iZBOT – Indie Game Postmortem

My game iZBOT has been out on Steam now for a little over a year it’s high time for a mortem of the post variety. I’m hoping this postmortem will help other indie game devs out there in a similar situation to mine.

Firstly a  bit about me, I develop under the company name of Ruxar but it’s just me. I’ve got a full time job and a couple of brats kicking around so game development is very much a part time thing.

From start to finish iZBOT took around a year and a half, honestly though that wasn’t flat out. I had a couple of extended breaks in there where I was either playing or creating other games.

I do believe that I’ve have a tenacity about me, in that I REALLY want to finish things I start. This can be good (I’m able to finish games), but bad as well (because I end up binge watching ‘The Walking Dead’ along the way).

Game

The game is a fast platformer however it isn’t breaking any new ground in terms of originality or mechanics. This mostly due to a combination of things, my naivety of the marketplace as well as my limitations as a part time developer. When I started I’d just watched ‘Indie Game – The Movie’ and knew that I wouldn’t be able to put out something the same quality as Super Meat Boy but if I could put out something similar I might be able to grab some sales within the hardcore platforming segment without really differentiating it from the rest of what was out there, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

 

iZBOT Jumping

Game Dev Process

When I was working on the game, I’d usually do 2-3 hours a night. This was a mix of programming, art and marketing through dev blogs, social media etc. If I had to divide my time it would have looked something like this.

Time Doughnuts

Marketing

During development I tried to be as open an engaging as possible. Lots of progress gifs on twitter , #screenshotsaturday as well as keeping a devlog on TIGSource and my own personal blog.  Closer to launch I ramped it up a bit. I sent out press releases to gamespress.com for major announcements green light success, release date etc.

Aside from this I did some paid marketing on Adwords and AdDuplex. I struggled a bit with this, I think the CPA was to high and I didn’t want to throw more money at it when I wasn’t really seeing results.

Ads

Expenses

Probably the biggest expense for the game was the art refresh I commissioned from Shawn (who was awesome to work with). With Art, Ads, Licences, Fees etc the total expenses related to iZBOT were around $1000. I didn’t really account for any of my time, I shudder to think of what my hourly rate calculates out to be.

Original Vs Revision

 

The Bucks

This is the aggregated data across Steam, Humble Store and Itch.io. Steam made up for most of the sales. I love Itch.io, the platform and the focus on indie devs but I only got a single sale from there even when offering discounts greater than what I had in the past on Steam. The game has made bit under 4K at the time of writing.

 

Riches and Units

Discounting and Pricing

My game is currently priced at $9.99 USD, in hindsight I got this wrong. When the game went on sale initially I was trying to maximise the first period, but quickly got into a fairly heavily discounting cycle. It now goes on sales for 80-90% off. I still might try and experiment with a lower price point and less of a sale discount, but currently the game just doesn’t sell when it’s not on sale.

 

Full Priced Sale


Final Comments

So if i could do it all again, would I? I think the answer is probably yes. I do love the fact that I’ve made something, people actually buy it play it and even sometimes like it. If I were to do it again, I’d try and optimise the process a lot more. There are a lot of things that take a heap of time but at the end of the day wouldn’t have made any difference to the total sales of the game. In closing, I hope the data in this postmortem helps other people in their game development journeys.

5 Tips To Make Your Game More Appealing To Let’s Players

There is no denying what a significant impact the likes of Twitch and YouTube are having on gaming at the moment and this in only going to increase going forwards. I’m going to try and show you a couple of tips that I found really useful when trying to engage with streamers and Let’s Players out there.

 

First off, try and put yourself in their shoes, would you show the game if you were running the channel? Will it entertain the audience? If you’re game is quirky and unique it’s going to have a much greater chance to get picked up. Let’s Players are looking to attract views to grow their channel, you want to do everything you can to help them as its mutually beneficial for both parties. Whenever you approach someone keep this in mind. Below are some of the things you can do with the game itself as well as some other tips to help get your game out there.

 

1. Have separate music and effects controls

Let’s Players generally like to keep the effects on and the audio off. This means that there isn’t any questions of permissions for playing the music in your game as well as the fact that they’re talking the whole time and don’t want to be drowned about by the music.

Turn down the tunes

2. Video Monetization permission

A common request is for permission to monetize the videos that are created. I use a predefined template created by the good people at Vlambeer. This creates a generic page cover all permission for the coverage of your game which you can link to in the initial contact email to save a ‘Yes you have permission’ email back to the content creator.

3. Add transparent logos, character art and backgrounds

Having images with a transparent background makes life a heap easier for generating pretty channel art, again it’s a little thing but each little bit counts. This is a common gripe for the Let’s Play community and it’s a really easy one to fix. I’ve used the awesome presskit() from Vlambeer to showcase the images and talk about the game a little bit.

Transparent Logo

 

First you get the channel art, then you get the views, then you get the power.

Well maybe…

4. Post over at reddit’s /r/LetsPlay

In my experience the Let’s Players in this subreddit are genuinely friendly and there’s a lot of mutual respect going. There are a heap of people trying to grow their channel as well as more established Let’s Players lurking around in this subreddit. Posting here will it make it a lot easier to distribute keys and sell your game, people reach out to you rather than the other way around.

5. Search for Active Let’s Players on YouTube

Use the filter settings within YouTube to search for Let’s Players who have been active within the last month or so and might be interested in your game. Once you find someone use the ‘About’ page to get their preferred contact details. When you do contact people, try and keep it personal but to the point. This can be a massive time sink if you’re going to send out 200 individualized emails to people, just be aware and make sure you’ve got a decent workflow before the last minute when it’s time to get in contact with people. One final point on this one, keep a spreadsheet of you you’ve contacted, their email address and if they’ve gotten back to you. Helps give you a head start for the next game that needs promotion.

Searching for Let's Players in the Sleeping Simulator genre

Game Art Commisions

I’ve recently commissioned some box art for my 2D platformer iZBOT. This was my first time commissioning art, I wish I’d done it sooner. I’m really happy with the result and the overall process has been very smooth. Below are the steps I went though and a couple of tips to get something you’re happy with.

Decide on a style

What sort of game do you have? This is going to drive the style question somewhat. This is something you have to come up with yourself and is a key decision as its going to drive artist selection and the end result somewhat. Check out what other people are doing in similar genres if you’re stuck.

Find your artist

This step is something that I struggled on for a while. I’d come across great artists or commission pages that hadn’t been updated since 2012. I ended up using a bit of GoogleFu to get the result I was after. If you search for the keyword ‘commisions’ and then only search specific sites like tumblr or deviantart using the syntax site:tumblr.com . One final thing is to go into the advanced search settings make sure that you’re only returning results that have been updated in the last month or so. Then select images and browse away.

Rough Draft

I was really lucky to have the artist who did my box art guide me through this one, but I sent over a heap of pixel art, gifs of the game fonts etc. Anything to give her more of a sense of the character that they are going to draw. She came back with really good ideas here and I ended up changing what I had in mind.

Compare

And below is the finished result, I’m really happy with the results. The overall process has been great and it makes iZBOT look like a proper game 🙂 The artist who created these goes by Ruba and here is a link to her Tumblr. I can’t recomend her enough.

 

Awesome new box art from the awesome and very talented Rubalotl.izbot-commission

iZBOT Trailer

Possibly not the worst the trailer ever made in the history of video games. A lots of iZBOTs died to bring you this trailer.

P.S This is the worst video game trailer of all time

iZBOT – 2D Platformer – Gameplay Preview

Development has been trickling along, the first 20 levels are pretty much done. There’s a few new platformer mechanics in the preview video, portals, conveyors, spiny things.

I’m not 100% on the level ordering at this stage, there are a few tricky ones in there that could probably be moved to the later stages. The boss needs some better pixels as well.

Reverse Concept Art

 

Well, the concept is already pretty much in place so its not concept art. Reverse concept art is all I could come up with 🙂 This is a sketch done in paint.net using the Surface Pro 2 of iZBOT running about. As you can see from the squiggly lines I’m not much good at blocking things out in solids, That might be the next step.

iZBOT_Run