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