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  Revenge of the Titans  (Read 82716 times)
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Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


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« Reply #240 - Posted 2010-09-28 10:40:11 »

It's not so much an insight as my own entirely flawed analysis (don't forget - I'm nearly always wrong!)

The main factors are:
1. Uniqueness. MC is popular because there isn't anything else remotely like it. Even the game upon which it was based - Infiniminer - is a radically different game to actually play
2. Grind. Carefully meted out tidbits and morsels of pleasure in a vast sea of dull. Try mining for diamonds. See you in a few hours.
3. See #2.
4. Lego. You can build stuff!
5. Crafting. Crafting is fun in any game. It's a nice mechanism, and provides a controlled morsel of reward, which lets you justify the tedium of mining the raw materials in the first place.
6. Feedback loop. I mine for diamonds so I can make a diamond pick. So I can mine more. AAArrrgh.
7. Fun for kids. It's really like playing a game when you're a kid. It's all so crude you pretty much invent everything around it, so your imagination goes into overdrive, hence all the crazy MC stories floating around.

MC otherwise does nearly everything else wrong Smiley Reasonably hopeless graphics, polish, sound, website, registration process. It even uses OpenGL! Horror! I thought that didn't work! etc.

Cas Smiley

Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #241 - Posted 2010-09-28 10:55:45 »

You bring up a good point that the danger here is that it'd be really easy to fall into cargo cult-ism by emulating the wrong aspects of a successful game.

Let's look at some other indie favorites and see if a pattern emerges:

  • Dwarf Fortress (this one shares almost all of the above traits)
  • Braid
  • World of Goo
  • Osmos
  • Angry Birds
  • Steambirds

How many variables in your formula do they fulfill? The things that really pops up are points 1 and 7 (except for Dwarf Fortress, which I think is even an outlier among outliers).

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #242 - Posted 2010-09-28 11:03:41 »

DF would be rather a lot more successful if the guy learned something about user interfaces. As it is, it's a completely tedious chore navigating the game. I gave up after about 1 minute. The game itself looks brilliant.

Braid/WoG are just very nicely polished, each with a good core gameplay mechanic, but neither have any viral nature. They hit a wall in sales long before MC will.

Osmos - really can't see why this game is even remotely successful. The core mechanic sounds fun but actually it's boring as hell. Just after Super Dudester I prototyped a game that was basically exactly Osmos - and gave up on it when I realised how un-fun it was to actually play.

Haven't seen the other two so I can't comment.

Cas Smiley

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Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #243 - Posted 2010-09-28 11:06:24 »

Oh one thing I missed was deployment. Applets can be great when they work. The LWJGL applet loader rocks (shame about Apple but hey ho what do they know).

The downloadable client is excellent too. I think I might copy that in future Smiley I was sticking to embedded JVMs on windows because of historical issues with versions but I think I can safely assume that Java is available in enough places it won't be the significant factor in success any more. Likewise OpenGL.

Cas Smiley

Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #244 - Posted 2010-09-28 11:08:45 »

Funny, Osmos is one of my favorite games of the past year (I played a lot more of it than Braid), and is apparently financially very successful Smiley

The Steambirds dude did a talk about his game a few months ago. He is very forthcoming with the game's finances and if you follow his blog you'll see he continued making quite a bit more money out of the game after this video was shot:

http://bit.ly/cjaoEH

Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #245 - Posted 2010-09-28 11:14:07 »

Also, I think this quote applies to most of the successful games mentioned:

http://www.mailchimp.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/perseverance.jpg

Offline ewjordan

Junior Member





« Reply #246 - Posted 2010-09-28 20:06:16 »

I'm trying to think of various alternative options to actually selling games for fixed prices, without resorting to begging Smiley Stuff like bargain bundles, or get-free-games-with-RoTT, or pay-what-you-want, that kind of thing. A series of experiments will probably be afoot. When I've finished the pesky game anyway.

Apart from use as a marketing gimmick, I'm not sure that most pricing experiments really tend to be effective in this area of business, most people just aren't that price sensitive.  Pay-what-you-want might get you more attention, so in that sense it could be worth pursuing.

The main problem with pay-what-you-want deals is that there's a massive incentive to pay ridiculously low prices, far lower than what the product is actually worth to you.

If you're brainstorming, there's an experiment I've always wanted to try in order to work around this problem (I've never had a product on sale to try it with, at least not in any market where I can get creative with pricing), basically a group version of Priceline (which also suffers a bit from the underbidding problem since the bids are individual, and people know that they just need to come in slightly above the marginal cost of the service in order to be accepted).  More specifically, people would submit the maximum price that they're willing to pay, commit to buy the product for any price under that amount, and then at the end of the "auction" period (maybe a few days or a week), the seller looks over the set of bids and picks a final price that everyone pays (well, everyone that was willing to pay at least that price); people that underbid don't get the product, though perhaps you could let them purchase it later at the settling price plus some premium, or wait for the next week/month/year's auction.

Obviously to implement something like this you need to be able to lock people into those purchase commitments, probably by pre-charging their credit cards for the full amount and then refunding them later or something like that.  I have no idea whatsoever how the details of that would work, or if it's even allowed by the processors...

The advantage over pay-what-you-want is that the incentive to underpay is removed, because you (the buyer) know that the seller will pick a settling price that makes them the most money overall, and if you come in too low, they'll just cut you out of the deal.  Their single bid won't change the settling price very much, so the motivation is strong to actually bid the maximum that you'd really want to pay for the product, otherwise you might miss out on getting it; once you remove a buyer's potential benefit from underbidding, "name your price" becomes a very powerful way to match supply and demand interests, especially when you're selling products with near zero marginal costs.

I've actually considered forming a startup around this idea and actually throwing some money at it, to create a web service that handled the details of this kind of pricing scheme for merchants (and, crucially, uses the data obtained from previous sales to optimize the free parameters in the scheme for profits, like figuring out the amount of time that each auction should last, and analyzing the chargebacks so that the optimal price selection is robust against them, etc. - there are actually some very interesting game theoretic problems underlying this, but that's a whole other story...), but even apart from implementation there are so many nasty details (mostly legal) that would need to be dealt with, at the moment it's too daunting to do as a side project; perhaps at some point in the future.
Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #247 - Posted 2010-09-28 20:10:28 »

Obviously to implement something like this you need to be able to lock people into those purchase commitments, probably by pre-charging their credit cards for the full amount and then refunding them later or something like that.  I have no idea whatsoever how the details of that would work, or if it's even allowed by the processors...

I think this might be a good way for Puppygames' account to be black-listed as a fraud account...I'd triple check it before attempting a stunt like that.

Offline Eli Delventhal

JGO Kernel


Medals: 42
Projects: 11
Exp: 10 years


Game Engineer


« Reply #248 - Posted 2010-09-28 22:07:20 »

Yeah I think that's a great idea but just wouldn't work right because you would need to charge people beforehand. Once that's in the works, it means people are paying anyway, so they'll be just as likely to whip out their wallets and pay the full price as they would be to pay for that initial "bid."

See my work:
OTC Software
Offline kappa
« League of Dukes »

JGO Kernel


Medals: 74
Projects: 15


★★★★★


« Reply #249 - Posted 2010-09-28 22:31:28 »

Oh one thing I missed was deployment. Applets can be great when they work. The LWJGL applet loader rocks (shame about Apple but hey ho what do they know).

Yeh thought that was one of the cool things too Smiley

Downloading executables, locating them and running them (possibly even an installer) can often be a barrier for many people to even try your game. So being able to get them straight into the experience  (especially a rich one like opengl) from the web page is a definite plus and yeh was probably a big factor in getting the minecraft snowball rolling.
Games published by our own members! Check 'em out!
Legends of Yore - The Casual Retro Roguelike
Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #250 - Posted 2010-09-29 14:14:41 »

I've been thinking about it, and I believe another reason why your games aren't making a killing (as they should!) is that there isn't really a lot of PR/marketing going on.

I almost never hear of puppygames outside of jgo, and i'm a pretty savvy internet user that checks out a lot of indie games sites. there is almost nothing about it on reddit, digg, SA, tigsource, hn, etc. It is simply not visible to most people who'd normally buy games like that.

The semi-controversial DRM post was definitely a step in the right direction - maybe a couple more attention grabbing posts (e.g. "life as an indie developer") might make quite a difference.

An example where something like that worked is the guys at ludosity: they kept pushing "bob came in pieces" (http://ludosity.com/games/bob-came-in-pieces/), a game that i think don't have a ton of casual appeal, without giving up and ended up selling quite a nice bunch of copies by sheer tenacity.

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #251 - Posted 2010-09-29 14:46:57 »

We do press releases, advertise a bit (not much but it's a start), hassle certain known journalists, win all sorts of awards, have friends in high places plugging our wares, but at the end of the day, our games just aren't that appealing. We clearly need to change something fundamental.

Cas Smiley

Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #252 - Posted 2010-09-29 16:29:14 »

Oh, well - I guess it was a bit of wishful thinking on my part Sad

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #253 - Posted 2010-09-29 18:58:33 »

Going to try a bundle I think - all 3 games for the l33t price of $13.37. A bit of a bugger for people that bought all the games at $20 but as they number about 70 out of 5000... meh Smiley

Cas Smiley

Offline kappa
« League of Dukes »

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Projects: 15


★★★★★


« Reply #254 - Posted 2010-09-29 20:47:25 »

Going to try a bundle I think - all 3 games for the l33t price of $13.37. A bit of a bugger for people that bought all the games at $20 but as they number about 70 out of 5000... meh Smiley

Cas Smiley

how bout an indie gaming bundle, Puppy Pack(pardon the pun), Minecraft and Altitude available for a month (pay what you like). Buyers choose how to split the money to each indie and maybe even include some sort of charity.
Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #255 - Posted 2010-09-29 20:51:14 »

how bout an indie gaming bundle, Puppy Pack(pardon the pun), Minecraft and Altitude available for a month (pay what you like).

One of these is not like the others Wink

BTW, the ox eye guys (http://www.oxeyegames.com/) also have some neat games that I think are at about the same level and scale as puppy's.

Offline kappa
« League of Dukes »

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Medals: 74
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« Reply #256 - Posted 2010-09-29 21:00:55 »

One of these is not like the others Wink

hehe, true but if for some reason the bundle idea worked, it'd be worth it for puppygames Smiley
Offline Abuse

JGO Coder


Medals: 11


falling into the abyss of reality


« Reply #257 - Posted 2010-09-29 21:16:04 »

Having read your blog entry on how the DRM works (and unexpectedly, an explanation on how it can be entirely bypassed)
I'm left with only one question, why bother with DRM at all if it's so easy to bypass?

Isn't "No DRM!" a better USP than "Ineffective DRM!"?

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Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #258 - Posted 2010-09-29 21:41:59 »

A lot of people don't really get our DRM. Our DRM isn't a nasty iron shackle with an explosive charge placed around your neck, it's a gentle reminder of what's fair whilst at the same time it performs its functions in the absolutely least inconvenient manner possible. It's inconvenient but pretty easy to bypass if you're determined, but why bother? There's no point in cracking it, no honour or challenge even. What could the excuse possibly be? All we're left with now is the tricky issue of figuring out how to make a living when we've got the basic problem of not getting enough visitors to justify a huge price drop.

And we use it to unlock the demos, which is a feature we do need.

Cas Smiley

Offline ShannonSmith
« Reply #259 - Posted 2010-09-29 21:45:57 »

It seems more like a purchase delivery system than DRM. Calling it DRM is probably a bad idea and would be better named automatic internet activation. I think this sort of scheme is as effective as all the other nasty DRM ones at stopping the one form of piracy that is actually preventable, the casual kind. It prevents someone from just emailing the bought game to their all their friends. Sure said friends can get a hacked copy of the net, but at a sub $20 price point a signification portion that would have got it for free sans any DRM will actually buy it rather than take the virus risk.
Offline Abuse

JGO Coder


Medals: 11


falling into the abyss of reality


« Reply #260 - Posted 2010-09-29 21:52:48 »

It seems more like a purchase delivery system than DRM. Calling it DRM is probably a bad idea and would be better named automatic internet activation. I think this sort of scheme is as effective as all the other nasty DRM ones at stopping the one form of piracy that is actually preventable, the casual kind. It prevents someone from just emailing the bought game to their all their friends. Sure said friends can get a hacked copy of the net, but at a sub $20 price point a signification portion that would have got it for free sans any DRM will actually buy it rather than take the virus risk.


Good Point.

"Already have the Demo? No further download necessary!" definitely sounds better than "Cool DRM".

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Offline Abuse

JGO Coder


Medals: 11


falling into the abyss of reality


« Reply #261 - Posted 2010-09-29 21:58:00 »

Biggest barrier to purchase i've come across so far is the download speed =(
Downloading the demo, i'm only getting 40-60KB/s. I'd typically expect atleast 10 times that.
A 10 minute wait for downloading the demo of a casual indy game seems to me like it'd be a big put off.

Have you looked into mirror hosting? or providing a torrent?

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Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #262 - Posted 2010-09-29 22:02:08 »

I think calling it DRM Done Right or whatever was actually an extremely good idea, as this is a touchy subject that attracts links from social media sites like flies to shit.

More visitors to the blog == more people know about puppygame == more potential customers.

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #263 - Posted 2010-09-29 22:41:12 »

Hm the files should already be mirrored on simplecdn.net. (our download.puppygames.net CNAME points to the simplecdn cache)

Cas Smiley

Offline dishmoth
« Reply #264 - Posted 2010-09-30 10:30:25 »

Going to try a bundle I think - all 3 games for the l33t price of $13.37.
I take it you mean all 3 games prior to RoTT.  Either way, very tempting...

Quote
A bit of a bugger for people that bought all the games at $20 but as they number about 70 out of 5000... meh Smiley
That surprises me.  I'd always imagined the majority of Puppygames customers to be loyal fans who bought every game.  Not the case?

Simon

Offline ido

Junior Member





« Reply #265 - Posted 2010-09-30 10:37:27 »

That surprises me.  I'd always imagined the majority of Puppygames customers to be loyal fans who bought every game.  Not the case?

I've only bought one game, but I'll check out the others next time i need to scratch the gaming itch (I buy a new game about once a month on average).

Offline markus.borbely

Junior Member





« Reply #266 - Posted 2010-10-11 07:05:41 »

I tried the new demo, wanted to know what endless was about. But since it was not available I tried the campaign again, seeing if it was funnier than last I tried. Apart from the good thing that the titans wait until I build my first refinery, it was worse. I want to set the difficulty. I don't want the game to decide that. IMO, starting on the hardest difficulty is stupid for a demo. If you really want to adjust the difficulty automatically, it should start easy, and if the game is going very good for the player, raise the bar. At least, the game should detect that I am lagging behind in science, and change the difficulty.

Is it possible to end up in a dead end? You have played good on the first X levels, but not good enough to be able to buy some vital technology. Then comes this critical level that you can't complete. I would be very frustrated and quit, rather than start from an earlier level and try to buy that tech.

I died deliberately a few times, restarted the level (asking for an easier), completed it and still got a gold medal, seems strange???
Offline cylab

JGO Ninja


Medals: 38



« Reply #267 - Posted 2010-10-11 08:51:58 »

This is more or less my own experience. But I think it's more or less my own fault because:

- I replay a level so often until I get the most money out of it and have no lost buildings.
- I research on every level

By doing this, it seems difficulty gets overly hard. Also by researching every level, I never have enough money to reseach the importan (expensive) things or build a really impressive base. I hardly get 10000 credits a level this way.

Maybe you should add some hints, how much money you should put aside for the levels, when to buy a laser etc. Also difficulty adjustment should take retries into account (if it doesn't already)

Mathias - I Know What [you] Did Last Summer!
Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #268 - Posted 2010-10-11 14:46:46 »

The game does rather require you to be a little more strategical with research.

In a nutshell: you probably shouldn't try to research something every level. If you start a level with less than, say, $3k in the bank you are probably going to find it extremely hard. I've just managed to do it a few times, up to a point - I think I can get to the Moon and research something every level - but after that I'd need to be some sort of demon strategician with the reflexes of a cat. Having said that - if you regenerate a level to be easer about 4 times over it will be almost a walk in the park.

Markus - I suspect you just played v1.52 rather than 1.6? I think I've fixed that gold medal bug. Well, I thought I had. Apart from hopefully that bug being fixed, the difficulty curve is more forgiving. The first 8 levels or so are really just a tutorial and should be so utterly simple that if you aren't completing them with absolute ease you might be doing something fundamentally wrong. You are aware for example that you don't have to "click" anywhere, you can paint and drag the mouse to build buildings, collect refineries, and reload turrets? And are you also aware that you should put down loads of refineries around a crystal in order to make sure you've mined the whole thing before the level ends? (Strike a balance, naturally, small crystals only yield $600 for example)

Cas Smiley

Offline cylab

JGO Ninja


Medals: 38



« Reply #269 - Posted 2010-10-11 14:58:30 »

The game does rather require you to be a little more strategical with research.

In a nutshell: you probably shouldn't try to research something every level. If you start a level with less than, say, $3k in the bank you are probably going to find it extremely hard. I've just managed to do it a few times, up to a point - I think I can get to the Moon and research something every level - but after that I'd need to be some sort of demon strategician with the reflexes of a cat. Having said that - if you regenerate a level to be easer about 4 times over it will be almost a walk in the park.

That's exactly what I mean. This kind of advices should be contained in the game like the general warning you not to spend too much money on research or something.


Mathias - I Know What [you] Did Last Summer!
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