Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Well my game is on sale…time to relax? Ahahahaha

There is nothing relaxing about the day after launching a game. Especially when you do this for a living, and other people depend on you. Its a huge, big deal. Its basically betting your one and a half years income on a roulette wheel. And the worst thing is, it can be weeks or even months before you really know if it worked. Terrifying. I read a lot of books about similar (more established industries) to give myself some perspective. One of the Harry Potter movies (not the first one) LOST money at the cinema. Despite tens, probably hundreds of millions of people seeing it, it LOST money. They broke even, then made a handsome profit, only after all the TV rights, DVD, Blu-Ray and merchandising income came in. Imagine taking in $200 million+ and thinking “Yup we are still in the red guys. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine in the long run.” Holy fuck.

Thankfully I’m not *that* much down right now, but I’ll still have a celebration pub lunch on the day I break even.

The launch has gone ok, in that people are buying it, it jumped into the steam charts, people are playing it, they are uploading steam workshop entries for their ships, and I’ve got some very nice comments about the graphics. That’s all awesome, and trying out some of the challenges is hilarious. You people are very inventive when it comes to both ship and fleet design. I’ve got my ass kicked many times already :D


I’ve already patched it twice (yup I’m nuts). and am planning another one in a few days. There is a lot of admin overhead in patching the game, so I want t make each patch worth it, especially as I’ve fixed a bunch of urgent issues, and can now track down more obscure issues and the odd crash.

Of more interest will be what I’m learning about releasing a game in 2015 vs one in 2013. Holy fuck, its got harder. here are some observations.

1) There are so many games the media (inncluding youtubers/twitch streamers) won’t care that you released a new game without real hand-waving and pleading. Just being a good, quality game isn’t going to cut it any more. Unless your game has a famous actor in it, or is hilariously weird in its premise, or has some other non-game related ‘hook’ for the press to get excited about it, you can forget it. I hate worrying about all that. I’m a coder at heart, and this is meaning its getting tougher for me.

2) Ad costs are creeping up. The site takeover costs are stupidly high anyway, but even facebook, google adwords, its all got very very pricey.

3) There is a definite tendency for everyone to just add a game to a wishlist and wait for the sale. The inevitable sale. Kinda weird because…

4) There is still the inevitable abusive anger about a game daring to cost $24.95. People moan that the price is too high, then say they only ever buy games at 50% off. There may be some logic there but I can’t quite see it myself. Every game I’ve ever released on steam has had a thread saying its cost too much. I suspect every game on steam has that thread. I suspect its the same posters too…

5) Nobody leaves steam reviews. Seriously, its like pulling teeth persuading people to do so. Which means only people with a bug, or a problem bother, and that drags down the scores. I can see from my stats I have a lot of happy people playing the game, I wish I could interrupt them to ask them nicely to leave a review :D

I’m guessing things are a bit quiet because GTA just came out, and it just started getting nice weather. Games are a long tail phenomena these days. GSB1 made 1% of its total earnings to date in its first week on sale. By that measure GSB2 is going to do well :D. Fingers crossed anyway :D



9 thoughts on Well my game is on sale…time to relax? Ahahahaha

  1. Thanks for sharing, I agree with all your points.

    Especially regarding the cost of ads. As developers I guess we know the value of a download, and thus need to really price each ad click that we pay for inside that.

    Personally between 2010 and 2013 I was able to ‘buy’ Facebook ads to get downloads at £0.08 – £0.14 per click/download. My expected income per click? £0.15. Fast forward to 2014-15 and downloads are costing £0.16 – £0.20, and as you say the customer won’t accept a price rise to negate the higher ad cost. Thus a very successful marketing ploy has now become a loss maker. (Unless I take the long view that a customer will buy 4-5 games eventually).

    I hope GSB2 does well very for you, and like you say I’m sure in the long run it will do. In many ways there’s never been a better time to be a one-man-band, but only if you’re sufficiently adaptable enough to make it work. I’m prepared for a stressful but hopefully triumphant few years!

    Keep up the blog posts, they’re very motivating.


  2. Could you do a piece of code that asks people who’ve played for 100+ hours to review it and takes them to the review page if they say yes? Happens on mobile all the time.

    1. I would love this, even though I don’t own GSB 2, but I plan on trying to get it soon. One of the main reasons I don’t review games is I forget to do it or, when I do remember, I can not think of what I should write. A notification while I am playing would be great to help me write it while it is fresh on my mind.

  3. Hiya!

    Love the game dude, Mac port seems to have a few issues still though:

    1. Sometimes ships don’t appear on the map.

    2. Sometimes ships you’ve designed disappear from the save folder, then if you load another ship design they appear again.

    3. Turrets turrets turrets! None of the moving parts on the ship designs appear. This is your spinning turbines, bells and whistles – but far more importantly – you don’t see the **turrets**!! Sometimes you see teeny lighting effects, but not the turret itself. The turrets were the coolest part of GSB1; watching them swing around to unleash some don’t-look-into-the-light on some hapless cruiser. Patch it pwetty please! x

    4. Mac designs loaded up to steam workshop don’t appear – seems similar to the missing saves issue.

    5. If you try to adjust one setting on the options menu – the game responds by removing pretty much everything except the damn asteroids – including the controls interface so you’re stuck unless you plug in a second screen to quit it using your freed up monitor.

    Like the game, support your business – think it’s excellent and I’ll do what I can to kick some cash your way however please – fix up the bugs. GSB1 was awesome you can’t spoil the GSB2 spaceship for a ha’porth of spacetar!


  4. I was kind of wondering, can you devs see the number of people or even who, added your game to a wishlist, whether it’s on steam or GOG?

  5. The case of the Harry Potter movie losing money is due to ‘Hollywood accounting’, not because the film actually failed to turn a profit. According to Lucasfilm, Return of the Jedi has never turned a profit. The movie studios engage in this practice so that they don’t have to pay out on contracts that promise a percentage of profits (as opposed to a percentage of gross income). Peter Mayhew and Stan Lee are famous victims of this practice.

    1. Yeah, considering that each of the Harry Potter movies brought in 800 to 1,300 million worldwide (and WB distributed both domestically and internationally), I dont’ believe for a second that one of them wasn’t profitable.

  6. The negative reviews on Steam are exactly same as for GSB1 and I think I mentioned these earlier so they should not be a surprise. The first game had the issue that the game concept is good but if you’ve seen eg. Chronicles of Riddick movie, it’s a bit like watching 30% of that movie. It builds up a bit and you feel this could be epic and then the whole thing stalls there. Back in GSB1 people were anticipating this unfullfilled potential to be filled and now these game people are back anticipating GSB2 fills the potential. (they write this as “lack of depth”).

    What I am reading to the “lack of depth” is that the GSB1 is a nice game as intro, but now the more hardcore players who bought it want either offline or online or both with some sort of strategy game on top of the current game.

    The problem with strategy games is that it’s not easy to make them simple, casual and brilliant. I don’t play strategy games beside MOO1/CIV1/Spaceward Ho!/MTG and some RTS. Largely because most of them push too much numbers to look at which causes ones “knack for optimization based on looking at numbers” kick in – and it turns into Excel-exercise. A great “strategy” game in my book should not be by number crunching but through developing an intuition based on how the opponent responds and no numbers in sight. You may need to lose a bunch of games to develop that. Then once you finally win, that is also more rewarding than the “lets look at these numbers and then solve this optimization problem in Excel and come back to enter the numbers into the game engine”.

    That kind of game really needs to be a “kids game” – super casual strategy where you can win say 50% of time even while not doing things optimally. Otherwise developing the intuition would take too long and would not be enjoyable for the learning curve it takes to develop the intuition for winning always without any help from numbers (of course cheaters will dig into game files to find the numbers – I would add a good degree of randomness to every variable but not so much that it would prevent a player with developed intuition from eventually winning say 90%+ of games). The problem here is that then you may also attract some older “true strategy”, players who love their numbers and don’t know what intuition means and will loudly complain that they can’t figure out how to win all the time as there’s no numbers to crunch.

    So if this was my game and I’d want to add that “depth” I’d look at making it a casual/kids strategy game – simple, gradual learning curve and not much in way of statistics (to avoid attracting the hardcore strategy niche that wants more and more statistics and so forth). MTG is just such game also – no statistics visible (beside ‘health’) during the game, you have to develop intuition on what the opponent is going to do given current “metagame” and what you have revealed to them. Contrast that with typical PC strategy game – loaded up with numbers and so-so visuals.

    In game like GSB I’ve already mentioned that the intuition development should come through player observing the visuals and audio. The enemy space ships appearance should give clues as to how they react to particular weapons etc and what kind of sounds they make when hit with or when exploding etc.

    Ideally the feedback loop to develop the intuition would be very fast, like in playing a musical instrument where you “hone in” on the suitable rhythm based on the feel, not reading any score or thinking about musical theory. I’m not sure how to achieve such quick feedback in context of GSB however without making the game very much a “rock paper scissors” where the possible combinations resulting in particular outcome are small and the visual etc effects obvious.

    So perhaps ideal “intuitive strategy game” is “rock paper scissors” but then as difficulty level increases, the game somehow gradually increases the factors that one needs to take into account.

  7. Regarding issue #4 I’ve always said that even if someone offers a game for free you’d still have forums filled with folks complaining about the cost (they’d probably want the developer to pay *them* for the privilege of playing their game).

    What’s interesting is that it’s something only found in the digital world. In the world of cardboard gaming games have been going the opposite way for years. Whereupon now it’s perfectly normal for a board game to retail from $75 – $100 (sadly I remember the days when you could get AH and SPI titles for less than five bucks) versus $30 – $50 ten years ago, no one bats an eye.

    So what’s the difference? It’s all games and you would think that as a gamer you dabble in all forms of games. Is it simply something psychological, that seeing bits of plastic and chitboard makes it easier to associate where your hundred bucks went to, as opposed to dropping X number of dollars and getting a file? A file that looks like every other file, from free to ones that cost you several hundred dollars?

    Personally I’m sick of the digital entitlement generation in regards to cost. A developer should be able to charge what he or she thinks the value of the game is, not what the current trend in pricing happens to be.

Comments are currently closed.