Friday, May 25, 2012

BecauseWeMay sale and game prices

First of all I wanted to inform you that I'm participating to the BecauseWeMay initiative. What is it? Quoting from the website:

We believe that developers should have the freedom to price their games how they like, without interference from the online stores that sell the games. Why? Because it allows us to promote our games more freely, as we are doing here! We rely on the ability to promote our games for our livelihood and control over pricing is an important tool for this purpose.

For the last week of May (May 24 through June 1) our games will be deeply discounted to celebrate online stores that give us control over pricing: The App Store, Google Play, Steam, Desura, IndieVania, and a few others.

I offered my game Spirited Heart + Girl's Love at half price, sold directly and in the Google Play store.

About game pricing

Game pricing is more complex than what people imagine. I often got comments about how my game prices are too high, and I should price them $9.99, because that's what an indie game should cost :)

You can talk about what indie is, what is really worth (3d cutscenes or GAMEPLAY?) and if my games sucks or not. But one thing you simply cannot argue are the statistics. Us developer aren't setting the games prices randomly! At least, I don't. If you're an indie dev you should only listen to your statistics and not what people tell you. Doing occasional sales like this one is fine of course :)

Also, this is my personal experience. I am sure different game types have different audience and prices. I cannot imagine a tower defense or a platform game to cost more than $9.99 for example!

Now, let's see some graphs just to explain better. Below is Spirited Heart Girl's Love revenues graph from the launch day to the BecauseWeMay sale:


...not an impressive bump eh? The fact is that during the release day, all sales came from my own site only and a few affiliates. Instead I got lots of traffic from because we may initiative, but despite having many sales, the half-price really hurts revenues. Still, was a somewhat good result compared to the regular sales. Maybe I should lower game prices then? Let's check Spirited Heart graph instead:


...for this one I didn't even had to go back to the release day to find more profitable days. In two previous occasions, when I sent the newsletter to announce updates about Loren or promote some other game, I got more revenues than for the BecauseWeMay sale. And I got much more traffic from the becausewemay initiative than during those newsletters!

And portals?

But what about portals ? Sadly as you know my experience is very limited, but luckily there are some very indie-friendly portals like Desura. I don't have Spirited Heart there (couldn't make it in time since uses DLC and I don't know yet how to implement it) but I recently put Planet Stronghold, and many people complained about price. So, after a while I did a sale last weekend for $9.99 instead of $24.99, and I promoted it on twitter, and showed up on the "on sale" section of Desura (which I think is the most visited! lol). Result:

Yes, the day of the sale the revenue was slightly higher than release day, and in other two occasions. But what about in the long run ? I am not really sure, considering the increase was so small that could have just been a random thing! Also, I should compare prices without a promotion, because is normal to have higher exposure during a promotional sale...

I will continue to experiment with prices of course, but so far everything seems to confirm that lower prices = lower revenues. I'd be very happy if I could make same amount of money (or maybe more) and at same time make more customers happy, but so far it really doesn't seem the case.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Roommates game

Those who're waiting impatiently for Loren expansion don't worry! We are working on it, but after my blog was monopolized by Loren for about 4 months, I decided to talk about one of my other games in progress: the dating sim set in college life called Roommates.

The setting

You play as Anne or Max and the game takes place in a house on-campus, the Latin House. Max is a singer and a rebel, his plan is to stay in school long enough to save up enough money through part-time jobs to get by without his parent's financial support, then drop out and start a ska band. Anne a small-town girl, studious but very shy and easily embarrassed, Anne thinks that college could be the fresh start she needs to break out of her shell. Her goal is to make at least three new friends while keeping her grades up.

The cast

They share the house with several other characters:

Isabella - A flirtatious Latina with a hardcore edge, she likes to party and have a good time, no strings attached. She wants to try everything at least once. Works at the coffee shop on campus. Openly bi.

Sally - A bleeding-heart, vegan activist girl with a cheerful demeanor, she's always picketing or putting solar panels on roofs or out getting people to sign petitions. She has a weak stomach for horror movies or anything with gore and can't say no to strays, even when you're technically not supposed to keep animals in your dorm room. Works on the college farm.

Rakesh - A chill Indian exchange student that doesn't let much get to him, he is an artist that believes that everything has the potential to be a canvas. Unfortunately, he doesn't always remember to ask for permission before making things into art, leading to some disasters involving other peoples' personal property. The male bi character.

Dominic - The RA (Resident Advisor, basically the person who makes sure people in the dorm aren't breaking major school rules) and a former child prodigy, he considers college serious business and disapproves of most of what the wilder members of the house would consider fun. His rule is iron-fisted, but his ability to keep everyone corralled is probably the only thing stopping the place from burning to the ground. Works as a Teaching Assistant for the lower-level Physics classes.

Plus there will be more secondary characters that will have a role on the story. 


The game is divided into three quarters, with two big breaks (Winter and Spring breaks) and each quarter is made of 6-7 weeks. During each week, some events will trigger and you can choose if to participate to the event or skip it (to save energy for job/studying).

There are 8 different endings in total, each ending is made of a scene CG + kiss CG, sneak peek below:


Max will be able to get an ending with Anne, Sally, Isabella or Rakesh (BxB)

Anne will be able to get an ending with Max, Rakesh, Dominic or Isabella (GxG)

Current progress

The art is at very good point, missing only the backgrounds and the secondary characters. The writing is still at the early stages (first weeks) but since it's a big game will take a while before is finished. The setting is light-comedy with LOTS of fun moments. Think something like the tv show: How I Met Your Mother, to be clear :)

The big change of my future visual novels and dating sims

I am in process of switching to a custom engine made in Monkeycoder language that will allow me to simultaneously release the games for Pc,Mac,Flash/HTML5,iOS and Android (and in theory PSVita, if I really wanted to, but I doubt it). However, it still needs to be finished and tested and will need some more time. But at this point I am thinking to create all the future visual novels / dating sims with the new engine, instead of doing them in Renpy to have to recode them again.

I decided to take this route because at this point seems obvious that none of my games will ever appear on Steam, the only way to make good money with visual novel / dating sims (or any other indie game to be honest). So to survive I am trying this new route that at least gives me more exposure through web and the various appstores, and still grants my usual direct sales as before :)

That means that the imminent new releases this year will mostly be the RPGs, including Loren expansion and Planet Stronghold sequel, since for those I can't use monkeycoder yet, building a RPG engine takes a lot of time! Speaking of Loren expansion, you can see a promo image below:

That is all for now. Have a good weekend!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Loren Amazon Princess is out and postmortem

In case you missed my newsletter or twitter announcement, the fantasy RPG game that kept me busy for the last six months is finally out!

You can download the demo from the game official page:

The postmortem

Making such a big game like Loren was really a tough journey. Now that I have finished it, I can confess that several points during the development of the game, I thought to quit, to cancel it. Yes, I started thinking that perhaps I could reuse the art in a simple fantasy VN, or that I tried to make something beyond my capabilities and was the biggest mistake of my indie career.

If you tried the demo, or purchased the game (thank you!) you'll quickly realize how complex the game is. It's a full RPG, with classes, statistics, skill trees, several characters, a detailed turn-based battle with many tactical choices, quests, different endings, map,  and more.

Now that is finished I'm really really proud of it. I'm happy to have finished it, despite several problems I had to face developing it.

The bad

As I already wrote, the bad is that is a game that is quite hard for a small team to make. I want to thank again Aleema (the writer) and Anima (the coder) for their effort, but even with their help, "assembling" the game was still a real pain.

It was also my fault, because from the initial design, I added lots more skills and more complexity to the game. The result, as you'll notice, is very good since there are lots of different strategies to win the game, lots of different character skills customizations. That's a clear sign that I made a good job with the design, however implementing it was a real NIGHTMARE.

The problem with RPGs is that there are so many gameplay elements linked together, that is easy to break everything: when you fix a bug in a point of the game, there are good changes that you're adding a new one in another point! Add to this that I didn't have an autoupdater in place, and every time I had to reupload the whole game (100mb) I cried.

As you can see, "the bad side" is not really bad because I screwed up something, but because it's just how hard those kind of games are to make. I'd say is the hardest kind of game you can make nowadays.

So, now I know that if I ever start a new one beside the already planned expansion, will need to restrain myself from adding too many features, because each new feature is extra pain to debug and extra weeks to test.

The good

I had a fantastic support from several people who pre-ordered the game as soon as it was out, and helped a lot during the beta testing phase. The beta testing lasted two months, during those I had lots of feedback: both bugs/typos report but also very good suggestions to improve the gameplay.

Of course I wasn't able to implement all of them, but the ones I implemented really helped making the game even better than it was.

I think the final result is awesome - I usually am pretty modest with my games, but this time I'm breaking the rule, because I think Loren is the best game I've ever made and I'm not even sure if I'll ever make a better one.

Yesterday I sent the game PR and a BIG site showed interest in reviewing it, even if I know from past experience that I must not get too much excited until I see the actual review.


Even if I sent it just yesterday, I can say that the press release was the usual disappointment, the game was mostly ignored (except that big site above that I won't mention now) and people quickly labeled it as "just another bishoujo game" just looking at screenshots. But that's something I am used to :)

I was however pleasantly surprised to see how much traffic I got from social network like Twitter, Facebook, etc. Seems really like that lots of people started talking about the game. Not journalists, not websites, but people who discovered the game through other friends, the infamous word of mouth!

In the end, is still too early to draw any conclusion. Anything can happen from now until the end of the month, and will most likely decide if I'm going to make more games like Loren in future or not. So if you're reading this and enjoyed Loren, and want to see more games like this, you know what to do - spread the word about it. Contact the big websites and tell them to review it - maybe they'll listen to you more than they listen to me ;)