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

One month in: Democracy 4 in Early Access. Phew. We survived!

Sometimes I get so caught in the insanely complex todo list that is my public trello board for democracy 4, that I forget to occasionally taken a breath, take stock, and analyze how things are going. So this being two days after the US election, (A still undecided one as I type this), its time to catch that breath and reflect.

Firstly. OMG we did it. Democracy 4 is in Early access, and being played by thousands of people who got it through the epic store, GoG, Steam, Itch and the Humble Store. We are properly 100% out there and launched. For a game that has had a pretty long (for positech) dev process, it does feel good to actually be out there in the hands of actual gamers. From a business POV its also good to have a project flip, so that it brings in money each month. Game dev is a terrifying business where expenses go up and up and up in hope of some future reversal of the process :D

From a biz POV, the game is selling pretty well. Nothing earth-shattering, but we did have a bit of a weird relatively-soft launch, in that when the game launched on steam Early Access, there was ONE country, ONE language, and the game was $26.99 and had no discount. (The price is the same now). Since then we have added a crowdsourced Italian translation, and have added the USA, Canada, France and Germany, but still… there was a lot of reasons why people may have wishlisted the game thinking to grab it later.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the way things are going, from a wishlists and sales POV. As I type this, we have 50,000 wishlists for D4, which is quite good, especially as approach Christmas.

The next thing to reflect on is… we made it to the US election without major meltdowns. Nobody has screamed at me and called me a fascist (well…they might have done that on twitter, I block a lot of idiots…) or a communist. The games website/forums and steam forums have not been completely besieged by political extremists hurling abuse. There have been no major political arguments on my forums, or the steam ones, and the number of bans and moderstaion events have been pretty low.

I think in general, the game attracts an audience of people interested in political philosophy and economics and strategy. Its thankfully not acting as a ‘meme’ game attracting lots of twitter mobs and qanon style conspiracists. This is a good thing :D

Obviously there have been some bugs, but I think I have just about kept up with things, so that the games reviews have stayed pretty good (I expect them to climb later as more content is added, balance gets better and the last bugs get squashed). We got some press coverage and some popular youtubers played the game, but we also got pushback from some people saying “no way am I touching politics on youtube” and so on. I expect after the US election is settled, that will change.

We *have* had some tricky moments. There was some issues with some pre-order customers not being able to find their free steam keys, and we jumped from the humble widget to itch, then back to humble again as a result. We had hoped to simultaneously launch on steam, gog, humble and epic, but epic was actually about ten days later. I did have a bug (election day crashes for 3 party systems with colorblind mode) that went unfixed for a few days longer than it should have… but thats actually about it.

I sometimes think that these sort of blog posts can be dull, because lets face it, its more entertaining to read about how the developer was trapped in a canoe in a blizzard while terrorists stole the servers with the source code, and then the publishers turned out to be Chinese military who sold the source code to the mafia, but frankly, its been uneventful. Thats likely because its something like my twentieth game release, so TBH I should know what I’m doing by now.

However if you DO want to read about absolutely crazy-ass shenanigans going on in tech companies that make you shout ‘wtf?’ then I am currently enjoying this book.

Its amazing the absolute maniacs that run companies some times.