Monday, December 30, 2013

End of year report for SBX: Invasion - Looking forward to 2014

Looking back on the year, it's been a fun ride, but difficult.  I've learned more than I ever thought was possible and through the process of learning realized how little I know about game development and design.

I've realized to be a successful solo indie you have to be an expert at Programming, Art, Game Design, Project Management, Marketing, Web Design, Sound Effect and Music Creation, Social Networking, Production, Business Planning, and Writing.  That's just the little tip of the iceberg, too.

I enjoy it but it IS exhausting.  I love learning so being an indie is incredibly fun, but it takes a continued effort to not succumb to Analysis Paralysis.  There are hundreds, even thousands of things to learn and all of them are applicable to game development, and I've noticed that unless I have a specific plan, it is easy to get overwhelmed.  I like to keep things organized with Trello, a simple interface for keeping checklists, and I highly recommend it.

So let's take a look at End of Year info, a look back at 2013 and forward to 2014.

End of Year Finances and Statistics:

So I haven't quite broke even yet.  SBX: Invasion was released November 1st, 2013 and has had 1 minor update so far.

During the first 2 months SBX: Invasion has:

  • Sold 31 Copies across all portals and made $61.11 USD.
  • Been the feature of 7 Youtube Videos by fans and reviewers.
  • Been reviewed in 8 articles.
  • Had 25 demo downloads (Demo released later on in December- derp)
  • Been played in an indie game stream alongside some other great indie games.
So the game made $61.11 and between setting up the website and other minor expenses I've spent $253.34.  So that leaves me $192.32 in the hole.  Which is piddly money anyway.  

So the year wasn't financially great while an indie (I started full time in July, so I made money at a job for the first 7 months of 2013), but I have learned a ton and feel good about moving forward in 2014.

So let's look back at 2013 and I'll touch on just a few things I could have done better.  This isn't a fully fleshed out post mortem (that will come sometime later in 2014), but just some thoughts at the end of the year.

A look back at 2013:

This is my first year as a full time indie.  Jumping headfirst into the industry has been stressful at times, enjoyable at times, and a lot of work all the time.  I've had to learn to self motivate, organize and network (among many many things.)

Things I did well in 2013:
  • I finished a game!  SBX: Invasion was a long process.  It started out as a terrible entry for the GMC Winter Jam in January 2013 and took a lot of love and revision to get it to a moderate state on release.
  • Iteration.  The game got significantly better after release, and update 1.2 coming in January should improve the flow of the game and address some issues that people have with the game.  Feedback has been critical to the game getting better.
  • The core idea.  People have enjoyed the base idea so far and feedback has been good on the games core gameplay.
  • Attended all the Boston Post Mortems since I moved here.  I've met so many amazing people at the BPM (the local IGDA chapter) and it's been a phenomenal place to learn about other indies, meet local developers and aspiring devs and be a part of one of the best communities out there.  If there's a local IGDA chapter in your area, go to it!  And if not, start one!
Things I could have done better in 2013:
  • An earlier demo.  I released the demo a month after release.  The feedback from Feedback Friday would have been good to get earlier before release.  
  • More polish before release.  I ended up releasing the game immediately after I finished the art rework but I could have spent one or two more iterations on polish before pushing it out.  That said, there is a balance between forever polishing and putting it out too early.  I was sick of the project and burnt out when I released it, but also, the feedback post-release has been great and very useful.
  • A better promotional video.  I might spend some money to get a really good promotional video made.  I had to learn video production myself in order to make the promo video, and as I AM a video production noob, the video looks like it was made by a video production noob.
  • I had no advertising budget.  Something I will do moving forward is budget a specific amount of money for advertising.  The biggest problem right now is lack if visibility.
  • Thinking about target market from the beginning as well as monetization.  The game falls loosely in the tower defense genre.  Well tower defense games are traditionally free flash games, so trying to find places to reach the target market has been a challenge.  If I released a free flash game or an iPhone game it'd be easier, but for a pay to play PC game, it's been a challenge.
So you can see there are lots of things I could have done better, and there are plenty more.  These are just a few things off the top of my head.

But, I do have a plan going forward.  I'm not quite done with SBX: Invasion just yet.  The game has potential and I've learned a lot and updated it a lot.  So what do I have planned for 2014?

A look forward to 2014:

First things first, I'm working on a large update to the game.  I've gotten a lot of feedback on various parts of the game and have put together quite the update.

Some new things coming out in Update 1.2 are:
  • New Movement System!  No longer will you bounce off walls and turn around.  The movement is more floaty and feels a bit more like you're flying a space ship in space.
  • Better Visual Feedback.  Things that aren't super clear like resources gained from enemies will now be noticeable in the GUI.
  • Refined Graphics and UI.  I'm not the world's most amazing artist sent from the heavens to awe mankind with my creative genius, but I have put together some new art for the UI to make it a bit more refined and cohesive.  I've consolidated fonts, textures and am reworking a lot of the UI art.
  • More compact Tutorial.  I'm going to combine a few more things into the Tutorial and open up the next few levels to be less streamlined and a bit more free form.  The result will be that the tutorial is slower and more tedious but the levels after will open up quicker and be faster paced.  I may even make the tutorial optional for new players.  
  • New Voice Acting (possibly).  This one is tentative, but I'd like to redo all the voice acting with a real person and some effects run over it.  
Once the update is finished, tested and iterated on, I'm going to be moving toward getting the game Greenlit.  Steam is something I've avoided so far as a smaller, unheard of indie, but now that the game is getting a bit of steam (no pun intended) I think getting Greenlit is possible.

In addition to starting the Greenlight process after Update 1.2, I'm also going to start a targeted advertising campaign.  I've only got a few hundred bucks reserved for ad space, but hopefully I can stretch that out over a few weeks to promote the Greenlight campaign.

I'm also going to be working with another programmer on a Chess type game in preparation for a larger project (if we work well together).  But that project hasn't been started yet, so hush hush.

Anyway, 2013 has been a wonderful year.  I've made many friends since I move to Boston and have enjoyed being a part of a wonderfully creative community.  I'm looking forward to what the new year brings and excited for the future of Wakeskater Studio.

Cheers and Happy New Year,

Jason C.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

SBX: Invasion Demo at IndieDB - Marketing Sucks

It's been a while since I've posted here.  2 weeks almost!  I really need to get it together and continue to post on Fridays.  Lots has been going on, from Boston Post Mortem meetings to getting Demos out to starting on new projects and project ideas, it's been a busy month so far.

So first, I've got a couple demos of SBX: Invasion available at IndieDB:

Check out the downloads page at the link below for the FREE DEMO:

SBX : Invasion Base Defense

Demo Version 1.2 is the latest and contains a completely reworked movement system.  No longer will players reverse direction when bouncing off walls, and it splits up the direction from the player facing vector, which were tied together before.

The new movement system won't be released until Update 1.2 but the demo will give you a taste of what is to come with the next update.

Also, marketing sucks.  It's one of those things I'm still learning about slowly and making tons of mistakes, but it's hard to get out there as a small, new indie.  I've had a few smaller sites and youtube let's players pick up SBX: Invasion, but I still haven't been picked up by any larger sites.

So, I think starting in Jan, I'm going to go for Greenlight with Update 1.2.  In addition I think spending a little bit of money on advertising once I start the greenlight process is a wise decision.  Right now there aren't enough eyes on the project.  The feedback has been good and the game has been refined to get rid of a lot of the things that bugged players or stopped them from enjoying the game to it's fullest.

Update 1.2 should clear up the movement issue which was the last really big thing that I saw from feedback as well as a few other things I have planned.

It's been a slow road, but I'm not giving up.  I'll start work on my next project soon but I'll also be spending some time each week to continue marketing and getting info about SBX: Invasion out there.

I'll be out of town for the next couple weeks spending time with various families so I'll try to get back and write another post before the end of the year.


Jason Carter / WakeskaterX