October Challenge: Two Years Later

Posted by (twitter: @tayl1r)
November 4th, 2015 7:02 pm

I’m not entirely sure if I completed the October Challenge, I have made £11 but I also spent about £150 on licenses and music. So I either did it or failed it pretty hard. I’m not sure. But I really enjoyed working on it and releasing something, I learned a lot in the process, and my reaction seems almost comical looking back. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve started writing this, but I guess it would be nice to draw a line under something that made me pretty bitter at the time, but is completely understandable with hindsight.

sales

The game I made was MetritronHF for the 2013 October Challenge, which is an Arena Shmup made of retina burning particle effects and not particularly stylish ones. It was a “full version” of a game I had made previously called Metritron, a mix of Metrics and Robotron. The original was based on a Peter Molyneux quote for the 2013 Molyjam:

“We’ve got tons of graphs and data coming in, and looking at that is the most inspirational thing I have seen as a game designer, ever.”

While you were fighting the original game logged a lot of pointless statistics and collated them in a Peter Molydeux Twitter account kind of way. Being near enemies increased terror, dying increased sadness, confusion was just a random number, boredom increased with time, etc. But none of them were particularly readable. I was particularly fond of the statistic “dog” which was just your x position whenever it snapshot the graph.

pre_metritron

However, MetritronHF dropped all this to be more of a traditional arena shmup, which was probably my first mistake. The stats were stupid, intentionally so, but they were a shtick and made the arena look a lot more interesting. Instead of game acquired lots of levels, enemies, bosses, and bullet patterns (I wonder if anyone has finished it!), but writing “contains lots of enemies” in the bullet list of features is always a bit weak, and wasn’t nearly as intriguing as a screenshot with “Player Indifference” being flashed up as an abstract number.

All in all MetritronHF is fairly… unremarkable. I would say it’s competent mechanically, and with the later levels it does become something unique with its bullet patterns, but there’s nothing special about it at all. The first tens of stages are just blasting skulls or being ran into by the confusing behaviour of the coffins (they switch moveable axis every few seconds and cannot be hurt while non-coffins are alive… but this isn’t explained). Not exactly the most engaging intro.

One of my biggest mistakes was probably making the game pay-what-you-want and I’m sure I would have made more just from inquisitive people if I had set it to a dollar. Part of me just assumed I’d be getting my money back from the goodwill of the universe, or perhaps from the sheer guaranteed buzz of posting something in an insanely fast moving Ludum Dare newsfeed. You might be surprised to hear this was not the case.

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Initially I planned to release the game for Xbox Live Indie Games and this was basically a disaster that cost me $90. I had a problem with my account that is affecting a lot of people, where the website would create a circular loop and crash on any browser or device making it inaccessible. This is a known issue, and I suspect is caused by an inconsistency with my Japanese Xbox and English account, but it meant it was impossible to do anything like submit a game. The issue had existed for years, but the platform was basically no longer supported, and the consensus from the forum was basically that if it happens you’re screwed.

I first tried to fix the issue and then tried to get my fee back but this seemed impossible. Going to the support page asked you if you were using XBLIG or Windows Phone and choosing the former dumped you unceremoniously on the front page as if you had never clicked on the support link, I received no response from their official e-mail after writing to them multiple times, and the Windows Phone live help just told me to use the XBLIG one. The one that doesn’t exist.  

I decided instead to publish on PC. However, this needed a little bit more work because it was basically built for a console. This meant resolution, keyboard/mouse support, a new way to store scores, etc. But that was fine, I ended up making quite a nice framework for this I could drop into any game as well. Of course, I would ever use XNA ever again.

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Finally, armed with lots of videos and articles about talking to the press I sent off special personalised e-mails to specific authors. The text got to the point, provided keys, used Vlambeers presskit site generator, and everything else you’re told to do. And I got no responses, which should not have been a surprise. It was a free, generic arena shmup with no selling angle.


2 Responses to “October Challenge: Two Years Later”

  1. vitail924 says:

    wow man looks great!!

    what engine you used??

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