My LD37 submission, You’re tearing me apart is featured in an article by The AV Club! Check it out!
Posts Tagged ‘success story’
TRI is a game with a long story, so I won’t even attempt to remember every detail. Instead, I will write down what comes into my mind. This way the following article might be a bit inconsistent; I hope it’s still an interesting read.
The story begins in April 2011, when I participate for the first time in a big Ludum Dare event. It was the 20th Ludum Dare, with the theme “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this!” (a quote from Zelda) – but the theme didn’t really matter, as I got the idea for my entry the evening before. I was inspired by working with 3D modeling software, where you create and manipulate polygons, and I thought: how could I use that for a game? Good thing the eventual Ludum Dare theme kinda fit – I just equipped the player with a “Tri Force Field Gun” (the “this” for the theme), and TRI was born, where all you do is creating triangles to walk and jump on them, and solve a few puzzles.
My entry was kinda successful: I submitted it to the Compo, but eventually switched to Jam, because I copied a character controller from the Unify wiki (as Unity’s inbuilt one was too wonky). The Jam worked a bit differently back then, so my entry didn’t receive any ratings. But PoV featured TRI in the results announcement post, and people who played the game (the community of Ludum Dare, and players on Kongregate) liked it well and some even asked for more levels.
A few months later, in October 2011, we were searching for a cool new project. Somehow we convinced ourselves that we could create a full version of TRI within a few months, which of course was very naive. We actually already made two commercial games back then, but as those were done in a much shorter timeframe and were for mobile only we still underestimated how hard it is to make a full-blown game with individually designed levels, somewhat complex gameplay, physics and a story-line. Also – and this was the worst part – a lack of clear direction (due to missing experience) hindered a straight development, and so we changed the design several times before TRI became the game you can see and play nowadays. Of course, we learned a lot during these three years, but I often wish we would have learned this stuff faster.
TRI was made by Jana and me, Friedrich. Jana created the visuals and most 3D models, while I programmed in Unity/C# and also made the GUI. We both created the levels and searched for and worked on the sounds. The music was composed by my brother Ludwig.
It is still funny for me how each department is received extremely differently by different people: some love the graphics, some find them bland. Some adore the gameplay, some think it’s clunky or just headache-inducing. Some bought the soundtrack, some just found it repetitive. I know that tastes differ, but as most feedback nowadays comes from official reviews, it’s just silly how one piece of opinion claims that our levels are “not convincing” while the other describes them as highly genius.
But yeah. A lot of reviews miss the “polish of Portal” in TRI, and I can’t do anything else than concur. We are a two-man team, still learning, with a fraction of the budget of Portal. I guess the secret of success is to hide such facts as well as possible, but I don’t know how. So the biggest learning for us: we won’t do anything this big again soon. At least we shouldn’t.
We even had to take breaks during the years, because of interfering contract work, or just because we had to take some time off. Both didn’t make development any shorter, and if Rising Star wouldn’t have approached us to give us some funding and a deadline to kick our asses, we probably would still work on TRI (or having a break from it).
In reality, TRI was a good project for a small team, as the game has a narrow scope: the main gameplay is about creating triangles, and almost all of the other mechanics somehow work with this mechanic. For example, there are light rays, and you can reflect them – with the triangles. And you can walk on the walls and the ceilings – thanks to the triangles. There are also some basic physics puzzles (dropping crates on platforms and so on), but the physics are built into Unity. So how did TRI become a “too big game”?
By not being absolutely clear about the game’s direction.
One indication for this is the game’s story. We wanted a background story from the beginning; the original TRI has one, although fairly simple and only communicated via texts on walls. And yet it added a big portion to the package – so we still think some kind of narrative is necessary as a hook. Just think of how showing triangles would be boring for reviewers and YouTubers. This is why we needed some characters in the game. Unfortunately our story changed a lot during the development, or rather: the whole design and with it the story. From a sci-fi setting with a mad professor and a fantasy story with an alchemist, to the now present fable about a Monk and a Fox. This last iteration of TRI’s plot feels a bit tackled on sometimes, and really you can still complete the game (hopefully) even when you skip all story bits (hopefully not). So it’s there to entertain, but the narrative sadly isn’t an integral part of TRI.
The most problematic thing was that Jana and I never fought over what TRI actually should be – at least there never was a clear winner. Jana was all for making a game about atmosphere and looking at nice architecture. I on the other side was totally focused on the gameplay, and how there should be a lot of puzzles, because I feared people would be bored otherwise.
This way TRI became a game with two souls – there are parts that are mostly about the design, and parts that contain a lot of riddles and obstacles. Thankfully it doesn’t feel too much like a game with multiple personalities because Jana added her personal touch to each level after they were done by adding the textures and decorations. And fortunately the Monk and Fox also help to string them together, at least in my opinion.
Nobody ever complained about the sound design – apart from our very own voices for the climbing. Still, this fact is kinda great because although we actually tried to hire someone to make sound effects, the deal didn’t come to place and we found our best partner in freesound.org – really a great resource for indie developers. Most of the sounds actually were done within a few days. Sound design may be something that we still neglect, but TRI didn’t focus on sounds anyway, even though we wish we had time to create atmospheric “sound carpets” for each level, because sometimes everything is silent and nothing happens, and it then feels a bit too lifeless.
Although we normally tell everyone that the game was released on 9th October 2014, we actually put TRI online for the first time in June 2012, as a “pre-alpha”, which was a stupid description. We renamed it quickly to “alpha”, and a bit later I also tried to get rid off the version numbers (like 0.3.0) which always were low and unattractive, by replacing them with something cooler: code names! The next version was then “MagicalMonk”, which sounds much more confident.
These early-access versions (purchasable via our website and Desura) were not very successful in terms of sales, but we actually never did much marketing for them. We rather tried to get feedback from people interested in the concept and art style, by pre-selling the game for a low price and adding a survey at the end of the game. The later versions even included the possibility to give direct feedback via an inbuilt form. (Thanks to Jedi for the idea!) This was great, because people could send us bug reports or suggestions together with a game save. And it was a solution for our QA problem – every game needs testers, and this way everybody can be one!
In October 2013 we submitted TRI to Steam Greenlight, and some months later it was finally approved by Valve. It also made a lot more people aware of our game. But unfortunately Greenlight was a better marketing tool when it started in 2012. While the first batches of greenlit games were celebrated by the press, this effect became non-existent, thanks to the countless, bi-monthly batches with 100 titles approved at once – and TRI was part of one of these, in February 2014.
It was like winning $20 – nice, but absolutely underwhelming. On the other hand we’re a bit proud of being greenlit before TRI even reached the Top 100, although I am not sure what exactly that means.
Anyway, at least we’re on Steam – and as the saying goes: “be on Steam, or don’t be”. A little anecdote: to be visible to curators (the new thing on Steam) we had to rename TRI, as the name was too common (think “Counterstrike”) for the search form to work, as it relied on auto-completion only. This is why TRI is now called “TRI: Of Friendship and Madness” (Jana’s idea) almost everywhere.
Overall we are happy with the reception of TRI: more reviewers than I would have expected like or even love the game, and our Steam user score is pretty high – as of writing we have 30 positive and only 2 negative reviews, resulting in 93%. Yet, the game is still missing visibility – Steam, Greenlight and reviews alone don’t do that for you (anymore). We need more YouTubers with a high amount of subscribers, playing the game on their channels. And probably some sensible discounts, as it seems a lot of potential buyers are just waiting for the inevitable XY% off sale. I can’t even blame them: with so many games on my backlog, I do the same with most new titles.
What can TRI offer you? It has 16 levels created by our hands, 5 different “worlds” each with a different background music and a new look, two animated NPCs, all degrees of freedom, and unlimited triangles. You conjure these to overcome abysses, to block and reflect light rays and lasers, and to walk on the walls and the ceilings. A lot of areas can be approached differently, depending on your own play style. Even some of the puzzles have more than one solution, and I sometimes see people solving them in a new, unique way. There are very open levels where you can fall into the void, and levels with a lot of narrow hallways. You can jump, crouch, climb, run, carry crates around and use levers.
TRI is a bit about celebrating freedom and possibilities, and we hoped that a lot of people would love that. For now, we still have to find out how to reach them.
Okay! Time for a debriefing. This was my first Ludum Dare and it was great! I coded. I pixeled. I spilled food on stuff. I drank a LOT of faygo Rock n Rye. Good experience all around. Here’s my 48 hour compo submission~
(Click that for the entry page)
Divernaut is about exploring, and underwater caves, and dangerous sea creatures, and seaweed, and air bubbles, and explosions! Also spaceships. Don’t worry. It’ll all make sense soon.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
I was a little drunk at the beginning of the event. This turned out to be a good thing, because when the theme was announced, it made it way easier to grab a notebook and just puke out like 10 pages nonsense inspired by “Beneath the Surface”. I while later, I went back and read it all, then picked out all the not stupid parts and formed my concept from them. I also had a production schedule that I put together based on reading past LD post-mortems. That production schedule is likely the main reason I actually finished anything. Having deadlines within a deadline is a very effect time management trick for goal oriented people such as myself. “Yes I have 48 hours to finish this, but I only have ONE HOUR LEFT TO FINISH MY TEMP GRAPHICS D: *panic panic panic*”
WHAT WENT WRONG
Friday afternoon, I was getting ready for the event when SURPRISE! Apparently there was going to be a party at my house that night. There ended up being a two or three hour overlap with the party and Ludum Dare, which was fairly distracting. Lesson Learned: Don’t just plan for the event. Plan for your life around the event as well. The bright side was that this party resulted in the “a little drunk” detail mentioned in the previous section. My other big woulda-coulda-shoulda involves that production schedule I had. I did not follow it as strictly as I should have. Once I reached the mapping/level planning phase, I started finding bugs. This is normal. Unfortunately, with most of the bugs I’d think “Oh this is tiny, I’ll just fix it right now and then get back to mapping.”. That was a bad idea and it ended up costing me my game’s music, and some graphical polish (it’s easy to mistake the green fish for missiles). None of the things were game breaking bugs, so I should have just noted them, and taken care of as many as possible during my debug phase. This would have let me stay on schedule and give the game a soundtrack.
ADVICE FOR NEXT TIME (for myself, and newcomers)
Have a plan. If you’re like me and already had a plan, have a better plan. If I hadn’t stuck to my production schedule, I probably wouldn’t have even finished at all. I got side-tracked just a little bit, and paid for it with a soundtrack. Don’t make my same mistake.
This was my first Ludum Dare, and it was a fantastic experience. I like making games, and this even was incredibly revitalizing to my creative drive. I’ll be doing my best to join every future Ludum Dare.
Wanna find me on Twitter?
Did you like Divernaut? Are you interested in more games by Dustout? Check out the
Dustout Games website.
Midnight Minigun is a top-down shooter where you fight the rising tide of Zombification in a small-town community. This was my third Ludum Dare and I only had 24h in which to create my entry … on the whole I was pretty happy with this one, I hope you like it!
What went right
1. Preparation – I knew I’d only have a single day in which to create my entry, so making sure emy tools were sharp in advance was vital. I stripped down my last LD entry to base code and was ready to hit the ground running. Preparation also meant treating my family well and bringing everyone on board in a team effort – the Zombie noises were provided by my 6-month old daughter and slowed down in Audacity 😀
2. Tiny scope – dawn til dusk is not a lot of time and I wanted the game to be polished – that meant avoiding feature creep at all costs. The main feature I cut was a mechanic where humans would follow you. You could lead them to the fenced area in top-centre of the map and they would be “saved” and un-killable. It broke the flow too much so I cut it early. However the game is very simple as a result and could benefit from another feature or two… 8×8 pixel sprites was also the right move for my limited art skills!
3. Two phases: core then juice – I watched the “juice it or lose it” video linked by a previous LD48 poster and this really cemented “polish” for me. Polish is what makes a game shine and without it your game will always be dull. The biggest win is SOUND, so I grabbed the free music from Franklin Webber early on and made sure the gun sounds were bang on. Other additions to juiciness are the screen shake, darkness vignette and particles. Without these the game would be shallow and dull.
What went wrong
1. Struggles with art – I knew this game needed fun animations and readable sprites and environment. I really wanted a gorgeous colour palette to unite the elements but this proved elusive so the result is a bit of a mishmash – the dark vignette hides many evils! Creation of the environment tiles was really tough for me – I had plans for a school, shopping mall, carparks, cars etc … I just didn’t have the skills to pull that all off so the environment ends up feeling a little sparse.
2. Lack of reliable excitement curve – Ideally games should start with a hook, feature periods of tension and release, before a climactic finale (see e.g. Jesse Schell’s Art of Game Design). I think I have the first two but it is quite possible for the game to fizzle out / become a bit of a dull trudge to mop up stragglers. I would really have liked some kind of key event like a boss battle to provide an exciting conclusion…
3. Missed opportunity to add story – I kicked myself here as I really intended to get the player to drop some one-liners etc when you died/respawned. This sort of thing really lifts the experience and adds humour and character – alas, I chose to just “ship it” and regretted this afterwards. The ending is also a bit un-rewarding. Something tied into the fiction of the game would have been better, with a custom win screen with some nice art assets picturing your triumph or whatever.
I had such a blast making this game, and I’m pleased with the result. I really wanted to convey the feeling of mowing down hordes with a minigun (rather like the jungle scene in Predator…see below!) and people seem to dig firing that gun! It’s a simple and short experience that doesn’t outstay its welcome, and I think there is plenty of scope to add features for version two.
The comments and feedback I’ve received have been humbling, thank you Ludum Dare!
Or watch Predator here:
It’s been a little over a year now since i’ve been making video games. Though, in one way or another, I’ve been makin em far back as I remember.(I can still remember some of the rule sets I had for my legos, and chess modifications. )
Last October, I read about the october challenge, and though not ready for it yet, I pored through all of the resources available to me sayin, one day, one day. that day came several months later, after I decided to work on a game for a month straight, and to put it
on a market shortly after. the result was a touch based android game where you kept your finger on the screen, dodging blades and collecting coins. I had a good 10 levels, and spent some time polishing it the best my beginner gimp skills allowed. I began by submitting it to the google play store, thinking i’d put it up for free, then if people liked it I could simply raise the price higher, I later learned that wasn’t the case, and learned a lesson there. “You cannot raise the price of a item on the google play store, only lower it.” But I didn’t stop there, I submitted to all the market places I could find, “amazon, opera,slide.me, and several others.” most of the markets, I learned, don’t give you the greatest exposure. It was then i read something about samsung’s 100% indie program and began the process of submitting with them.
I began my communication with 100% indie’s customer support, and they were very responsive and helpful with getting my game published. However, I was used to submitting my game and having it show up instantly in the market place, The submission process took a week,I got my app back rejected, with a report telling me that it wouldnt be supported by a list of tablets, I almost quit, but I didn’t. I loaded up the website to resubmit, and only submitted it for the devices it would support. I waited another week, I got my app back, rejected. this time the message was that the game was broken due to the fact that when a finger was removed from the screen the level quit. I almost quit, and shelved the game. But I didn’t. Due to this being a gameplay mechanic explained in the opening screen, I sent them an email explaining the confusion, and yanno what? A coupla days later, my app was approved, and copies were (by my standards) “Flying off the shelf.”
I felt a feeling of success nothing in life had made me feel, though I didn’t quit my job quite yet,(that would come later.)
I felt like this could be something I wanted to do full time, though over the course of several months, sales plummeted
leaving my grand total around $40 …$40!!! I had set out to make one dollar, and I smashed the goal. But all too quickly,
It wasn’t enough.
The months rolled on, and eventually tensions mounted at my employer, I found myself quickly unemployed. No problem I thought to myself I can fund my family making games, (Can I?). several little jam games later(1 took 3rd place and won me 25$!), october rolled around, and I thought to myself, ok. Time to do something serious and commercial. Working with a little prototype I developed, I started putting together “Super Pixel Ball” A cross between Marble Madness, and 2d platformers, with slippery marble controls, you make your way thru levels while avoiding obstacles. I’ve got ten levels done so far, and as with my previous release I’m releasing it free/pay as you want. the plan is to keep it that way thru development, then when it’s finished I suppose I’ll survey the players to get a good price point. The first day I announced it I got a couple preorders, So I can say my october challenge this year has been completed, but that would be lazy, So I made 40$ on my first october challenge, I hope 100$ isn’t too high
of a bar to set, only time will tell!
I’m amazed how much I’ve learned in such a short time, and will continue to keep pressing on with my delusions of grandeur of being a full time self sufficient independent games developer. I’d like to share with you just a couple of imb portant things I’ve learned in the last year on being profitable.
1: Don’t Give up! : No matter how many times i’ve felt like it in the last year this insatiable addiction to keep churning out games is unstoppable,It only stands to reason that if at any one of those times I had quit making games, then i would not be 70$ richer as I am today.
2:Ask for money. You will never make any money as a game developer if you don’t sell your games right? There are a great number of markets out there, go out there and submit!
3:Talk to people. There are SO many opportunities you can find by just gettin out of your head and talking to other like minded gamedev folks, also good friends are worth > $$!
I’ve been trying to make games commercially for goin on 5 months now, and more than anything in the world, I’d like a
paying job as a game developer, sometimes I ask myself, “Do I have a snowballs chance in hell?” . Well as most people tell me,
I probably don’t, but i’ll be damned if I ever stop tryin.
Thats bout all I got for now, please post any other tips for becoming a lucrative game developer in the comments
Dont get Cut! Free on Google Play:
Don’t Get Cut! 1$ on samsung app store:
Super Pixel Ball Free(web Version) on gamejolt.com:
Super Pixel Ball Pay as you want :
(Spoiler gameplay video)
I present to you, Legend of Troll
This game took me 3 whole days, only managed to implement one of the 10 levels I planned, and injured my index finger.
But it was SO worth it! I’m so proud
Stay tuned for more levels, and a post-mortem /making of. I promise you it’s worth your while.
If you haven’t voted for my game yet:
Also, I didn’t manage to get all three pieces of music in the game (because I’m not a proper programmer), but I promise I’ll upload the soundtrack soon, as I’m proud of it too!
Thank you thank you thank you, for the fantastic experience, third time in a row!
We’re proud of it and couldn’t wait to show this off to you guys! Please spread around, rate and comment
I will now attempt the daring feat of sharing what this experience felt for me, so we can all benefit from it as game designers/developers/artists.
It was exhausting and super fun. I particularly enjoyed composing the music, and how we came up with an interesting gameplay mechanic (teleportation).
Coming at it as equals and negotiating ideas did a world of good for our game. Our main inspiration was the Touhou series of games for Fedor (I’d only seen gameplay) and Ikaruga for me (finished the game several times).
I started doing graphics on Saturday morning. I worked on a mockup photoshop file full groups of layers, to which I returned throughout development. For example, when I needed a new enemy, I would fire up the mockup, draw the enemy next to all the other sprites and then paste it into another photoshop file and animate it separately. I would then export as individual .PNGs (Photoshop’s “Render Animation to Video” was very helpful).
Dropbox of course saved our lives, and we communicated through skype’s chat. In fact we haven’t even seen each others’ faces.
I used Photoshop CS5 for all animation and graphics, and Fruity Loops with free soundfonts to write and perform the music.
Fedor used Unity and I don’t know what else ^-^
Post mortem: We gave it our absolute best. A coding set-back made the scrolling clouds unusable, so Fedor had to wing it at the last moment, which left the background a little bleh in my opinion ( I had no time to make changes to the cloud graphics and scrolling). But even so, when at the last minute he managed to fix the clouds so we at least had some, it was very exciting. The level is very very well thought-out and very fun to play. It took Fedor, what, 6 hours? to come up with the patterns that complement the teleport mechanic. The 3 hours before deadline were, for me, mostly about helping Fedor out with any requests, like changing sprites or giving him a list with all the visual elements he had yet to implement. I made a second enemy ship graphic in 15 minutes, since Fedor made enemies with two different numbers of hit points, and I felt we needed to be able to tell them apart. This was done 2 or 3 hours before deadline, when Fedor was struggling with the stupid clouds. He added the second enemy graphic in the game 1 hour before deadline.
I also wanted finite lives implemented (9 of them, as many as the tails of the Kumiho fox-spirit), shown only everytime you are resurrected from a death, in order to keep the interface as clean as Fedor wanted it. Scoring wouldn’t have hurt either. But we didn’t have time to even negotiate it, because the ideas came too late. Even if they had come early, we wouldn’t have had time. I stayed up Sunday 12am to Tuesday 6am, and it’s the longest I’ve ever been awake.
So, overall, I couldn’t have wished for anything better, I had the fastest and best coder at my disposal, we had a crazy schedule and working hours, and implemented almost everything we set out to implement, and still had time for a little polish.