As I started working on my current game shuffleboard cat, it was intended as a funny little shuffleboard game with cats. I absolutely like my progress so far, but unfortunately I made some decisions and got lost somewhere in the middle where I need your help and feedback for discussion and getting back on track!
Please keep in mind that most of my arguments are based on my experience and not a given fact. 🙂
Introduction Shuffleboard Cat
Let me first introduce the project to give you a small impression about the type and genre of the game. I used most assets from my Flat Fat Cat franchise, because I like the assets very much and I think they fit perfectly into this type of game. With Flat Fat Cat Bounce I created already a game where you can slide and bounce cats together and I liked that game mechanic a lot so I sticked to it.
But there is one major difference which isn’t visible on the first view. Godot! Flat Fat Cat Bounce was achieved with libGDX meanwhile I switched to Godot as game engine and I wanted to transfer the mechanics and assets to a new game engine with success!
Shuffleboard cat is made with Godot and works fine so far with nearly the same behaviour physics wise as the original Flat Fat Cat Bounce. As usual I challenge myself a lot so beside of transferring the game to a new engine I also wanted to include multiplayer and a more competitive approach into shuffleboard cat.
The idea in short: Provide the mechanics of sliding und bouncing cats like we had in Flat Fat Cat Bounce, but instead of matching pairs – combine these physics with a standard Shuffleboard game and add multiplayer and a ranking to it. I also added some skins and some kind of progression system, but this shouldn’t be discussed now and will be introduced later.
Why choosing mobile market / platform?
This is the project in short. I had the vision to make it as mobile game for several reasons:
I like the slide mechanic with touch inputs
The portrait mode has the perfect aspect ratio for the playground
Short 1v1 matches for ranking multiplayer would fit on mobile
General Art style matches the mobile market
Free to play games are easier to distribute on mobile
It is not the complete list, but these were the main reasons for me to design it for mobile devices. As said unfortunately I lost the focus at this point and I am not sure if I was ever the right call with these assumptions.
I still like the touch input for the slide mechanics and I think the playground fits perfectly to the portrait mode.
But! Is multiplayer really good on mobile devices? I mean seriously clash of clans or clash royale prove that there is a competitive scene on the mobile market. I think Shuffleboard is a really niche in sport games and so it will on the video game market. I don’t have any idea if there is a lot of potential or even enough players to make it work.
Is the general art style really only fitting on mobile market? I don’t know! Flat Fat Cat Bounce for example was much better sold on Steam as it ever did on mobile market and this even without optimising it for PC or Steam!
“Free to play games are easier to distribute on mobile market?” At this moment I don’t think so anymore, because I think the mobile market in general is so much harder to enter than to publish games on Steam for example. Without spending money on marketing you have to put a lot of effort into actually reach out for players. I have the feeling that it is easier to build up a community or get players on platforms like Steam.
Why choosing PC / Steam as platform?
Ok, now why do I think Steam is may be a more viable option?
Flat Fat Cat Bounce sold much better on Steam than on mobile platforms even as mobile game
Community building feels more comfortable on Steam / PC
As a gamer myself I don’t know the mobile market very well, because I don’t play mobile games very much
Games on Steam feel more worthy – At least for me
As said before I made much more revenue on Steam as on mobile market overall and this just proves for me that Steam should be the place to go. Unfortunately I always have the feeling that the games I create aren’t fitting the PC market, because they weren’t planned for it in the first place?!
In this special case for Shuffleboard cat, I have the problem with the aspect ratio and I am not sure how to fix it and I am also not sure about the free to play approach on Steam. Is this a distribution model which works or gets me a lot of players?
On the other hand Flat Fat Cat Bounce proved that even a mobile port works better on Steam than I expected and made more revenue on Steam than on the mobile market.
The biggest issue I have right now with releasing games on Steam is the following: I think smaller games like Shuffleboard cat don’t feel right for PC games.
As a PC gamer myself I have quite a lot of quality expectations for games on Steam and I am not sure if I can match them. I think this is why I tend to develop for mobile, because there it feels more like “I don’t give a shit” if you know what I mean.
Where should I go from here?
This brings us to the end of this article and a hopefully upcoming discussion in which direction I can or should go. In my heart I feel like I should do games for PC / Steam, because that is what I want and where I know more about the players, market and games in general.
For that I need to do some adjustments to reach my quality expectations and being able to ship the game with a good conscience.
What do you think about the topic? Where would you release this game? Do I miss a solution?
as soon as I started my current project Tera Lo Mania I had three primary goals:
Build up a community
Create a playable tech demo
Start a Kickstarter campaign
Build up a community
I learned a lot from my first three games and what you need as an Indie game developer is feedback as soon as your project starts. To achieve this you need to build up a community, which is interested in your project. So far so good, but how to we do this? I thought it was pretty easy by sharing my development progress being consistent in creating content and I started a video log diary on YouTube to create a community …
Create a playable tech demo
I already knew at the beginning of my project, that I will need additional budget to finish the project. So, the idea was born to create a Kickstarter campaign to gather the missing budget as soon as possible. The clue – I wanted to have an early downloadable version of my game, which showcases that I can achieve the game and I could use some scenes in a trailer. I achieved that and thought everything is going fine …
Start a Kickstarter campaign
The time has come from September 2018 till mid of March 2019 I was able to finish a tech demo and build up a community for the game. At least I thought so. That said the Kickstarter Campaign has gone live! And it still is …
So I achieved my goals and the Kickstarter Campaign looks just horrible …. by today we have 11% funded and already 5 days gone. Even with the minimum funding reach by the end of it, it is not that what I expected and as you all know the first days should be the strongest to get the Campaign going. The goal is calculated with the very very very minimum and I will have to pay on top to get the game working and release it.
What is the problem? What did I miss?
I had the demo and my Video Logs, I thought I build up a community and created lots of marketing hype by sending out thousands of emails. Lets investigate:
The community I build up wasn’t that big I expected
As you can see in the numbers. Yeah, I was able to gain follower on every platform, but in total the community is still very small and not very meaningful. There was already the first indication that my game isn’t that attractive to people, otherwise the numbers should have raised higher.
Problem: I hadn’t any comparison and was too busy spending time on developing the tech demo (which nobody wanted).
By the way speaking of the tech demo, when I was releasing a first playable version I just had round about 15 Downloads and nearly no feedback at all. Slowly I got some bites of feedback and it told me, that those who downloaded the game didn’t even know what to do, because they didn’t played the original game. The tech demo was of course so early that there wasn’t polishing possible to explain how the game actually works.
Problem: I ignored the fact, that the playable version wasn’t intuitive enough and not well received by my small community.
I have had quite a lot of fun to create my video log diary and showcase my development status. Nevertheless I was always a bit shocked by looking at the video statistics after releasing a new video log. Nearly nobody watched it and the watch durations were really really short.
Problem: I didn’t see the signs of unattractive content at all.
What can I do now, after realising the problems with the crowdfunding?
If you get a little bit of distance to your game, which I got after 5 days of running Kickstarter and thinking about the situation, you start to realise, that I was too hyped for my own game and I didn’t noticed that there wasn’t a big interest from the community for my project at all. Now, I know that this campaign is as good as done and it won’t develop very well anymore. The daily views are sinking with every day, I wasn’t able to impress the press or YouTuber or Blogger to create a hype. So, I guess the campaign will slowly but surely end without gaining very much interest anymore and funding.
What are my options at this point? I already spend a lot of time and money into this project, but acknowledging that there is so little interest it won’t pay off to finish it with paying even more time and money. I still didn’t lost all hope and I will of course continue to try make the most out of the last 25 remaining days to keep this project alive, but I know I have to look forward and find a way for me and the company how to deal with this or giving up the dream of being an indie game developer after 4 projects without any real success …
I am not sure how to start this article and which topics I should point out at all. So, I try to not cry or blame anything too much 😀 First let me start with something I am really looking forward to: I will be Dad in just about three more months … man time is running so damn fast right now.
Self doubts about my actions
That said of course I slowly get some doubts about my lifestyle, since my indie business is not very worthy at all from a financial viewpoint. Also the time spend on working is so much. I am not really sure about the near future when I take look at this. I was really able to get some things going and I have the feeling that the business is doing better from year to year, but at what cost and effort?
At the beginning of the year, I got much motivation and I tried to get as hyped as possible for my current project. I also told a lot about this in my latest video logs:
Scary business numbers
Unfortunately, my reality is: The analysis of my business numbers shows that the growing process is more than laborious. With every video log I create on YouTube, I manage to get one or two more followers, what is awesome don’t get me wrong, but with this kind of growth I will have to create another 600 videos to get some kind of valuable reach. Of course I would do this and I love everyone who is willing to follow and support me. Thanks to you guys!
Nevertheless, also kind of regular posts on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook didn’t managed to build up a community the last two years. It feels like marching on a spot. Of course I have to admit that I am nowhere near a professional marketer or social media manager. So, the low follower count and engagement isn’t too surprising! I hoped the content would engage more, but there are so many talented indies out there that I sometimes think why should someone be interested in content I release?
But there is light at the end of the tunnel
With the start of this year a friend of mine helps me out in this specific topic and spread the word through our social media channels, maybe this changes the engagement. I hope I will be able to pay him one day for his efforts …
Seriously the indie business is a really hard business and you have to be very dedicated to it, I knew that before I started and I don’t want to miss the time I spend to develop my games and build up the numbers at all. The only thing I wish for myself in this year is to be more financial independent, since non of my indie efforts became very worthy yet.
The only parts, where I am able to actually earn some money is to work as a freelancer for companies in complete different branches or selling my programming skill elsewhere. This makes me very sad, because I invest so much time and money into my indie business. Sometimes when I am in a bad mood like today – I just ask myself if it is worth all the effort?
I guess I can only answer this to myself and as long as I enjoy what I am doing it can’t be wrong. At least for now I won’t quit anything and I hope I can make my dreams still happen 🙂
after working a whole while as freelancer, round about 7 months now, the time has come to go back to game development and start another project. Luckily, I wasn’t idling in the meantime and finished all the planning stuff already. Today I would love to share some first insights and upcoming changes compared to the last projects.
So let us start with some basic informations about the new project. As real time strategy fan, I will stick to strategy games and how could it be different – The new project will be another strategy title, which is more or less real time. It will be a remake of one of my first strategy games I have ever played and enjoyed a lot 🙂 I will not spoiler the title yet. The header image provides you a first hint. The second hint: The game will be “more or less” real time strategy. Would love to read your guesses in the comments. So please leave your comment! 🙂
As you can see in the header image, it will be my first 3D title with a low poly art style. The game will be focused on PC / Steam first, but it will be possible to distribute it later on every platform.
Lets get into a bit more details on the technical site. My last projects were written in libGDX with Java as main language. Nevertheless, for this new project I decided to achieve it with Godot, an open source game engine. The main language I will use for the code is the in-build GD Script, which is fairly similar to Python in general.
The decision is based on the following reasons:
I want to learn something new
I want to use a game engine instead of a framework
There is a big change team structure wise this time – I will work with a bigger team than ever before! Timbertales, FlatFatCat and Space Unicorns were developed and distributed by myself with a lot of help from my girl friend for all the art stuff needed. This time I hired an 3D artist for all the models, animations and vfx, who is fully dedicated to the project. This helps me to completely focus on the game code. We hopefully gain a much higher quality with this change in both art and code.
The game itself is planned to be done within 6 months. This includes development, alpha / beta and a first release candidate. The first prototype / demo should be out very soon after start, to have more early feedback and start a kickstarter campaign to gather more budget if needed. The official start for the project is scheduled for mid of September this year. So round about 6-7 weeks from now on!
Thanks for reading, I hope you looking forward to this game project. Of course there will follow a lot of artwork, dev blogs etc. by the time. If you want to be in first place and also be involved in the development / testing etc. don’t miss to become a Patreon and get any peace of information much earlier 🙂 I would also love to read your comments.
I would love to share my first steps and first learnings with Godot 3 with you guys 🙂
Export Blender Models as .dae files
As one of my first tasks I tried to export models from Blender to Godot. For my first approach I used .obj files and imported them into Godot without any problems so far. After a while I realised, that my artist also created some materials, which weren’t included in the import. I figured out that Godot advices to use .dae files, which includes the materials correctly. So we exported the files as .dae. Surprisingly every model was imported as a Scene in Godot, which first confused me, but it is the right workflow. I will explain it within the next chapter.
Use Scene instancing
Having each Model as a scene has one big advantage: We can instantiate them. In UE or Unity this is called a “Prefab” as far as I know. In Godot we can use a Scene as a prefab, this is why .dae files represent a scene. It is a good practice to have everything as a scene and then in your game scene instantiate all the other scenes just like that:
Game (Scene) Human (Instanciated Scene) Landscape (Instanciated Scene)
Use Unity Tutorials, if you can’t find any for Godot
Actually there are more tutorials available for Unity than for Godot, but nevertheless just watch the Unity ones. Most likely it is really easy to transfer the knowledge from Unity to Godot, since most options have the same names or working in kind of the same way.
GD Script is not Python
Even if they look quite similar GD Script is not Python, it is just inspired by Python. Why is it worth to know that? I was confused, because I encountered some ‘What the fuck’ moments when writing GD Script for the first time, since I have a strong Python background. So you should definitly check out the GD Script syntax first to get an overview.
I decided to start a Vlog (it will not replace the Blog) on YouTube within my project (Remastering MegaLoMania). I will record the first introduction video within the next days, so make sure to follow me on my social media channels to get informed. In the Vlog I would like to share all learnings and progress I made day by day.