It’s been about five weeks since I launched Among the Innocent at rAge JHB 2016, and I thought it’s beyond time for me to catch you all up on how things went, how things are going now, and where they’re headed in the near future. I intended to do something like this sooner, but I’ve been in a constant state of flux since the show. You can consider this a post-mortem to an extent, but more focused on the final stretch of the game, rather than the whole development process. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be lengthy, though 😉
rAge is South Africa’s top gaming expo, and this year saw just shy of 35,000 people through the doors over a period of three days. I, along with Richard, Duncan, Orla, and Bevan (who all contributed in a variety of ways on the game), set up camp at the home_coded indie village and officially launched the game at the show. Because I’m kind of oldschool (and/or a bit mad), I decided to do this with a boxed, DRM-free version of Among the Innocent. My thinking was I’d try to cover all my launch costs, and any additional funds would buy me time over the following months to work on post-launch support, marketing, and working towards launching on other platforms. I thought I’d share the exact figures because they might be interesting to anyone looking to do the same thing. These figures are given in local currency (rands), but I’ll put in the dollar amount at the bottom to give international visitors an idea of cost (bear in mind that the cost-of-living in SA is fairly low). I’ve also listed and linked to the suppliers of the various products/services.
Booth space and furniture: R5,016 [rAge]
T-shirt printing: R1,403 [Tshirts.co.za]
DVD box, printing, and disc production: R7,695 [Blank Media]
Banners, posters, business cards and flyers printing: R1,704 [Minuteman Cresta]
Age rating registration and certification: R3,331 [FPB]
Sundries (stationery, etc.): R901 [Makro]
Credit card machine: R1,800 [Zip-Zap]
PC rental: free [Learn 3D (thanks again guys!)]
Total cost: R21,850 ($1,538)
Total receipts at rAge: R24,000 ($1,618) (160 units sold)
Profit: R2,150 ($151)
As you can see I managed to cover all of my launch costs, and have a couple of bucks left over. It wasn’t enough to buy the three months of my time that I had hoped for, but it was enough to go out for a celebratory dinner and get through the rest of the month. I’m way beyond being upset about falling short of expectations that I’ve pulled out of the air, and I’m still quite happy with the sales figures.
Also, I have to give a shout out to both Tshirts.co.za and Minuteman Cresta for their excellent and very quick service.
The boxed version of Among the Innocent, I’m not so happy with. After rAge I received numerous reports of malfunctioning DVDs. I don’t know for sure if that’s the fault of the DVD manufacturers or my own inexperience, but I do know that, had I given myself sufficient time, this issue could have been avoided. I wrapped up Among the Innocent on the Monday of rAge (which started on Friday), giving the DVD folks just a few days to produce 500 units (yes, I have 340 units sitting in my home office), which is simply not enough time to do a good job. Similarly, I’m not happy with the print quality of the cover, which woefully underrepresents the awesome box art and design (it’s not as noticeable in this photo, but in person things look a little “off”). Again, this could have been dealt with had I set aside the time, so I can’t put all the blame on the manufacturers. As it turns out, finishing a game, setting up an expo booth, and producing a boxed version of a game are all unique challenges that require their own time and attention.
As a result of these two issues, as well as a patching-related problem I’ll outline below, I’ve decided to suspend sales of the game in its physical form until I can find a solution (likely reprinting the whole game, or at the very least producing new discs). For anyone who bought the physical version of the game who I don’t already have email addresses for (if you didn’t personally give me your email address at rAge), please contact me with proof of purchase of the game (your receipt from rAge) and I’ll either send you a Steam code when it’s ready, or a Humble (DRM-free) code right away (please specify which you’d prefer).
Another problem which arose post-launch is with the patching system on which I built the boxed version of the game, called Release Manager. Unfortunately, there are some issues/limitations with Release Manager that I wasn’t aware of at the time, and currently there’s still no way of boxed version owners updating their copy of the game. I’ve been told that the issues will be resolved soon, so please be patient while they’re addressed. I’ll post an update as soon as that’s ready.
The game itself
I also had a number of reports of significant bugs in Among the Innocent related to saving/loading. This was game-breaking for those who experienced it, and, again, was the result of my cramming in too many tasks in too short a space of time. As a 90% one-man operation, I took on too many things and did not test the game enough, and the results speak for themselves. I’m very happy with the overall quality of the game, but these few bugs were a huge cause of discontent for me. I want to apologise to everyone who’s had to endure these irritations, and I also want to thank you for reporting them in great detail. You have all helped me to track down the bugs, eventually recreate them, and ultimately fix them.
While the game was in its buggy state, I took down my Humble widget (currently the only way the game is available) to prevent anyone else spending money on a broken product. Now, finally, the Humble version has been updated to fix those bugs, so please feel free to purchase Among the Innocent through the widget below or on the main page if you’re looking for a DRM-free version of the game. A Mac version will be available soon!
Steam, Greenlight, and the future
Shortly after rAge I listed Among the Innocent on Steam Greenlight, and you all rallied to the cause! The game was Greenlit in just eight days, even though it didn’t crack the top #100 in that time. I’m not sure if someone at Valve manually pushed through the game or if the numbers just fell into place, but either way, I’m delighted that it was Greenlit so quickly. What I’m less chuffed about is the paperwork that I’ve had to endure (admin is my greatest weakness). Again, my inexperience has risen up to slap me in the face, and I should have started some of this paperwork much sooner than I did.
As of Monday the 14th, Zero Degrees Games completed the onboarding process at Valve, which means I’m officially permitted to sell Among the Innocent on Steam. However, the timing is less than perfect. Since I only now have access to the back-end stuff on Valve’s side, there’s still a week or two’s work ahead of me to get the game Steam-ready. That’d put Among the Innocent on sale on December’s doorstep, which is cutting it close to the very dead period in game sales that happens from around mid-December. I’m still undecided as to when exactly I’ll launch Among the Innocent on Steam. If things go well in the next couple of weeks, I might try for an early December release, but if I’m not confident then I’ll hold off and wait for late January. Launch week is a critical moment in the release of a new game (especially for indies). Should I choose to launch in January, I’ll endevour to have a little extra added to the game by then.
Since I didn’t take home the treasure chests full of cash I had hoped for at rAge, I’m working part-time with a couple of local game developers on their games. This means that I have an income for the next few months, but it does cut into some of my time to work on the game. I’ll be juggling every moment I have until the launch of the game to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible! While this isn’t the “ideal” situation, and in truth I’d love to be stuck inside my own head for the next few months, working on other games in the short term brings me some much-needed perspective and exposure to the rest of the world and will ultimately benefit the Stricken Tales. I’ll share some of those details when/if it’s appropriate.
That about wraps it up. Sorry if this post was a bit long, but I had a lot to cover and wanted to get it all out in one go to avoid any uncertainty. I want to thank everyone who came through to rAge to say hi, chat about game development or the scene in general, play the game, or buy it. It was a wonderful weekend and I can’t wait to do it again next year!