Our first game (and it's crappy CR)

Discussion in 'Development & Distribution' started by brianmeidell, Mar 22, 2007.

  1. brianmeidell

    brianmeidell New Member

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    Hello people,

    First post in these very excellent forums.
    My fledgling game company The Game Equation recently completed our first game, Constellations.

    We are out on Big Fish Games and Oberon so far, with more portals are in the pipeline.

    The thing is, our conversion rate is terribly low (0.1% for the first week on UnnamedLargePortal is all the data we have), and I've been told that it might have something to do with stepping off the beaten path of the games on UnnamedLargePortal.
    If this is the case, maybe some of you more experienced guys can suggest alternative places to push our game that might be more geared towards our game.

    Don't worry about being blunt if you comment on the game - I am not blind to the fact that this is not the best game in the world. But I still think that it over all should be decent enough to do a bit better than what seems to be a very crappy conversion rate. Feel free to disillusion me :)

    Any comments are welcome - criticism, suggestions about what to do better in the future, etc.
     
    #1 brianmeidell, Mar 22, 2007
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2007
  2. LilGames

    LilGames New Member

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    Blunt criticism......

    My first impression experience:

    - Website: It's ok. Wizard guy looks a bit "clip art"-ish

    - Demo download: Went without a hitch

    - Install: Without a hitch

    - Execution: Ran just fine

    - A game based on Horoscopes is a great idea if targetting women...

    1. First impressions of graphics: "ok". The color scheme is a little on the "dark" side for a casual game. The balls are nice, but the rest is "dark". Some buttons have no rollover states. The screen with the wizard before the level starts looks a bit like "Flash" art.

    2. OK so first interaction request of play is choosing "Explore" or "Chase". I have NO idea what either of those modes are. Your game does not explain it either. You lose points there for not explaining the game modes!

    3. So I played Explore mode... Good job on the tutorial aspect. You teach the game as it goes. So far so good. Click click click... so far I don't hate it...

    4. I've made about 4 "groups" (constellations?) and the game just explained to me I can click more of the same color. Great! And in doing so I learn I cannot cross paths. Fair enough... Continue clicking balls... and... OH I cannot "close" the constellation. I'm stuck. I can't close it, can't undo, .... nothing! BLAHH. So here you've just made an impression on me, the newbie player. I'm stuck, don't know what to do, and so I quit.

    I'll play again, but I think maybe that lack of undo or some sort of "way out" in the situation I described above is eroding the "fun".
     
  3. TimS

    Original Member

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    There IS an undo, you simply click on the last star in your yet-to-be constellation... but I could see how you'd miss it in the tutorial.

    Here's my list:

    1 - Same as mentioned above -- explore and chase? Perhaps a nice description of each... you've got the whole screen for just two of these, so you might as well add a logo for each game type, too.

    2 - Very odd that it seems to dump you back to the 'main' menu after each level... The 'map' screen is on the main menu screen? There are a lot of good places for innovation in a game, but don't mess with the standard menu layout. People (and here I escpecially mean the standard BigFish game player) can't handle it. Main menu should arrive first, after a splash. This should contain NO map -- "Play" is on top, and AFTER you click play, if it's your first time playing, you can choose 'twixt the two game modes. If it isn't the first time playing, the "Play" button can say "Continue" instead... If you'd really like to follow all the conventions, you can have wizard man standing on the main menu saying "Hello 'UserName'! If you aren't 'UserName', click here!" which will lead to the creation of a separate profile, etc. Sorry for the length here... it's just that a menu system that people aren't familiar with will only serve to confuse those who aren't eager to learn a new way...

    3 - The gameplay itself is far too easy... Now given I was playing 'explore mode'... but in general, after playing through most of pisces-land, it seemed like round after round of the same exact thing, only with more distance. The powerup allowing a glow for 90 seconds on the to-be-spotted constellations would've been nice, if I got the impression that picking out these constellations was worth much at all... (points?). After perhaps 10 minutes of the game I got the distinct impression that I would have to go through 5 or 10 more exactly the same levels before seeing a new powerup or anything, which just wasn't worth it to me. THAT, I feel, is where your conversion rate is dropping out. Overall the gameplay concept is fine and original... I just think you'll need more risk and especially more reward (and both earlier on in the game) in order to properly hook the player and make them feel as though they're going places.

    As for alternative places to push the game, I can't really think of any... If you can manage to fix the above, the fact that you have a Mac version coming soon will quite likely net you sales enough to be fairly happy about. Bottom line there... if you can do Mac... MILK it for all it's worth.

    Other than that, welcome to the forums!

    -Tim
     
  4. LilGames

    LilGames New Member

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    Hmm I tried that and I could have sworn it didn't work.

    OK I played Chase mode now and it was much more "exciting", but after 3 Zones I felt pretty much the way Tim did. Bored and anticipating "more of the same".

    I noticed that balls have symbols in them (waves and drops?). Perhaps the goal should be clicking each color, but matching the symbols? I don't know. At this point I'm not sure where the game should be taken to that would "fix" the flaws...
     
  5. papillon

    Indie Author

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    Confused by lack of explanation to begin with. Game started giving me hints after I gave up and clicked blindly, but SOME concept of how to start would have been nice.

    I saw a hint about how to undo, but managed to forget it by the time I needed to undo, and didn't know a way to get the hint back. From the games I'm used to I would have expected right-clicking to undo my last action.

    Didn't feel a huge sense of achievement or reward, so didn't feel motivated to keep pushing onward.

    Was annoyed that quitting the demo didn't appear to have ANY quit option, just a 'buy' link, leading me to eventually tab out and quit from the taskbar.

    It was shiny, and it felt like it could have been the beginning of a game, but the actual game seemed to be missing. Maybe more complex rules about what sort of paths I should and shouldn't make, and more excitement about completing a constellation?
     
  6. arcadetown

    Moderator Original Member

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    Space theme = kiss of death particularly with a game that is targeted towards women.
     
  7. brianmeidell

    brianmeidell New Member

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    Hey guys,

    Thanks a lot for some really good comments.
    I think you named pretty much all the critique points we ourselves had, plus some new ones.

    - Space theme: we worried about this but figured the astrology thing would make up for it. Would it perhaps be better with twilight skies?

    - Boring and repetitive: we fought with this as well, but were unable to come up with anything that wouldn't make the gameplay even more convoluted.

    - No intro explanation: You mean after you click play, but before the game countdown starts?

    - Undo: I see what you mean. Didn't want to use the right mouse button though, since we were going for "playable with single button mouse"

    That's how we felt for the last long part of the development. In the end we thought "hell, let's just get it out there and see how it does". We'd already been rehashing stuff and spending a lot more time on it than we wanted, so we chose to get it out and then get on with something that felt more fundamentally right.

    But if we should chose to pursue this game and do something with it's CR:

    - Is it an option to release v1.1 to portals, etc, that attempts to tweak some of these things?
    - If so, how big changes are acceptable? (for example, retheming the backgrounds with twilight skies instead of star fields, changes to gameplay, etc?

    Or is it the kind of thing were you just shrug and do a Constellations 2 with somewhat altered gameplay and these changes implemented?

    Mac was mentioned. It's going through our "QA" right now.
    Incidentally - do any of you have experience with how big a difference it makes to be compatible with Mac OS X 10.3 and less, as compared to 10.4?

    Again, thanks a lot for your comments.
     
  8. spellcaster

    Original Member

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    I was on my mac yesterday, so I only looked at the website. My main critique point here is that I have no idea what your game plays like. Posting a gameplay trailer or some info how the game plays might have helped.

    The look: Well, as a male sci-fi fan I liked the gfx and the slightly futuristic looking space theme. But I was put-off by the astrology part. So...

    Why not splitting this into two games? I mean, one game, two different names and art sets?
    One game for male sci-fi buffs. Move from astrology to astronomy. Invent a fake background story what the player has to do and replace the wizard with a guy in a Star Trek-ish uniform. Replace the zodiac signs with made-up terms ("Sector 4-2", "Zerberus sector", etc.) add some technobabble and you have a game that might appeal to a sci-fi crowd.

    While this game might not sell as good as the version explained below, it might still sell ;)

    Replace the wizard with a female fortune teller. Replace the dark colors with something brighter. Esp. the UI elements. Not sure if you need to change the background from space to pastel skies, though ;)
     
  9. Grey Alien

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    could help. I had a pink sunset on one of the levels on my last game and saw it being used on several women's PCs as their desktop wallpaper...

    oh and you shoulda made a match-3, the lowest CR I've had was 0.2% and the highest over 1% plus TONS of downloads. Kidding (about the match-3, not the CR/downloads) ... ;-)
     
  10. brianmeidell

    brianmeidell New Member

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    That's a good idea. I'll look into that.

    I don't think this is a problem that can be fixed with artwork, to be honest.
    The basic gameplay is not addictive enough to be fun level after level.
    Someone mentioned "it just feels it's the same, level after level", and that's true. But I think that's just a symptom of the real problem, I think. After all, many popular games are just the same level after level.
    The problem is that the basic gameplay mechanic is lacking something to make it really fun and addictive.
     
  11. brianmeidell

    brianmeidell New Member

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    Hehe - we actually tried this (but with the same game mechanic), and it sucked more. So even if you were kidding, we were not :)

    0.2% - on what game?
     
  12. PrefixEx

    Original Member

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    In my experience, the first launch is always very hard. Our first game tanked big time until lots of people actually _played_ it.

    Downloading != Playing:cool:

    This was a hard lesson for us.

    MANY will download it -> a LOT will install it -> just SOME will play it -> a CHOSEN FEW will buy it.

    I was amazed by the amount people that download a whole bunch of stuff and then forget what they downloaded or where it is on the drive.

    _Playing _the game and moving to a buying state takes some days (maybe even a week or more!) from the initial download unless its a sequel.
     
  13. Grey Alien

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    Not so much as "on what game" as "on what portals". CR varies a lot depending on the portal. I'm contractually bound not to say either, sorry.

    But there is normally a big peak within the first week (when the game is on the front pages and newsletters) and then it tails off over a month or so and then hits a steady level - at least in my experience.
     
  14. LilGames

    LilGames New Member

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    Maybe it's worth it then to add a desktop short-cut without asking the user. It's a MINOR annoyance, but how hard is it for them to delete a shortcut? At least they will remember the game is there!
     
  15. EnigmaCEO

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    I'm amazed that BigFish and Oberon would consider carrying the game if this was the case.
     
  16. Escotia

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    Why? Bigfish will try just about any game that's finished (and polished) because they've had hits where other portals have said no. Betty's anyone?

    Oberon seems to try just about anything as well from what I've seen.

    Brian is spot on when he says that the outer-space theme has been a kiss of death for casual games targeted at women. PopCap's Astropop is a prime example. It's not even in their own top ten despite being one of their more polished products.

    Mike at Retro64 had some experience with reskinning from an outer-space theme a little while back. Maybe he can add some detail?
     
  17. cyrus_zuo

    cyrus_zuo New Member

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    What about Bejeweled? Though I guess some might consider that more of a cosmic theme?
    What about Ricochet Xtreme? It holds the record for the most consecutive weeks in the Real top 10 list (by a large margin)

    Those are both multi-million dollar games, and there are more obvious smaller hits like Chicken Invaders 3, Star Defender 3, Astro Avenger, etc. I'm not saying that a space theme is the best or even a good idea, but a "kiss of death" seems a little strong.
     
  18. papillon

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    ... I still have vague plans for a space game after the cute knight sequel, and am hoping the very different idea involved will change the perception of casual space games, unfortunately by the time I can possibly get around to that project who knows what the market will have done? :)
     
  19. NielsK

    NielsK New Member

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    Cosmic Switch is a space themed game. It didn't convert that great. A version with a different skin was created with the name Honey switch. Only the skin of the game was changed, the new version has a much better conversion rate, so it certainly seems picking the right theme can have a large influence of the succes of a game.
     
    #19 NielsK, Mar 28, 2007
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2007
  20. Mike Boeh

    Administrator Original Member

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    Water Bugs and Cosmic Bugs basically have the same CR.... So I think gameplay has a lot more to do with CR than theme.... But maybe it all depends on the theme/gameplay audience...
     

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