Because I am finishing my RPG engine, and starting to think about the actual game, I suppose I best be also thinking about business models. And so here I am, I require your advice!
RPG games are usually very long games, upwards of 40 hours in length, and so have a lot of content which costs time for me to make. In order to start getting some kind of remuneration a little sooner in the development time, I'm thinking about splitting the full story into a number episodes, each with about 6 hours playtime. In addition, I was also thinking about giving the first away for free, as a demo, in the style of early nineties shareware games (like Doom, or Commander Keen. Man, I loved Commander Keen.).
Would this business model work? I wonder if giving away a six hour game, which is really meant to serve as a demo, is too 'generous', because the only sales which would be made regarding the second episode would be to those that had finished the first six hour game (due to the story based nature).
If you had to write an RPG game, would you do it in episodes? What are the implications of such a decision?
Amanda has split latest Aveyond in 3 smaller parts (not sure how long is each). Aldorlea also has done some smaller RPG. I think giving away the first episode for free would be a bad move. Just charge it only $6.99 if you really want it to spread a lot
Depends how many episodes. If you have 3... then maybe give small part of the 1st one free. If you have 6-7 or 10+, then it's probably no biggie to give first episode free in my humble opinion.
I saw this game (that was also in IGF) where chickencommando shoots stuff and sneaks into some building-thing. Can't remember the name. Anyway, game is cool and gives 1st episode free, and the rest of the dozen are for full version only.
I think too it would be a bad move to give away any portion of the game but in the form of a demo (and it being clearly written as such). It's important that the player knows from the start that he will HAVE to pay at some point if he wishes to continue on. Also, making them pay for the first episode would be useful to trim down the paying customers from the non-willing-to-pay customers. Those numerous "free-playing" player will just hate you when you charge for the second installment.
Now I don't have any personal data to back this, but my guess would be that it's also better to charge full price from the start, so that you don't deceive the players expectations in the future.
Having a demo of an episodic game seems weird to me. As in, a third of the game is for free, while the rest is for charge.
I'm pondering a kinda new idea, what about having the 5 or so episodes costing moneys, and there also being a much shorter episode, which I'll probably call the 'Prologue' (or similar) which is for free. Hmm, even just as I type this out, I'm not particularly happy with it.
Each episode should follow on from the final save point of the previous game, you see, so it seems weird to force a paying customer to play through a free game so they can play what they have paid for. (For episode 2 through 5, guess I'll have to ship them with a Save from the previous episode, so that any player can start playing.)
This is harder than I thought.
Your prologue idea sounds good (especially for a story-driven game), but you might not want to make players have to play the episodes in a specific order or need to play the prologue.
What about a modular design?
I think it could work if you'd use a modular approach. Ie each episode is a standalone module. Of course you have to allow the players to import their party from previous modules. This way you could also appeal to the old rpg audience that doesn't have to 40+ hrs anymore to play full length game but could find a spare hour or two for modest price.
But you *do* need to give a part of the game for free, otherwise most people won't check it out. This is why i think that the prologue idea might be a good one: not a full episode nor a demo that ends after two rooms or some random time limit. What it needs of course is to hook the players.
From recent games, i think Aquaria is a good example of this. Big demo (it took me two hours to beat it) and when you finished it, you wanted for more (its one of the few indie games i bought :-P).
Since this is an episodic game, having a prologue as the demo is a good move.
But as vjvj said, i'm not a biz expert, so take your salt with a grain of my advice