Selling games without content

Discussion in 'Indie Related Chat' started by princec, Mar 30, 2005.

  1. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Look at it this way. A player downloads Jewel quest and aargon. They play for an hr of jewel quest and they look at the in game map and see that they've only played 10-20% of the game. So they think to themselves.. if I buy this I'll get another 80% more. If they like the game that can seem like good value for money. Also they're thinking.. I'd like to get to the mysterious temple, and I wonder what the last level is.. and so on.

    In aargon there's no map, but there's tons of levels. If you like solving the puzzles you could play for an hr and not scratch the surface. That will feel like good value for the money.

    People want to know that when they put out their 20$ they're going to have more "Stuff" to do. Things to collect, awards to win, etc.. Whatever it happens to be.

    But also keep in mind that if people basically dont find the gameplay fun none of this will help. This is all to motivate the player to do more of what they do level to level. They have to actually like the swapping of gems or whatever it is. Otherwise it might just seem like 80% more pain. So adding a map or goals isnt going to necessarily fix a game. But it can help.
     
  2. Martoon

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    Just a little more anecdotal info:

    I never considered Bejewelled/Bejewelled 2 to be content driven. I'm pretty much unaware of the background images on the different levels when I play.

    But Bejewelled 2 is the only game that my wife has ever enjoyed. I was surprised to find that one of the reasons she keeps playing is to see the different pretty backgrounds, and she gets excited whenever she reaches a new level she's never reached before, and sees the new background.
     
  3. princec

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    That's precisely what I call "content" - high cost stuff in the game that took some effort to do.

    New alien / background / music / map = content
    New gem colour / irrelevant storyline != content

    Cas :)
     
  4. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

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    I just want to mention that if you aren't developing games for a hobby then you shouldn't be basing your definition of worthwhile content on your likes and dislikes, but rather the likes and dislikes of your target market/audience.
     
  5. dima

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    Cas,

    Try throwing in some level design. Be it tiles or backgrounds with obstacles, something that defines boundaries and makes people think that there is more to each level than just plain backdrops. Tiles are the most reusable resource you can have. (i still wish I could try Alien Flux, keeps crashing ...)
     
    #25 dima, Mar 30, 2005
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2005
  6. baegsi

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    Now I understand what you mean by content! But honestly: I don't see a way to bypass that when you want to create competitive action games, as you do. You have to make chess or hard core strategy games, because only players of those games look primarily on game mechanics and don't really care about "content".
     
  7. princec

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    It's more to do with the cost of creation versus the impact it has. If stories were genuinely a great compelling bit of content for Zzed then they're laughing all the way to the Leeds. Or maybe not, because they did a load of graphics to go with it. I ignored the lot ;)

    Cas :)
     
  8. cliffski

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    I'm always banging on about content. I'd like to make two points.

    1) A game can be superb with no content (bridge builder and tower of goo are good examples). These games can be wicked, popular, fun, critically aclaime,d yet sell no copies. I think adding content doesnt make the game 'better' it makes it better 'perceived' value for money. You could write the most l33t game in the world, but if it has 1 button and 1 ping sound and no other content, nobody is going to buy it

    2)By content I also mean gameplay variation. As in 'stuff'. As an example, I'm adding an achievements screen to Democracy. This isn't a change to existing gameplay in any way, but its another 'feature' another 'thing' that's in the game that makes customers feel like they are getting their moneys worth. Its another thing to do, another goal to beat, another button to click on and dialog box full of stuff to read.

    You say puppytron is selling well, and thats cool, but I can still easily see the POV of someone who likes it but doesn't buy it because of its perceived lack of content. I think its actually a better game than AF, and that's why its selling. it other words, it sells 'despite' its lack of content, not because of it.
     
  9. Screwball

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    I think what Cas is refering to is Developed Content. What svero, cliffski and others are refering to is Customer Perceived Content. Arcade/Puzzle style games will generally suffer from low Perceived Content, due to them being "repetative". Things like story modes, level progression maps, level editors (if applicable) and the like may not add to much as far as developed content is concerned, but it does increase the Customers Perceived Content. Your game could have the most content in the world, but if you don't convey this to your customer then your SOL.

    Selling anything for profit basicly boils down to getting your Perceived Value to be a lot higher than your Product Price.
     
  10. princec

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    I'm trying to figure out how to slash development times basically and come up with a way of writing games that sell that only take a month to develop. That pretty much means less graphics, less maps, etc.

    Cas :)
     
  11. Vorax

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    So basically you want the holy grail of indy development. Good luck Sir Knight!
    :)

    Not sure how to help with that one. You may be able to do it once if you come up with a really intriguing puzzle game of some kind. Good original play in a puzzle game means you can probably sell lots without much content... Now go forth invent the next Bejewled and then just do that again every month for a year and you will be laughing!
     
  12. electronicStar

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    Very well said.

    Now Cas, you want to make your games in one/two month and don't "waste time" making content and you are surprised that you are not selling millions.:rolleyes:
    I think you are confusing the business of making games with the other software businesses you have been involved with. You have to take conscience that it is first and foremost an artistic activity. You can't rationalize your players' satisfaction like you would if you were a farmer (you'd just add a bit of vitamines in your cows' food), or if you were a MacDonald manager (you'd make the slaves work more and reduce the beef in the burgers).
    You need to have a bit of respect for the audience , if they play it's because they want to fill their neural net with something new and exciting and you can't save on content there.

    Now the main problem with Dudester is that I didn't know what to do and I didn't seem to be able to die. The baddies just kept hitting me to no avail. A couple of times I saw a game over screen but I didn't know why really.The overall playing experience was rather boring.
    Plus the screens were rather empty and if there were different backgrounds , I couldn't tell (all I can remember is a motherboard like background)

    Dont take that like a negative comment, somehow your games have this "touch" that makes them interesting in the first few minutes and you have some potential. Plus Dudester seems to be the perfect game to play while being high :)
     
  13. 20thCenturyBoy

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    How about using more abstract art and colours? Kind of like Kenta Cho does. You still need to make sure it's effective, but you don't need to spend time on "realistic" sprites and animation. If you want to use backdrops, there are plenty of free images on the net, or photograph your own! Just spruce them up a little in Photoshop afterwards. Changing the backdrop frequently is an excellent low cost way of giving people a nice new picture to look at and a sense of progression (remember lots of people like changing their desktop wallpaper for the same reason). IIRC the Alien Flux background looked the same for multiple levels, in fact I don't remember it changing at all.

    I know Puppytron has no backgrounds, but I wouldn't mind if it did, as long as the didn't distract from the gameplay.
     
  14. illume

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    Put the cool, big hard boss first. It's the hammumu style of backwards level design.

    It's fun too! The idea is you get to see something cool right away.

    L - normal level creatures.
    B - boss.

    A normal game goes like this:
    LLLLLBLLLLLB

    Boss at the start games go like this:
    BLLLLLBLLLLLB


    Make a BLLLLLBLLLLLB game! So that people have a goal of getting to the next boss. If they don't see a B at the start they will not know, or want to get to the next boss.


    My game holepit is kind of like a princec game I think http://www.holepit.com/

    Not as polished or fun, and lacking in 'content'. A really simple game, in the old atari style of game play where it basically has the same basic rules. I really think it needs better goals, and more of a story. Like the good atari style games, which gave you goals which were interesting.

    Holepit also needs lots of other things, like making a hole instead of a blue sphere, and a bonus model instead of a yellow donut shape. It also needs to fix its weird input style(like a princec game again!). Instead of having the mouse move the character around, you need to click to change directions.
     
  15. Anthony Flack

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    I think Svero is right on with the goal philosophy. It's all about motivating the player to keep playing, whether you do that with the promise of loads of extra goodies, or by simpler psychological methods like medals.

    Now this isn't especially relevant to your stated aim of 1-month development, but I just wanted to respond to your comments about all the wasted effort going into the content that most people won't see (leaving aside the point that people aren't motivated to seek out stuff they don't know is there).

    As an unashamed goodies-driven game designer, It's something I have given a fair bit of thought. Is it right for a really bad player to buy the game and only see 10% of it? Does it make sense to put all that work into developing content and then deny it to people?

    I say yes! And no!

    Well, rather, I think that a really bad player should be able to set the game to easy and play out the main game from start to finish with a little perseverance. Let's say that that shows them 80% of the total game content.

    The other 20% of content would be reserved for rewards, because I do think rewards are important too; and that they should be fought for. Perhaps half the people who play the game should be able to access the next 15% of content. The very last 1% of content is reserved for only the very best players.

    That way, most of your work is experienced by most players. That last 1% is not going to be seen by very many people, but the way I look at it, these people are the ones who have played the game to pieces and they deserve a thank you gesture (I'm still feeling guilty about not including a proper ending sequence in Platypus).
     
  16. Rainer Deyke

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    So basically you're trying to figure out how to sell games without going to the trouble of making them. I hear there's good money to be made selling other people's games.
     
  17. Anthony Flack

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    Nope, it's better than that - if you can manage to actually make games without going to the trouble of making them, then you can get other people to sell them for you, too...
     
  18. oNyx

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    <AF OT>

    >I think its actually a better game than AF, and that's why its selling. it other
    >words, it sells 'despite' its lack of content, not because of it.

    I also have more fun with PT. It's faster and it's single-room/everything-on-screen, which means there is no cam movement involved. AF's cam movement is way too complex for that kind of game. I mean... just try to explain how it behaves to someone. Even that is hard - really hard without using your hands; and as a player you need to compensate the cam movement (which correlates with the position of the ship and the crosshair, which in turn are controlled independly from each other... uhm).

    Many people say it's the controls, but imo it's only the cam, which makes it uneasy. One option would be using a platformer like cam system, which swings towards the direction you move to and recenters back to the middle of the screen where the ship is attached to the cam. But... that wouldn't work - or more precisely it would break the existing game mechanics. The boss fights would be a real pain in the rear. Therefore I never suggested anything like that.

    Another option would be a cam system which is similar, but instead of swinging ahead it zooms more out the faster you go. But again it wouldn't work at all for the boss fights.

    So, the "natural" way to solve that problem would be giving the user the full control about the zooming functionality without using more keys or difficult controls. The ship is always in the middle of the screen and the zoom is 1x until you move the crosshair out of a circle (say... about 3/4 of the height of the screen in diameter)... then it starts zooming out.

    I think that could work. Funny that it took me that long to get that idea. Well, I guess it would be quite a lot of work to implement a change like this and most likely Cas doesn't want to put more work into that game, but I wanted to write it down anyways... maybe someone is interested in stuff like this.

    </ot>

    Content is the "stuff" - the media - the work. But more interesting (for people like us with very small to non existing budgets) is the perceived amount of content. The user wants to see as many as possible new and fresh things. Things which look and feel all fresh n new. The problem is, that you cannot measure such things, therefore it's impossible to approach it from a scientific point of view and backing it up with hard facts also doesn't work.

    You get the most bang for your buck with levels. That is, if you have a nice easy to use level editor. Just look at platformers, which use a handfull of different blocks or puzzle games... or things like elastomania and soldat, which use some rather simple poly loop constructs. It's basically always the same - more or less free combination of existing game rules or entity behaviours... and that's great! For the player it's each time a different world with different scenarios, which require a different strategy and/or a different approach.

    Basically you need to distribute the project's time slightly different. You also need to ensure - at the very beginning - that the turn over rates will be very high. Otherwise the "content" creation will take too long. Using a scripting language (for behaviours, menu flow and other lightweight logic) also helps a lot, because it usually also boosts the turn over rates and thus productivity.

    Of course it's easier said than done ;)
     
  19. KNau

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    I'm curious where the hesitation to at least try some added content is coming from. I mean, it would take any moderately experienced photoshop artist maybe an hour or two to create a static "progression" page that you could place hilight dots on to show the player's progression - where they've been and how far they have to go. I agree with the comment that customers can't be inspired to buy content if they don't know it's there, a simple map page solves that problem.

    Or look at the comic book style story screens of "Betty's Beer Bar", you could throw something like that together using existing artwork and code a fade in / out from panel to panel to create a story between levels. Iggle Pop does this for the tutorial screen between levels - just a mostly static image with dialogue balloons between characters. For both the map and the story cut scenes you're looking at maybe 4 days worth of work - a long weekend, basically.

    I agree, it isn't gameplay. It is, well, kinda pointless - but it apparently sells games. I bought Mahjong Quest for my girlfriend because we played out the stupid rhyming story mode in the demo. We were hooked even though we knew the story was basically pointless.

    What is a story mode other than just a ladder of short levels? You have the gameplay down - for the amount of work it would really take (not a lot) why not try a story / ladder system?
     
  20. baegsi

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    Please tell us when you found a way how to do that :)

    If the value of a game isn't its content, it has to be delivered by something else. I think there're only two possibilities: you either offer something outstanding new (hard to conceive) or you go hard core in one or more directions, for example great AI (hardcore strategy games), realism (sport sim), deep story (text adventures) and so on. However, I don't think it costs less in terms of development time.
     
    #40 baegsi, Mar 31, 2005
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2005

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