I am still working on games guys and I want to give you a little life sign with this post today. My last post is already half a year ago many things changed in that time, but some are still the same.
The Corona pandemic hit me quite hard. Yeah, I am working from home and normally I would not have any problem with it, but most of my business money was spent. So, I needed to work as a freelancer to earn some money. Unfortunately most of the companies I worked previously weren’t looking for any freelancer. In the end I had to live from social benefits and I still do.
Nevertheless in the mean time I got some motivation back and I came up with some new game ideas. Currently I am doing a lot of prototyping and testing these ideas. In the past with my first two games Timbertales and FlatFatCat I have made big mistakes in this stage of development. I always started with the game design document and afterwards I started with the development (production phase). After a while I noticed that these games weren’t as fun as I expected, but I invested already so much that I kept the development going.
What was the biggest mistake in the past?
I skipped the pre-production completely. Instead of testing out the core gameplay and verifying if the gameplay is fun at all I started with the production of the game without defining the game enough. Today, I think that is why I couldn’t ever bring Timbertales to a quality I wanted to have. The gameplay lacked innovation and fun from the beginning. The technology I used was quite good and I had also well written code. The graphics are simple but supporting the game. Thats all fine and I am very proud I could even release some games with decent content.
I always tried to sell those games and I didn’t get the numbers I was looking for. The game isn’t fun, innovativ or good enough and I spent too much time caring about these games, because I already invested too much time into them. Today I have a very different opinion and it took me quite a while to see things clear. Of course I was emotional bound to these games and I wanted to have success.
Why is pre-production and prototyping so important?
There are several benefits from prototyping before you go into production. First of all you can verify if your game idea is actually fun. Ideas tend to be awesome in our minds and we always want to create them as quickly as possible, if you have a high claim on quality for example you will spend months of development before you can even test your first scene. This can become very dramatic if you realise that your game idea isn’t fun at all or don’t work as you expected. This is why you should prototype first and bring your game idea as soon as possible to a playable version.
Another problem I encountered with both my games was the scope of the games. In the end of production I started to add features because I thought the game wasn’t good enough. I missed the opportunity to define the scope of the game before I started with production. That was a big problem because it raised a lot of questions during the development. I had to think on the fly about solutions and I came up with a lot of features, which were never planned.
When I am talking about pre-production think about film makers most of their work is pre-production. Before they can go into production the story board needs to be completed. All actors needs to be casted and all location needs to be defined. Then they can start with actual production (recording) of the scenes. In game development this is quite similar before we go into the production (development) we should define our story, core gameplay, levels and scope of the game and this is done by prototyping some basic levels for evaluation.
Afterwards in production you can start to claim a high quality in assets or levels, because everything else was defined in pre-production and isn’t a thing to think about anymore. You now know what you have to do and this should be the goal of the pre-production phase. A long time game development was quite complex for me and this was because I did everything on the fly while production, but if you have a very good pre-production the production becomes very easy and you just have to finish your game 🙂
The downsides and throwbacks of pre-production and prototyping phase
You need to be very honest to yourself. If you start prototyping and you realise that your game idea doesn’t work – Drop it! It is very hard to drop projects. As you can see with Timbertales and FlatFatCat I am not able to this even after so much time I earned nothing from those games. As a developer you are emotional bound to your games and it is very hard to drop things, but the if you can do this it will save you a lot of time and money!
For example if I would have started Timbertales with a simple prototype I would have realised soon that there is something missing in the gameplay there is no fun or innovation. I would have spend a month or two in development and I would need to drop that work which would be hard, but it is so much better than developing the game for a year and earn nothing like I did.
Another downside of prototyping: You can’t plan this process. It is kind of creative work. Some days you don’t have the energy for that, but in prototype phase you need to be creative and test innovativ and fun ideas. In this stage of development you can’t just finish things you have to play around and explore. Also it is very hard to define when pre-production is really finished.
Will my next game be more successful than the other?
I really hope so! The approach overall feels much better. I spend a lot of time into testing and prototyping which really makes me feel like an indie game developer. I already know that my next game will offer so much more fun and the core gameplay loop is so much better.
Sometimes it is very hard if your ideas won’t work on the first day or some gameplay elements just don’t look good or feel good. It is also a problem that I always want to polish things a lot, but keep in mind if your gameplay is really fun then it will be fun with unpolished assets as well!
I hope I could give you a little insight today on my new approach to making games. If you interested in following the development progress make sure to subscribe to our newsletter on my website or join my Discord
at the moment I try to release a patch every week for Timbertales. I realised that most of my changes in the last three weeks are only kind of cosmetic changes and fixing issues I had to address years ago. This week I want to try to dig a little bit deeper and focus more on the core gameplay. One big change which will hit on Friday: You are now able to move your units through friendly units. It sounds like a small change, but there was a lot of code involved and I can tell you it changes the feel of the game quite a lot.
This brings me to the next topic. I always had the feeling that most of the players are not able to completely get all combat features, because they are very hidden and if you are not involved into the development process of the game you most likely don’t even know how most the systems work. This results in two major problems. First most people think Timbertales is a casual game for kids. Second the core gameplay feels very flat and unrewarding.
Surroundings: If you surround enemies with your units you get a higher critical strike chance. With a simple surround you gain 25% more critical strike, with a full surround you will receive a bonus of 50%!
Unit / Attack Types: Every unit in Timbertales has a different attack type and unit type. The combination of both types determine the damage a unit will take or deal. For example a concussive weapon type deals “0.25 * damage” vs large unit types, while vs small unit types it deals the full damage. This makes it very important to choose the right units to attack specific unit types of the enemy. I think this system is pretty unknown to everyone and this is one reason why it feels so flat.
Combo System: And last but not least we have the combo system. Every unit in Timbertales represents a special element. There are earth, poison, shadow and nature. While shadow is an opener, earth is a finisher and poison / nature can be used to expand the combo. In an ideal scenario you what like to attack first with a shadow unit than a nature and finish off with earth. This would increase your damage in addition to the system I have written before. A two combo chain deals 1.2 * damage while a complete three hit combo deals 1.5 * damage.
Actually you can find all this informations I have written about in the help dialog, but I think most of you haven’t checked it out yet. This is why I want to make changes here in future.
What are the plans to make the combat more engaging?
As you can see the combat systems of Timbertales are quite complex, but horrible visible for the players. This is why I would like to change some things in the future.
Surroundings: I think this one is quite easy. I need to make it better visible for the player. I plan to give surrounded units a small symbol which states that it receives more critical strikes because of the disadvantage of being surrounded. This offers the possibility that a player will take use of surrounding when he accidentally see it for the first time.
Unit / Attack types: This one is quite hard to make it better visible for the players, but I think I could add short sentences to the combat texts to state their effectiveness. For example if you attack a large unit with concussive weapon the combat text could look like “- 5 (uneffective)”. This would be my first thought on this topic.
Combo system: I am not very happy with the combo system at all. I think it is too hard to understand and don’t provide a rewarding feeling right now. Instead I think about removing the combo system and give a fraction a unique system. My ideas at the moment: The Sylvan units injure enemies and the wounds would stack up to three stages. Something like: small wound, gaping wound, devastating wound. Based on the wound type the unit would receive extra damage and special abilities provide bonus effects. The Vermin on the other hand would injure enemies with poison.
In the end I think there is the need of changes to the core gameplay to make the game more interesting. Unfortunately I always realise that the cool / big changes take a lot of time. I will do my best to make the best changes possible!
in the last blog post I told you a bit about going back to old projects or start something new. I decided to go back to an old project. Since my budget is running super low and I can’t survive as indie game developer much longer – I had to make decisions and one of those were: Bringing Timbertales to the quality it deserves!
The quality of Timbertales
Timbertales was my first game project and I invested a lot into that game. It is based on a very complex server infrastructure and all the code is written with the libGDX framework. That means I haven’t used any game engine and had to write massive amounts of code. This makes the maintainability even harder and I wish it was achieved with Godot nowadays 🙂
Nevertheless the code isn’t bad at all it just takes so much more time to patch and change things if you have to do it all by code instead of an easy GUI editor. Timbertales were released in a no where near perfect state back in 2017. I had to rush myself because of the lack of money. The start wasn’t very successful and so I didn’t put much more effort in a project which took me more than a year of development time.
It is overwhelming how much I learned in the time and so I come up with a lot of changes and very different view than two years ago. My plan is to improve the visuals to make the game more appealing to a possible audience. Afterwards I would like to improve the store page on Steam and put up some new graphic assets like screenshots and trailer to push the sales. My goal is to get more community feedback and release a patch very week. That said tomorrow will hit another patch. Timbertales is also on sale at the moment, if you are interested in the game.
What are the next changes?
This week I also focused on tweaking, fixing bugs and improve the visual quality in general, but there were also a lot of thinking ongoing in which direction the development will move. There will be big game play changes upcoming. I also want to improve the balancing and add another story campaign, but first of all there is small little problem with the budget.
Every time I have to decide which direction I want to go as indie game developer I ask myself should I go for a new game project or should I stick to older game releases?
If you have already shipped a game or two and it didn’t sold well in the past you always ask yourself as an indie game developer is it the fault of your game? Is it your marketing? The quality? Game design?
Can I change something to make it sale well or should I go for a new project with fresh ideas?
Reasons to improve older releases?
You already shipped a game so you are in the lucky spot to actually sale something! This is a huge advantage!
Every new project takes time to build and you don’t have any fans or community with the start. This means you are not able to ask for feedback and you don’t know if your new game will be any good.
With an old game you maybe have already some fans or even a community which can help you to improve the game and attract more new players. Also as you all know marketing takes a lot of time and you have already done this for an older release. You can focus on improving instead of working out loud.
There was a reason why you developed your game, try to go back in time and think about why you actually started the game, why does it not sale well? Check analytics on store pages and review your reviews.
Why going for new game projects?
Sometimes you are somewhat stuck in a game project and don’t have any fresh ideas or you don’t even know what is wrong with your game. That might be the best time to start a new game from scratch.
Most of the time new games brings a lot of motivation you have new ideas and you can do things how you would like to do it. You are also able to try out different and new things. Maybe you find a new niche and can sale this game even better than other games before.
My life situation at the moment is quite hard and I have to make hard decisions how to progress in my life and how to secure my living. At the moment I have depts due to taxes and older projects and unfortunately there isn’t much income at this time.
So I decided to make my decision depending on the feedback of my players if I want to continue on older releases: Timbertales and FlatFatCat or if I want to try out something new. Also I need to work on a lot of side projects where I can actually earn some money.
If you would like to support me make sure to check out our community hubs:
As I started working on my current game shuffleboard cat, it was intended as a funny little shuffleboard game with cats. I absolutely like my progress so far, but unfortunately I made some decisions and got lost somewhere in the middle where I need your help and feedback for discussion and getting back on track!
Please keep in mind that most of my arguments are based on my experience and not a given fact. 🙂
Introduction Shuffleboard Cat
Let me first introduce the project to give you a small impression about the type and genre of the game. I used most assets from my Flat Fat Cat franchise, because I like the assets very much and I think they fit perfectly into this type of game. With Flat Fat Cat Bounce I created already a game where you can slide and bounce cats together and I liked that game mechanic a lot so I sticked to it.
But there is one major difference which isn’t visible on the first view. Godot! Flat Fat Cat Bounce was achieved with libGDX meanwhile I switched to Godot as game engine and I wanted to transfer the mechanics and assets to a new game engine with success!
Shuffleboard cat is made with Godot and works fine so far with nearly the same behaviour physics wise as the original Flat Fat Cat Bounce. As usual I challenge myself a lot so beside of transferring the game to a new engine I also wanted to include multiplayer and a more competitive approach into shuffleboard cat.
The idea in short: Provide the mechanics of sliding und bouncing cats like we had in Flat Fat Cat Bounce, but instead of matching pairs – combine these physics with a standard Shuffleboard game and add multiplayer and a ranking to it. I also added some skins and some kind of progression system, but this shouldn’t be discussed now and will be introduced later.
Why choosing mobile market / platform?
This is the project in short. I had the vision to make it as mobile game for several reasons:
I like the slide mechanic with touch inputs
The portrait mode has the perfect aspect ratio for the playground
Short 1v1 matches for ranking multiplayer would fit on mobile
General Art style matches the mobile market
Free to play games are easier to distribute on mobile
It is not the complete list, but these were the main reasons for me to design it for mobile devices. As said unfortunately I lost the focus at this point and I am not sure if I was ever the right call with these assumptions.
I still like the touch input for the slide mechanics and I think the playground fits perfectly to the portrait mode.
But! Is multiplayer really good on mobile devices? I mean seriously clash of clans or clash royale prove that there is a competitive scene on the mobile market. I think Shuffleboard is a really niche in sport games and so it will on the video game market. I don’t have any idea if there is a lot of potential or even enough players to make it work.
Is the general art style really only fitting on mobile market? I don’t know! Flat Fat Cat Bounce for example was much better sold on Steam as it ever did on mobile market and this even without optimising it for PC or Steam!
“Free to play games are easier to distribute on mobile market?” At this moment I don’t think so anymore, because I think the mobile market in general is so much harder to enter than to publish games on Steam for example. Without spending money on marketing you have to put a lot of effort into actually reach out for players. I have the feeling that it is easier to build up a community or get players on platforms like Steam.
Why choosing PC / Steam as platform?
Ok, now why do I think Steam is may be a more viable option?
Flat Fat Cat Bounce sold much better on Steam than on mobile platforms even as mobile game
Community building feels more comfortable on Steam / PC
As a gamer myself I don’t know the mobile market very well, because I don’t play mobile games very much
Games on Steam feel more worthy – At least for me
As said before I made much more revenue on Steam as on mobile market overall and this just proves for me that Steam should be the place to go. Unfortunately I always have the feeling that the games I create aren’t fitting the PC market, because they weren’t planned for it in the first place?!
In this special case for Shuffleboard cat, I have the problem with the aspect ratio and I am not sure how to fix it and I am also not sure about the free to play approach on Steam. Is this a distribution model which works or gets me a lot of players?
On the other hand Flat Fat Cat Bounce proved that even a mobile port works better on Steam than I expected and made more revenue on Steam than on the mobile market.
The biggest issue I have right now with releasing games on Steam is the following: I think smaller games like Shuffleboard cat don’t feel right for PC games.
As a PC gamer myself I have quite a lot of quality expectations for games on Steam and I am not sure if I can match them. I think this is why I tend to develop for mobile, because there it feels more like “I don’t give a shit” if you know what I mean.
Where should I go from here?
This brings us to the end of this article and a hopefully upcoming discussion in which direction I can or should go. In my heart I feel like I should do games for PC / Steam, because that is what I want and where I know more about the players, market and games in general.
For that I need to do some adjustments to reach my quality expectations and being able to ship the game with a good conscience.
What do you think about the topic? Where would you release this game? Do I miss a solution?
today I would like to add some more advanced words to my Tutorial on my YouTube-Channel. If you haven’t already please make sure to follow me on YouTube to receive updates about my upcoming Tutorial videos.
Why do we need a lobby server?
We could of course making just a peer to peer connection. The Problem? Most devices are behind routers and you won’t get the public ip from the device to connect them together.
For this reason we use a routing server aka lobby server which handles the connection to the devices. The lobby server also offers more control and we have the possibility to monitor things like concurrent users online. Opened games and other statistics.
Is MultiplayerEnet the only variant for this server?
No! Godot offers a wide range of Multipler implementations. It is maybe a better idea to use websockets if you would like to have a more dynamic server as a lobby server.
I used the Enet because it feels like it makes the most sense for my type of game, but maybe I will change this later.
If you have any questions regarding my blog or tutorials please feel free to comment below and share your feedback. I still have a of posts to do, but I hope I get the blog up to date as fast as possible.
New year means new motivation leads to new actions! I thought about reactivating my old dev blog and make it attendant to my YouTube Tutorial videos.
I have a lot of fun teaching you guys stuff in Godot I learned or I experienced and this is why I want to focus on that on this blog. For me learning works best when I try to teach other the stuff I learn.
One very cool thing is I was able to restore all old blog posts from 2016 and 2017 I have written. So you are able to browse through them and the page isn’t as empty as it would be without!
What can you expect in this blog in the future? I will keep you informed about topics I am currently working on and learning. Also I will try to give more insights and more detailed informations about my Tutorials on YouTube.
I hope you like it the next few days I will spent time to bring the page up and style it a little bit more. Also I have to restore the images of my old posts, but nevertheless I am already pretty proud about having wordpress on my server with https working 😀
as soon as I started my current project Tera Lo Mania I had three primary goals:
Build up a community
Create a playable tech demo
Start a Kickstarter campaign
Build up a community
I learned a lot from my first three games and what you need as an Indie game developer is feedback as soon as your project starts. To achieve this you need to build up a community, which is interested in your project. So far so good, but how to we do this? I thought it was pretty easy by sharing my development progress being consistent in creating content and I started a video log diary on YouTube to create a community …
Create a playable tech demo
I already knew at the beginning of my project, that I will need additional budget to finish the project. So, the idea was born to create a Kickstarter campaign to gather the missing budget as soon as possible. The clue – I wanted to have an early downloadable version of my game, which showcases that I can achieve the game and I could use some scenes in a trailer. I achieved that and thought everything is going fine …
Start a Kickstarter campaign
The time has come from September 2018 till mid of March 2019 I was able to finish a tech demo and build up a community for the game. At least I thought so. That said the Kickstarter Campaign has gone live! And it still is …
So I achieved my goals and the Kickstarter Campaign looks just horrible …. by today we have 11% funded and already 5 days gone. Even with the minimum funding reach by the end of it, it is not that what I expected and as you all know the first days should be the strongest to get the Campaign going. The goal is calculated with the very very very minimum and I will have to pay on top to get the game working and release it.
What is the problem? What did I miss?
I had the demo and my Video Logs, I thought I build up a community and created lots of marketing hype by sending out thousands of emails. Lets investigate:
The community I build up wasn’t that big I expected
As you can see in the numbers. Yeah, I was able to gain follower on every platform, but in total the community is still very small and not very meaningful. There was already the first indication that my game isn’t that attractive to people, otherwise the numbers should have raised higher.
Problem: I hadn’t any comparison and was too busy spending time on developing the tech demo (which nobody wanted).
By the way speaking of the tech demo, when I was releasing a first playable version I just had round about 15 Downloads and nearly no feedback at all. Slowly I got some bites of feedback and it told me, that those who downloaded the game didn’t even know what to do, because they didn’t played the original game. The tech demo was of course so early that there wasn’t polishing possible to explain how the game actually works.
Problem: I ignored the fact, that the playable version wasn’t intuitive enough and not well received by my small community.
I have had quite a lot of fun to create my video log diary and showcase my development status. Nevertheless I was always a bit shocked by looking at the video statistics after releasing a new video log. Nearly nobody watched it and the watch durations were really really short.
Problem: I didn’t see the signs of unattractive content at all.
What can I do now, after realising the problems with the crowdfunding?
If you get a little bit of distance to your game, which I got after 5 days of running Kickstarter and thinking about the situation, you start to realise, that I was too hyped for my own game and I didn’t noticed that there wasn’t a big interest from the community for my project at all. Now, I know that this campaign is as good as done and it won’t develop very well anymore. The daily views are sinking with every day, I wasn’t able to impress the press or YouTuber or Blogger to create a hype. So, I guess the campaign will slowly but surely end without gaining very much interest anymore and funding.
What are my options at this point? I already spend a lot of time and money into this project, but acknowledging that there is so little interest it won’t pay off to finish it with paying even more time and money. I still didn’t lost all hope and I will of course continue to try make the most out of the last 25 remaining days to keep this project alive, but I know I have to look forward and find a way for me and the company how to deal with this or giving up the dream of being an indie game developer after 4 projects without any real success …
I am not sure how to start this article and which topics I should point out at all. So, I try to not cry or blame anything too much 😀 First let me start with something I am really looking forward to: I will be Dad in just about three more months … man time is running so damn fast right now.
Self doubts about my actions
That said of course I slowly get some doubts about my lifestyle, since my indie business is not very worthy at all from a financial viewpoint. Also the time spend on working is so much. I am not really sure about the near future when I take look at this. I was really able to get some things going and I have the feeling that the business is doing better from year to year, but at what cost and effort?
At the beginning of the year, I got much motivation and I tried to get as hyped as possible for my current project. I also told a lot about this in my latest video logs:
Scary business numbers
Unfortunately, my reality is: The analysis of my business numbers shows that the growing process is more than laborious. With every video log I create on YouTube, I manage to get one or two more followers, what is awesome don’t get me wrong, but with this kind of growth I will have to create another 600 videos to get some kind of valuable reach. Of course I would do this and I love everyone who is willing to follow and support me. Thanks to you guys!
Nevertheless, also kind of regular posts on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook didn’t managed to build up a community the last two years. It feels like marching on a spot. Of course I have to admit that I am nowhere near a professional marketer or social media manager. So, the low follower count and engagement isn’t too surprising! I hoped the content would engage more, but there are so many talented indies out there that I sometimes think why should someone be interested in content I release?
But there is light at the end of the tunnel
With the start of this year a friend of mine helps me out in this specific topic and spread the word through our social media channels, maybe this changes the engagement. I hope I will be able to pay him one day for his efforts …
Seriously the indie business is a really hard business and you have to be very dedicated to it, I knew that before I started and I don’t want to miss the time I spend to develop my games and build up the numbers at all. The only thing I wish for myself in this year is to be more financial independent, since non of my indie efforts became very worthy yet.
The only parts, where I am able to actually earn some money is to work as a freelancer for companies in complete different branches or selling my programming skill elsewhere. This makes me very sad, because I invest so much time and money into my indie business. Sometimes when I am in a bad mood like today – I just ask myself if it is worth all the effort?
I guess I can only answer this to myself and as long as I enjoy what I am doing it can’t be wrong. At least for now I won’t quit anything and I hope I can make my dreams still happen 🙂
after working a whole while as freelancer, round about 7 months now, the time has come to go back to game development and start another project. Luckily, I wasn’t idling in the meantime and finished all the planning stuff already. Today I would love to share some first insights and upcoming changes compared to the last projects.
So let us start with some basic informations about the new project. As real time strategy fan, I will stick to strategy games and how could it be different – The new project will be another strategy title, which is more or less real time. It will be a remake of one of my first strategy games I have ever played and enjoyed a lot 🙂 I will not spoiler the title yet. The header image provides you a first hint. The second hint: The game will be “more or less” real time strategy. Would love to read your guesses in the comments. So please leave your comment! 🙂
As you can see in the header image, it will be my first 3D title with a low poly art style. The game will be focused on PC / Steam first, but it will be possible to distribute it later on every platform.
Lets get into a bit more details on the technical site. My last projects were written in libGDX with Java as main language. Nevertheless, for this new project I decided to achieve it with Godot, an open source game engine. The main language I will use for the code is the in-build GD Script, which is fairly similar to Python in general.
The decision is based on the following reasons:
I want to learn something new
I want to use a game engine instead of a framework
There is a big change team structure wise this time – I will work with a bigger team than ever before! Timbertales, FlatFatCat and Space Unicorns were developed and distributed by myself with a lot of help from my girl friend for all the art stuff needed. This time I hired an 3D artist for all the models, animations and vfx, who is fully dedicated to the project. This helps me to completely focus on the game code. We hopefully gain a much higher quality with this change in both art and code.
The game itself is planned to be done within 6 months. This includes development, alpha / beta and a first release candidate. The first prototype / demo should be out very soon after start, to have more early feedback and start a kickstarter campaign to gather more budget if needed. The official start for the project is scheduled for mid of September this year. So round about 6-7 weeks from now on!
Thanks for reading, I hope you looking forward to this game project. Of course there will follow a lot of artwork, dev blogs etc. by the time. If you want to be in first place and also be involved in the development / testing etc. don’t miss to become a Patreon and get any peace of information much earlier 🙂 I would also love to read your comments.