真正考慮成功對於自己來說意味着什麼

作者:David Maletz

今天我登錄了Steam並發現我的最新遊戲《I Can’t Escape: Darkness》的銷量達到了666。對於一款恐怖遊戲,這是一個非常吉利的數字,我對此非常欣慰。但這同時也讓我想起了自己最初爲這款遊戲所設定的目標。現實並不如我所預期的那樣。在仔細思考了自己的期許以及我對於成功和失敗的定義後,我決定寫下自己的第一篇事後分析文—-記下我的這些想法,同時和其他遊戲開發者分享我的總結內容。

歷史

首先我想先說說我們的工作室Fancy Fish Games。我們已經在Steam上發行了3款商業遊戲,在那之前還發行過6款免費遊戲。Fancy Fish Games已經誕生3年多時間(儘管我是從中學時便開始製作遊戲),包含5個在此兼職的工作人員。

開始

一開始我們是打算將《I Can’t Escape: Darkness》作爲遊戲續集,或者就像我想的那樣創造出《I Can’t Escape》的完整版本。這是一款簡單的恐怖遊戲,在這裏玩家將深陷一個看似無止盡的地牢中,他們需要想辦法逃離這裏。多虧了一些youtuber和streamer的推廣,《I Can’t Escape》獲得了顯著的成功—-而對於這一成功,我指的是超過25萬名玩家在玩這款遊戲並且有很多人評價了遊戲並喜歡遊戲。

關於這一續集,我們打算沿用《I Can’t Escape》的簡單理念,即在不破壞最初遊戲樂趣的前提下創造出一款完整的遊戲。從這方面看來,我認爲這一續集取得了成功—-當然了遊戲中還是存在一些缺陷和問題,但這款遊戲業吸引了玩家的注意並營造了一個懸疑可怕的遊戲氛圍。該續集同時也添加了許多全新功能,包括整體進程,事件,戰鬥和故事。

開發

《I Can’t Escape:Darkness》的開發花了一年多時間。我們的核心團隊只有三個人—-我致力於編程,Chase Bethea致力於音樂和音效而Matthew Poppe則致力於圖像與動畫。對於這款遊戲我最初只打算花4個月的時間—-但是根據以往的經驗我之後又將時間計劃翻了一倍。而與那些兼職成員合作是一件很難預測的事—-幸好我之前已經與Matt和Chase合作過,所以我非常信任他們,他們也從未讓我失望。

我們的開發時間是這麼劃分的:

引擎開發—-第一個月:2014年8月。是的,我是從頭開始爲這款遊戲開發引擎。你可能會覺得我瘋了,或者認爲在一個月內創造一個引擎是不可能的事,但我並不是在創造一個通用引擎。我優化了一些早前的迷宮渲染代碼並創造了專屬於《I Can’t Escape:Darkness》的燈光算式。我擁有許多開發遊戲引擎的經驗,所以這對於我來說並不是什麼難事。

ICEDfinal(from gamasutra)

ICEDfinal(from gamasutra)

最小可行性產品(MVP)—-2014年9月。最小可行性產品包括基本的遊戲機制,如移動,探索,道具和戰鬥。再一次地,你可能會認爲一個月非常短,但是你要記得最初的遊戲可是隻花了我們一個月的時間。這時候我們會發布帶有遊戲截圖和視頻的greenlight頁面。

完成功能—-2015年1月。這是我在決定遊戲將花費4個月的時間進行創造時所計算好的里程碑。但之後根據自己以往的經驗,我知道完成功能只是完成我們工作的一半。儘管我們花了6個月,而不是4個月才走到這裏,但需要注意的是這只是我們開發過程的一半。

現在你可能會好奇,如果引擎只需要花費1個月,MVP只花費一個月,那爲什麼引擎需要花費4個月時間呢?答案便是,儘管MVP擁有核心遊戲玩法元素,但它卻缺少了包括各種事件發生區域和謎題等內容,UI和平衡。這需要我們投入更多工作,並且這時候的遊戲也更像是一個原型。在這期間我們同樣也花了一個時間致力於一個較小的項目(《ADventureLib》)並將《神王之路》帶向Steam(我是在2014年5月發行了這款遊戲,那時候我以爲它永遠不會被greenlight,但它卻在去年12月做到了)。

內部測試—-2015年2月。在完成遊戲功能後,我們需要對其進行測試,調試,完成所有更高級的圖像和音樂資產。然後我們發行了遊戲的測試版本希望能夠第一時間獲得外部反饋。我需要確保遊戲足夠穩定,沒有漏掉任何重要資產,從而確保測試者能夠提供更多有關遊戲節奏和遊戲玩法本身的反饋。有趣的是遊戲也是在這時候獲得Steam的greenlight。

基本測試—-2015年6月。我們已經在內部測試中獲得許多不錯的反饋,但遊戲還是存在許多節奏和平衡問題。我們在最後時刻還決定添加一些新功能—-雖然這些功能都不大,但總的看起來也並不輕鬆。然而內部測試和基本測試之間卻存在着顯著的區別。在基本測試中游戲將把玩家帶到一個比內部測試長4倍的遊戲內容中,玩家開始會對遊戲故事感到好奇。在這裏有一點需要注意的是當你越接近開發尾端,你會覺得自己的發展速度變得越來越慢,因爲這裏並未出現太多顯著的改變,但從內部測試和基本測試間的區別看來,你那四個月的時間也是沒有白費的。

第二次基本測試—-2015年7月。經過另一輪的調整和完善,並且將遊戲編譯到Mac和Linux上後,我們開始進行第二輪基本測試。同時Justin Whirledge所組織的市場營銷活動也進入快速發展階段,即每隔幾周我們便會發布遊戲玩法預告片。

Steam上的基本測試—-2015年8月。這時候,除了最終調整以及最後的漏洞修復外,遊戲基本上算是完成了。但因爲我們準備面向Steam發行遊戲,所以我們還有很多事要做。我們需要創造自己的商店頁面,完成最後的資產修改(包括交易卡片和成就的資產),整合Steam API,翻譯遊戲(遊戲邦注:我們發行了英語,西班牙語,俄語和德語的遊戲版本)。最終,即在8月底,我們完成了商店頁面,並公佈了最終發行日期爲9月17日。我們同樣也在Steam上進行了快速的基本測試以確保所有內容都與Steam API和最後的修改內容保持一致。

發行!—-2015年9月17日。在經過一年又一個月的創造以及最終的測試,調整和市場營銷後,遊戲終於發行了!這比我預期的時間多了六個月,並開始讓我感受到遊戲開發的無止盡,但不管怎樣我們還是做到了!

三個月後,我們獲得了666的有效銷量,來自Steam的大多數正面反饋,來自媒體的一些負面反饋,一些優秀的遊戲相關視頻以及來自粉絲編寫的出色遊戲指南。我們的遊戲是否獲得了成功?你又是如何衡量成功的呢?

什麼是成功—-關於金錢?

如果成功是關於金錢,或者賺到足夠多的錢讓我們能夠全職創造下一款遊戲,我們便是失敗的。遊戲在Steam上的零售價是11.99美元,所以666的銷量算不錯了。但是如果算上我們花在項目上的時間,我們每個小時的收益仍不到3美元(即在Steam拿走抽成後)。所以雖然看起來我們還是賺到了一些錢並讓我們能夠在年終拿到了獎金,但這卻不足以讓我們放棄全職工作而專注於遊戲中。

sales(from gamasutra)

sales(from gamasutra)

在遊戲發行後銷量便快速下降,但之後還是出現了銷量和更新的峯值。第一個峯值便是我們的第一次較大的更新(即伴隨着一些全新的祕密內容和完善)時。第二次大型峯值則是在萬聖節促銷期間,並且也伴隨着我們另一次較小型的更新。而第三次較不穩定的銷量提升則是在萬聖節的促銷期間—-但其實從主題上看它並不符合萬聖節的促銷活動,並且這次我們並未添加任何更新內容,且促銷力度也不大,所以這次的銷量提升較不明顯。

但如果賺錢對於我們來說是最重要的話,我們便不會選擇創造遊戲了。憑藉我們的技能,我們大可以找到一些收入更高的工作。所以對於成功我們還有其它的定義。

什麼是成功—-關於聲譽?

如果我們不能賺到更多錢,那我們是否能夠從中獲得聲譽呢?因爲人們最關心的似乎總是名與利。當然了,我們並沒有什麼名氣,我敢打賭你們中的大多數人是在點開鏈接後才知道《I Can’t Escape:Darkness》這款遊戲。並且有關我們的評價也都不是很高。但從另一方面看來,我們在Steam上的評價有91%都是正面的,並且伴隨着23條評價,而大多數玩過我們遊戲的Let’s Player都表示喜歡遊戲。

而如果聲譽是我們的目標的話,我們又一次失敗了。甚至連最初的遊戲版本也未讓我們一舉成名,那時候可是有25萬人玩了遊戲,遠超於現在的666銷量。儘管讓更多人知道Fancy Fish Games並關注我們的遊戲是件好事,但我們創造遊戲卻並非爲了賺取聲譽。

什麼是成功—-創造一款有趣的遊戲?

最後,我們之所以會創造遊戲是因爲我們想要創造一些具有創造性且有趣的東西,即那些我們自己喜歡並且也希望別人喜歡的內容。儘管我們的銷量不高,但還是有很多人真的喜歡我們的遊戲。甚至有一羣玩家聚集在一起爲我們遊戲創造了一篇讓人印象深刻的全面指導內容。

對此我便能夠說《I Can’t Escape:Darkness》獲得了巨大的成功—-我們一整年的遊戲開發過程也非常讓人滿足。也許我們既不富裕也不出名,但我們卻創造出了許多人所喜歡的有趣的內容,我們也爲此感到驕傲。當然了,我們的遊戲並不完美,你也能從評價中看出它的種種問題,但我們還是擁有一批忠實的粉絲基礎。

我需要指出的是,即使是討厭遊戲的評論家也不得不承認這款遊戲擁有不錯的氛圍—-而這也是我們想要呈獻給玩家的內容。

結論

我們可以看到許多討論一款遊戲成敗的事後分析都是基於經濟方面。但是我認爲真正考慮成功對於自己的意義也很重要,只要你認爲是對自己有價值的學習經驗,或者你能夠從中獲得一批死忠粉絲,那麼即使是一個失敗的作品對你來說也是成功的。就像我的第一款公開發行的遊戲《Deus Shift》便是如此,即雖然未創造出什麼轟動,但卻爲我召集了一批死忠粉,並且這些粉絲幫我測試了《I Can’t Escape:Darkness》並將其翻譯成了俄文。

哇,就在我完成本文併發布時,我們的遊戲銷量又上升到了674!我們的發行還未結束,玩家將能夠在遊戲發行幾年後繼續玩這些遊戲!這真的是一種非常奇妙的感受。

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

Between Success and Failure – I Can’t Escape: Darkness Post Mortem

by David Maletz

Today, I logged into Steam and noticed that sales for my latest game, I Can’t Escape: Darkness, reached 666. A very auspicious number for a horror game, and it made me laugh. However, it also made me remember what my original goals for the game were, and how the reality didn’t quite live up to my expectations. After thinking about what my expectations were, and how I defined success and failure, I decided to write my first Post-Mortem – both to put these thoughts down, and to share my conclusions with other game developers.

History

But, first a little about my studio, Fancy Fish Games. We’ve released three commercial games on Steam, and six free games before that (four of which were for One Game A Month). Fancy Fish Games has been around for three years (although I’ve been making games since I was in middle school), and consists of around five people who work part time for nothing but revenue share (kudos to them giving up their free time so that we can make our dreams reality).

The Beginning

I Can’t Escape: Darkness was designed as the sequel, or as I like to think of it, the full version of I Can’t Escape, our January “One Game A Month” back in 2013. I Can’t Escape was a simple atmospheric horror game in which the player is trapped in a seemingly (and in fact, literally) endless dungeon where escape consistently eludes them. Thanks to several youtubers and streamers (including Markiplier), I Can’t Escape was a great success – where by success, I mean that over 250,000 people played the game and a lot of people commented and seemed to enjoy it (we didn’t make a dime on the game).

The sequel was meant to take the simple idea of I Can’t Escape, and make a fully fleshed out game without destroying what made the original interesting. And in that respect, I think the sequel was a success – there are certainly flaws and nit-picks that I could talk about, but the game does draw you in and creates a suspenseful, eerie atmosphere without relying on jump scares (which was part of my goal with the original). The sequel was also fleshed out with a lot new features, including overall progression, events, combat and a story.

Development

Development for I Can’t Escape: Darkness took a little over a year. The core team was only three people – myself working on the code, Chase Bethea working on music and sound effects (and he did some awesome experiments with dynamic music for this game), and Matthew Poppe working on art and animations. My original plan was for the game to take four months – which as a rule of thumb I doubled to eight months, which wasn’t a terrible estimate for the total development time. Working with collaborators over the internet part time is always a little unpredictable – but I had worked with both Matt and Chase before and trusted them a lot – and they didn’t let me down.

The development time broke down something like this:

Engine Development – First Month: August 2014. Yes, I developed the engine for the game from scratch. You might think I’m crazy, or it’s impossible to make an engine in one month, but I wasn’t making a general purpose engine. I was modifying some old maze rendering code and developing the lighting algorithms specifically tailored for I Can’t Escape: Darkness and it’s gameplay needs. I’ve had a lot of experience developing game engines, so it really wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – September 2014. The minimum viable product included the basic gameplay mechanics – movement, exploration, items and combat. Again, you might be thinking one month is pretty short, but remember that the entire original game only took one month. At this point we launched the greenlight page with screenshots and videos.

Feature Complete – January 2015. This is the milestone I was estimating when I said the game would take four months. I then double that number because I know from experience that feature complete is really only the halfway point. And while it took six months to get here instead of four, it’s interesting to note that it was the halfway point in development for us.

Now you might be wondering, if the engine work only took one month, and the MVP only took one month, why did it take four months to get to feature complete? The answer is that even though the MVP has the core elements of game play, it is missing content (including the various event areas and puzzles), UI, and balancing. These add up to a lot of work, and they turn what is more like a prototype into an actual game. We also took about a month off during this time between holidays, a short side project (ADventureLib) and getting Deity Quest on Steam (I launched the game May 2014, thinking it’d never get greenlit, but to my surprise it did in late december).

Alpha Test – February 2015. After the game was feature complete, we had to playtest, debug, and finish all the higher priority art and music assets. Then we released the game to a closed alpha to get outside feedback for the first time. I wanted to make sure the game was stable and not missing important assets so that the testers could give more focused feedback on the pacing and gameplay itself. It’s also interesting to note that the game was greenlit on Steam at this point, after five months.

Beta Test – June 2015. We got a lot of good feedback from the Alpha Test, and there were many pacing and balancing problems we had to address (damn rats!). There were also some last minute features that we decided to add – while none of them were big, they do add up *cough*feature bloat*cough*. However, the difference between the alpha and beta test was pretty incredible. The game drew people in a lot more, the average play length quadrupled, and people began wondering about the story. One interesting thing to note here is that as you get closer to the end of development, it seems like you’re moving slower as there aren’t as many spectacular changes, but those four months of work weren’t wasted – as is clear from the difference in the responses from the alpha and beta tests.

Second Beta Test – July 2015. After another round of tweaks and improvements, plus cross compiling the game to Mac and Linux, we started a second round of beta testing. Meanwhile, the marketing campaign run by Justin Whirledge went into high gear at this point, with gameplay trailers released every other week.

Steam Beta Test – August 2015. At this point, the game was mostly done other than the final tweaks and squashing the last bugs. But there was plenty to do as we prepared to release on steam. We had to set up the store page, get the last of the asset changes in (including assets for trading cards and achievements), integrate the Steam API, get the game translated (we released in English, Spanish, Russian and German – friends, fans, and beta testers offered to translate the game for free!). Finally, near the end of August, the store page was live, and the release date of September 17th was announced. We also did a quick beta test on steam to make sure everything was working with the Steam API and the last of the changes.

Release! – September 17th, 2015. After a year and nearly two months, doing some final playtests, tweaks, and a marketing push (including early review copies and attack of the gifs), the game was released. It took nearly six months longer than we expected, and it was starting to feel like endless development hell (we probably could have tweaked the balance and pacing indefinitely – getting a procedurally generated game to parcel out events and progression at an interesting pace is a lot harder than it sounds), but we did it!

Three months later, we’ve had 666 sales, mostly positive feedback on steam, mostly negative feedback from press, some great videos and lets plays, and one amazing fan-written guide. Was the game a success? How do you measure success?

What is Success – Money?

If success is money, or even making enough to work full time on our next game, we definitely failed. The game retailed for $11.99 on steam, so 666 sales is certainly not nothing. But, even underestimating how much time we all spent on the project, we still made less than $3 an hour (after steam cuts and dividing the revenue among the team). So, it wasn’t like we made no money, and it was an awesome end of year bonus for us, but it certainly won’t let us quit our day jobs.

For those of you who like charts and graphs, here’s I Can’t Escape: Darkness’ sales graph (with the labels removed as we’re not supposed to release exact numbers).

It follows the pretty standard long tail with spikes pattern – where sales drop off very quickly after launch, but then there are spikes from sales and updates. The first big spike was our first major update (with several new secrets and improvements). The second, biggest spike was the Halloween sale including another, smaller update. The third wobbly bump of elevated sales was the Thanksgiving sale – which was not thematically fitting like the Halloween sale, didn’t include an update, and was a smaller sale, so was a lot weaker.

But let’s face it – if making money was most important to us, we wouldn’t be making games. There are plenty of better paying jobs we could get with our skills. So, there are other definitions of success to consider…

What is Success – Fame?

So, if we’re not getting much money, how about fame – people always seem to want money and fame. Well, we certainly aren’t famous, and I doubt most of you knew what I Can’t Escape: Darkness was when you clicked the link. Additionally, critic reviews are almost unanimously terrible with our metacritic score at 40/100. But, on the other side of the coin, our steam reviews are 91% positive with 23 reviews, and the majority of let’s players who played seemed to really enjoy the game.

But if fame is our goal, again, we failed. Even the original didn’t make us famous, and that had 250,000 plays, a lot more than 666 sales. However, while it would be nice for more people to know who Fancy Fish Games was and follow our games, we don’t really do it for the fame either.

What is Success – Making a Fun Game?

At the end of the day – we make games because we want to make something creative and fun – something that we enjoy playing, and we want others to enjoy as well. And while we might not have a lot of sales, there are a lot of people who really love the game. A group of players even got together and collaborated notes to create this impressively comprehensive guide to the game.

And this is where I can say I Can’t Escape: Darkness was a resounding success – and can feel good about our year long development. We might not be rich or famous, but we made something interesting that a lot of people enjoyed, and we can feel proud about that. Sure – the game isn’t perfect, and you only have to read one of the critic reviews to see them point out all of the flaws, but despite that there is definitely a loyal fan base.

As a side note, I’ll point out that even the critics who hated the game, perhaps grudgingly, had to admit that the game had a good atmosphere – which was what we set out to create.

Final Notes

There are a lot of post-mortems that talk about how successful and unsuccessful their games are only in the financial sense. However, I feel like it’s also important to think about what success means to you – as even a complete flop that no one plays could be a success if you felt it was a valuable learning experience or you gained one die hard fan who will continue to follow your games – and perhaps even beta test them or offer other help – as you continue on your game development path. This was true for Deus Shift, my very first publicly released game, which didn’t make much of a splash but gained one loyal fan who ended up both playtesting I Can’t Escape: Darkness and translating it to Russian.

Oh, and as I finally finished this post mortem and posted it, the sales have gone up to 674 (update: 704 since the posting of this gamasutra blog thanks to the winter sale)! The launch isn’t the end, and people will continue to play and enjoy your games even years after their release! That’s quite a special feeling.(source:Gamasutra