ENDLESS RPG — A POST MORTEM
Endless RPG is a game released on Steam in May of 2019, it’s a turn-based combat open world RPG that was made primarily by me. As a professional developer and hobbyist game dev I created all the code on the engine I was using at the time, Game Maker 1.4. I fiddle around the early sprites and those were replaced by Nicky Oryzano’s commissioned work. Sound and Music were from royalty free sites. Animations were made on Spine by me. Game design was a team work of me and my brother. He also did an amazing job as QA as I had almost no bugs at launch.
Data data data
(I cannot make bricks without clay)
- Start: 21/Oct/2017
- Finish: 28/Mar/2020
- Early Access: 17/May/2019
- Steam Spring Sale 2019: We expected this to start on Thursday, 23/May/2019, but there wasn’t a spring sale on 2019;
- Full Release: 04/Dec/2019
- Steam Winter Sale 2019: December 19/Jan/2019;
Oh yes, I keep track of every single thing I did on the game on each day. If you are interested here is the full document. But let’s digest this a bit.
- 2017: 21 days
- 2018: 182 days
- 2019: 91 days
- 2020: 11 days
- Total: 305 days
- Work hours per day: 2 to 12 hour
- Average: 4h/day
Costs and Revenue*:
*aproximate values due to currency conversion
- Sprites: USD 1,200
- Proof-reading: USD 50
- Steam entry-fee: USD 100
- YouTube Ads: USD 50
- Taxes and Fees: USD 1,000
- Revenue*: USD 5,500
- Total: USD 3,100
*Revenue values are total sales of Overkill and Endless RPG, I couldn’t separate them, but Overkill is cheap and it’s sells are very low. Nonetheless this was what actually was in and out of my bank account.
Total sales on 02/Jun/2022: 1,776
- December/2019: 20 sales/day
- March/2020: 10 sales/day
- July/2020: 10 sales/day
- Selling around 1 unit a day since Sep/2020
I was very lax, but determined to make Endless RPG. I sat at the computer almost everyday to do something related to the game. It wasn’t too hard to me, but some close people and friends often told me it was basically “a second job”. In many occasions my brother said things were too fast and told me to take a break. This probably avoided a nasty burn-out that plague many indie devs. I kept sane and healthy through all the proccess. It was fun and engaging, but I had only my brother to talk about the project. For technical difficulties and mishaps I resort to the amazing people of the Game Maker forum where people helped me a lot with the GM code particularities.
Costs and Revenue:
I was planning to expend nothing at all on the game, but sprites made by me were very very bad. So I hired Nicky Oryzano to commission all the game’s art. As I already had every sprite that I need with all the dimensions and all, I just needed to make a list and send it to Oryzano. I did like his work and I got value for what I paid for, very professional guy that I found on Game Maker’s forum.
Another thing that I invested was on YouTube ads. It was dirty cheap to hit many many people with an ad. I even was able to taylor made who would be the people targeted. More than 75% of the audience saw the ad from start to finish.
Taxes and fees were very complicated and annoying. As I live in Brazil I had due taxes from what I received by Steam, which already get a cut from taxes on USA too. I did the right thing the best I could and stay within the law, but it was one “accountant hat” that I didn’t like to wear and had to discover how to file and pay those taxes correctly.
What went right?
The bare minimum:
- It sold and cover the costs;
- Players liked the game;
- Fluid gameplay;
- Ticked all the proposed features boxes;
Mechanics were good:
- Many ways to play and tactics possibilities;
- Gears and Items were clear to see and understand;
- Made the game fresh and new on every playthrough;
- (but it was a nightmare to test);
- It was very cheap;
- Targeted a lot of people;
- Got a little retweets and exposition;
- (but not a lot);
Steam Curator Connect:
- Do not distribute keys to complete strangers, use this;
- You can send it to many Steam Curators;
- Pick and choose the ones that have to do with your game;
- (but they are not obligated in anyway to review it);
- Always be on top of it;
- Talk to players to solve problems and doubts;
- Get good feedback and implement changes;
Participate on all Sales:
- A good mark is 10% to 20%;
What went wrong?
Development time (bottlenecks):
- GUI: 4 months;
- Made it after Endless RPG to not have to develop a GUI in the middle of a game development proccess ever again;
- Also and I’m distributing it for free to help others;
- Very little market projection;
- Too difficult to some people;
- Didn’t cover the development cost at all;
Listen to the players:
At the end of the day, they are the ones that bought the game and are using your product. Listen to them, some have very valid criticism and much could be improved. I only feel sorry because I was just able to do that once the game was on Early Access. I plan to get a Discord Server for the next projects. Twitter is good to show to other devs whats going on. It’s important to show your work there, but there aren’t many players. Discord and Reddit seems to be the way to go to get some attention to your game.
Use it and use it right. If you are a solo developer or a very small team, chances are that you can’t possibly test every single part of your game. My brother helped me a lot and we catch all bugs, but there were still bugs related to antivirus shenanigans and Windows mishaps that we could only got as there were people complaining about them.
Not too low, not too high… right? But how? What I did was to look for a game on Steam that is related to mine. Avoid Triple As and games with too few reviews/sales. SteamDB is a very good tool to gauge this. Ask yourself: is this game better than mine? Does it have more features? And don’t get just one. Have a look at on 20 or more. This will help you figure out how much people are paying for what you will be offering.
Then, try to remind yourself when was the last time you bought a game for full price. That’s right, you don’t. And neither will your players. So stay on the lookout for Steam e-mails warning about when a Sale happen and put up a discount. The magic number is 10% to 20%.
On Endless RPG we made a huge mistake to think like a “cheapskate player” and gauge the price too high, but aimed to a 40% to 50% discount on sales. Do not do this. This probably hurt our sales badly.
Listen to your players and engage with them, talk, respond to the messages, be interested on their opinion. Even if they don’t say good things, always (and I mean ALWAYS) be respectful and the best person you can be. Transform that bad review on a sign to other players that points to the right direction. As a developer you can respond to a review even if the player lock it down.
When you communicate, please, be a nice person to be around with. I saw more than once developers being… unpleasant to players. Remember that you attract bees with honey, not poison.
And lastly DO NOT over promise and be frank. Keep and stand by what you promised on the roadmap. Do not say things just to please people out of the blue. If a player asks you to do something that you don’t agree as a developer (maybe it can’t be done, maybe it’s not the game focus, maybe it’s a lot of work) say so. Do it in a nice way, but say it. There are few things that can hurt you game sales and reputation more than broken promises and missed features.
Be prepared to wear a lot of hats. Sometimes you are a developer and code for days. Other times you will spend a month over sprites and graphics. In others you will be selecting musics and sounds (and editing them too if not making your own). And there will be weeks that you will be planning the game design and not code a single line of code.
The unexpected hats for me were Marketing, Law and Accountant. Marketing is a lot of work. Expect to make promotional videos, participate on Screen Shot Saturday (Twitter or Reddit), engage with people. On the Law side I had to understand exactly what I could legally use, read the Creative Commons License and licenses of use. The worst part was understanding the laws and taxes that were due and pay them accordingly.
So, be prepared to do all that and absolutely outsource what you can without bankrupt yourself. There are very professional people available for commissioned work. Just be sure to know and ask for what you will really need.
Is Endless RPG a failure? Hell no! It was a hobby game that I entertained myself doing. Some parts were more interesting and others not so much. What is important to me is that people played it and had fun with it.
Then is is a success? Yes! Not a commercial success, but still. If I had to live of it’s revenue I would be homeless. With 305 days of work, amounting to 1220 hours, Endless paid me USD 2.5 per hour. But it was a fun process. Software development is one of the greatest force multipliers that exists. It can reach a lot of people and it’s very easy to distribute copies of it. And Game Development is art, development and knowledge mixed together. How cool is that?
So, every journey begins with a single step. Along the way make friends, learn new things and enjoy the ride. =]