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

Six months in Early Access (Democracy 4)

So yup! Today is the day, according to my calendar. Six months into Early Access on my political strategy game; Democracy 4! Thats quite a milestone, and a good time to reflect on how things are going so far.

The big thing to note is that this is the first of the ‘Democracy’ games that has been in Early Access. In the past, I did listen a lot of user feedback, and released patches and updates to the game, but that was all post-release. Of course, these days the change between being in early access and post-release support is very blurred, and to be honest totally arbitrary. I doubt I will stop improving and tweaking the game just because we declare it to be out of Early Access at some point. I guess the only real difference is the point at which you want to signal to potential buyers that the game is fully playable and content complete enough to enjoy.

Frankly, that point is now. We have committed publicly to adding Italy as a playable country, and that brings the total countries in the game to 9, which I think is pretty reasonable. This is an indie game, with mod support and I don’t think 9 countries is too small a number.

I’ll almost certainly add more anyway…

The thing is, I don’t actually mind being in Early Access. I guess there is a bunch of ‘deferred sales’ from people waiting for me to flip that switch, but I am in no immediate hurry to do so. Having the game in EA encourages feedback and lets players know you will read it, and thats definitely a good thing.

Something else that suggests that we may be complete enough to declare the game done, is our language support. We entered early access with just English but we now support a total of 8 different languages. I am tempted to add Chinese or Japanese at some point, but TBH there isn’t a particularly strong business case there, and translating from English to these languages i quite expensive…

One thing we have not done yet is an OSX port. TBH apple have done absolutely everything possible to put me off ever considering this, even though the game uses opengl and is not tied to windows. Frankly, apple change what they are doing, pull support for things, and redesign their entire business model and dev platform so often I don’t even *know* if they even support opengl any more, and whatever API they support now will change next year, so whats the point? Maybe at some future point when apple have settled down, stopped charging devs for having the honor of making OSX games, and stopped changing the min specs, maybe it will make sense, but until then my advice to mac gamers is to buy a PC.

Anyway, people like stats on anniversaries of game releases, so lets look at some. Here are some juicy steam stats.

  • 1,177 reviews
  • Roughly 58,000 sales
  • Roughly 88,000 wishlists right now.
  • Current review score: 86% positive

Now a bunch of more fun gameplay style stats:

  • Games per day: Roughly 4,000
  • Most popular screen res: 1920px
  • Average framerate: 58.4 FPS
  • Most common event: ‘Share IPO success’
  • Most triggered situation: ‘Technological Advantage’
  • Most triggered achievement: ‘ShuffleMeister’
  • Average Socialism: 39.1%
  • Average Liberalism: 80.9%
  • Average Voter Cynicism: 1.55%

I suspect real world voters are more cynical :D

I know lots of indies would have done a super-complex analysis of that units sold chart with arrows and breakdowns of what each spike was, but frankly I’m too busy and don’t care. My experience is that a HUGE chunk of getting more sales is just improving the game, and that the spikes tend to be steam sales or discount weekends etc. I’m more interested in growing that lower line (regular daily sales) than the spikes. YMMV.


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