Ooops
November 29, 2020, 08:27:29 PM

Author Topic: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations  (Read 770 times)

Offline Matty

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
    • MattiesGames
Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« on: August 06, 2020, 04:47:37 AM »
Greetings.  I'll tell a little story...some of you know this already.

I've been a hobby developer since I was a kid and never had any commercial interests in making my games...until 2015.

The story below deals with things in the past that I've moved on from but I need to tell it to describe the change in my attitude that has occurred.

So in 2015 I started making yet another game that I had planned on being a hobby game.

I showed early video footage of it on a number of forums, my workplace and to friends.

At the time it was rather novel in that it showed off some fairly flashy 3d graphics on a mobile device that wasn't as common at the time.

I had some excitement generated in various groups.  A number of people suggested it had potential for in their eyes considerable money making opportunity.

I'd never been in a position where this was suggested.

A publisher contacted me but we didn't go ahead with their plan.  I contacted artists until eventually one was recommended to me.

Anyway...my experience was a considerable let down when it came to the first six months after release.

After considerable effort I had not made more than 10 sales of which 6 or 7 were people I knew.

Anyway...as time went on I made other games with similar low levels of success.   I was less surprised by it now though.

Moving forward to this year-I made Warlock for the game comp which I felt was my best attempt for a long time.

I also put it on browser game sites that earn advertising revenue.

With my previous experience commercially I didn't expect the Earth but I was still underwhelmed by the financial rewards.  I earned 1 cent in USD from one site in the first month and nothing thereafter.

But I had learned to take it a lot easier.  To accept the difficulty in earning money.  That was a fine.

Since it has been released I've monitored its usage on my website and also for a brief period I experimented with some google ads to get players to mainly help with observing play statistics-eg minutes played by users and return visits.

All of this is very useful.

Useful because it has matured me from the wildly optimistic naive man I was in 2015 thinking I could earn a decent chunk of cash to now, when I get an offer from a small mobile publisher I have the experience to know that at best I'll earn 1 cent from any deal.

It's kind of like several face plants into the concrete floor of reality have prepared me to be able to dismiss offers made to me as mass market emails rather than being taken in and thinking someone wants my game and I could actually earn from it.

It was a massive trap to fall into in 2015 but a good lesson.  Helpful to train me.

The bitterness I felt say in 2016 and 2017 has been replaced with a form of cynicism and acceptance of the massive unlikelihood of earning any degree of cash from games made that I like playing.

Note...none of this seems to apply to developers of games made to suit specific known niches in the casual market so ignore everything I've said if you make card games, match 3 games, hidden object games and such.

Offline blinkok

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 269
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2020, 05:06:11 AM »
The best advice i ever received was to think of the market as a big ugly blob.
Just keep throwing stuff at it until it doesn't come back.
- That was from Singo

Offline Derron

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3265
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2020, 06:29:59 AM »
Quote
Useful because it has matured me from the wildly optimistic naive man I was in 2015 thinking I could earn a decent chunk of cash to now, when I get an offer from a small mobile publisher I have the experience to know that at best I'll earn 1 cent from any deal.

Or do not let you pay in "shares". Demand a fixed price + share of sold copies.

Also do not forget: a publisher does advertising amongst their other portfolio, they know how to push products ... and know people/youtubers/...


Aside of that:
All your games you presented there (except star dancer) have in common that they use YOUR assets.  Over the games you learned that your assets often lacked certain stuff (needed for these games). With your latest game (which you liked so much) you already improved a lot presentation wise.
Yet the games lack a lot of "polishing". Polishing is needed to have even a slight chance to survive in the mass market of games.

Your games are all "seemingly more complex" (gameplay, option, ... -wise). This means a lot more assets are needed. A lot more stuff to polish.
The "niche" games you describe (hidden objects, match 3...). They all are NOT just doing their basic gameplay, the all have different minigames and share something: stunning backgrounds/full screen assets and a high amount of polishing.

I often said your assets are good "prototypes" ... but each of them would need more revisions to become high quality "full screen assets".
People judge your visuals first - THEN they look at the gameplay.

Your game must look sleek or really needs STRONG words of mouth - or you need to find your own niche (hardcore strategy/war games in which people expect "basic" graphics but tight core gameplay).


To sum up: you can create interesting games with some intriguing game play ideas ... not all are capable of making a living from it, but all should allow you to "improve".
With only the last game you tried to improve "visuals/appearance".
You are reusing your own framework each time - why not improve that too? Add more "polishing" to stuff like widget animation (menus move in animated instead of just "appearing"). why not add support to "flash" a dash-sprite over your sprite buttons to emphasize a "please click here to continue" ... all the subtle things people make think the game has received  lot of developer love.
All these functions - you could use them over and over in all your games - just replace the asset, replace the movement path / interpolation algorithm (bounce, quadIn ...).


bye
Ron

Offline Matty

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
    • MattiesGames
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2020, 06:59:55 AM »
I think my biggest problem Derron is that I enjoy my own games once they reach a certain level of polish and unless I have someone pointing out what's still missing I completely don't see it.

I'm easily pleased and get lost in the gameplay and simply am blind to all the extra polish the market demands. 

Offline iWasAdam

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2001
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2020, 07:53:34 AM »
without sounding demeaning... Don't do ANYTHING with graphics - no bitmaps, NOTHING. White something using ONLY drawbox / ascii.

Start with snake. learn how it works and how it moves. next try pacman (just using boxes - NO GRAPHICS), then maybe a quick space invaders. then boulderdash - you can use circles here if you really want to - NO GRAPHICS.

If you really want to take things further write a dungeon creator using ascii


DON'T have anything apart from the dungeon generation. Just a way to move about - NO CREATURES or anything else
Next add doors - and areas that are hidden until you open then doors - lastly add some sort of light where parts of the rooms are hidden when you are far away.
All of this will give you 'core' concepts and ideas and code thoughts

Theres an old game called zombies:

https://inconsolation.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/zombies-theres-always-room-for-one-more-ascii-zombie-game/
where you move - they move. The move towards you, there are hols for them to fall in. very simple. but teaches a whole load of things

Find out what makes a game good - find out what you can and can't do.

Use something nice and simple like Pico-8. learn, show us your steps

using images and 3d and all those flashy thigs doesn't teach you what a good game is

Offline Matty

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
    • MattiesGames
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2020, 08:19:35 AM »
I did all those when I was 12.....30 years ago.

Offline iWasAdam

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2001
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2020, 08:34:44 AM »
well go back and do them again!

In fact - use BlitzMaxNG. Learn how to do exactly that - open a window, find an ascii font, try to make the simplist game framework - it's not a simple task you know...

Offline Matty

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
    • MattiesGames
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2020, 09:03:22 AM »
Nice idea.  But what is my motivation to return to primary school?

Offline iWasAdam

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2001
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2020, 10:00:34 AM »
Because in 30 years you’ve forgotten what makes a game.

ok. To put it another way...
You are so brilliant at programming you don't need any help from any of us. Everyone loves you games and they sell in millions. People love you as everything you do is completely amazing... You are a programming god. You just need to look at a keyboard and a popular game comes flooding out...

I am playing your greatest hits now...

You founded ID software because your maths skills were incomparable.
Ultimate failed because you wouldn't create another hit like KnightLore and your amazing isometric gameplay.
Games workshop is bankrupt because you wont publish a new D&D book.
You invented Pong!
Atari was all your idea - because your ideas are brilliant and you are so great at everything you do...



AM I GETTING THROUGH TO YOU!!!!!!!


Seriously - go back to the basics and learn what makes a game a game, what is fun without being troubled by graphics and 3d and flashy things... There is SOO much to be learnt there...
:)


Offline iWasAdam

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2001
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2020, 11:22:18 AM »
And (Just so you know I'm eating what I preach)...
I thought I would do EXACTLY what I told you to do...

Offline GfK

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 161
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2020, 12:53:44 PM »
You're not going to like most of this but consider it the voice of experience.

Publishers
Anybody can call themselves a publisher, and a lot are as deluded as you were.  "We'll just get shitloads of stuff up on Google Play/whatever the Apple one is called these days, and make ELEVENTY SQUILLION DOLLAR!".  No.  No you won't.  Know why?  Because tens of thousands of people are all doing the exact same thing.  And there's no quality control - anything goes.  If you pour a truckload of horse manure onto a pile of horse manure, all you've got is a bigger pile of horse manure, and anything of value that happened to be in there is even more buried than it was before you added to it.

To draw developers in, these publishers will write cheques their ass can't cash.  So don't listen to their bullshit.  Research them.  Find out who they are and what their track record is.  If you can't find anything about them, then that speaks volumes and you should avoid them.

Mobile gaming
Your problem with the mobile market is that, as stated above, it is absolutely chock-full of shit - literally neck-deep in it.  Unless your game is big enough and good enough to be pouring $1,000's into marketing to make it float, then forget it.

Sales
10 sales sucks, and it sucks bad.  Especially when 70% of them are "sympathy sales".  Don't listen to friends/family/forumdwellers telling you how great your game is and you should make a ton of money off it - they're (most likely) just telling you what you want to hear.  If you get a hundred people on a forum saying "I'll DEFINITELY buy this when you release it", I can pretty much guarantee that exactly 99 of them won't.

Who are you making games for?
If you're making them for yourself and you like playing them, lovely.  But if you want to make money, but aren't developing games with mass market appeal at the forefront of your mind then you're probably wasting your time.

Should you give up?
Not necessarily.  Just be more realistic in your expectations, given the amount of time invested.  And that doesn't mean accepting that a poxy cent is all you'll ever make.  Spending years working on a game that doesn't make money, doesn't make sense.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, don't knock out a game in a weekend and think it'll make you $millions.  But first and foremost you need to get yourself into the mindset that you are not making games for yourself any more.  You're making them for other people, and that often means you won't be much of a fan of the type of game you're making.  If you can't get your head around that, then I'd drop any expectation of making money and just carry on making stuff for yourself.  If another fly-by-night wonder comes out of it and you do get rich, great.  But you can't force it to happen.
Intel I9-9900K 3.6-5.0GHz | GeForce RTX2070 8GB | 32GB RAM | 500GB NVMe M.2 SSD | 1TB HDD | Windows 10 x64.
MSI Apache Pro | I7-7700HQ | GeForce GTX1060 3GB | 8GB RAM | 128GB SSD | 1TB HDD | Windows 10 x64.

Offline TomToad

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 517
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2020, 01:24:08 PM »
Here is a talk by Jake Birkett of Grey Alien Games on his experiences as an indie developer.  Might learn a few things here. :)
------------------------------------------------
8 rabbits equals 1 rabbyte.

Offline Matty

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
    • MattiesGames
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2020, 09:59:50 PM »
Thanks GfK - I like your comments, and you've been doing this for a long time successfully.

TomToad, yeah I've seen that before.  I actually met Jake on a video call in 2010 or 2011 at my old workplace when my boss wanted the company to make some games.


Offline iWasAdam

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2001
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2020, 08:46:34 AM »
Why not 'try' something - write a traditional ascii rogue. it will make you think about gameplay, interaction, story, movement, ui, etc...

Adding 2d or 3d to an ascii rogue is just a different display mechanism. Adding gameplay and systems to a 3d display is much MUCH harder...

Here's a nice simple ascii font for you to start with :)


Or use the font and write a text adventure game...

Offline Matty

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
    • MattiesGames
Re: Learning the hard way - and altering expectations
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2020, 09:44:14 AM »
To be honest I enjoy playing with graphics.  For example in Warlock I love cycling through rerolling characters just to see the different clothing combinations on the little avatars.  Especially in arcade mode rather than quest mode where all the equipment is unlocked right from the beginning.  I can't do that as nicely with an ascii rogue.

I like the monsters exploding into chunks of themselves when the player deals too much damage to them, and watching the gibbets fly in parabolic arcs and bouncing on the dungeon floor.  Doesn't really make sense in an ascii rogue.

I like the way the little bird flies overhead on the main map, and the dungeons get populated with bits of random detritus.

The way the torches flicker.

The arcs of lightning from some characters.

These little graphics are what thrill me about the game.

I'd be bored senseless by a ascii based dungeon crawler these days.

 

SimplePortal 2.3.6 © 2008-2014, SimplePortal