets (a new character can be easily created starting from a old 3d model as base).

I really think that the only solution in this case would be recurring to microtransactions but also some online game. If I was selling my Vera Blanc games for $9.99 I probably would sell more copies but would almost for sure make less money overall (believe me I tried so many times to lower prices but I simply couldn’t survive with the revenues).

So I was thinking that a webgame made like an adventure, at a very accessible price (price based on game length) should make everyone happy and at same time being online could get more viral and known, so get more exposure (needed because if I set such low pricetag I need to shift much more copies).

Though I’m sure there still would be someone who complains about price 😀

making of online games, a newbie perspective

If you’re a player, this is going to be a bit tech-boring post, be warned 🙂

I wanted to share what I’ve learnt so far from the release of my first Public Alpha of my game Planet Stronghold. Was a good choice to make it a downloadable? What if was a webgame coded in Flash /JS /Unity ? This is what I think are pro and con of each:

  • the problem of updating: I coded an autoupdater in python. It SHOULD be cross-platform and work everywhere. The first version was a bit bugged and missed some error messages. I don’t have any real statistics but from what I gathered from testers, my guess is that only 10-15% of people couldn’t use it for one reason or another. Still, it’s a good percentage of people!
  • With a webgame, the full asset/code gets updated on SERVER, so there’s no possibility that it fails: that’s a BIG advantage if you’re interested in making a online/MMO game. However be warned, the bandwidth use is going to be HUGE, since most browser have a very small cache of 50mb which means players are probably going to redownload the whole thing everytime.
  • Unless you use JS, you can have pretty much all effect you have with Renpy (with Flash), or a 3d engine (with Unity3d), online. The problem is that python is really one of the best RAD languages, that is most top games like Civilization, The Sims 3 or even Google uses it internally. Damn it, if only there was a working python to SWF compiler…!!! Any coder who’ll make that will be covered by gold, mark my words 🙂

Also, it’s SUPER EASY to make mistakes with online games. A first thing to do is NEVER mix your test server with the live server. For example I uploaded a wrong file last night, and the autoupdater would keep looping, thinking it’s always 1 version below the latest one 😐 Luckily for me Ayu was testing the game and reported the bug, which was only a wrongly uploaded file on server…!!

So for now I’ve learned lession number one. Always do your test in local, and if you really must, have a BACKUP SERVER to do your own tests. Never test anything on the “live” server!!! 😀