Game not selling well, looking for advice

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by mot, Jan 27, 2007.

  1. mot

    mot
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    Devastro, the alien shooting game, has been out for a week but sold only a few copies so far.
    Many, many downloads, but I guess they are coming from the wrong places, so the CR is very low.
    What can I do to improve it?

    I've done a couple of tweaks so far
    - some changes suggested here.
    - changed the URL that is opened when people click "Get it now" in the demo game from the Plimus order page to my own page (http://www.catnapgames.com/ordernow).
    - improved the order page and added a "what's in the full version" link
    - changed the price (although I guess that's not the problem)

    I need some reviews, of course. Will take some time, got some enquiries for
    review copies, can't do anything about that now, gotta be patient.

    Any suggestions welcome. Please note that since the initial announcement
    I made quite a few changes to the game so if you want to comment on
    demo gameplay please try the updated version. Thanks.
     
  2. woo

    woo
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    I'm sorry that sales haven't been great, yet. I hope they turn around soon for you. My comments:

    1. CliffyB of Gears of War fame talks a lot of about what makes a shooter great - the blood spatter when you hit the target, an indication that you've been hit (I don't necessarily need a health bar, but when i don't know I'm taking damage, it feels like a cheap death), the sound of the weapons and the flash of the muzzle that makes you feel like your really shooting that gun. Unfortunately, you haven't captured those elements for me. The bullet animations (they weren't really "attached" well to the gun), the lack of animations on the aliens attacking/firing at me, the lack of "hit" animations or muzzle flashes... the key to your success is going to be measured by how good the shooting "feels", and it doesn't really grab me yet.

    2. I really hated the alien walk animations too.. they felt very rushed and cheapened the whole experience for me. Overall the level of polish to the backgrounds and such really impressed me, so that one element that stands out as poorly implemented ... REALLY stands out.

    3. The initial loading took a really long time on my machine. It's a little better I think the second time, but showing what you're loading, while the game is loading isn't necessary and then, after having finally made it through loading, I see your splash screen. If you dropped those and stuck with the progress bar and maybe rolled some intro movie/spash screen while you were loading I'd be much more forgiving.

    4. In windowed mode (sorry, but full screen on a big monitor really murders the crispness of the animations and such - is there any way to improve the graphical quality at higher resolutions?), you've captured the mouse inside the window and I can't click the X button.

    5. I think it's been said several times, but WASD controls and left clicking to fire and maybe use right click for grenade? because it doesn't feel very natural right now.

    6. Maybe increase rate of fire a bit and definitely increase the range of the bullets. obviously you don't want to throw off the balance, but it's not really well balanced from my perspective right now. Everyone enjoys spraying bullets.

    7. The team thing didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. maybe let me have a "real" level or two by myself and then introduce the party system with a skippable tutorial.

    8. The path finding was a little "dumb" and because I couldn't see the path, I spent a lot of time getting stuck in different place on the map. Showing the path or, again, giving me the option of WASD controls would have helped.

    I think the game has a lot of potential, but it really needs some more polish before customers are going to feel like their purchase is justified. Don't hesitate to keep that price point at 19.95 though. You aren't really trying to compete against anyone on price from what I've seen and by saying it's less than the "Industry Standard" means that you don't feel it's worth it either.. It's a lose/lose. If you want to say it's an "introductory" offer or something though, and say "offer ends soon", then you may motivate people a bit to get it while it's cheap :)

    I hope this was helpful. Good luck!
    -Andrew Douglas
    http://theoreticalgames.com
     
  3. UnknownGuy

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    I get an error when trying to run it.
     
  4. mot

    mot
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    Thanks, woo.

    Is that PC or Mac? What configuration, roughly? I get this complaint a lot but I get very good loading times myself even on an older PC (2Ghz Athlon XP), so I'm a little confused about this issue.. what part of the loading do you think took most of the time?

    You may have not noticed but these slightly improve with the soldiers's ranks. I agree it's not noticeable right away but that's on purpose and you will feel it when your General gets killed and you start with a Private again - big difference :)

    If you mean you getting hit by the aliens, do you see the red flash all around your screen when you get hit? Maybe it's an error but it should be there, perhaps it's a little unconscious kind of thing when you're concentrated on the little bastards but otherwise clearly visible. It's supposed to look like in a FPS, you get hit and your view goes red for a fraction of a second.
     
  5. woo

    woo
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    Athlon64 3.2 ghz with a gig of ram and a geforce 5200. I thought maybe it was because I was low on ram at the time, but I just verified that's not the case either (at least not entirely). It took quite a while loading sprites and audio. Quite a while being long enough for me to read that it was loading sprites and wait for the progress bar. It took, I'm guessing, 15 seconds to go through all the loading and then the few seconds in addition for the catnapgames logo.

    In regards to bullet range - I think I'd prefer to see bigger explosions/area of effect and damage from higher level characters than to gimp the length of my bullets. I did realize, just now, that holding the right button in definitely helps your rate of fire, but I think the balance is maybe still a bit off. It hasn't really captured that "zone", but maybe it's just me. Not being able to shoot and, at the same time, move out of the way of incoming attacks or move at all is really frustrating too. It's not tactical, it's annoying :) To me anyway. If you do decide to add WASD controls, you'll probably have to have the aliens come at you from different directions though to add some challenge.

    I didn't really notice that the red "tinging" was me getting damaged. I spent some time taking damage and here are my thoughts:
    I don't know if that works as well in a 3rd person, squad shooter game as it doesn't tell you which character is getting hit... and generally in those games the red effects get worse the closer your character gets to dying.
    The sound effect of, what, acid? that does get played when your character is hit isn't clear enough. I had to really listen for it and the character itself had no reaction (as far as I could tell) or reactionary sound effect. I also don't like how I can't shoot through tombstones. I'd be alright if I could shoot through them but the aliens couldn't shoot me if I was standing behind one. It'd almost be like using the dead guy's body for cover :)
     
  6. ZeHa

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    I really enjoyed the graphics, but in the third level (at least I think so), the game got stuck up. I could still move the cursor, and it scrolled a little bit, but I couldn't do any more actions. So I had to quit the game and of course I wouldn't buy it when I get bugs like that in the demo version ;)

    Another thing that bothered me were the controls. Of course WASD would be really cool, but even if you stick with mouse controls, it would be a lot better if you didn't just check the mouse click, but more the mouse state. Difficult to explain, but I mean the following: if I click somewhere and keep the button pressed, I would want the "target direction" to always update, when I move the mouse. Let's say I go to the upper right corner, press the button, and hold it down. Now the dudes would walk there, but if I moved the mouse cursor to the left, I would want them to turn around and go to the upper left, without releasing the mouse button and clicking again.
     
  7. digriz

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    Hi,

    I just tried the demo and found that the in-game 'get it now button doesn't start my any of my browsers or take me to the relevant page when it's clicked.

    I don't know if that's just a problem on my machine. Also, it might be worth changing that wording from 'get it now' to 'buy it now'

    I'd also have to agree with the comments about the alien anims. After playing the game for 20 minutes, it doesn't feel like it's worth the $20 price tag. Not when you consider what's out there for the same price in this market.

    I think the game is actually pretty good though, it just needs more polish and a lot more variation. The first few levels i played all felt the same. I think if you're going to get people to impulse buy based on your demo, you need to wow them a little more.

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  8. mot

    mot
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    Also I must note that this is the kind of feedback I'm looking for right now. Quite a serious problem. What system, PC or Mac? What's your default browser? I'm using the default LWJGL call to open a browser. Any clues?

    Alien animations, yes, heard that before, WASD controls, sure, but I tried it and it's just not good for this type of game. It is, hovewer, possible to walk and shoot simultaneously.

    As for the price, I'm experimenting. Some say they see no difference between $12.95, $14.95 or $19.95, others say the price is too low, too high, whatever. If it's possible to sell an invaders clone for $19.95, I guess anything is possible ;)
     
    #8 mot, Jan 28, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2007
  9. princec

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    I must chip in with my years of hard-earned "wisdom" at this point :) I know just which invaders clone you mean, hehehe.

    Right about this time you've got to be extra special careful about listening to "advice" on forums. A lot of people will give you a lot of ideas that they think might make the game sell more but almost all of them will be pulling in very slightly different directions. This happened to me with my first and ill-fated game the name of which must not be mentioned on these forums, in the manner of MacBeth*.

    Of the various things I have learned over the last three years, here are the generic ones which you might want to apply to your game:

    1. When nearly everybody says the same thing about a game, it means that just about all of your potential customers are going to feel the same way about it too. But if only one or two people mention something, then it's probably a red herring. However you have to put into perspective that a few indie developers aren't everybody. The controls in your game are perfect, taken as they are from the extremely successful Cannon Fodder. You know WASD won't work, so IMHO you can discard comments about changing the controls in that respect. But the animations on the aliens need looking at :)

    2. You're right about the price: it really doesn't matter how much it costs. At all. You'll make the same amount of money approximately no matter what price you have it at. $19.95 is a nice industry standard price and puts it on the same footing as everything else, so you can eliminate price from the equation when it comes to assessing competition.

    3. Talking of competition, you don't actually have much, so I wouldn't worry about "what else people can get for their $19.95". Can I find any game like Devastro on the market? Nope.

    4. My suspicion is that your demo is far, far too short. My gut feeling is that it'd need to be at least 3x as long, and give the player a fairly thorough idea about everything in the game. If that means you've got to then make the full version 3x as big to make it feel "worth" $20, then that's what you've got to do. But here's the real advice: get your game to randomly configure itself on install with various different demo lengths and when someone buys the game have that information sent you you by coding it in the BUY NOW url and setting a cookie. Analyse what sells best, then update the demo to just use that value.

    5. Yes, BUY NOW is better than GET IT NOW.

    6. Polish: the game is very polished in places and much rougher in others. You'll be needing to tweak the alien anims, and there's something about the way the soldiers shoot that feels distinctly 1993.

    But here's the clincher: now you have to make a plan of action and execute it and not get sidetracked by rubbish. Write down what you're going to do and stick to it. Increase the demo length, add more levels, fix the anims, polish a few corners here and there, do tests on different demo lengths, and then leave the fucker alone and go write another game. You can spend an age tweaking and not really make any difference but if you spend the same amount of time just writing a new game with "what you now know" you'll find that you actually make a much, much bigger difference financially. And that's the sagest bit of advice I have.

    Oh, and when you've done all the tweaks, I'd rather like to put it on Puppygames too :)

    Cas :)

    * It still sells a few copies a year though, hah!
     
  10. electronicStar

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    "A few copies" and "many, many downloads" is rather vague, maybe you could add a bit more precision on the numbers?:p
    Recently someone else posted a thread complaining that his game didn't sell anything after a couple of weeks so maybe your numbers aren't so bad.
    From what I've read small consistent numbers are what make an indie hit. If you've sold a dozen copies at the end of the month IMO it shouldn't be considered a failure, especially if you are starting your website with only one game on it.

    In your case, maybe you could use a bit more marketing, for example I didn't hear much about devastro in the usual websites that talk about indie games(or maybe the news is delayed a bit).
    You should try to contact a maximum of reviewers, but also news sites and forums, and talk about your game everywhere you can without spamming of course.

    And I agree with Cas that the demo is a bit too short and doesn't offer a lot of interesting things to do.
     
  11. digriz

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    Hi,

    Sorry, i should have posted this before. It's the pc version, the OS is xp pro and the default browser it IE7.

    It's only when clicking the button in game, the links in the start menu work correctly.
     
    #11 digriz, Jan 28, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2007
  12. mooktown

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    hey, I was a big fan of cannon fodder back in the day and even have cf for the gbc (an amazing achievement)

    Anyhoo... I like the visual style of the clay models with the comic book story moving along, its just a shame that it doesnt quite hit the mark. You've done something alot of us will envy, and thats having awesome screenshots, they look amazing and guarantee* downloads. Thinking to another clay modelled game I like, Platypus, the thing that is missing here is the feeling that you're in the game. With platypus there are so many layers of incidental details that you get sucked into the whole world. With Divastro the world could almost be a static image with the only (slightly) moving things being the aliens and the soldiers.

    If you couldnt be arsed to add more frames to the aliens perhaps you could make the hover until they are near the player, then land and begin shooting.

    One other thing I found disappointing was the hut explosions. I loved them in CF, the way you saw the door and roof flying off, but here all I see is a very large 'BOOM!' text image with some blurry hut pieces.

    If the clay modelling took it out of you too much in divastro, I'd suggest not using clay for "project 6" :)

    p.s. what princec said sounded like gold.

    *not a guarantee
     
    #12 mooktown, Jan 29, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2007
  13. Adrian Cummings

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    I just tried the demo (PC version)...

    I really liked the concept and played it for around 5 mins.

    I did'nt like the animation to be honest, as it is sub par for the course.

    I only played it for 5 minutes because my character got stuck behind a tree so I guess there is a collision bug, therfore I quit and uninstalled it (your potential customers would no doubt do the same at this point perhaps?).

    Apart from that, that's all I noticed that was wrong really for me and that would stop me potentially buying it.

    Overall very Cannon Fodder (but who cares eh)

    7.9/10 as it is.
    8.7/10 if the animations were fixed and the collision was improved perhaps.

    Good effort here tho... but then again what do I know eh :)
     
    #13 Adrian Cummings, Jan 29, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2007
  14. cybermonk

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    Small remark about the controls: are you aware that on the mighty mouse delivered with a mac, its not possible to simultaneously press left and right mouse button? I don't know if it makes much difference for your gameplay if you can't move and shoot at the same time...
     
  15. princec

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    I'd second that comment about the Mac... a standard Mac basically has one button, or a dribbling user capable of only using one button. Don't design games that need 2!

    Cas :)
     
  16. Luis

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    Hey hoh,

    I enjoyed playing a while. In the first level with the mines I found a bug: Soldiers were not moving, I could scroll a little bit and even esc didn't work. Since that level is not the third one, it seems to be a more "general" bug. It was also the first time a saw the two soldiers speeking: "it could be even more worse..." - "rainig...". That bug should be removed first (I use windows).

    I second Zeha with the controls. I think it would be better to constantly updating the walk direction. This may be very easy to implement: Simply call your "Set new walk point" method when mouse button is hold down instead of just clicked. I'm sorry if it's not that easy (I'm also a programmer and I hate it when sombody says "it should be easy.." while thinking of all the work that has to be done :) ). I think you should give it a try and decide for yourself.

    Maybe you can consider making the dialog scenes clickable. I really like them and don't want to miss a word by pressing "escape". But waiting that long is boring. A simple solution would be to switch to the next speech balloon by clicking the mouse...
     
  17. oldschool

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    I just downloaded your game and its great!

    my rig is athlon xp 1.3 ghz with 896MB of ram
    it took a little more than 10secs to start once the screen went black. perfectly fine with me.


    Here are my in game observations:
    -fantastic I can blow myself up in the tutorial
    -love the music
    -love the background effect in the menu
    -buy now link works in bon echo 2.0.0.2pre

    -Can't shoot threw the fence to kill sheep/can lob grenades thou.
    -Can't shoot threw flying saucer wreckage to kill alien thats moving back and forth
    -At first level the followers kept shooting for a couple of seconds after I stopped, cleared up.
    -shooting is weird, I kept trying to left click for shooting, I got used to it though.
    -I like arrow keys not wasd, fat fingers don't you know:D so pay no attention if you like mouse only
    -One of my guys dies and I can't shoot threw the tombstone
    -When I shoot aliens are the red things with yellow outline packets of blood I'm supposed to take or what?

    again great game

    I would like to pull you in a different direction.

    I had an expectation that there would be lots of chatter. Like when you kill an alien or blow up a flying saucer. I would have loved to here some Bruce Campbell/Gunny Ermey utterances or even something stupid that sounded like "The TICk" something vitriolic(spelling?). Just another little tug:p

    good luck
     
  18. mot

    mot
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    Thanks! Yeah I guess I could add more chatter. I may add more in the future.. but the comics bubbles could obscure the action, so I'll have to be extra careful and only have them say something when they are safe. That's why most of the dialogs are at the beginning of the mission right now.
     
  19. jmc

    jmc
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    You have a great game, unfortunately you are facing the reality of "small games", 99% of the games simply don't sell well ( or even don't sell at all).
    Even the mac market has faded out since bigger companies started to do 9$ game bundles or 9$ a month subscription services for unlimited games.

    Keep us the good work though, your game is awesome.
    Jmc.
     
  20. BinaryMoon

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    oops - wrong post. Sorry
     
    #20 BinaryMoon, Mar 22, 2007
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2007

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