Fling has been released more than a month ago so I decided to share some of my stats from different platforms and my experience publishing there in the format of a postmortem.
First of all, here is some basic info about Fling:
I started working on it on 28th of December 2018
I started doing devlogs on GameJolt on 1st of January 2019
Game was released at different times on different game portals, but first public version was out on 28th of January 2019 on Itch & GameJolt
Based on feedback I got from all different game portals I published Fling on I drew the following conclusions:
What went right?
One month deadline
I'm really happy that I managed to stick to my original 1 month deadline for main part of my project, I needed some more time to properly integrate Kongregate, Newgrounds and GameJolt APIs, but at the end it was very close.
This goal helped me keep my project in scope and it gave me the feeling that everything will be worth it in the end.
I think that one or one and a half months is ideal time span for the types of project that I’m currently focusing on so I’ll keep trying to stick to this schedule for my future projects as well.
I improved as a game designer
As my first larger project it was pretty scary to even start making Fling. I think the thing that really helped me out with that is prototyping my ideas before committing to project.
Prototyping is something that I think most game devs know they should do (myself included), but we never actually do it.
It’s easy to think that the first idea you get is the best one, but in my experience that can’t be further from the truth.
My level design process
My previous games were either one level or endless runner types of games, so figuring out how to do level design was big part of this project.
Luckily, Mark Brown from Game Maker’s Toolkit made some awesome videos on this subject. Here are the ones that helped me out:
4-step Level Design of Super Mario 3D World
Mega Man 11's Levels Design
These two videos were great food for thought, especially the first one with its 4 step “formula”.
For my game, I wrote down in notepad all of the game mechanics that came to my mind that can synergize well with Fling’s main mechanic, which is traversing environment using only your grappling hook.
Some of the ideas that I wrote down were good, some of them weren’t, but the most important thing is to keep thinking and keep brainstorming, some cool ideas will come eventually.
After doing this I decided that I wanted to make 30 levels for Fling. So, in order to make the things easier for me I broke that down into sections made up of 5 levels each.
Every section introduced one new game mechanic and my idea was that this will help players to master the grappling hook mechanic over the course of the game (it seems like I didn’t managed to achieve this, but hey, I tried).
In order to get inspiration for my levels I first came up with the name for the each level. This is something I heard that Tim Ruswick, from Game Dev Underground, uses in his games, and it worked quite well for me so I’d definitely recommend it.
There’s not to much to talk about here. I knew that I should use some sort of version control for my projects in case that something goes wrong, but this was my first time doing it.
It helped me out a lot, especially later on when I had different versions of Fling for different game portals and with different APIs integrated.
This one was big for me. I didn’t actually count how much time I spent on promotion/marketing but I think it took more than 30% of the development time.
First off, I started my devlog page on GameJolt. After a couple of days I realized that GameJolt promotes your page more if you do devlogs regularly, that helped me to reach around 300 views on my page before I even published the game. Besides that I also got some followers on GameJolt which will help me with my long term goals.
Besides that, I also figured I’d publish my devlogs on Itch Community Forum. I’m not sure if this had any substantial impact but in the end I reached around 100-200 views on Itch before publishing.
The one thing that surprised me the most was that forums are great way to reach people that can help you throughout development. In my case, I was active on TIG. On there I reached around 800-900 views before publishing Fling and I think it played a big role in how successful my game was.
So, what is the main takeaway here? Start promoting / marketing early. It doesn’t have to be anything more sophisticated that a few GIFs here and there (at least in the beginning). The point it to make people aware and interested in your game.
What went wrong?
Tutorial is probably the most important part of your game. It teaches player how things work inside your game and it sets the expectations for the whole experience.
If your tutorial is frustrating people will most likely think that your whole game will be the same and they will most likely give up before they even learned how to play.
I managed to make Fling’s tutorial hard for a lot of players. It was interactive so the problem wasn’t that people didn’t want to read through big paragraphs of text (like you do now ), the problem was that I layed out first level incorrectly which, as a result, made it harder for players to reach the end.
The second part of the tutorial was at the level 4. Here, I tried to teach players how to swing. My mistake here is that I didn’t give players proper feedback on how many times they need to swing and that made the experience frustrating for some players.
This could have been easily fixed just by putting a counter that displays the number of swings you have left before completing a level.
Just make the tutorials as easy as possible to follow, make them and optimize them for completely new players. People who have never seen your game. Also, give players proper feedback because that’s one of the reasons games are fun in the first place.
Players want to see when they make some progress so make sure they know how far they’ve come.
There’s not too much to talk about here. First off, I tried using Bosca Ceoil and I couldn’t make anything good enough. Then I tried drumbit (online tool for music creation) and I managed to put together something OK.
I didn’t enjoy this process at all and I’m pretty terrible at making music so the thing I’d do differently next time is I wouldn’t make music myself.
There are a lot of free resources online to find awesome pieces of music for any type of game. For my next project I decided to try out Jukedeck and it already sounds a lot better and way less repetitive.
Level design mistakes
As I said previously level design was something I was overwhelmed by, so it comes as no surprise that I made a lot of mistakes along the way. Some people thought levels were designed well and some people didn’t share the same opinion. Which is fine. I can’t cater to everyone.
However, I think that I can improve my level design technique a lot for my next game. Will definitely let you know how that goes once that game is done.
Problems with Unity WebGL
The last problem I’d like to mention here is Unity’s WebGL. It doesn’t work all that well in my opinion.
It takes a lot of time to export, around 10-15 minutes in my experience which is a lot more than it does for Android or Windows (around 1 minute). Obviously, this makes it difficult for me to update my game when I have different versions of it for different game portals.
Also, loading takes 10-20 seconds and it always seems like it freezes at 90%.
However, Unity seems to be looking more into HTML technology lately with their preview package called Unity Tiny and option to export to WebGL using Web Assembly standard. So hopefully these issues will be less and less noticeable over time. We’ll see.
Armor Games: 38K plays (68/100)
Newgrounds: 3.7K plays (3.42/5)
Kongregate: 5.2K plays (3.1/5)
GameJolt: 700 plays, 1.5K views (95% positive)
Itch: 1.1K views (4.4/5)
Game Distribution: 200 plays
Here are some of my thoughts and opinions on platforms listed above. Armor Games
Where to even start here. Armor Games was obviously a huge part of this project and most of the plays Fling got were from their web portal.
They are very supportive of indie game developers and even though they handpick games that will appear on their website they are not afraid to take chances with more experimental games.
Besides promotional benefits they also offer various financial benefits as well. In my case that was $200 for a branded non-exclusive license, but I’ve seen some games go for more than that. It depends a lot on a type of game how much they think it’s going to be successful.
Newgrounds is awesome web games portal and as one of the first big ones they had a lot of time to perfect their trade.
On Newgrounds your game is almost guaranteed to reach a few hundred people. This might not seem like a lot but trust me, the feedback you get from these players can really go a long way.
So, why am I mentioning this here and I didn’t say the same for Armor Games.
Well, as I said Armor Games handpicks their games and if you’re just starting out you probably won’t be able to make your game good enough for Armor Games (like one of my previous titles).
On the other hand Newgrounds lets you publish whatever you want on their platform. This can help you gain a lot of valuable experience as a newcomer.
To promote you game Newgrounds has systems like their P-Bot’s Daily Picks. Basically this bot picks 5 games/movies every day and places them on the side of the front page.
As you’ve might guessed this can help a lot, and it did with Fling. It was placed second on the day it launched.
Also, Newgrounds offers their API that includes medals and leaderboards as well as some other stuff. This can help you extend the length of your game and offer additional challenges for some of your players.
Kongregate is another giant of web games industry. They offer different ways to promote and monetize your games.
On Kongregate you earn ad revenue from your games and you can increase your slice of the pie by integrating their API or by making your game exclusive to their website. Anyhow, their CPMs are quite good so ads can be a nice source of revenue.
Another great thing about Kongregate is that they hold monthly contests. These contests reward 15 best games of the month with certain amount of money.
Surprisingly, Fling won 15th place for the February and the prize for this spot is $250. Of course if you get higher on the list you can earn more than that. Anyways, I’m really happy for this result.
GameJolt is platform that doesn’t exclusively focuses on web games but it’s still a viable option.
Devlogs I wrote here helped me get some followers for Fling early on and it definitely helped me with launch.
It’s also good that they give you option to integrate their API into your game and reward your players with medals (or, I think they call them trophies on there) and spots on leaderboards.
Itch is pretty similar to GameJolt. It doesn’t offer API integration (as far as I know) but I think they offer you more ways for your game to get discovered.
It didn’t do all that much for me in this instance but like GameJolt they offer people a way to follow you and Itch also has a quite big Youtuber community and both of those things will help me with my long term goals so I’ll keep publishing my future games there.
Huh, I was honestly very disappointed to see that Fling did this bad on GD. They have very bad CPMs, in my experience, and their platform started getting cluttered with simple, mostly low quality and low effort games which definitely won’t help your game get discovered.
So in the end I decided to stop using GD altogether for my future games.
In the end I wouldn’t call Fling a success but it wasn’t a failure neither. It was my first larger project that I’ve actually taken seriously and I learned a lot in the process of making it.
This was also my first time writing postmortem for one of my projects so I hope it's informative and helpful.
If you read through this whole postmortem you deserve a medal for your efforts. XD
Thank you so much for reading!
If you have any feedback regarding my writing skills you’re welcome to let me know. Thanks in advance.
If you're interested in playing Fling you can find links on this page: https://www.gamedev.net/projects/1206-fling/