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.

How to make an animated GIF like a Boss

Missiles

TLDR Version

Gifcam + Screen Recorder + ezgif.com = win

Creating Awesome Animated GIFs

If you’re plugging away at a game and want the world to know about it GIFs are your answer. I’m going to share with you today a couple of tips to get the most bang for your buck in terms of the final output and the workflow for creating the GIFs in the first place.

GifCam

GifCam – I can’t rate this highly enough, it’s such an awesome tool for creating gifs. Not only does it compress the crap out of them so you can sneak in under Twitter’s 3 meg limit but it also gives you editing capabilities from within the tool itself. If you aren’t using this GRAB IT NOW! Ok…got it? Awesome.

I try to record my GIFs at 640×360 at 33fps, you can tweak the size and fps that you record from within the tool. Remember that you’re shooting for the magical 3 meg limit. If you’re not going to put this on twitter you don’t need to worry so much about the limit but be cognisant of the file size, you don’t want to be embedding 50meg GIFs in your site, that’s no fun for anyone.

The recording and editing process is fairly straight forward, setup your variables, line it up, hit record and then edit the required footage and save.

This is all well and good but capturing those ultra-rare kick ass moments in your game can be tricky as you need to continually stop, clear and restart the GIF recording so it doesn’t chew up all your memory.

Screen Recorders

What I’ve found incredibly helpful is to capture your gameplay footage using screen recording software such as Camtasia, ShadowPlay or Fraps these seem a lot more efficient are capturing a longer period of gameplay which increases the chances getting in that double jump to wall slide to triple flip ninja kick. Once you have this footage you can just overlay Gifcam to the footage, record, edit the GIF and you’ve just got an awesome GIF on your hands. In Gifcam you can set the frame delay to be all the same by shift clicking on the time delay in the edit window. This smooths it out a bit.

FrameDelay

I generally capture and bunch of footage and then find the best bits and create a heap of GIFs at one time. Enough for a few weeks worth of #screenshotsaturday posts.

Optimize

Once you have the GIF and you’re hosting it yourself or it’s slightly over twitters limit I recommend using:

http://ezgif.com/optimize

This can bring down the size of an already compressed GIF to give you the quickest load speed or squeak it in under Twitter’s limit.

Steam Widget

Steam has a handy little feature which creates a little widget to be able to embed a link to your game in things like a blog post for example 🙂

On your store page, click on the ‘Embed’ button edit the text and generate the HTML then just paste that bad boy in and it’s on like Donkey Kong.

 

Choosing your Steam release date

I’m currently heads down, bums up in gearing up for a release of my game on steam. One of the many decisions that need to be made revolves around what date to to release on. There are a few factors to keep in mind when choosing a release date.

First things first you should obviously allow for anytime to complete all the remaining tasks in your checklist (I’m using Trello for this and it’s magic). Once you’ve come up with an approximate date check out the ‘Coming Soon’ section in Steam. This should give you the upcoming games for your chosen date, make sure there’s not any similar titles going live around this date as it may add unnecessary competition for press. Speaking of press, that should be another consideration, generally Saturday and Sunday are relatively quite days for game articles. So I’d recommended choosing a day early in the week (depending on your time zone you may have to adjust this a bit).

The other thing to avoid releasing in (unless you have a massive following) is the major sales. These change the layout of steam and the visibility of the game may be obscured.

I chose the 1st of September for the release of iZBOT which is a Tuesday. There wasn’t any other similar games around that time, although there is a major release happening at that time.

Good luck with your release!storyEnd_lg

EDIT: OK, so choosing to release on the same day as TWO AAA games in hindsight probably wasn’t the best strategy. I was thinking that the additional traffic would be a bonus and seeing iZBOT next to those titles might give it a bit of a boost, but this is offset by the fact that they are guaranteed to take up at least a couple of the popular new release slots which pushes you down the list.

iZBOT on Greenlight!

I’m very excited to officially announce that iZBOT is on Steam Greenlight!

iZBOT is a faced paced precision platformer that focuses on tight controls and small bite sized platformer levels.

You can vote for our speedy little robot over here:

 

Analytics for Gamemaker

You’ve made an awesome game, sent it out to all your friends, posted it up on TIGSource and Itch.io but you’ve only got a couple of people give you actual feedback.

Analytics to the rescue! Although analytics isn’t going to give you feedback game feel or art impressions. What it can really help with is level design, difficulty tweaking and marketing / promotional items.

My personal preference is Google Analytics, it is really easy to set up gives you a tonne of metrics both custom and built in ones. I use GameMaker to develop platform independent code and then publish it out to the various platforms I’m targeting. One of the main problems with this is that there isn’t a simple analytics solutions that covers the all the platforms that I publish to. This is the main reason why I created a Gamemaker marketplace asset to be able to quickly and easily send events out across any platform. You can check it out here.

Once you setup pageviews from within your game and the data starts rolling in you can get a really good idea of who’s actually playing your game. Apparently I’m big in Iran and China.

Analytics Geo

The real benefits of anaytics  really shine when you set up custom events to track key game elements. I set these up to track room by room / level by level. Things like deaths per room allows you to pin point levels where people are getting stuck on and quitting. Other things like level times, collectibles, baddies killed. Whatever makes sense to your game.

Analytics Room Events

 

 

Run Blob Run – Free Windows 8 Game

Title19803

Our friend Blob has escaped the lab and he’s on the run. Blob is no ordinary run of the mill blob, he’s been infused with colour changing abilities. Change colour by jumping up and down and avoid the lazers.

Run Blob Run is inspired by a couple of great games, Canabalt, Flywrench and the ol’ Flappy Bird. I’ve tried to mix the colour matching of fly wrench with the running and jumping of Canabalt with the death and destruction of Flappy Bird.

Jumping changes your colour on the upward and downward flight. The lazers will only let you through if you’re colour matches.

Use ‘Up’ to jump and ‘Right’ to dash, that’s about it. Sounds easy right?

small

Play Run Blob Run here:

Run Blob Run
Download now from the Windows Store

Silly Bugs

Fixing bugs is a part and parcel with game development. It’s not usually the most entertaining aspect of any project.

Occasionally though you get a silly one that makes you laugh. This happened while I was coding a power up. I had a condition in the game’s step event to add a power up when a certain score is reached, but I didn’t reset any sort of counter, anyways this is what happened:

 

Power Ups Anyone?

 

Screenshot Saturday 137

So a bit of a progress update, I’ve started the long arduous process of tiling the levels within Gamemaker. This is creating a sprite sheet with 16×16 size tiles and placing them individually in the level editor.

iZBOT Level 5

 

New 2D Platformer – iZBOT!

Apologies for the lack of updates, but it’s been due to a couple of things mostly I’ve been busy with creating a new game! (and some because I’ve just discovered Son’s of Anarchy).

The new game is called ‘izbot’, it’s a fast 2D action platformer that is a bit of a homage to our good friend super meat boy.

Still bedding down the mechanics, but it’s coming along nicely.

Level 1 Screenshot
Level 1 Action

If you want to have a go at the game, I’m trying to keep the HTML5 and Windows versions up to date on this site as I go.

Love it, hate it…want to ask why anyone would want to make another retro platformer, hit me up on twitter @escdev