January 27th. The first major update for Spellbound since early access release on Sept 4th, 2016. Almost five months later. For the sake of brevity, you can read the lengthy Patch Notes here.
This helps me get one step closer to achieving a core strategic business objective: To get Spellbound on as many online distribution platforms as possible, supporting as many VR hardware platforms as possible. This will increase my total addressable market, which means more sales. More sales means a step closer to becoming financially self-sufficient, where monthly income at least matches expenses.
1) I need to get my game up on Oculus Store. To do that, I'm going to be re-creating my game play trailer to better reflect the new style of game play using room scale VR. This is going to be ultra important to get right because every view is going to become the very first impression of the game and people will base most of their purchase decision based on how the game play trailer made them feel.
2) Localize for Chinese. I have *never* localized a game for another nation/culture before, so this will be new learning for me. I want to do this now, while the game content is still very short. It's more of a "hello world" type of thing right now, where I have to go out and establish the relationship with whoever will be localizing and figure out what they need from me, and then figure out how I'm going to integrate their deliverables back into the game. This would be an ongoing relationship as more content is developed over time. I think it's going to be a requirement to localize to support Chinese if I'm ever going to launch on the Viveport store.
3) Continue building content, adding game play, adding puzzles, story, levels, etc. Once we've got all of the distribution channels setup for all of the major platforms and customers can buy the game at any time, the pipeline to distributing fresh new content and updates to customers around the world will be very fast, smooth and seamless. Once the content reaches a critical mass (measured in compelling gameplay, average user hours spent in game, reviews & feedback), it's time to start advertising and promoting the game directly.
4) Hopefully, if I'm smart, I'll already have greased the wheels for promotion and advertising by making the game easy for twitch streamers and youtubers to share their experiences. The recent update I released helped take one step in that direction, but there's still a ton of work to do. UE4 doesn't support mixed reality yet, so if I catch up to them, I'll have to implement it myself. I think I'm going to have to be very careful about where and how I do advertising, because the VR market is so small, anything physical would miss 99%.
Growing Company Relationships:
I'm slowly building and solidifying relationships with various companies in the VR hardware space. Particularly Oculus, Leap Motion, and Razer via emails and phone calls. Nobody is throwing money at me though, so I'm still all on my own to make it happen. That's okay. I think that once I have compelling VR content available for their hardware platforms, they'll help with marketing and promotion of my content because it helps sell their hardware. The key on my side is to deliver quality, compelling VR content. I know I can do it. I think the long term success for my company will be built off of the strong relationships I build with other companies in the VR industry. Relationships take time to grow and need mutual benefit and trust. The value of a company is based off of its products, sales, relationships, and staff. I think their perception of whether or not my content is compelling will have to come from anyone but me so that it seems like a public perception rather than something I'm pushing through back channels -- but that's easy: just build great content.
New Team members:
I started using Discord a lot this month to collaborate with my new team member Stuart (friend from highschool, 15 years ago). Feel free to drop in any time. He came and visited my office this month and we spent two days working on illustration stuff in VR. I noticed that in some of his illustrations, the art seems to really pop out of the canvas and look like it's 3 dimensional in VR. It looks a bit like an optical illusion, but it gave me an interesting idea: What if we enhance that illusion and create an illustration in layers and then display each layer with a slight z offset? When you move your head, it looks more like the illustration is popping out. I gave it a try and it looks pretty good, but it's going to need some careful tweaks and polish to get it just right. The end effect will be that when you move your head in VR, the illustration has slight parallaxing and we can make some small portions animated, so rather than being a static illustration, it's more "alive". It's an interesting experiment. Stuart was so blown away by VR that he immediately went and bought himself an HTC Vive. Previously he was on the fence on VR and was waiting for the next generation of hardware, whenever that eventually comes out. He's dedicated to the success of the project and will be producing art assets going forward.
We also started collaborating with a small sound team based out of Scotland to produce sound assets for VR. I hope this turns into a long, mutually beneficial relationship.
The next few months are going to be focused on increasing sales and adding more content. There's a mutual dependency on the two objectives.
Edit: Here's a cool youtube video I made recently using some of my spiral code to create ribbon particles: