Selling games without content

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

  1. KNau

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    Oh, and on the topic of speeding game creation, we share the same goal and I like the idea of procedural content. I have two backburner projects, a dungeon crawl and a wargame that I'm creating automated map development software for.

    The idea is that I only have to create the map elements, the rules for how a level should go together and then let the software "intelligently" spit out a 300 level story mode for me to release with the game. I still have to playtest and tweak the levels but it sure beats building them from scratch.

    I read about a breakout game (maybe DX-Ball) that was put together that way. Also I believe Aaron Hall's Dungeon Odyssey uses the same idea, althouth the dungeons are generated at runtime (like Sword of Fargoal), which in my opinion just creates standard level-grind gameplay - but that, too, can be fun.

    I don't think it's a holy grail at all, if done right and with a commitment to quality gameplay it's just "working smarter, not harder".
     
  2. princec

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    I've actually been down this road experimentally a few times and determined that in order to get a random or pseudo-random puzzle generator to work reliably at producing solvable, interesting, logical puzzles of linearly increasing difficulty... is much, much harder and more time consuming than doing it yourself with a tile editor.

    So puzzle games aren't really games without content.

    What I want is... is... to figure out how to sell games for which the primary goal is simply to play, rather than to "see more". Like Solitaire. I think I'm already quite good at writing such games but don't know how to convert them into sales.

    Cas :)
     
  3. ERoberts

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    The problem is that people are not willing to pay for that (and rightly so, I think). There's so many free games out there, low on content and with the only reason for playing them being simply to play them. Why would anyone pay for a game like this, when there's so many free ones?

    As others have said already, the players need to be motivated to continue playing *your* specific game. If there are not clear goals, long term AND short term, and no intermediate rewards (apart from having fun while playing), it is a much better option for the players to go from free game (or demo) to free game, and never buy anything.

    But if you actually put some actual content and clear goals, you have something that can not be switched for any other game, but something that is more unique and therefore more compelling to the player. This means they are more likely to buy THAT specific game, because they want more of its content and to reach the goals (long and short term) set in it. No other game will let them reach those specific goals or give them just that content.
     
  4. princec

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    Spot on. I have to say that I'm being purely mercenary here. Here's a trivial case study: I bought Platypus because it was fun and I liked the progression. However, I've not seen more than about 2 minutes into the sky level because it's too hard for me. But who cares! Boeh's got my cash! All that time Mr Flack spent on whatever mysteries awaits is probably wasted on me. If he'd known he could get his money out of me and only produce two worlds that'd slash the development time in half and get him twice the profit. Bingo!

    Flux took months and months of painstaking 3d rendering to produce the graphics. This was a huge mistake; nobody gives 2 poos about the lovely little sprites. I expect about 50% of the people that buy the game have never even seen the Enormous Jelly or the Alien Brain. So I consider this a huge mistake in the area of game design for profit.

    My advice to anyone starting out today is to throw away any idea they can't comfortably produce in entirety in less than a month* (especially as we all know our estimates are invariably 1/3rd of actual time). This is a risk mitigation exercise now. Taking longer than 6 months to start turning a profit selling anything in any business is unusual and a massive big red flashing light that the entire premise of the business is fucked. I've seen people selling genuine Glastonbury rocks at Glastonbury festival. Arch-anomaly Brainwave made $12k. So I'm all up for the minigame with minimal content production; I want to spread my risk over 10 small products instead of one product with 10x the effort gone into it - each is just as likely to flop as the other.

    Cas :)

    You are of course also advised never to take princec's advice.
     
  5. princec

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    We've got an ultrasimplified nethack in the works. A cross between nethack and Strange Adventures in Infinite space. The 5 minute RPG, the Quest for the Holy Grail no less. Should be done sometime around the end of the year if we keep the schedule up.

    Cas :)
     
  6. princec

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    Shows how much you know eh? Alien Flux took 18 man months of development, and Super Dudester took 12. Puppytron took just 1 month and is our best seller. Which is why I've cottoned on to this idea in the first place!

    *cough* Bejewelled *cough* ;)

    Cas :)
     
  7. Anthony Flack

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    I see that as a different mistake.

    Firstly was the assumption that players would work and practice to get to the end: with a few exceptions, we don't these days. People want to sit down and play a game through from start to finish without getting too stuck along the way.

    Second mistake was making the game with an arcade-style difficulty curve - it keeps getting harder until the player is eliminated. This is of course related to the first point - I shouldn't have assumed that people would practice the game in order to get better in order to progress further. Which is why I now feel it's better to be able to set the game to easy, and play through from start to finish even if you're not very good. A shallow difficulty curve.

    Since this also makes for a short and unchallenging experience, I'm looking at providing replayability and extra incentives by other means. Including providing nasty skill levels with brutal difficulty, and some extra incentives for completing them (that elusive 1% of additional content).

    Even though you've only gotten to see a little over 1/4 of the content of Platypus, and all that extra effort I went to was wasted on you, if I had've known that at the time I still wouldn't have made the game shorter. Because I think that's too short. I'd feel shortchanged if I'd bought it and it was that short. You probably feel a bit shortchanged too, yeah? That's no good.

    I don't want to make games just to get people's money off them. I do actually want to provide people with a good experience that they can feel happy about afterwards, and not sell them something they might regret later.
     
  8. baegsi

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    I'm trying do something even more extreme: I have a stack of ideas. I take on of it and give me exactly one day to implement the core idea. If I cannot make in that time, the idea is too complex. It's really fun to play with constraints.

    But Cas, one question: didn't take Puppytron 1 month because you already had your framework in place? In other words: how long would it took you if Puppytron were your first game?
     
  9. princec

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    Admittedly Puppytron could have taken months longer if I'd started out entirely from scratch. However that's just because I use a funny platform and the only code available to do decent 2D games with it is... well, mine. I expect a competent SDL developer or someone with PTK could manage it in less time even than that. In fact look at Frenesia.

    In fact Blitz is the ubertool for this sort of endeavour, especially now it's crossplatform. The redistributables will be a couple of megs smaller too.

    Cas :)
     
  10. Rod Hyde

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    Oh no! Another excuse for me not to write games! NetHack is the one game that I have never deleted from my hard drive.

    I'm looking forward to that one.

    --- Rod
     
  11. baegsi

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    Back on topic: how to market such games. Three spontanous ideas:

    1.- I wouldn't try to fake any content, instead, I'd make the lack of it my primary market value. You say this already on your website "Only highscores count, loosers need not to apply" etc. But I'd try to go much further, as far as possible. When someone visits your site, it should be clear that this is the place for insane hardcore lovers who only care about scoring and surviving and give a sh** about anything else. For example, your website is cute and fluffy, it should be bloody, simplistic and only for tough guys.

    2.- When the primary goal is score and nothing more, my motivation to play your game is competition, more like a sporting challange. Beating my own highscore is fine, beating somone else is better! I'd try to start some kind of competition event around your game. Having an online highscore list is not enough anymore. Why not try to start a league or something? Have a couple of small prices to win ready every month (best: other indie games, maybe you can team up with someone). From here you gain word-of-mouth and you send a clear message what to expect from your games: pure challenging insane hardcore action, nothing more, nothing less.

    3.- Beating someone else is of course better suited to multiplayer games. When I play a poker game, the game itself really doesn't matter as long as it does the job. What I want is to beat the other player. So multiplayer games are much more suited for that. Making Puppytron mutliplayer is not possible, but for future games I'd go into that direction. But you said that this is already your plan, if I remeber this right.

    Basically my suggestion is: push what make your games exceptional and focus on one clear element, pure action gameplay in your case. And deliver that message clearly and unambiguous.
     
  12. cliffski

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    How about a feature where if you get a hi-score it asks you for the email address of a friend and emails him a screenshot to show you have beaten his best score.
     
  13. baegsi

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    Oh, and more point: very cheap to implement, but great improvement for highscore focussed games. Expand highscore into stats. Personally, I love stats! So instead of simple "you made 1000 points", have range of values: longest survival period, best hit accuracy, missed items, etc, you get the picture.

    Again, should be fine to market because it would fit nicely into the sport-like competition challange of your games.
     
  14. princec

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    Stats are fun. I've got them on the online Flux hiscores.

    Cas :)
     
  15. aiosup

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    Hmmm... why not adding a number of simple tracks, just to increase the number of positive feedbacks to the user (you are the first to do this... and the 29th to that...)? Not only stat(istic)s, but also some real things.
     
  16. oNyx

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    Procedual levels only work well for logic mazes (or very similar genres), but it's damn tough. With most other genres it will feel too random and there won't be any direction or a big idea behind the level. With logic mazes you can't tell if it's hand crafted or generated and quite often the generated levels are more interesting, because the generator can spit out very unhuman and tricky levels (which are really fun to beat).

    A well crafted level with 8 different tiles can be much more interesting than a level with hundrets of different tiles. It's about getting the most impact with the same amout of work (or less work if possible). Of course I would like having a mind blowing amount of content, but I can't afford spending hundret years on a single game (literally).

    And for the player a well designed level has more value than 20 more tiles. And you also need to look on the other side of the medal. Less content can also support your game, because it gives the player the ability to recognize enemys and tiles, which helps him/her to develop a suited strategy as fast as possible. An example would be two different enemys are on the screen... the player knows both kinds, therefore he/she is able to judge very fast which one of both is more dangerous or which one should be taken down first (eg if one of em explodes you pick that one and hope that the explosion will tear the other one appart, too).

    People want to be able to predict things to a certain degree. They want to see (some) patterns in order to be able to do just that - predict things, because they want to be prepared. If you manage to get that working for you it's a good thing, right?

    Of course each game is different. Quite a lot of games don't even have anything you could call a level and there are also games which are 100% content (media) driven like point'n'click adventures.

    The perfect media-light-weight game could be a logic maze with maybe 10 different tiles, some sound effects, title screen, menu, and some characters with almost no animation. 100% generated levels with... say... 100 levels which are sorted by difficulty (test players' stats) and an unlimited amount of generated levels which are roughly spun around a specific difficulty setting. And just for the kicks you could add perlin noise dust/dirt to the tiles (woohoo every tile is looks unique)... and that's about it. I would do such a game right away if I had a good game idea and if I would be a bit smarter (I think I couldn't create a good level generator... it's way too tricky for me).

    Hm. I'm wondering if it's a good idea to do a smaller game in between. I really want to get it rolling asap.
     
  17. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I dont know whats meant by "fake" content. But I think adding goals any way you can is a good thing regardless of whether they give you something really new or not. Like.. look at a game like quake3. You can play the same level forever because the goalposts keep moving. New players etc... Its not the actual level content that makes it fun. It's the variety of gameplay when you're actually playing.

    Take mario3d for example. You have levels where you need to collect stars. The SAME level has 5 stars to get with minor variations. The creators of the game didnt need to make 5 completely new maps. Playing and collecting the 2nd star and 3rd star are still quite fun. Maybe more fun in a way as you learn the ins and outs of a level. Sometimes its more fun to explore and play in an area you know well. I use to prefer playing arenas I was familiar with in quake3. It was all about the game and not so much about figuring where to go and so on.

    So if you re-use the same level and only vary it mildly, or even not at all, but you move the goalpost slightly that can be lots of fun and I don't consider it cheap or fake etc..
     
  18. baegsi

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    I should select my words more carefully (especially as a non-native speaker :eek: ). I meant this only in terms of marketing. Of course it is good to implement procedural generated content or to have moving goals etc. But if my game doesn't provide any varying content and it's even on purpose, I wouldn't try to hide this fact or try to compete with other games that do have content, but I would make the lack of content a strength by emphasizing the idea that my games are only about game play and nothing else.

    Edit: compare this for example to mtv unplugged - they build a whole brand out of the idea of reducing music to the bare minimum. Why not have puppytron unplugged or something similar? I think you could make something out this. But you have to go as far as possible to have a clear message what your games are about. You can do this with anything.
     
    #58 baegsi, Apr 1, 2005
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2005
  19. tolik

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    I hope I'll be able to show you a game without content which we made TODAY in 6-7 hours. It'll be a First April game making fun out of all the match games.
     
  20. sand858

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    Didn't seem to be touched on this thread (though a very interesting thread to me, a programmer with almost 0 artistic skill for producing high quality content), but has anyone considered how episode packs might factor into this equation?

    Initial game takes 3 months to make, then you expansion pack for 6 months, 1 a month. Of course, your original game needs to be good enough to warrant the expansion packs.

    Just a quick thought...
     

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