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Steam Greenlight - Gone is the biggest milestone for all indie developers?

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Hi guys, my name is William Lau and I'm a producer and co-founder of an indie studio called Ares Games.

Our studio has recently put a title called Hell Warders on Steam Greenlight, and I've decided to start a blog that will follow the life till death of this project. I will try to include as much as I can from the birth of concept to every decision made along the way and try to update as we go live. So go ahead and subscribe!

Why start this blog now?

I would've preferred to have started this blog earlier in the development cycle since there would be lots of interesting things to talk about, like all the iterations and changes and bugs and optimizations that is in early development. (I will try to include some entries of early development later because some of the things we did are very interesting to talk about) However, it would really be a shame if the project would be cut early on into the blog so I wanted to be absolutely sure the project would get off the launchpad first. Also, now is a good time for me because I can spend proper time writing these blogs whilst telling my boss I'm using work hours promoting our game :wink: .

A little about myself

So since this is the first entry, let me introduce myself a little. I am a Canadian born Chinese and I've been a game developer for 10 years now. I've started my career as a game programmer in Canada where I mostly worked on Multiplayer RTS games. Being the typical Asian that I am, that is, having over 9000 relatives back in Asia, eventually one asked me to move to Hong Kong and start a game studio together since I have the experience. Our studio spent the first 5 years developing and publishing games for the Asian market, which I think totally deserves a whole blog series on its own talking about Publishing games in Asia.

The journey to Steam

Hell Warders is the first title from Ares Games that is targeted for the international market, which means it is our first time working with Steam. In the past several years, we have developed a top-down view MMORPG engine built on top of Unity 4.5. (I am so tempted to rant about our struggles with Unity over the years from using Unity 3, 4 & 5, but I will control myself and leave that for a future entry.) But since Hell Warders is a third-person view action game, we had to majorly overhaul our Ares Engine for it, that and migrating to Unity 5 PBR workflow was a must as well. All in all, having a feature rich engine to work with is a mighty advantage. It meant that it only took our team around 4 months to get the game to an alpha test state, this is when we decided to start the Greenlight process.

Steam Twilight

One month ago when we started preparing for Greenlight, Steam announced that they will be shutting down the Greenlight process, in "Spring" nonetheless. This posed a major dilemma for us, should we wait for the new curation process or should we go ahead with Greenlight. We were very worried about Steam already abandoning the Greenlight curation process internally and was very doubtful whether we should ride this last train. From the business perspective however, it simply didn't make sense to wait indefinitely for the new curation process, no one (other than Gabe I suppose), can really be sure when or if the new curation process will even be launched. So in the end we decided to go full Steam ahead. :cool:

As of this writing, we are ranked #53 out of 3000+ games on Greenlight. Steam gives us this funky graph where we can see how other Greenlight games are doing, incognito. They show us the voting results of the #5,10,15,20, 100 rankers and it updates everyday, so everyday we saw different games at these ranks, some with really whacky graphs, like this one for example:


The End of an Era

Getting greenlit means getting on Steam, and this has always been the most important milestone for indie games. Greenlight has enabled indie games to become mainstream, but it has probably also singlehandedly caused the so-called indiepocalypse we are seeing today. Now that Greenlight is coming to an end, I wonder how would the landscape change for us indie developers. Is it the age of the publisher coming back again after like 10~15 years ago? We at Ares Games had a lot of bad experience shipping titles in publisher dominated markets here in Asia. In countries such as China, Japan and Korea, the entire gaming market is dominated by several humongous publishers / platforms, and game developers fight for the very limited resources and vacancy these publishers provide. The outcome is that the publisher only picks out the top 1~2 games with insane budgets, and everything below that will fight a ridiculously steep uphill battle by self-publishing because of the immense difference in PR budgeting. Maybe in the near future, landing that publisher deal may become the only way to succeed. We can only wait and see.

Thanks guys, that's it for now for this introduction blog entry. Drop me a comment on things you guys would like to hear me talk about in upcoming entries.

Ask me anything! You can email me at: william@aresgames.com.hk

Hell Warders - Vote for us on Greenlight!

Ares Games

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