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Foot in the door...

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About, I don't know... half a year ago or so, I released a freeware, fixed up version of one my older games. A console style RPG called Ara Fell... It's done decently so far, so I suppose I couldn't ask for a lot more. I tried to advertise the game a bit, and I guess it worked. My little forum grew to a more than a hundred members, which isn't bad for a C List, freeware indie RPG. The game has gotten positive reviews and I very rarely get negative feedback on it. Which I'm not bragging about... My plan was to use my first Ara Fell game as a springboard for the game I'm working on now, Ara Fell 2; a game I plan to sell. I love making Ara Fell 2, and I'm trying so, so hard to make something that's genuinely good. Something that will really be worth the $20 I'm selling it for. I owe it to the people who buy it to make them feel every last cent they spent on my product was worth it. And I want to earn every cent of profit I make. No cashing it, no selling out... I currently wait tables in some shoddy little family restaurant. I hate it. I don't want to do this the rest of my life. I'd like to be one of the lucky people who are able to make a living doing what they love. So, after this... sort of pointless speech (but I really needed to get it out...), I've reached an impasse. Ara Fell 2 is pretty. I posted screenshots of it in the IOTD section and everyone was really thrilled by it. But I don't know what I should do to really make anyone else care. Am I making the right decision using my previous game to build a base for my new one? Who do I talk to that will listen? What do I do to get my foot in the door? I know, I know... I don't want to sound like I'm whining. I'm not saying this to be emo, or like I should have attention I don't deserve. I don't want to screw myself over by mistakes I'm making now and not realize they were mistakes until it's too late. I feel like I'm missing something, but I don't know what it is or how to find it. I thought my previous game, based on how much people seemed to like it, would be doing more for me than it seems to. I don't know, maybe I'm just looking for someone to pat me on the back and tell me everything will be okay... That this is normal and that even the most successful indie games go through this kind of thing. But some direction would be nice. *deep breath* Well, that's my story. I suppose this didn't quite turn into what I wanted it to turn into, so if I'm not in the right forum any more, I apologize and feel free to move my topic to its appropriate place. Anyway... if anyone has anything to say, advice, comments, some direction, I'll appreciate it. Thanks, guys.

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Original post by Stephen Anthony
Am I making the right decision using my previous game to build a base for my new one?
Probably. It is easier to extend something else than it is to start from scratch.
Quote:
Who do I talk to that will listen? What do I do to get my foot in the door?
What for?

We don't know what you want out of life, so how can we know your goals?

Since I'm assuming you want to be limited to programming rather than running a game business (VERY different tasks), it probably means that you want to passively sell the game as you are doing now.

In that case, one game isn't enough. One game and a sequel isn't enough. You need to develop your own market, and only you (or marketers you decide to hire) can figure that step out.

Quote:
I thought my previous game, based on how much people seemed to like it, would be doing more for me than it seems to.
It can take many years to cultivate a business.
Quote:
I don't know, maybe I'm just looking for someone to pat me on the back and tell me everything will be okay.
Good job on making it that far. You've done much more than most. But it never gets much easier, so I can't promise everything will be okay.

It sounds like what is next is a bunch of soul searching.

Figure out what you really want to do. Do you want to program for the next 30 years? Do you want to own your own business rather than program? Do you want to have an evening job of a small business, or grow into a big company? Do you want to branch out, or grow this product, or just let the whole venture grow stale and die now that you've learned this much?

Those are questions we can't answer. Once you've chosen a direction, then we could point out appropriate business books and online reading.

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Something that has been very good to us in the last few years are the indie games festivals. IGF, Slamdance, and Indiecade in particular. If the festivals accept it, a large chunk of the game industry will end up seeing it as well as all sorts of press. This will get the word out, quick.

We've had multiple publishing offers for our game (though legal issues keep us from being able to sell it), and every one of them has come from our booth at one of the festivals. But even if you want to self-publish, word of mouth can be huge (especially if it hits Digg.com). Make sure it's linked in your forum signature, as a start, and make sure your website is clean and professional with an easy to find download.

It also helps if you're vocal in the indie games community, meeting both devs and game bloggers and gaining a reputation as a creative developer. GameDev.net helps, as do the festivals, but you should also may consider finding an inroad to an event like E3, GDC, PAX, or the like. If your game impresses the right people, you might get a mention on Kotaku or InsertCredit.

Finally, have a backup download server. The absolute worst is when you finally hit it big and your server drops after a few thousand downloads. When our game hit Digg, we were getting about 9000 downloads per hour and our server shut down after just a few hours. We switched the link over to our schools server, which lagged and refused to accept new downloads almost immediately. I had to call our web provider and have them upgrade our account in order to keep the downloads running smoothly. But it was worth it... after three days we had over 60,000 downloads, and now we're hosted on CNet :)

I'd also like to suggest that since Ara Fell is not a terribly well-known title, you might be better off using Ara Fell as a subtitle to a "stand-alone" title ("Knights Eating Donuts: An Ara Fell Story"... I'm sure you can do better [grin]). Alot of people are afraid to approach the "sequel" to an RPG, because they don't know the first games story.

Good luck!

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Stephen wrote:
>But I don't know what I should do to really make anyone else care.

It's called "marketing." So you need to learn a new skill, or hire someone that already has it.

>Am I making the right decision using my previous game to build a base for my new one?

There is no "right" or "wrong" in this regard. How on earth could we possibly answer this?

>Who do I talk to that will listen?

While you say what, to achieve what goal? Are we still talking about your question about how to market your new game more effectively without having someone else as publisher?

>What do I do to get my foot in the door?

What door are you talking about? Are we still talking about how you can market your game more effectively without giving publishing rights to anyone else?

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I've basically had moderate success with the marketing techniques I've used so far... If you google Ara Fell, you get quite a few hits.

Things were pretty much getting better and bigger on their own until the last few months, where everything pretty much seemed to hit a ceiling and I don't know how to get any higher.

I tried a few things without a lot of success, so I'm just not sure what to do next. I was pretty discouraged when I wrote that first post, because I've pretty much always had someone close by I could talk to, or just use common sense to figure out the next step. I've always had someone mentoring me on what to do next, and now I don't. Which is just how it goes, I guess, but the fact of the matter is I don't have enough experience in this sort of thing.

So, yeah, obviously marketing. I don't know how wise it is to blow a ton of money on this at the moment, so rather than trying to make some big campaign, what are some smaller methods of attracting modest attention? I'm aware that if I really want to make this happen, I need to go all out on it, but since I'm not ready to do that just yet, just a small improvement over what I have already is going in the right direction.

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Original post by Stephen Anthony
what are some smaller methods of attracting modest attention? I'm aware that if I really want to make this happen, I need to go all out on it, but since I'm not ready to do that just yet, just a small improvement over what I have already is going in the right direction.

That won't work without a carefully calculated marketing campaign. When working indie, if you shoot for small publicity, you'll get no publicity. If you shoot for big publicity, you'll get small publicity.

How do you get your game noticed? Aim high. Pimp it everywhere you possibly can, in every way you possibly can. This doesn't cost money, but it will take time. There's no magic formula for free publicity, it's all about word-of-mouth.

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Original post by JBourrie
Pimp it everywhere you possibly can, in every way you possibly can.

Actually, I'd like to amend this with : "Without breaking the rules of wherever you're pimping it". In other words, be smart about it. Don't spam forums or send unrequested emails... it will only make you look bad.

But I'm sure you already realize this [smile]

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I recall having read somewhere that most "successful" indie devs (ie those that can afford not to have a day job) have 6 or more titles that generate good income consistently. Odds are, you're not going to be able to support yourself on one, two, or even three good titles for very long. To make it long term there's basically two parts to the equation:

  1. Have enough games to generate sufficient reliable income on a regular basis.

  2. Develop new, successful games to take over when revenue from the old titles inevitably begins to drop off.



That's just the numbers of course (and roughly at that.) Then there's marketing, production and/or distribution, diversification of your lineup...


By the way, have you considered anything in terms of distribution? Are you planning to go digital or to have physical discs produced? Digital is becoming big, and when I last looked at the numbers the cost-per-unit is generally 2-3 bucks or so, plus some percentage of the total price. That gets you bandwidth, freedom from shipping, and generally includes credit-card processing. On the other hand, I also looked into numbers for physical production and you can get professional disc runs of 1000 units for around 2 grand. That includes a *pressed* CD in DVD packaging with full-color cover, inserts and disc printing.

If you consider the probability that most consumers accept the fact that they'll have to pay shipping (so you can pass that cost onto them) and the fact that many prefer to have something physical, real production might be an attractive option. At 2 bucks per disc, it generally fairs better than digital distribution if you can meet the minimum order and front the cost of production (although you'll have the added expense of credit card processing if you need more than paypal and a P.O. box.)

I'm working on an arcade style title and planning to go with the production route should it prove itself worthy of a $10 price tag. I figure it'll be a success if I sell 200 copies and break even, and a runaway hit if I manage to sell more than that :)

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