To say the least 2013 was slow … Real slow. I don’t feel like I’ve bee sitting on my hands but I can’t figure where the time has gone for some reason.

First interesting net revenue ever: Bret Airborne

2013 is mostly that really. It’s about $1,500 which is much lower than I hoped but still better than anything I achieved so far. I’ll leave out the part of the cost of the assets I used for this game that were originally used in Blimp Wars otherwise I didn’t make any profit. Blimp Wars loss was already part of another financial year anyway.

Note that I’ve only be able to make that “much” money with Bret Airborne through its appearance on Indie Royale which is another not so great fact. It failed poorly on casual portals and didn’t even make it on some. Second best revenue source is direct sales. It could mean good news if those weren’t so low but still …

I’m still proud of the game and my wife still plays it every single day. If money shows up in 2014 I’ll probably try to port it to iPads but it’s not a priority at the moment. One can only work for so long on something that doesn’t pick up so if it ends up on the iPad it will probably be because I’ve reached some form of success on another project. Which brings me to this big announcement …

2014 will be the year of my first game success

I decided it would be anyway. Human Extinction Simulator will be my breakthrough game. I have no real idea what this means anymore but all I know is that all the pieces fit well together and I see this game as the one that will start the wheel turning.

I’m so bored of using the words “hope” and “wish” that I figured it would be nice for a change to just say it will happen. Here’s the reasons why it will:

  • Simple to pick up yet hardcore to master strategy that felt fun and right the first time on the prototype phase.
  • Surprisingly niche for an indie game so in the genre it should give me at least 1% more chance to shine among others. It’s incredible how many indie platformers are realeased every single week.
  • Graphics look good, particles look good, music should be good and all of this on a tight budget!
  • Contacts. I have more of them now than I ever had. You never know how it will play out but it can’t hurt.
  • Huge opportunity for modders so with a bit of luck it might help the game to get some traction.

But I first need to finish the game. Hopefully I’ve learned to cut many unnecessary and wild features with the years so the project is under control and WILL be released this year. Probably Q1 or Q2 at most. It will be a challenge however and it brings me to the next point …

Huge productivity drop in 2013

Maybe I’m getting old or it’s just a motivation issue for not seeming to get anywhere but in 2013, after the release of Bret Airborne, I had a really hard time to get Human Extinction Simulator (HES) on track.

Working on evenings is harder than ever. It’s not that I have an awful lot to do beside that but I guess that part of me is trying to get me to slow things down since nothing great ever happened out of doing that. The good thing that came out of this is that it forced me to carefully plan HES so it doesn’t get out of hands. It got me more focused on the important parts of the game and got me to iterate a lot on features until I found the best simple/fun ratio. It’s so easy to start working on a feature that turns out to be only fluff in the end that I want to avoid that at all cost. If I work on something it’s because I really have to.

It can be fun sometimes to experiment and explore new possibilities but for HES I got a solid core that doesn’t need much more to stand as a fun game. Maybe I’m getting better at finding good projects to work on. Yeah, I’ll go with that …

Some things I learned in 2013 that will be useful in 2014

Even if Bret Airborne didn’t get where I was hoping it would get it did teach me a few things:

  • It’s direct sales and Steam only from now on. Beside Desura which opened the door for the Indie Royale bundle my direct sales beat all other stores (including Desura before the Indie Royale bundle) and it’s just a hassle to get on them. I didn’t crack the code of success on casual portals which are a completely different beast and I honestly don’t care to dig more on the casual games genre.
  • Trailers will only be straight gameplay videos. That’s what I’m looking for anyway when I watch a trailer. That and the fact that I hate doing trailers, I suck at it and the game should be able to stand on its own. I don’t have the money to get something fancy done so I will keep to something simple and try to make it nice instead of doing something fancier that looks bad in the end.
  • HES will be priced $20 or $15. I’m done with games priced cheaper than that.
    • All experiments I’ve read about indie PC games priced above the $10 mark show that it provides better results in the end. The possible reductions of copies sold is compensated by the price, if that phenomenon presents itself at all.
    • People can complain all they want about the price of a game we’ve seen this years many successful “high” priced indie projects that did very well. Beside people are more than happy to put money on unreleased projects so it’s just a matter of not listening to the noise of comments. I’ll obey to the sales numbers when I get them. If I’m wrong I’ll be the only one to suffer from it and if I’m right I’ll also be the only one to benefit from it so I don’t see any reason to listen to people telling me my games might cost too much.
    • Current top seller on this Steam sales season is DayZ sold for $30. No discount.
    • It might actually help me to motivate myself to provide higher quality stuff. Not that I was deliberately being lazy with other projects but it still plays a part on how you consider a project somehow I found.
  • Since I already predicted that HES will be a nice success I plan on remaining on similar grounds for at least another project. Not to just release HES 2 so quickly but to use this foundation to finally make a game I wanted to make for a long time. Hint: Code name for HES is “Smuggler story” …
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