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Spellbound Launching on Steam

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slayemin

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Alright. Spellbound is now up on steam. The release date is slated for September 5th, 2016. The game is being released in Early Access.

I'm nervous. The worst thing that could happen is that I release the game, get a ton of bad reviews, angry customers, and I make about 20 sales, which might as well be none. The second worst thing that could happen is that a bunch of people buy the game and then have no idea what to do or how to play it. Or, people buy the game, realize they paid $20 for 20 minutes of content, and then ask for a refund. They would probably get it too, because steam requires refunds to be within 2 hours of game play or two weeks of ownership. Of course, there's a lot more content coming, and I can tell people that, but it won't stop people from asking for a refund. Then, there are bugs and interfaces which could be smoothed out. The bottom line is that I'm releasing a game which I know isn't 100% perfect, and that makes me nervous. I know that if I had infinite money, I'd continue working on the game for at least another 6 months before releasing. Maybe I'd work on it forever and never release?

The other fear I had was my price point. Initially, I was planning on selling the game for $25. I justified the price based on the high quality of the content, the polished game play, and the promise of hours of additional content, and the novelty of VR. I balked. I looked at the price point of comparative games, their level of production quality, length of game play, etc. and decided to drop my price by $5. I can always raise the price later as the value proposition increases, right? Maybe strategically, it's more important to get more sales and less money in order to get more players acquainted with the game, so that later on I can sell DLC to a wider audience? Nobody buys DLC for a game they don't own.

I didn't get into PAX this year. I submitted an application to get into the indie mega booth way back in April. I didn't hear back from them until mid august, and they rejected my application. I felt disappointed. I asked a fellow indie if he got in, and he was rejected as well. He's got a high quality game, so I know it wasn't just me. What's annoying is that I got rejected a few weeks before the event even happens, so if I had been making plans to be running a booth, I would have had to do everything very last minute. That's never ideal. I think next year, I'll get my own booth or partner with a bigger company. However, it's kind of a mixed blessing in disguise. I was very worried about the logistics and manning of the booth. If I have a room scale virtual reality game and I only have one workstation, and a play session takes about 10-15 minutes, then I'd be cycling about 4-6 people through my game per hour. If PAX attendees see I have a VR booth, they'd line up very quickly and people could be standing in line for hours just waiting to play, and that would suck for them. I also have no money, so I can't hire people to help me with my booth, so I'd pretty much be tied to one area for 12 hours straight, for 4 days. Getting food would be very difficult, and making sure my computer doesn't walk away would be challenging. And I wouldn't be able to actually attend PAX and see what other companies and studios have been working on. Anyways, my dear girlfriend has been able to secure three PAX tickets for Friday, so I can just be a carefree attendee.

On a slightly different topic, my former artist is unemployeed and I still owe him about $9,000 which I don't have, and he's pressuring me for it. I'm also behind on my office rent by 3 months. My $20 / month photoshop subscription has lapsed. My company website is also down due to lack of payment. The bank refused to give me a line of credit due to lack of credit history (I have never had a credit card). Once I start making sales (which I expect to be very modest), I'll pay everyone as I can, and then buy a new pair of shoes, jeans, and clean socks. Then, I will continue financing the development of my game. One thing I will do differently: avoid hiring full time employees. Contract that work out. The appropriate time to hire a full time employee is when you have revenue and you can't do the work yourself.

In a totally different topic: My girlfriend and I have been running our bed and breakfast near Mt. Rainier for 3 months now and it has been prospering. Every weekend, we've been booked solid. I kind of expect this for the summer season. We've got 240 acres of forested property which has been used as a farm for 120 years. We're going with a combined theme of farm tourism and an outdoor camping experience. We have 3 pigs, 3 goats, a baby cow, a missing peacock, and 10 horses (several which are rescues). We make money by renting out rooms & teepees, and by offering horse trail rides for $49/hour per person. Last weekend I had to go work the farm and do a bunch of very different jobs: supervising hired help; catching & saddling horses; repairing the farm house; cleaning rooms; checking in guests; taking care of animals; fixing fences; catching escaped animals; giving trail rides; building campfires; etc. By the end of the weekend, I was absolutely tired. My back was sore from lifting saddles and working. My hands were thrashed, blistered and bloody. My nose was very bruised from a horse smashing its head into it. My face is browned from the sunshine. But, I did get a moment of great fun when I took one of the horses off the beaten path and went exploring around the property. I even trotted it through the creek :) The first night at 1:15am, there was a coyote making all sorts of noise near the horses and it wouldn't shut up. So, I had to get out of bed, put my clothes back on, and walk down the dirt road to find the coyote. By the time I got halfway down the road, it disappeared and I never heard it again. The only light I got was from the thousands of stars, so it was very dark. The odd thing about that farm is how cold it gets in the summer nights. The temperature drops below 45F during the night, and goes above 80F during the day. Just to show off, here's a couple cool camera phone pics I took:

14211983_10155360925284368_5476962488411266319_n.jpg?oh=ff3a68f7d097b166bb49b386c0fbee70&oe=584C2EDA14212760_10155360925339368_8696796899725977642_n.jpg?oh=4d76aa23f2d263353993f53bd74478ca&oe=5880B47814202634_10155360925349368_46209760363592524_n.jpg?oh=4912ab318e9b17fec8a8dbcd3f2db3d8&oe=584E0D0C14100436_10155360925344368_2922738496021322925_n.jpg?oh=275d3993b2e6c75f21be34773367f204&oe=58529C17
Anyways, one thing that kind of struck me is that I draw on a lot of these diverse life experiences to design my games.

Ninja Edit / Update: I'm excited to announce that someone created spellbounds first youtube "let's play" video! Check it out here:
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What is your plan for advertising the game?

1. Issue a press release
2. Contact the VR industry press writers and give them review keys
3. Social media (reddit, facebook, youtube, etc)
4. Gradually add in social stuff into the game itself (like score boards, playing with friends, etc)
5. Attending events and giving demos / talks
6. Create and nurture partnerships with other key companies and people

I'm open to other ideas and alternatives. My advertising goal is to maximize the number of impressions, so targeted mass market ads are much more preferred to small events.

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That's a very nice looking mane on the horse. What library are you using?

Thanks :) Most of the horses are rescue horses which have been nurtured back to good health. The one I was riding was still a bit underweight, but she's gaining weight back. She's my favorite horse because she rides like a Cadillac when she gallops, but has a lot of power when she runs. I can't wait to ride her again.

As for libraries... I'm using Unreal Engine 4, so it's not really a library...

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@slayermin, I think Zaoshi Kaba was joking and saying the "rendering" of your horses looked really nice. I'm happy you finally made it to Steam. Good luck with the release!

 

On a side note, I moved up to the Seattle area about 5-6 months ago since I landed my dream job working on Battletech. :D The wife and kiddo have been wanting to try out some camping stuff and this looks like fun. Could you send me a PM with the details?

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You have an amazing property, that's for sure.

On the topic of showing up at events, depending on which event you plan on going next? (most likely another PAX edition?) I may be be able to lend you help free of charge (I'll only ask for food if you feel that's fair).

Helping someone out with their booth is something I'd really like to do both for selfish reasons, and also because I've been following your challenges and can relate. 

If you have some kind of a heads up on when that is to happen, we could discuss this further.

 

Wishing you the best with the release!

Don't hesitate to link through here! 20$ is certainly not cheap by indie standards, but that sounds like a fair spending for my Week of Awesome prize ;) better give back to the gamedev.net community right?

 

 

Edit: oh and when you're rich and all, I want a free tour of that domain!

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Hope you were able to get some of the issues sorted out before launch.

Congratulations!

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You have an amazing property, that's for sure.

On the topic of showing up at events, depending on which event you plan on going next? (most likely another PAX edition?) I may be be able to lend you help free of charge (I'll only ask for food if you feel that's fair).

Helping someone out with their booth is something I'd really like to do both for selfish reasons, and also because I've been following your challenges and can relate. 

If you have some kind of a heads up on when that is to happen, we could discuss this further.

 

Wishing you the best with the release!

Don't hesitate to link through here! 20$ is certainly not cheap by indie standards, but that sounds like a fair spending for my Week of Awesome prize ;) better give back to the gamedev.net community right?

 

 

Edit: oh and when you're rich and all, I want a free tour of that domain!

Awesome :D I don't have any near term events planned yet, but I'm sure that once the game releases and the game starts getting wider interest, a lot of event requests will start coming in. In that event, I'll certainly send you a heads up to see if you're able and interested in helping.

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@slayermin, I think Zaoshi Kaba was joking and saying the "rendering" of your horses looked really nice. I'm happy you finally made it to Steam. Good luck with the release!

 

On a side note, I moved up to the Seattle area about 5-6 months ago since I landed my dream job working on Battletech. :D The wife and kiddo have been wanting to try out some camping stuff and this looks like fun. Could you send me a PM with the details?

Yeah, totally :) we'd love to have you guys come by. We've got an open house on Sept 17-18, and I can get you a free night in a teepee. You'll want to come prepared though: If its raining, you'll want to bring suitable clothing. If its sunny and clear, the temperature will be about 75-80 degrees in the day, and drops to about 45F in the night. We have small propane heaters in the teepees, but... teepees have zero insulation, so any heat escapes quickly. I'll PM you the address and you can let me know if you want to spend the night or just make a day trip out of it.

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About to check out how your game has been doing in the Steam reviews, fingers crossed.

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