Update v1.0.2

Quality improvements

I did some updates over the past months. The 6th of Juli I did a minor update, and today the 21th of August, I did another update.

  • More vibrant game play.
    • I make sure the action is happening in front of the camera. Gnomes in view do more actions/minute.
    • The visible triggers (shivering/runnig) updated. They had some issues: shivering did not trigger enough, and the panic running did not trigger consequently.
  • More consistency
    • If I need the player to click, I ask him to click. If there is nothing more to a mechanism, I keep to what it really does. So the expectations are now more clear from the text messages.
    • The Chaos mechanism revamped so it guides you in how you have to click the gnomes. And it gives a reward if you do search careful and click controlled.

Sales

A small update on the business side of things.

I did find out what the massive increase in traffic on Steam was that I experienced during launch and the weeks after it.

Quite simple:  Steam automatically starts a ‘visibility campaign’ of 1 month when you launch a game. Combine this with the ‘soon coming’ and ‘out now’ pages, and you have explained all the traffic boost I experienced.

So yeah, this ‘discovery’ of mine was a bit of a drawback. I hoped Steam did some underwater magic and had find some players that probably liked my game. (As they advertise they are doing.) But no, that’s not the case.
It is just… well… if you get increased organic traffic, Steam will introduce you to more players. Otherwise you have to ‘pay’ for more traffic by using the finite supply of visibility campaigns. (You get a finite bunch at launch and you can’t buy them)

And… I did my first sale. 10% off in the week of the 13th of August. That did work too! Got 4x more traffic out of it.

But I really have to get to work on my marketing. And start with a better Steam store page so I can turn the traffic into sales!

What next

I’m currently working on 2 projects.

  1. I’m working out how to improve Find the Gnome to get it to be a more fun game to play.
  2. I want to increase my profile as a game engineer and for that I’m updating my personal website to be more of a portfolio site. See https://erikderoos.nl/portfolio/

So my major gamedev focus is to improve the game-play of Find the Gnome.

This is because I think the game has some major issues that make it fun for a few minutes but not longer than that. Player feedback is also quite negative about the expectations the game sets and what it actually delivers.

I do have a couple idea’s laying around that originally had to be in the release. I’m quite sure they will improve the game, I just could not get them into the release because of issues that started happening in my personal life. So when my things get quiet again I will start by implementing them and just see where it will take Find the Gnome.

Reviews

I can’t build a game without people reaching out to me and to other players informing them about my game.

So, here is some more coverage on youtube.

 

And some text reviews:

http://findthegnome.hyperstudios.co/

How did the launch go

How did the launch of ‘Find the Gnome’ go?

Thanks for asking 😉

 

Well, it was a really great launch. Way better than expected and received way better than expected. The sales do lag behind, but more on that later.

 

Expectations on forehand

First of all, what was my expectation before the release:

  • A few more people on my steam page due to being in the ‘just launched’ section. So instead of the normal 30 views/day average, an increase to about 120 views/day.
  • First 3 months a wish list conversion of around 50%.
  • One to three reviews, probably all negative or just indifferent. And a few notes in them how to improve the game for my audience.
  • A better understanding who the audience of ‘Find the Gnome’ is.
  • A few bug reports.

 

Reality at launch

The day before launch day there was a massive increase in traffic to my steam page. 11 times more to be precisely. And on launch day it peaked at 43 times more traffic. It has seen a decline since then but way less then I expected. Still on all time highs on 5 days since launch.

The wish list conversion is zero to nothing. But still got around 25 buyers in 5 days.
I got a load of people adding the game to their wish list: 4 months having a store page life NETS THE SAME amount of adds as from the day before the release until now (5 days)…

And I got a bunch of reviews: 1x steam review, 3x steam curator reviews, 5x YouTube gameplay coverage.

There were no bug reports.
But there was certainly some expression of not knowing what to expect. In the week before the launch I contacted reviewers to review my game and some of them told me the game was unclear in what to do: I immediately countered it by adding a help section to the game. It became clear to me that there the game-play is not guiding the people in what to do.

 

Retrospective of the launch

The game was received better than expected. The sales lag behind but I can’t be for certain yet because it is a common known phenomenon that you need to start doing sales in staffels to get people to convert. But yeah, this game is in the lowest regions of Steam units solds, compared to the other Steam games.

I am exhausted. That’s not good: It makes it a lot harder to counter some known issues that did arise on the launch day. As a father working full time at a job, I have a hard time directing energy to any kind of mind activity after working hours. I did promise some more updates on the game but I’m really glad I didn’t mention a time span. So mental note to myself: don’t target launch day as ‘the day there will finally be some rest’ but rather 2-4 weeks after it, and spread the energy accordingly.

The reviews were all-right. Although I did think my audience through, I have a hard time reaching out to them. Instead a whole other audience is playing my game now, and of course they have other expectations of the game.
But that’s oké for me. I just need some months redirecting the game a little so it fits my ‘real’ audience better.

 

The reviews

Goodies!
The youtube coverage I got so far:

 

‘Find the Gnome’ Released!

Finally the day is there: the release of Find the Gnome.
Months and months of work, hours and hours of crunch-time. And here we are.

As on 01:00 Central European time, this game is downloadable in the Steam shop.

The version that is now live is the v1.0.0 version. And as tradition dictates, there are some update notes attached to a version bump:

  • Music added. 1 menu track, 3 tracks that play while searching for gnomes.
  • Gameplay mechanics altered with a ‘Chaos’ indicator (more on this in the next update)
  • On the loading screen there is now information about the game type you are playing and what you are expected to be doing.
  • Added the scientist gnome type. That makes it for a total of 3 types of behaviors: run, teleport and callback.
  • Gnome animations. Weird ones shiver. And they turn to each other before interacting.
  • Story level 3. Makes a total of 3 now, only 1 still remaining. (Yes the release is without the last story level, it will be added in a next update)
  • Hide-n-seek medal system. You now have times to complete with in the timed mode. (Though not fully implemented yet: it is lacking some visual feedback)

 

Steam is learning…

Since the June 2018 update of Steam there are some updates to counter mis-use of tradingcards and achievements. That is because of a select group of ‘poisonous developers’ (not my words) that use the system for things it is not ment for.

I like it when Steam tries to balance things out. They have special trained algorithms in place that will redirect users to to games they will like. Even in a crowded store.

But now this algorithm has marked my game…

screenshot find the gnome store page achievements issue small.PNG

It obviously is an evil mark because it is a mark of something fishy that’s the algorithm thinks is going on with my game.

But what can I do about this mark? To me it seems as that my game indeed correlates to the games that misuse the system, but there is no real connection at all. (And you could know if you read my posts that there is no intent whatsoever to do those ‘poisinous’ things)

I don’t have the power to change this system, nor do I have the time to improve my game to up the distance to ‘those cheap games’…

So I’ll leave you with this so you all know the background to this mark on my game.
Sometimes it is just better to let it go.

Project 1 – v0.5

Version v0.5 is here, and look at the beautiful gameplay!

I’m sorry if you didn’t expect a video in these otherwise static project updates. But with the upcoming release (3 weeks!) I thought it would be logical to include some actual gameplay with this post.

As you can see the following additions are in here: everything is working again, story gamemode, story all over the place.
So that adds up to a nice game if you think what is already in it: 8 hide-n-seek levels, 2 story levels, 2 gnome types, animations of all sorts, sounds, menu’s, interfaces.

There is a few catch though: story level 3 and 4 are not accessible yet (you can see them but they say ‘under construction’), the hide-n-seek levels that are accompanying level 3 and 4 are also off limits. This is because I’m still working on the last gnome type.
And with that in mind, the hide-n-seek 5 – 8 are currently lacking the teleport gnome type.
This will be solved in the coming weeks, together with the last beta test results.

The gamemodes ‘hide-n-seek’ are currently untouched. The plan was to convert the ‘timed’ to an arcade experience. That is still the plan, only it is after the release when it gets updated.

Last but not least: music is missing. I’m aware of that. Something did not work out as planned so I’m searching for an alternative.

I have changed

“I have changed, and I really like my new self.”

This line could be from a self-help blog or another source of talk-to-the-mouth style information source.
But no, it is really here on this blog on games of GameFeelings.

I will give you an insight in my latest discoveries on how to better manage yourself when doing big projects, and what impact it has on me while delivering Find the Gnome.

Short introduction

For those who did not know it: I’m a guy, 30, married, dad to 2 kids, has a full-time job as a software developer, I like playing computer games in my spare time, I like to renovate my house… and I want to develop computer games.

This game I’m developing, Find the gnome, is my first game. I am using the development of this game to learn how to better develop games.

Reality

Being a married man and dad to 2 is a daytime job on its own. And then there is my ‘real’ job of being a software developer, with all the con’s attached to it: needing to stay relevant, additional meetings outside office hours…

So this ‘game development’ is more of a love work. I need to really like it to be able to get the needed hours into it, but to also get the needed amount of relaxation and the needed sense of achievement out of it.

Reality is that nothing comes for free. And that some things in life are more important to you than other things. And that everything always ends in a trade-off.

Pushing harder

But I didn’t want the trade-off. I want it all, and I wanted to earn it. So I just pushed for it.

I needed more experience? I tried something a lot. I needed new skills? I tried to make it my own. I wanted the game to be good? I tried to get every aspect of the game right. I wanted to get even better? I tried to get a good team of people around me to show me the good and the bad.

It did work out for me. For a while. You can see this in version v0.2 and v0.3. There you see a confident me trying to push for it, making every version increase even better than the previous increase.

Managing yourself

So there I was, working my ass off, and it suddenly stroke me: I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t listening to my body, I wasn’t on the look-out for easy shortcuts to just reduce the amount of work to do.

For not listening to my body, I got myself nearly burned-out. And that shortcut thing was very vague to me: I knew I needed something like that but it sounded like an empty promise to me.

At that moment in time I was also at some other crossroads in life. I was in therapy because of earlier near-burnout issues, I was desperately searching for new goals in my ‘real life’ job, at home my wife was going trough some near-burnout issues herself.

I wasn’t paying attention… the shortcuts were all the time right in front of me:
It’s all about priorities. About letting go. About ‘going with the flow’. ‘Trusting your gut feelings’. ‘Doing things you love to do’. ‘Listening to your heart’. ‘Clearly communicating your needs to others’. ‘Experience takes time’. ‘You need to fail to learn and/or progress’…

The world is full with books, movies, coaches, religions… people. The best they can do is teaching you something of yourself.

That enabled me to start managing myself. And then to take action. And cut in the workload of life and then to find those things that will keep me going.

Back to the subject

So, what has this to do with the game? I promised you all a game!? I should just deliver on that promise, shouldn’t I? With the exact content as described in all blog posts and al comments please… And I need to stop talking about ‘managing yourself’. In the time I took by writing this blog post I could have completed a new gnome model!

Yes that is true. But no that is not the right thing to do. Not at this moment.

Watch this, in version v0.4 you see mee finding out that the game is not the game I wanted it to be. I found out that for me, to love building the game, it needed to be something else. And while iterating on my new idea’s, I also found out that I had enormous scope creep in the project starting from the earliest versions. And right after the v0.4 release I took a break to do some home improvements (yay, new kitchen!) and I realized how much I was demanding from my body.

So I picked a new pace. That’s what’s visible in my last post.

Back to the future

This new pace is one I can sustain for a long time. I will finish Find the Gnome, that’s a feat I really want to accomplish. And then I really like to get on a new idea.

There is one thing left I like to add: I know what I like about building games. Support old ones (20% of my time), build new ones (50% of my time) and spend the remainder on company related things.

“I have changed, and I really like my new self.”

Having fun, and, the timeline

A short blogpost to remind you all that v0.5 is on its way! And that I’m having fun building this game.

The following is already build so that’s in it for sure:

  • In-between levels story
  • Tutorial/intro level with story
  • The said ’15 levels Hide-n-seek’

The next things will be build in the coming week, but it will be a close call:

  • 4 other story levels
  • 2 new gnome types

After the v0.5 update there will be another update before the final release. Due to how Steam works they need it in advance so I have another 2 weeks after v0.5.
I will use those weeks to add:

  • New gnome types in Hide-n-seek
  • Music
  • Medails system
  • Minor fixes

After that last update I will submit a build to Steam for review. They will do some quality control checks on it.

And after the submit, I will continue working on the game until at least the following is in it:

  • I will alter the hide-n-seek mode ‘timed’ to be more arcade
  • Fixing balancing issues on the levels, if they occure
  • More settings
  • Achievements for doing normal and strange collection things

Project 1 – v0.4

The V0.4.0 milestone is there… but is hasn’t been reached! If you know what I mean 😉

We didn’t get anywhere in the V0.4.0 milestone, it is in a state that you can’t submit it for Beta review. If you look at that from an Agile project methodology point of view, this means that something has horribly gone wrong.

Well, it is a lot better than before. There are now 15 levels in it, aside from the story levels. And there is a whole new immersing main menu in it. And story telling and story driven progress. And saveslots. And funny AI. And better animations…
You can see this for yourself in the youtube video on the progress I made in this version.
So I think everything will get right in the next release.

The not-so-bright-side is that the project did go southwards fast due to a few circumstances. Most of which I didn’t have influence on.
So the current approach to get going again is: freeze the scope. And to delay the release date. And: get to a Beta testable state as fast as possible, to get feedback on the (major) changes as fast as possible.

The next official project update is scheduled at 5 June 2018, we will hit version 0.5 by then. It will finish the gamemodes and complete the settings menu.
It is the last update before quality control and the release.