Some Thoughts About Launching A Game
Woohoo, I launched a game! Someone bought a copy! Success!
Okay so, first thing's first, the launch sale on Steam is over, so the game is full price there. However, since itch.io is a ridiculously awesome platform I decided to extend the launch sale there for another week. So you get the game for 10% off (which, I know, is only 40 cents, but still) plus you still get a Steam key (if you want). Everybody wins there as far as I'm concerned! Also I highly recommend using itch's desktop app which is super fast and will keep your games up to date.
A Game Was Launched (And Patched)!
Weird! It got launched, some people bought it. Most people seem to like it, or at least they think it's hard, which it is. More than two people (not counting myself) seem to be playing the Daily Challenge. It got a nice little mention on IndieGames.com and was subsequently picked up by a French gaming site.
I also patched the game! Not quite zero day but I did want to show my commitment to adding stuff post-launch. Someone was nice enough to give me a "recommended" review on Steam (still the only one) but they mentioned that they didn't like how the HUD overlapped the map. There's not a super elegant solution to this due to how the game is written, but I added a "compact" HUD as a compromise of sorts. I also added Steam achievements, which I would have added much sooner had I known they would be so easy to add. They were one of the things I decided to cut in order to call the game "done" and get it out but they definitely could have been added.
Obviously the game hasn't been what one might consider a commercial success. I have managed to make back the Steam submission fee, but I'm not going to be able to quit my job from the earnings. If I can make enough to pay back the submission fee and pay for the next game's fee (whenever that is) that would be pretty cool though. I'm in a fortunate place where I have steady income from my day job and I don't need game sales to pay bills or anything.
From a sales perspective, I didn't really have huge expectations for this game. It's pretty low-fi and doesn't do much to wow you when you see screenshots or even video. That's by design (and necessity) since I did all of the art myself. I think it's cute and mostly well done but I'm certainly not going to win any artistic or pixel art awards. The game itself is also kind of in a weird grey area as a game. It's meant to be a simplified version of very complex rougulikes such as Brogue or ADOM (or uh, Rogue) which theoretically lowers the barrier to entry. However it's still quite difficult so the relief only comes in how long it takes to play a single game. You fail fast, which means you can fail more often, but you still need to learn how everything works and plan ahead a reasonable amount.
I don't know what all that means, it's just kind the way it is. Sometimes you have a goal like "a roguelike with simplified systems and mechanics", thinking that makes it more accessible, but then by necessity you can't get away from the difficulty that comes with those types of games. On top of that, would this game actually be fun if it wasn't difficult? If you spent 10 or 15 minutes creeping through the levels and beat it almost every time you played, that would be pretty boring. What makes roguelikes interesting is that failure is the default. You're going to fuck up and lose all of your progress and that's just the type of games they are. Overcoming failure and escaping against the odds are what I think makes roguelikes appealing to most fans of the genre.
That all said, I could probably sell a few more copies. Reaching an audience is the most difficult thing about selling a game. I emailed a few sites, but only IndieGames.com posted about it. That's fine, since there are a ton of other games to cover and the coverage benefits me much more than them at this point. I'm completely unknown in the gaming space and my connections are pretty sparse. I can (and probably still will) email more sites. I've also targeted a couple of streamers who might enjoy the game, so we'll see where that goes. It's also entirely likely I've sold the majority of copies I'll ever sell, which is fine too. The important part of this process, for me, has been actually finishing and releasing the thing.
There are a couple fairly minor changes I want to make to the game. I don't quite think I want to re-balance the late game, but I do think I want to attempt to add a couple tweaks that might improve quality of life. On a bigger scale I'd like to release a Linux version. It should be fairly easy once I get a VM up and running and can properly test it. I'm also working on a Mac App Store version, which is mostly because I paid the Apple Developer Program fee so I may as well utilize it. It's been a pain to get all the code signing stuff working, but I'll probably get there eventually.
That's it for now; thanks for reading. More updates and blog posts are probably coming. I do eventually want to start on a new game (which probably won't be a turn-based roguelike) but I'm taking a small break for now. I also signed up for the 7 Day Roguelike Challenge (again) which starts on March 2nd. Hopefully I don't spend four years on that one!
The first post-release patch! Thanks to this being a one-person operation and having a pretty small install base, I'm able to crank out decent sized updates in a short period of time. Also potentially due to the game's architecture. The two major things in this version are:
- A new compact HUD
- Steam Achievements
The HUD was a minor amount of work, mostly doing some design work and then modifying the existing HUD code to be able to put elements in different locations based on a setting. I also added an option that allows you do hide enemy health bars. It was always present as a debug option but I figured I'd expose it. For the first 98% of the game's development there were no enemy health bars but I honestly prefer having them on.
Steam Achievements are what they are. This game lends itself to achievements pretty well, since you basically spend all your time achieving things anyway. I put eight in there, though given the small size of the player base and how difficult the game is, I'd be surprised if all of them get unlocked. They're a fun thing and if people need them for motivation that's fine. Unlocking new monsters to play as and mutators are essentially achievements so this is just kind of an extension of that.
Realm of the Ghost King is officially out!
Hooray! After nearly four years I've released a game! Please check out the release trailer:
The game is on sale for $3.59, a super slick 10% off launch week sale! You can get it on itch.io or Steam. If you purchase the itch version you'll also get a Steam key. There's also a Humble Widget on the 'Buy It!' page if you prefer Humble (also comes with a Steam key).
That's it for now, I guess!
Since it seems like something all the cool kids do, plus it might give some idea as to how the game actually plays, today I released a five minute (give or take) video of me just playing the game. Check it out:
This consists of a few different characters as well as (hopefully) what the overall game feels like. Each monster has a different special ability and some different passive abilities but the main strategy of the game remains the same from monster to monster.
Realm of the Ghost King is out in just a few short days!
Monster Intros 4: Ghost, Morel and Glob
Hey, hey! This is the last one to these, since there are only nine (playable) monsters. I'll have to think up some new stuff next Saturday.
First up we have Ghost, who is the only unlocked monster when you first play. Ghost's special ability is a double-move, which means you can execute two moves in one turn. This can be moving two tiles, moving a tile and planting a bomb, attacking an enemy and planting a bomb. Any combination of two moves.
Ghost also has one more bomb than most other monsters, though this isn't for any specific reason, it was mostly a way to make her slightly easier to play as. This combined with the double-move special makes her a lot of fun to play as, since you can get yourself out of (or in some cases into) horrible situations.
Somehow a giant sentient mushroom is a monster, and Morel seemed like an apt name. I guess the absurdity of this character design didn't really dawn on me until recently, but I like it so much that I don't even care.
Morel is also one of my favorite monsters to play as because of her special attack. As a big fan of old school first person shooters, the idea of adding a telefrag to my own game (which is neither first person nor a shooter) was too much to pass up. A giant teleporting mushroom? Yes.
This ability is a lot of fun but it also required some tweaking. It's incredibly powerful because it takes out any enemy (you will teleport to the closest enemy when you use it) in one move. On top of that you use up two souls to perform it but you will always collect the soul of whoever you telefrag, so it feels like it only has a cost of one soul. Initially you could string together as many telefrags as you wanted (as long as you had the souls) and you could wipe out an entire level if you had a decent cache of souls at the start. The solution that ended up feeling the best was adding a cooldown to the ability. So now you have to wait three turns before you can use it a second time. It prevents you from chaining it together but keeps it quite powerful.
And finally we have Glob. Glob is probably the most difficult monster to play as. While his passive ability is that he deals double damage his health and bomb pool are both very low. This means that while you can take out most enemies in just one hit, you also don't have a lot of margin for error. It's an interesting challenge.
On top of that Glob's special attack will slime enemies nearby. While this can be useful it does make enemies behave erratically (there's a chance they won't be able to take their turn, just like when the player is slimed) so you can't always count on getting close to them. A lot of times I find using your special attack can be a good way to waste a turn when an enemy is one tile away from you and your health is low, but when slimed there's a chance they won't move anyway. So he's challenge to play as, but that's by design. I swear!
Anyway, this is the last of the Monster Intros series, I hope you've enjoyed them!