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Entry #143

Fatal Flaws?

9/10/13 by BoMToons

I'm still cranking away on Super Chibi Knight. I got the alpha pretty polished up and am now adding more NEW content.

I've been sending tweets and emails around to various press type people to ask them to check out the game and help get the word out. I feel a little lame "begging" for exposure, but I don't know how to "go viral" unless I put myself out there. 100% of un-asked-for help never happens. Responses have been varied. I'll post a couple of the "less-productive" responses I've received for your enjoyment.

1. I tweeted Tommy from Team Meat to ask for some advice on making a successful indie game. His response: "Make a good game."

I guess I should be grateful that he responded at all, considering he's "hot stuff" now with the success of Super Meat Boy, but I hope someone kicks me in the rear if I ever get to the point where I think that's "good" advice. Of course I'm trying my best to make a "good game," it's kind of insulting to assume I hadn't thought of that. I guarantee that Super Meat Boy's success was not solely due to it being a "good" game. They hustled their butts off to make connections and even *gasp* relied on fellow indies and media people to help them out and give them good advice and exposure when they asked.

I know busy people don't have time to write out long-winded responses, but maybe point me to a useful website, or an indie-friendly blogger or review site. Take 2 seconds and look at my tweets and see how serious I am about what I'm doing. Maybe tell me "make a game in black and white!"

I'm promising myself now that, if I ever get some small modicum of success, I'll try to be respectful and helpful to people who reach out to me. You can be busy and still be nice.

2. I contacted someone at a popular indie games blog who actually seemed pretty nice about checking out SCK. I got him set up with a password to play the demo and assumed he was in and having fun. He later wrote me and said he couldn't get past the VERY FIRST EXTREMELY SIMPLE "puzzle" (I hesitate to even call it that because it's more of a tutorial than anything else) So he stopped after 10 seconds (he had to slash a pile of garbage into bits). I was so astounded I thought he was joking, but eventually helped him get through it (this is someone who reviews hundreds of games a year). He then said the over-world map was too laggy to be playable... mind you I have been running an alpha test with thousands of testers and NOT ONE has complained about the intro puzzle or main map lag... I asked him what kind of specs his machine has, and it's a super powerful gaming rig twice as fast as my test laptop... So, finally, he never ended up writing about it saying he doesn't usually write about games that don't have a public demo... (since then he's written about at least 3 games that aren't publicly available).

So, either I'm extremely unlucky and he had a perfect storm of problems, or I was getting trolled... I'm bummed about it because his blog has a lot of readers, but I have no clue what was going wrong with him that wasn't with all the other testers.

3. A couple small-time indie blogs have written articles, but I get the feeling they're using me for the views I've been sending them more than the other way around ha ha :-P

Overall I think the "indie" community is a tough one to break into. I guess if it were easy, there would be a lot more people doing it. However, I think those who have made it could be more helpful to those coming up and not make it feel like an exclusive clique. Let's not all turn into Phil Fish :-D
============
Development dilemma: I think I made a mistake in the size I chose for SCK. When playing fullscreen, the main character takes up a lot of the screen and the lack of real-estate is pretty limiting... BUT I've already drawn like 30+ backgrounds to fit that size so I'm kind of stuck. At this point, I'm just chalking it up to a lesson learned for my next game. Having the main char. so big makes it feel more cartoony and quirky, so maybe it works...

Cardinal Rule: TEST FULL SCREEN WHILE STILL PROTOTYPING!
============
Here are a couple pics showing changes I made to the alpha recently (some blockages to harder areas and highlighting quest destinations on the mini map).

Let me know what you think about all the venting I just did!

Fatal Flaws?


Comments

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stunkelstunkel

9/19/13

Your game looks very interesting. I'm not sure if you have posted stuff about this before hand, so no idea what your game could be about, so what I have to say could not apply in any way at all. But I think there are many different strategies to making a game go viral without "begging" as you said. I'm certainly no expert, and there really is no set way of making sure your game will go viral. For example, I recall hearing that Team Meat chose to make Super Meat Boy (based off meat boy which was a flash game) because it was Eds most popular game and they were desperate for money, and that was just one part of why their game must have been popular (along with everything that you said about them making connections). They also later added a community editor and their game had TONS of replay value along with that. I'm actually doing game design along with music, and I'm working on an iPhone game now with a friend so all of this stuff really interests me. Do you have any niche market that you are trying to target? Also, what is your game about and what do you do in it? Clearly the art style is very fun and can definitely attract many different types of people. Perhaps it may not apply to your game, but having an active community is a huge plus, and that is part of the reason why a lot of games like Little Big Planet and Black Ops, which I don't like so much, but it clearly seems to work! I personally think that any genre of gaming can be marketed the same way, but perhaps it's all about the content of what you put into the game. That is just an idea. And I see that you have quite a following and you have many games with tons of plays. Have you discovered anything in particular that catches your eye as to what in games might attract players?

9/19/13 (Updated 9/19/13) BoMToons responds:

I'm sort of doing something similar to Super Meat Boy with Super Chibi Knight. The original Chibi Knight flash game was my most popular game, that's why I chose it to "upgrade" for a sequel.

Abobo's Big Adventure was also really popular, and kind of broke out into the "indie gaming" world with articles on popular gaming sites and magazines.

What we did right with Abobo, I think, actually came from how long it took us to finish. We set up a website, and a mailing list, a facebook page, etc. It's the first time I've tried to "build a community" for just one game, and it worked pretty well. We had like 14k people sign up for our mailing list, which is crazy when you think about it. We also did a proper trailer and built a countdown timer and tried to hype its release date, which I think helped build some anticipation.

I'm trying to do the same with SCK, but it doesn't quite have the mass appeal of Abobo, so it's slower going. I think it's a game most fans of games like Zelda would enjoy, but it might be suffering from the appearance of being to "cutesy" or kid-oriented.

I think, once you get noticed, it's much easier to ride that success to more success, but you've got to really do something outstanding to make the initial breakthrough, and even then, there's a lot of luck.

Kind of rambly, but I hope that gave you some ideas. I'm still figuring this stuff out myself :-)


I-smelI-smel

9/12/13

I just got back from exhibiting a game at PAX.
Basically the only way I could do that was to work with people who are 100% business-minded, the people who churn through a dozen games a day on FGL and don't give a shit about any of them outside of stats, clicks n traffic. This is the total opposite of people like us on Newgrounds, who are notorious for racing through with blinders on to that shit.

This is the ONLY WAY I could've ever got tickets to PAX, because he organized that stuff months ago while I was working on assets. The only way we got a space was for a friend of a friend to badger the hell out of event organizers, and I definitely couldn't have wrangled a schedule of interviews by myself cos I don't have one press contact whatsoever.
I'm an animator! Why would I know what a press release looks like!
I'm surprised Tom said to just GO to these events, cos I went as a group of about 5 and I felt like it took all of us. While two of us were demo-ing the game and doing interviews that another guy had lined up, dude #4 was off in meetings with potential investors and developer partners. I absolutely could not sell, or promote, a game by myself. I wouldn't have the first clue what to do.

I don't know shit about any indie community, but this is my 2nd game on Steam and that's how that happened. I made a revenue split with someone who's my polar opposite, and we slowly learned to not hate the fuck out of each other and start running a business. It's not the advice you'll get from everyone, but hey that's what's normal to me.

and to be fair: "Make a good game" is a pretty alright Step 1 if all you've got is a hundred n forty characters. The guy's a tensely wound-up bedroom programmer, he's not famous for being especially helpful and approachable.

I'll write a post about my PAX trip later, but I'm not in the secret inner-circle now at all. I don't think that's something you have to worry about.

9/12/13 BoMToons responds:

Interesting POV. Are you concerned at all about diluting the split on an already tiny budget by adding in a bunch of people? Do they pull their weight?

Right now I don't see how adding MORE people to my shoestring could work, but maybe there are people out there willing to invest time etc. based on potential payback. But are those people talented?

I think I need to build more momentum/cred on my own before I could pull in more people, but maybe not.

I might have responded to myself similarly to Tommy on any given day, so I can cut him some slack :-)


passes havent gone on sale yet, they're sold out from last year

IGS pass gets you all of the indie game summit (monday + tuesday presentations) and show floor access, but no presentations on wed+thur+friday which doesnt matter much

9/12/13 BoMToons responds:

Ok, sounds like it's worth a try. I'll SEE YOU THERE :-D


"Yeah, it's also ridiculously expensive!" regarding GDC

Not really, you could do the whole trip for <1000$. Airfare from salt lake city (if you're still in utah) to SFO is very cheap, could probably get the round trip for 250$ or less if you planned it ahead, an IGS pass is around 300$ (maybe 375 i forget) but they run out of those if you wait too many months to register. SF Hostel International Downtown [http://www.sfhostels.org/downtown] is where most of the other indies stay and its very cheap especially if you split a room with 3 other people (around 40-50 per night per person, so 8 nights would be 400$), then food+drink for the week.

It's not about getting exposure there it's about meeting people who can help.

9/12/13 (Updated 9/12/13) BoMToons responds:

I thought GDC tickets were like $1500. Maybe I'm misinformed.

How does IGS fit with GDC?

Edit: I guess the full GDC pass is 1500, but looks like all the IGS passes are sold out already?
http://www.gdconf.com/attend/passes.html


Wow...I just lost some respect for Team Meat :/ as much as I liked Meat Boy and have the shirt. Seriously, they should be helpful, it's an INDIE community, act INDIE x_x! Oh well I guess, but I believe you're doing the right thing and going in the right direction. You have more of a heart from what it sounds like. I think it's awesome you made a game with your kid, i dont remember anyone else I've ever known to be able to say that. It's pretty awesome.

On a side note, the overworld was a bit laggy but I'm sorry those people arent so smart or professional as they should be. I agree with you on all of this.

9/11/13 BoMToons responds:

Well, don't let my one experience sour you on them, I have a meatboy doll and a shirt and a sweatshirt! :-)

Thanks for the note, I'm gonna keep on truckin' to the end of this road.

Laggy overworld!!! I guess that dude wasn't the only one, although he found it impossible to play because of that.


TomFulpTomFulp

9/11/13

GDC has the whole IGF which is a decent place to get exposure, but I'm more into the public events where fans can show up too - GDC is all industry.

9/11/13 BoMToons responds:

Yeah, it's also ridiculously expensive!


LuisLuis

9/11/13

I think maybe asking in that context made it a tough question to really answer. I dont think anyone really has that secret sauce that's a sure-fire path to succeeding in the scene or maybe that's how he interpretted it and didnt take it as a genuine inquiry. Or maybe he thought you were just some fanboy kid just poking around buggin people, i dunno, i havent spoken to Tommy in almost 8 years but I've never had a problem with him.

I do think that chibi knight is one of those franchises thats a tough sell to 'serious' gamers cause the presentation of it is something that most hardcore gamers arent accustomed to. No big guns, no crime and grit, no assassins etc.

I have a love/hate relationship with the indie scene. I think theres some passionate people who really have made great strides in pushing the movement forward and made a community that can go head to head with AAA games anyday. There are some people in the scene though that have incredible hubris and suddenly their shit doesnt stink and probably give the whole scene the 'hipster' vibe that its often stereotyped with. I think sometimes you lose sight of where you came from and the people that helped you get to where you are and that you should feel atleast a shred of responsibility to sow the seeds for the sake of the whole community to continue to thrive for generations. The indie scene actually has a human element to it and that's probably what makes it so appealing to both gamers and developers, its important to never lose sight of that unique quality of it. LONG POST.

9/11/13 BoMToons responds:

Yeah, I can't pass judgement on Tommy's personality from that one flippant tweet, but how you treat people who can't offer you anything says a lot about what kind of person you are. How did you treat the ugly/shy girl in your high school class? :-P

I realize I have an uphill battle with Chibi Knight, cuz of the cute perception, but I'm sure there's just as much a market out there for this kind of game as for the "traditional" indie games. But maybe kids only play on i-pads/Wii now and don't use Steam/other consoles?

It feels like you either have to wear a beret and a goatee, have been molested, be a militant atheist, or be trans-gender to get noticed in the indie space today. That's all fine and good, but I would like to see more of the "human element" you mentioned where the average joe just has something fun he's trying to create without being forced to have an "edge" to get noticed.

I think doing some trade shows is the next step for where I'm at in development. Get some people hands-on with it to see what they think.


TomFulpTomFulp

9/11/13

This is tough advice from a financial standpoint but I really believe it's worth it - get some space at PAX. Preferably in the Indie Megabooth but more and more people are gunning for that and I hear they are having to turn people away now. Being on the PAX floor helps legitimize any game and having a spot in the Megabooth would give you that extra cool-kid cred that comes with it.

The crowd for indie games at PAX has exploded since we started going six year ago; the PAX 10 used to be some guys standing around like, "Please play our games!" where this year the PAX 10 had a total scene going on the whole time.

PAX Boston is in March, you could bring the family and grab some chowder! The cuteness of Chibi Knight is deceptive because it's lots of fun, getting people in a hall to play it would help them see that.

There are also smaller events in lots of cities for indie games, where you won't get in front of as many people but you could build more awareness in that scene for a lot less money - comes more down to the cost of the flight and hotel. There's a Boston Indie Festival this weekend (NG is sponsoring a game jam there, I should probably be posting about that) and Portland has a retro gaming expo next month where Behemoth is setting up a booth.

9/11/13 (Updated 9/11/13) BoMToons responds:

The "trade show" thing has been running through my mind quite a bit. It shouldn't be surprising that actually meeting people in person goes a long way in them taking you and your work seriously instead of just being "another internet name."

There should be a list somewhere of indie-friendly events to hit up with links to their registration requirements. I'm not even sure what the "PAX 10" is or how I'd go about applying for the indie megabooth. I was considering indie-cade, but I missed the enrollment deadline for that. Should I even bother with huge stuff like GDC?

My location is a hurdle for traveling. It'd be nice if I were in LA or NY or SF or some other indie hub and could hit these things up with low risk and decide which are worth it. Comic Con was pretty huge for Abobo when it came to getting exposure. There's a comic convention in LA in Oct. called Comikaze that is offering us a discounted booth, but it's still $400 which is tough to swallow when I'm not sure the crowds would be worth it all. It seems like I'm always hearing about these shows at the last minute when it's too late to sign up or uber expensive to line up accommodations.

I think you're right though, that, if I want to break in, I need to get in on these kinds of things. I'm gonna see what I can discover and line up out there.


poxpowerpoxpower

9/11/13

My guess is that the Indie market is probably not really geared towards kid's games, which is what your game is marketed as, or at least how it comes across.

I have very little experience in the matter though since I don't play anything really lol. Seems to me that the games that work best when you have a small dev team are things like:

- retro pixel stuff
- violence
- mindfucks
- addictive crack-like games
- things that rip off Ren and Stimpy and Adventure Time

lol

9/11/13 BoMToons responds:

I can see that being an issue... "Too kiddy" but it's not purposely a kid-oriented game, just a game made with a kid. I think people of all ages can enjoy aspects of it that are age-universal.

You're right though, that games like "the binding of isaac" and most other popular "indie" titles are not kid-oriented and the "indie" support community doesn't seem to be adapted to more kid-friendly stuff... unless it's targeted for mobile... maybe that's a good thing for me though? Maybe I am doing something different? Who knows...


Keep your chin up Nick. Don't let a couple of bad experiences take a dump on all your work. You're awesome buddy.

9/10/13 BoMToons responds:

Thanks for the note Rob! Long time no talk. :)

I'm not letting anything get me down too much, just venting and chronicling everything in this process.


AsandirAsandir

9/10/13

Sounds like a good amount of bad luck to me. It's unfortunate that the responses were underwhelming. I have to admit though that I laughed a bit when I read that a CHIBI Knight takes up most of the screen ^^

Still looking forward to it, and I voted for it on Steam Greenlight some time ago.

9/10/13 (Updated 9/10/13) BoMToons responds:

Ha ha, it is ironic to have an oversized chibi :-P

I suppose everyone gets a few rejections along their way to success. One day I'll dance on the graves of my enemies. :-D

Thanks for the green light vote, I really appreciate that!


MSGheroMSGhero

9/10/13

One from a while ago about sending your game to a press site to be featured: do research on whom you're sending it to, bring up aspects of your game that would appeal to that person specifically, make it extremely easy for them to test the game out (link+pre-access key in the first email, don't make them ask for it or they'll ignore you).

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/BenServiss/20130516/192317/Maximizing_Your_Side_Project_Success.php
http://gamasutra.com/blogs/ThomasSteinke/20130415/190484/Response_to_quot8_keys_to_indie_successquot.php
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RobertFearon/20130830/199336/Overlooking_the_obvious.php
http://gamasutra.com/view/news/199141/Steam_Greenlights_100_new_titles__but_is_the_system_working.php
http://gamasutra.com/view/news/199117/The_Churn_Predictor_intends_to_warn_you_when_players_are_about_to_split.php
http://gamasutra.com/blogs/ElaineHeney/20130910/199904/10_Things_You_MUST_DO_to_Become_a_Successful_Games_Developer.php

Lots more if you go back far enough.

9/10/13 BoMToons responds:

Thanks, I'll check em out!


TheMAMTheMAM

9/10/13

Never realized how tough the indie game world is. But hey, a lot of people played Chibi Knight 1, and I'm sure that large fanbase will be hyped about its sequel.
The screenshots look awesome by the way.

9/10/13 BoMToons responds:

Yeah, Chibi is definitely my most popular "original" game - but most of the fans are around 13 yrs old it seems, and not very used to paying for their entertainment.


MSGheroMSGhero

9/10/13

Gamasutra has like a million articles about how to spread the news about your game, how to make it good, how to polish it, monetization, etc. Every time I want to read up on something, they post an article about it the same day.

9/10/13 BoMToons responds:

Anyone can publish on Gamasutra right? Do you have any ones in particular you found helpful? Thanks man!


SchullesSchulles

9/10/13

Sounds pretty rough to me. Chibi knight was one of the first flashgames I really loved and it kind of motivated me to create my own games. For me you're already a star. Keep up the great work! :)

9/10/13 (Updated 9/10/13) BoMToons responds:

Awww! *hugz* <------ needed to hear this :-D

If you haven't already played the alpha, send me a PM and I'll give you the link. Same goes for anyone else interested!