經歷遊戲發行失敗後的一些感悟

作者:Ryan Sumo

《政壇野獸》已經在Steam/GoG/Humble上出售一週左右。對我們來說好似經歷了一次情感過山車。而我想要花一週時間來吸收所有的這些情感並與玩家和遊戲開發者進行分享。不過我所擁有的數據並不多。雖然我希望在本文中與你們分享一些有趣的信息,但是因爲我不能說得太過具體,所以我可能不能展示出非常有趣的內容。

Political Animals(from appszoom)

Political Animals(from appszoom)

發行期待

因爲我們不能分享具體的Steam數據,所以我們能做的便只是比較發行期待與真正的結果。我們都期待能夠成功發行遊戲內容。我們的發行商Positech Games擁有很不錯的經驗以及對政治遊戲感興趣的粉絲基礎。在PAX和EGC我們都獲得了來自玩家的積極反饋。在遊戲發行前我們分給了媒體和一些Youtuber遊戲密鑰,並獲得了來自它們的許多正面反饋。在我發佈了新聞稿後Total Biscuit甚至馬上回復了一個密鑰請求。我們也會在美國大選前發行遊戲了—-這也是我們一直以來的目標。

雖然如此我們還是看到了一些警示標識。即我們遊戲發行前剛好趕上萬聖節大促銷,通常那對於遊戲發行來說都是最糟糕的時間。雖然這期間的促銷不如夏日促銷那麼大,但是在消費者掏空自己的錢包後再發行遊戲絕不是個好主意。同時我們也很難獲得傳統媒體的宣傳,這也成爲我們之後所面對的一個大問題。同時Positech之前也曾發行過一些不盡人意的遊戲,就像《Democracy : Africa and Gratuitous Space Battle 2》便是最讓人失望的典例。

發行結果

因爲我們團隊成員是住在大馬尼拉的不同地方(每週見一次),所以比起一起等待結果我們是在遊戲發行後才聚在一起的。我個人是選擇和幾個親近的好友一起等待遊戲發行。

注:因爲我們住在菲律賓,所以美國早上10點發行意味着在菲律賓是凌晨1點。

在經過一晚上並不寧靜的睡眠後,我一醒來便馬上去查看我們到目前爲止第一天的銷量。因爲之前我們便知道獲得了首頁推薦,所以我還是很興奮的。我努力在回想看到數據時的自己到底是怎樣的感受。是震驚?難過?或許只是無語。怎麼可能如此之低。之後我又刷新了幾次,並最終確定了這並未存在任何漏洞。而我們也最終意識到自己的遊戲成爲了Positech所發行的最糟糕的遊戲。我對自己當時的反應有點驚訝。因爲我只是坐在那裏並想着“好吧,我們失敗了。”我投入了2年半的時間在等待着今天,但是我們卻失敗了。那時候我有點擔心自己的反應。因爲難道我不應該嚎啕大哭或充滿震驚纔算正常碼?

隨後我站了起來並告訴妻子這個消息。她不斷安慰我。但因爲那天是工作日所以她很快便需要出門工作,而我茫然第回到計算機前再次開始刷新頁面。然後我只能做一件事,即嘗試着去搞清楚爲什麼我們會遭遇如此的慘敗。

爲什麼人們不買我們的遊戲?

或許萬聖節大促銷的影響力比我們想象的更嚴重。即當玩家剛剛花許多錢買了遊戲後我們很難再去向他們要錢了。Double Fine同時也以低價去出售一些開發包。雖然那時候也出現了其它一些遊戲,但我認爲我們的確選錯了發行時間。

“看起來真的很可愛感覺也很有趣。但是作爲一名美國人,現在的我並不想將有趣和選舉混爲一談。”

上面是來自我們在GoG上的一條評論。我並不會過分糾結於一條評論,但說實話美國大選實在經歷太長時間了,我認爲那時候的人們都希望選舉趕緊結束吧。或許在我們遊戲發行前1個多月時間這種情況還不是那麼嚴重。

在發現一些人在我們的遊戲討論頁面說遊戲1)擁有很棒的圖像,2)“看起來像一跨手機遊戲”,3)缺少策略深度(遊戲邦注:儘管他們並未真正玩遊戲),我決定去看看我們在Steam商店中的頁面。那時候的我真的很難過。因爲商店頁面是大多數玩家看到遊戲的第一扇門,所以必須給他們留下深刻影響。你必須通過預告片,截圖,描述和評價去說服所有潛在玩家這是值得購買的內容。但是我們的商店頁面的描述卻並不完整,甚至沒有評論鏈接。也就難怪人們會對我們的遊戲產生懷疑。如果我們不能有效呈現一個吸引人的Steam商店頁面,我們又怎麼可能創造出一款優秀的遊戲呢?

最後我還想說的是,有可能遊戲讓玩家覺得太貴了,而或許只是因爲遊戲本身並不是很出色。我們曾收到過許多心願清單,如果我們在促銷時改變其中的內容,我們便能夠看到人們是如何評估我們的遊戲。並且我們當時也很高興在PAX和EGX中收到許多有關遊戲的反饋,所以我們纔會相信自己能夠創造出一款優秀的遊戲。

參與社區

現在我已經發現了一些發行的問題,而我們唯一能夠做的便是儘可能去糾正這些問題。首先這便意味着我們需要去修改Steam商店頁面所存在的問題。其次我們將深入社區討論並儘可能去回覆人們所提問的問題。但其實從某種程度看來這是一種危險的行爲。因爲開發者總是會想辦法去維護自己的作品,所以很容易演變成是與玩家間的爭吵。任何想要進入社區討論的開發者都必須帶着謙卑的態度去執行這件事。將任何抱怨當成是合理的問題,即使對方的態度並不是很好。我的岳父便曾說過,消費者的抱怨總是非常有價值的,因爲其實他們本可以徑直走過而不告訴你任何原因。如果他們發出抱怨,你就必須想辦法去說服他們再次嘗試。我便是如此面對一個保持中立的玩家。我詢問了他是什麼讓他保持中立態度,他的回答是這樣的:

“因爲Steam擁有2個小時的退款窗口,所以我便決定試看看這款遊戲。”

而我是如何做的呢?我從未想要去糾正他認爲遊戲缺少策略性的直覺。我只是告訴了他我們在一些大會上看到許多人愉快地體驗了遊戲的策略元素,並提到了一篇來自Eurogamer有關遊戲的文章。我認爲這便足以說服他們再去嘗試遊戲了。

除此之外我們還記錄下了人們表示想從遊戲中看到什麼。有人認爲遊戲是不平衡的。我們將進一步研究這個問題。很多人表示希望看到多人玩家元素,於是我們便打算在更新時添加該元素。還有一些有關Linux的問題。如果一切進展順利的話很快便能與大家見面了。但最重要的還是我們必須深入社區將玩家帶到遊戲中。我們希望玩家覺得我們並不是發行了遊戲後便不再進行更新。我們同樣也希望媒體能夠幫助宣傳遊戲從而讓更多人知道它。

我們還聯繫了中國,俄羅斯等地的本土化合作夥伴,因爲盜版以及不講英文,我們的遊戲在這些地區賣的並不好。雖然進行本土化很辛苦,但從更廣的角度來看這對遊戲未來的發展更有幫助。

結論

我們還是對自己創造的遊戲充滿自信。我們也對Steam上的菲律賓遊戲數量做出了屬於自己的貢獻。或許這並不是多大的貢獻,但是對我們來說卻很有意義。因爲對我們來說將遊戲帶到Steam上仍是很不容易的事。

關於我們的團隊,我們在看到遊戲銷量後的第一次會面真的是籠罩在陰鬱中,但我們通過去K歌而重拾了士氣。我們將繼續努力去完善遊戲,並希望有機會能夠再次創造一款新遊戲。

本文爲遊戲邦/gamerboom.com編譯,拒絕任何不保留版權的轉發,如需轉載請聯繫:遊戲邦

What Does it Feel Like to Launch a Game?

by Ryan Sumo

It’s been almost a week that Political Animals has been on sale on Steam/GoG/Humble. It’s been quite the emotional roller coaster. I wanted to take a week to absorb all the emotions and share it with gamers and gamedevs alike. My apologies for a lack of stats. I was hoping to share some in this post, but given I can’t be too specific with them as per Steam’s rules, there’s nothing super interesting to show you right now. I may do a more stats heavy blog in the future once we have a bigger sample size.

Launch Expectations

Given we’re not allowed to share actual Steam data, the best we can do is compare out expectations of launch versus how things actually turned out. We had reasonable expectations for a good launch. Our publisher, Positech Games, has a good track record and fanbase fond of political games to draw from. We had positive experiences from players at PAX and EGX. We gave out keys to press and Youtubers (This is the funniest LP by far) a week prior to launch and we were getting a lot of positive feedback. Total Biscuit even responded with a Steam key request right after I blasted my press release, which was quite exciting. And we were able to launch right before the US elections, which was our target all along.

There were some warning signs though. The Halloween Sale happened right before launch, and that’s always a terrible time to launch a game. It was not quite as big as a summer sale, but it’s always bad to chase after customers after their wallets have just been emptied. We were also having a hard time getting traditional press coverage, which would be an issue later on. And Positech has had games do poorly before, with Democracy : Africa and Gratuitous Space Battle 2 being the biggest disappointments.

Launch Results

Given we worked virtually (we all live in different parts of Metro Manila and meet once a week) We’d made a team decision to get together after the launch instead of waiting for it together. I personally went to watch Dr. Strange (entertaining movie, if you can get past Cumberbatch’s strained American accent) and waited up for the launch with some close friends before calling it a night.

Note: because we live in the Philippines, the 10am launch in the US was actually 1am in the Philippines.

After a less than restful sleep, I woke up to immediately check on our first day sales so far. We’d previously been informed that we’d be featured on the front page so I was a little bit excited. I’m struggling to remember what I felt when I finally saw the numbers. Shock? Sadness? Probably a stunned silence. Surely they couldn’t be so low. I impotently clicked refresh a few times until I was satisfied that this wasn’t some error. When it finally sank in that we were probably Positech’s poorest performing game, I was a little surprised at how I felt. I just sat there for what felt like ages thinking “well, we flopped.” I sank two and a half years of my life chasing this day and we flopped. I was a little worried about how numb I was feeling. Shouldn’t I be crying or something? Is this what shock feels like?

I stood up and told my wife the bad news. We sat for a bit while she comforted me. But it was a weekday, so she soon left for work while I drifted back to stare blankly at the computer screen to click on refresh yet again. Then I did only thing that I could do, which was try to figure why exactly we’d flopped so badly.

Why Didn’t People Buy our Game?

The Halloween sale probably had a bigger impact than we thought. It’s hard to ask players for more money when they’ve just shelled out for games. Double Fine also had their day of the devs bundle out at the same time, providing incredible value for just a few dollars. While there will always be other games out when you launch, I think we picked a particularly poor time to do it.

“Looks really cute and could be a lot of fun. But as an American I really don’t associate fun with elections right now. Dread, yes.”

The above quote was from a comment on GoG. I’m not putting too much stock in just the one comment, but the electino cycle in the US takes an obscenely long amount of time, and my sense is that at this point most people just want it to be over already. Had we launched a month or more ago this might have been less of an issue.

After noticing some people on our game’s discussion page opine that the game A) had great art but B) “looked like a mobile game” and C) lacked strategic depth (despite their not having played the game), I decided to take a look at our Steam store page. I got really upset at myself at that point. The store page is the first thing most players will see of your game, so it’s important to make a good impression. Your trailer, screenshots, descriptions and reviews all have to work together to convince the prospective player that your game is worth buying. Our store page had an incomplete description and no links to reviews. It’s no wonder people were making these assumptions about our game. If we couldn’t even put together a proper Steam store page, how could we make a good game? Sadly, the biggest thing that might have affected our sales was something that was very much in our control, and I dropped the ball.

Lastly, I should say it is entirely possible that the game just feels too expensive for what it is, and that maybe the game just isn’t good. As for the first, I suppose we’ll find out in a few months. We’ve got a surprising amount of wishlists, and if a bunch of those convert during a sale, then we’ll know how much people actually value the game. As for whether or not it’s good, we’re happy with the feedback the game got at PAX and EGX so we’re pretty confident saying we’ve made a good game.

Engaging the Community

Now that I’d identified some of the launch day issues, the only thing left to do was to try to rectify them as best as we could. First, that meant fixing the issues with the Steam store page. Next, we dived deep into the Community discussions and responded as best as we could to people’s concerns. In some ways, this is a dangerous move. Developers can get very defensive about their work, and it’s very easy to get into an argument with a player and become labeled an angry dev. Any devs who want to wade into community discussions need to approach it with an air of humility. Always assume that any complaint is a valid concern, even if it seems dismissive. My father in law once told me that a customer that complains is valuable, because they could just as easily have walked away without letting you know why. If they’re complaining, take that as opportunity to convince them to give you another chance. Which is exactly what I did with one guy who was on the fence. I asked what was keeping him on the fence, then we had a short back and forth which ended up with him saying :

“Well, with Steam offering a 2-hour refund window, I decided that I’ll go ahead and grab the game and give it a whirl.”

How did I do it? It’s not magic. I never once tried to “correct” his intuition that the game was lacking in strategy. I merely explained that based on our experience at conventions people were happy with the level of strategy, and also linked to a Eurogamer article about it. That was enough to persuade them to try out the game, which is all I really wanted.

Aside from that, we took note of what people are saying they want from the game. They say the game feels a bit unbalanced. We’ll look into that. A lot of people are asking for multiplayer, so we’ve penciled that in as an update. There were a few questions about Linux. Assuming all goes well that will be coming soon. More than anything it’s the fact that we’re engaging with the community that makes people commit to the game. They feel like we’re not just gonna drop the game and never update it again. We’re also still actively looking for press to cover the game to try to keep it in people’s minds and give the game some more legitimacy.

We’ve also been approached by localizers in China, Russia, etc. places where games don’t traditionally do very well due to piracy and a lack of English speaking players. Localization is definitely a pain, but maybe taking a broader outlook is the way we can keep the game relevant in the coming months and years.

Conclusion

We’re proud of the game we’ve made. We’re also proud to contribute to the number of Philippine made games on Steam. That may not seem like a big deal to countries with a wealth of developers and games, but it certainly means a lot to us. It still seems almost impossible that we managed to put the game out on Steam.

We regret being such a poor investment for Positech in the short term, but they’ll make their money back over the long haul, and hopefully even sooner if we manage to play our cards right.

As for the team, it was definitely pretty rough. Our first meeting after seeing the sales numbers was pretty somber, but we ended it with a rousing karaoke session that lifted our spirits, if not our sales. We’ll keep working hard to make sure that this game is the best it can be, and hopefully we’ll have a chance to make another one.(source:gamasutra)