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View Full Version : Feedback: DroneSwarm - 2D shoot-em-up



monoRAIL
10-10-2007, 07:11 PM
DroneSwarm is a 2D scrolling shoot-em-up game for Windows, created with Torque Game Builder.

YouTube Movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92PoS1NBwHE

Download the game here: http://droneswarm.com
Direct download link (http://droneswarm.com/files/DroneSwarm_0.1.9.zip)

Screenshots:

http://droneswarm.com/screenshots/DroneSwarm_001m.jpg http://droneswarm.com/screenshots/DroneSwarm_002m.jpg

http://droneswarm.com/screenshots/DroneSwarm_003m.jpg http://droneswarm.com/screenshots/DroneSwarm_004m.jpg

It's just a 1 level demo at the moment. I created it for a competition at shmup-dev.com. (http://www.shmup-dev.com/forum) All feedback and suggestions welcome - I'm particulary interested in hearing ways I can make money from the game. At the moment I'm giving it away for free and embedding advertising in the menu screen.

princec
10-11-2007, 01:41 AM
1. Great presentation, very slick. Not sure why it started in windowed mode though (widescreen, too - most odd). For a hardcore game like this you're surely better off going straight to fullscreen.

2. HUD is too difficult to see; I'd use GL_SRC_ALPHA/GL_ONE_MINUS_SRC_ALPHA to draw it instead of GL_ONE/GL_ONE

3. Can't start the game or use the menu with the joypad. I know my games don't do that yet but they annoy me too ;)

4. Although it's a hardcore shooter it was bloody hard. I'm not used to j-shooters or bullet hell or whatever they're called though - avoiding the bullet bombs the first boss plane fires at you is frustratingly hard and in fact I confess I couldn't avoid them.

5. Wasn't sure how to pick up drones - happened a few times but never noticed what it was that did it.

6. Could maybe do with a little more speed of movement of the player's craft, especially when using the joypad as I tend not to wrench the analogue stick all the way in the direction I want to move it. Or increase its sensitivity to max velocity at 50% or something.

If you want to make money from it...

make another bunch of levels, give the player a third of them, and punt them to a nag screen if they want to play the rest :) Then sell it! Simple as that. Oh, and get a Mac port done.

Cas :)

monoRAIL
10-11-2007, 06:41 AM
Thanks for the very informative feedback Cas.

With regard to splitting the game into demo and full versions and charging for it - does that really work? I'm new to indie game development, but my impression from what I've read and what I've observed is that barely anyone pays for small PC games, most just download a cracked version or forget about the game if there is no crack.

I'd prefer to let players get the game for free and make money off advertising, or charge a small amount for perks like access to a high score table, or a bonus ship.

Tr00jg
10-11-2007, 06:50 AM
Thanks for the very informative feedback Cas.

With regard to splitting the game into demo and full versions and charging for it - does that really work? I'm new to indie game development, but my impression from what I've read and what I've observed is that barely anyone pays for small PC games, most just download a cracked version or forget about the game if there is no crack.

I'd prefer to let players get the game for free and make money off advertising, or charge a small amount for perks like access to a high score table, or a bonus ship.

It is much much bigger than you think... I am sure there is a link somewhere showing how much "small PC games" industry is worth. *hint* lots of money.

princec
10-11-2007, 06:56 AM
There you go then - offer those perks in the registered version. It's a game of numbers. You can expect maybe 1% of downloaders to buy the full version of the game, cracked versions or not. So what it really comes down to is how many people you can get to download the thing. Reckon on 10,000-100,000 maybe if you go it alone and a corresponding 100-1,000 sales. At this point you have to consider whether you want to spend your efforts tuning the "upsell", that is the ability of the game to turn downloaders into buyers, or whether to spend your efforts on getting downloads. To date no-one has a hard and fast answer so good luck on either ;)

What you probably want to do with this title is approach Reflexive/Garagegames/HeavyGames/ArcadeTown and see if they're interested in carrying it too to get some more exposure. You'll gain a ton of extra downloads in exchange for losing half your profits and you won't gain any customers, just money. Depends where you want to go with it all.

BTW my personal preference is to offer an server verified unlockable demo rather than separate full/demo versions. Seems so far to be quite robust.

Cas :)

papillon
10-11-2007, 07:06 AM
my impression from what I've read and what I've observed is that barely anyone pays for small PC games, most just download a cracked version or forget about the game if there is no crack.


There's a lot of pirates out there, yes, but considering that many of us on this board make a living selling small PC games, your 'barely anyone' is bigger than you think. :)

Jesse Hopkins
10-11-2007, 07:11 AM
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princec
10-11-2007, 07:13 AM
There's a lot of pirates out there, yes, but considering that many of us on this board make a living selling small PC games, your 'barely anyone' is bigger than you think. :)

Still wouldn't go getting hopes up... the definition of "a living" and "many of us" is open to some interpretation... I'd say more like "a few of us" are "scratching a meagre existence" and "a very few of us" are "making a healthy living".

Cas :)

papillon
10-11-2007, 07:41 AM
Aw, I like being optimistic. But then, my idea of a living is a lot cheaper than some of you. :)

Adrian Cummings
10-11-2007, 07:44 AM
Still wouldn't go getting hopes up... the definition of "a living" and "many of us" is open to some interpretation... I'd say more like "a few of us" are "scratching a meagre existence" and "a very few of us" are "making a healthy living".

Cas :)

Don't get me wrong I have had some really great 'cash moments' down the years and several times over!, but mostly I am the former rather than the later these days myself.

Baked beans again for tea tonight then heh :)

Sorry, more importantly meant to say - nice looking shooter btw! (not to derail this thread) and to be honest I don't think I've 'ever' seen a 'top down horizontal' shooter come of think of it!?

monoRAIL
10-11-2007, 08:11 AM
Thanks for the feedback. It's good to hear how positive you all are, despite scratching out meagre existances and living on baked beans! Fortunately I like baked beans!

Adrian Cummings
10-11-2007, 08:22 AM
Actually my wife would kill me for saying that - shes a very good cook indeed and we always eat and drink well.

I do like baked beans tho - beans are good! :)

JGOware
10-11-2007, 09:14 PM
Cas, no offense to the developer of this game, but do you really think this game is capable of generating 1000 sales? Over 100,000 downloads? Every 100 downloads will = 1 sale? Is there really a market still for this kind of game? Thanks for your input.

tagged
10-11-2007, 10:55 PM
Aw, I like being optimistic. But then, my idea of a living is a lot cheaper than some of you. :)
Who needs more than bread, water and oxygen? :D

I was under the impression shmups just don't sell(*) due to too many brilliant/exotic eastern freebies? Of course, if you really believe in the game there's no reason to not try!

*I have no experience to back this up and could have been led astray ;)

princec
10-12-2007, 02:40 AM
Cas, no offense to the developer of this game, but do you really think this game is capable of generating 1000 sales? Over 100,000 downloads? Every 100 downloads will = 1 sale? Is there really a market still for this kind of game? Thanks for your input.

With the right marketing behind it and sufficiently tuned nag I'm sure any game can sell 1000 copies over its lifetime, even absolute rubbish, provided it gets the downloads of course. Therein lies the problem with most of us these days. I reckon a 1% CR is possible if the game is targeted at the right people.

Cas :)

lennard
10-14-2007, 09:42 AM
I run a bare bones 2 Ghz Celeron w/1 GB of RAM and motherboard graphics chip - I'm cheap and this is my target demographic anyhow. On this machine the game was literally unplayable (ie. felt like < 8 fps). Also the widescreen thing was too big for my desktop.

Too bad, looked like it could be fun.

princec
10-14-2007, 09:46 AM
Hm, it didn't look like it was that taxing on the graphics side...

Cas :)

Nexic
10-15-2007, 04:04 AM
1. Don't distribute in a zip! If you do only nerds like me will play your game.

2. Very obvious 1/3 second pauses when enemies are destroyed and created.

3. Defaulted to 1280 windowed which is too big for my screen. I would default to 1024x768 or 800x600 fullscreen (according to my webstats 1024 is still over 60% of people and 20% for 800)

4. Screen felt a little cramped. How about making the player ship smaller? Will also make it easier; so some non japanese people can finish it :-)

Other than above was a great game. Nice graphics, music, sound etc. Apart from the above pauses FPS was okay (I guess 40-50), but be aware a lot of people like lennard have on board graphics and won't be able to play. Looking at the type of game it seems like there are optimizations that can be done to make it playable for those without dedicated graphics cards.

As for sales: Yes people do buy shooters but you probably won't make a living with one title. I'm sure you'll make more with try/buy than with ads/upgrades (upgrades work for multiplayer games but really won't for single player). As for ads, please don't be tempted to go for one of those '20c per download if you put spyware in your product' deals; not worth the damage to your reputation.

monoRAIL
10-15-2007, 05:39 PM
Thanks everyone for very useful feedback.

I think now I'm at a turning point. Do I continue making the game I want to play (high-resolution, widescreen, large sprites, hardcore gameplay) - knowing that only 10% of the market will be able to (or want to) play it, or do I target the majority of PC owners and make a lower-spec game?

I'm leaning towards keeping it high spec, high difficulty, and giving away for free, rather than targeting casual players.

princec
10-15-2007, 06:03 PM
Aha! I see a mistake there: 10% of what market? I think you might find that nearly 100% of your market will be able to play the game (and that it is a fairly large market). The problem is finding and accurately targeting that market.

Cas :)

Escapee
10-15-2007, 09:05 PM
and giving away for free, rather than targeting casual players.

If you manage to complete the game, I would say give Arcadetown/reflexive, direct selling or affiliate marketing a try before giving it for free. Sometimes you just never know you have hit the 'sweet spot' of downloadable gaming
. Moreover, you would learn more about game marketing eventhough it doesnt perform (sales) as you expect in the end. Best wishes.


An example of a great "partially hardcore" shooter game selling very well at portal: REAL SPACE 3 of arcadetown/Jagged blade

Nexic
10-16-2007, 02:37 AM
I'm leaning towards keeping it high spec, high difficulty, and giving away for free, rather than targeting casual players.


There is no reason why you have to keep it high spec, I'm certain you can optimize what you have without changing the gameplay or visuals. You will have exactly the same product, just with much better FPS.

Even if you don't make it easier and keep it hardcore how you want it, I still recommend having a go at selling it. You never know, it might be a hit. If it doesn't sell you can just make it freeware at a later date. You won't even need to modify the game code, can just wrap it with Armadillo to make a trial based on time, or number of plays.

If you're really not interested in making money you should still try to get the framerate up. After all, you still want as many people as possible to enjoy your creation right?

JGOware
10-17-2007, 12:34 AM
On my intel box, it runs probably around 8-10 fps. All T2D games tend to run slow on this box. But this is a typical card packaged with alot of low end pc's the past couple of years. Make the game default to 800x600 and I'm sure the game will run a little better.

Sammgus
10-17-2007, 02:09 AM
Do I continue making the game I want to play ... Personally I would say always follow your dreams. On the other hand if you are doing the baked beans thing, then you might want to follow the market for a while.

princec
10-17-2007, 04:18 AM
Are the kinds of people that like to play hardcore shooters like this actually going to have Intel chipsets? I think not.

Cas :)

Nexic
10-18-2007, 11:39 AM
My brother plays these sorts of games on a laptop that has an on board chipset.

princec
10-18-2007, 12:03 PM
I bet he doesn't, coz they'll run at 8fps ;)

Cas :)

oNyx
10-18-2007, 12:32 PM
FWIW it runs just fine on my 230 office machine with onboard graphics (ati x1250). It's actually good enough for Painkiller @ 800x600. And that cheapass laptop over in the other room has a better onboard graphics chipset.

As long as it isn't an Intel chipset it should be fine.

BTW 1280x1024 is 5:4 and not 4:3. The 4:3 one is 1280x960.

Backov
10-18-2007, 12:33 PM
Nexic's feedback tells me that you're probably not using an enemy pool to re-use your enemy and projectile objects and are instead creating/destroying them - don't do that, that'll speed things up a fair bit.

There's probably lots of algorithmic enhancements you could do to speed up the game on low-end machines. A low end machine these days is much faster than the fastest Amiga ever was, so there's no excuse for a poorly performing shooter. :)

princec
10-18-2007, 12:38 PM
I create/destroy all my bullets/particles/enemies, doesn't seem to slow my stuff down at all... :cool:

Cas :)

Backov
10-18-2007, 12:55 PM
I create/destroy all my bullets/particles/enemies, doesn't seem to slow my stuff down at all... :cool:

Cas :)

Ya, but you're using a language MUCH superior to Torquescript. It's probably doing that optimization in the background without you knowing.

princec
10-18-2007, 01:10 PM
ohh, I didn't realise the whole game was written in TS.

Cas :)

monoRAIL
10-20-2007, 07:53 AM
Nexic's feedback tells me that you're probably not using an enemy pool to re-use your enemy and projectile objects and are instead creating/destroying them - don't do that, that'll speed things up a fair bit.

There's probably lots of algorithmic enhancements you could do to speed up the game on low-end machines. A low end machine these days is much faster than the fastest Amiga ever was, so there's no excuse for a poorly performing shooter. :)

That's exactly what I'm doing wrong ;-)
I'm learning about linked lists to fix that up. DroneSwarm is the first game I've programmed. I've worked on other games before, but always as an artist, so I figured Torque Game Builder was a good first step into programming.

elias4444
10-20-2007, 08:45 AM
You may want to look at some of the different game engines out there if you've never gotten into the programming before. There are easier ones... I won't mention them here though, as I'm kinda new to posting in these forums (been a long time reader though), and I'm not sure if we're supposed to "advertise" for ourselves or others. :p

Added: Although, I'm sure Cas would offer you the same recommendations I would (hint, hint).

princec
10-20-2007, 09:59 AM
Oh I dunno... I don't use a game engine myself, just some homebrewed thing.

Cas :)

elias4444
10-20-2007, 12:54 PM
Do you still update the SPGL stuff Cas? (Oops, said it out loud)

Of course, if you'd rather torture yourself and learn how to do it all from scratch (which I'm guessing many of us on these boards have done and continue to do), check out lwjgl which is a solid openGL wrapper for Java. You'll learn a lot from going this route, so long as your brain doesn't explode from it. Just my 2 cents.

Oh, and there's also the jMonkeyEngine which is based on lwjgl and works really well from what I've seen.

princec
10-20-2007, 06:25 PM
SPGL is live code. I tweak it constantly to make it do stuff. This is the best bit about not using some pre-made thing like Torque.

Cas :)

JGOware
10-22-2007, 02:39 AM
No solution is stable on PC's. Even Cas's games stutter on my intel box occasionally. DroneSwarm could simply add optional display modes for 640x480x16,800x600x16 and probably play at 30,60 fps with no problem on most pc's.

BTW, Cas, on some of your games it appears you're actual pixel res is 320x240 and then you scale dynamically up to 640x480? That's a cool way to get that nice fat/smooth pixel look, if...I'm...right? ;)

princec
10-22-2007, 04:08 AM
320x320, rendered at whatever resolution we can get that's closest to 640x480 I think. Hit F1 in windowed mode to see it in native resolution!

Cas :)

monoRAIL
10-23-2007, 05:30 PM
I don't think I could bear to display my game at 640 x 480 or lower ;-)
Not after spending so long on the detailed sprites! I'll be doing some ruthless code optimisations in the near future to try to get the framerate up.

http://droneswarm.com/images/system_stealth01.png
http://droneswarm.com/images/system_starfighter.png
http://droneswarm.com/images/system_player01.png

elias4444
10-23-2007, 06:25 PM
I have to admit, I really like the graphical style... so yeah, do what you can to keep it. :D

320x240
09-23-2008, 12:30 PM
MonoRAIL, I'm bringing this thread back from the dead to give my opinion on a subject I have given some thought.

The way I see it there are three target audiences you can reach when making a shmup: hardcore, softcore and the one in the middle of these two: the retro hardcore.

You know the hardcore crowd well since you're a member at 'shmups.com' and part of that crowd yourself. The hardcore crowd have both a very refined and a very selective taste. A game catering to the hardcore crowd will have to abide to a strict set of rules and be very formulaic. Challenge and a more or less intricate score mechanic will be the main selling points. For every person that likes your game, five others will despise it.
When developing for the PC you have a better chance of reaching this crowd when directly copying play and score mechanics from well-known developers (Cave, Treasure, Touhou). This could also be the games biggest downfall; get it wrong and nobody will touch it. This crowd will only take to inovative games if they are on XBox 360.

The softcore crowd is what I call those customers that buy most of the kind of shmups that are available trough portals right now. This crowd are after a quick fix. They don't really know what they like before they experience it. Score mechanic can be downplayed or removed completely. Other kinds of 'reward systems' can be implemented instead. Single screen games with a central 'level hub' is probably the best way to present the game. Keep it simple and keep it straight. Make sure there is a save option available at all times. This crowd is hard to gauge. Does it exist at all?

I believe the biggest crowd is the one I call the 'retro hardcore' crowd. These are people that grew up playing shmups (back when they where called shooters or shoot'em-ups) but grew out of it around the same time as the market as a whole grew out of playing/developing shmups. Now, they miss the kind of games they played when they where younger. In a sense they are back in the fold, but the shmups community have developed without them and now they don't feel completely at ease there.
This can be a tricky crowd to define. Some will regard themselves as hardcore, some as softcore. They are the softest of the hardcore and the hardest of the softcore. This crowd will take to inovation more kindly than the hardcore and softcore crowds. This is also the crowd that will take to 'Euroshmups'(tm) and 'Amerishmups'(tm) the best. If you are making a scrolling shmup, a horizontal one will reach a larger audience. This is a crowd with which you can build a raport. They are both mature and knowledgable; they know what they want. The game itself doesn't nessecarily have to be retro in the strictest sense, the main thing is that you avoid the rigidity of hardcore and the looseness of softcore, while still making the game a fun experience.

Of course, what I have written is gross generalizations, but I believe they have some merit.