Monday, April 29, 2019

Early Access Post Mortem

Hey Devs and Fans,

About 1.5 weeks ago (4/18/19) we release Privateers into Early Access on steam after 4 years of development. I has been a great experience, so I thought I would take some time to write up how everything has gone and share it out. Hopefully there is some learning or experience in this that could be useful to other first time steam publishers.

If you haven't been following along with Privateers at all, then I think this review gives a better description that I can in a few words...

Or, you can check out the gameplay trailer below or the steam page here.

This is our first time publishing a game on steam. However, I have published several games before on mobile and console platforms. As a result, I have long ago realized that I will never make very much money doing indie game development. Instead, it is a passion to be perused for fun. With this in mind, our main goal of early access release was to find as many players as possible who would enjoy our game and give us feedback. Thus, we came up with the following release plan...

  • Release on a Thursday to be ready for the weekend
  • Post on as many Reddit forums as we can find
  • Tweet often with different tags
  • Small twitter ad campaign
  • Give out keys to as many streamers as we can
  • 10% launch discount
Based on all of this action, we ended up with the following results in steam...

Steam Page Traffic

Reading the graph is a bit cryptic, but from a high level this is how you can read it..

  • The orange line is traffic coming from our efforts on other pages like Reddit and Twitter.
  • The green line is mostly traffic come from inside steam (mostly from discovery queues).
Based on this, there are a couple of interesting things that stand out. The first is that when we release the game on the 18th our efforts from our release plan do drive thousands of views to our store page. However, around the 22nd steam started showing Privateers in peoples discovery queues and this had a dramatically larger impact. Steams exposure of Privateers has now come down, but it still has a steady rate of impressions which we hope will keep up.

We can then dig deeper to see which of our efforts had the most impact. Steam gives us the following chart to help understand where external traffic came from...

Steam External Traffic Sources
Based on what we can tell from this, Reddit was the most successful way to drive traffic to our page and Twitter was a distant second. Bear in mind that we did spend ~$100 advertising on twitter as well. We got about 15k impressions on twitter for that money but that didn't attribute to very many clicks to our store page.

Twitter Ads Results

Another amazing part of our release was that Kurt (Designer / Artist) was able to arrange to have Team SKYju do a round of release streams for us on Twitch. They did a couple of streams every day leading up to the release and over the following weekend. The metrics don't show that this had a huge impact on visits to our page. However, it was by far the most fun part of releasing the game. It can't be underestimated how much energy it brought to our team to jump into the streams and see people enjoying playing and watching the game. I would highly recommend people to try and find a great streaming team like this when they release. You should follow Team SKYju streamers on twitter because they show off really great indie games regularly...

We also have Unity Analytics setup for Privateers and the below graph shows the player base growth since launch. This shows that we have grown to 100 MAU with 10-15 DAU which is really exciting for us. We are really anxious to get player feedback and continue to learn and evolve the game.

Unity Player Analytics

So, of course the burning question that people want to know is how were the sales. This is how we have fared so far...

Steam Sales
So far, we have sold 66 copies of the game and given away over 90 keys. It is a very modest start, but as stated before my expectations were very low and thus I am happy with this. The graph is hard to read because it doesn't snap to 0 between sales. However, one interesting trend is that there was a burst of sales before the 10% release discount expired, which makes sense. After that, sales have dropped significantly. The breakdown of how the sales map to geographies is below...

Steam Sales Geographies
I was a little surprised to see how many sales we had outside of the US since the game is only localized in English. This is definitely an important thing to consider for small niche indie games. Beyond sales, and maybe even more important in early access, is how many wishlists you get. I was really happy that Privateers grew many hundreds of wishlists over the past week. It has gone from something like 200 to over 600 now which is great.

Steam Wishlist Trend

Overall it has been a really fun and exciting experience to finally show release Privateers to Steam. To summarize, here is a list of the learning we have taken away from this...

  • Focus on finding players not making money if you can.
  • Reddit is the most effective place to push your game.
  • Advertising on social media probably doesn't pay off for indie games.
  • Working with streamers is super fun and energizing.
  • Consider localizing your game or store page.
  • Don't be stingy with giving away keys to content creators.
  • Be ready to spend a focused time fixing bugs right after you release

Thanks everyone for taking the time to read through this. I hope there was something interesting in it for you to learn. If you want to continue to follow us on our journey then pick up a copy (or wishlist) of privateers here! We will continue to share out our learning from early access and eventually a full release.

- Sam (Dev / Designer)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hunting for a Publisher

Hey Everyone! The team has been hard at work over the past couple months cleaning up bugs and polishing up our content. We have finally reached a major milestone with build 0.27 which is that we are ready to go looking for a publisher.

The new build includes a bunch of new features including a tutorial to teach the game play mechanics, lots of new art for the environment including a new tide pool location and loads of bug fixes and quality of life improvements. You can play it for yourself at the link below...

Or, if you just want to get a flavor for how things are coming along, then check out the let's play video below...

So why are we no looking for a publisher? We recognize that the game market is crowded and without the proper exposure even great games have little to no chance of commercial success. We don’t have the needed competencies on our team in order to be successful at this and so we are seeking a publisher to help us. We are prepared to finish the game in our free time and aren’t looking for financial backing except where necessary for marketing. Here are the most important traits for us in a publisher…

  • Connections with gamers who are interested in our genre of game.
  • Marketing expertise and proven success.
  • Design advice for improving commercial success.
  • Help with testing and quality.

If any of you have experience working with a great publisher then let us know! We would love to reach out with them and discuss our vision for the finishing and shipping the game.


The Privateers Team

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Huge Content Drop!

Hey Guys, we are dropping our next monthly build and it is loaded with new content for you to try. The writers have been hard at work fleshing out the world and it shows. Play the latest build for yourself here...

Or, if you just want to watch me play it, you can see the video below...

Beyond new events, there is some new sprites from Kurt which are really helping to bring everything to life. Also, I have been doing a ton of polish and bug fixing and things are really starting to firm up. I even managed to play for a whole hour without hitting any game breaking bugs :-).

Battling around new thatched roof buildings

As always, thanks for playing and leave us any feedback you have!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Gulping Down a Cold One

Hey everyone! We a have a new build out for you to check out which includes a bunch of polish and bug fixes. Also, it has a fancy new tavern which you can can meet new crew mates or gossip to find out about adventures to go on. 

New characters in tavern

If you want to give it a play for yourself, you can download it here...

We are really buckling down and figuring out what is left before we can take the game to pitch to publishers. So, the main focus is on fixing bugs, polishing and balancing and filling out content. We are planning on dropping v0.26 in early februrary which should include a lot of new content including new events for people to play. If you are interested in just watching a bit of gameplay, you can check out a video of v0.25 below...

As always, thanks for your feedback and support!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ports and pacing

Hey crew! It has been almost a year since our last update, which is really sad. The scope of the game had become overwhelming and as a result progress dropped down significantly. However, the good news as that the new build is now out for you to try and it is packed full of very meaningful changes. The biggest change is an attempt to scope down the game into something more manageable, which is to remove the sailing experience in favor for a port that is static between adventures. The openness  of the previous sailing experience was cool, but it ultimately left an overwhelming amount of work in order to make it crisp and fun. The port is much more manageable for such a small team as ours. Furthermore, the port adds a really nice pacing to the game since you have an upgrade phase between every event you go on. This matches some of my favorite games such as "XCOM" and "Darkest Dungeon" which mix a high level strategy layer and a tactical layer.

Another big change is the addition of a bunch of new enemy types. Kurt created a bunch of new sprites which can be layered over our basic human model. Each of the new enemy types has new tactics which makes them different to fight. We will be working them into events over the next releases.

New Enemy Types
Lastly, I have added in a leveling system for the crew. They can now level up from 1 to 5 by earning experience in events. Each time that they level up their health and abilities become stronger. This will help the crew's abilities to scale along with the quality of items as the game gets harder at higher levels.

Go ahead and download the latest version here if you want to give it try...

Also, you can check out a let's play where I go through the various changes here...

---- v0.23 ----
- New port replaces the sailing experience
- Tavern added to port for hiring and finding events
- Harbor added to port for purchasing ship upgrades
- Results window showing the loot achieved with each event
- Crew now have levels which increase their power
- New experience system for crew
- There are a bunch of new enemy types with new tactics!
    - Kondanese
    - Ravenman
    - Ogres
    - Goldenmask
    - Drakonid
    - Knights
    - Natives
    - Couple more which need to be finished

- Several bug fixes

Monday, December 26, 2016

Enemy Buildout

Hey Guys! We have a new build up and ready for people to try out. The main theme of this build is creating a much larger variety of enemy types to fight against. There are a bunch of new enemies in this build but more importantly the framework has been put in to make adding more enemy types much faster in the future. So, we will continue to enrich this over the next few builds. You can try out the build at this link...

Privateers Alpha v0.22

Also, if you want to see me get creamed by the new Demon Boss then here is the let's play :-).

The change list for this build is below...

---- v0.22 ----
- New fire demon enemy type
- New alpha demon enemy type
- New demon boss enemy type
- New ice skeleton enemy type
- New fire skeleton enemy type
- New skeleton lord enemy type
- New poison skeleton enemy type
- New fishman alpha enemy type
- New fishman guru enemy type
- New alpha sea golem enemy type
- New poison skeleyon enemy type
- Improved random variation for caves, crypts and dungeons
- New fire ember weather
- Added syphon life ability
- Added fire blast ability
- Added fire maze ability
- New UI on hovering over enemies

- Tons of bug and balance fixes

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rethinking Everything

Hey everyone! The latest build is up for people to try out. The changes in this build are pretty dramatic because I decided to take a step back and objectively evaluate if the game mechanics were working out we had hoped. After doing this, there were a couple of design choices that I decided to change. You can grab the build at the link below...

Privateers Alpha v0.21

The most major design changes were the following...
  1. We are removing the action controls and only keeping the strategy controls. They were making the game too chaotic and preventing us from really reaching the tactical depth we wanted
  2. We changed items to be procedurally generated instead of hand crafted. The loot game just wasn't interesting enough and this has helped to spice it up.
There are a bunch of other changes involving how abilities work and a ton of new abilities. They are all directed to make the game more tactical and cerebral. Check you the play through that I recorded below or just try it yourself by downloading!

Here is the more complete change list...

---- v0.21 ----
- Reworked controls to remove direct control and focus on the tactical element of the game
- Abilities now have a cast time associate with them which can be interrupted
- Enemy humans now use abilities against you based on their class
- Class abilities are now randomly selected from a small set
- New channeling type of abilities
- Items are now procedurally generated with various rarities
- Tons of bug fixes from playtesting
- Added Summon Fishmen Ability
- Added Rock wall Ability
- Added Wild growth Ability
- Added Heal Ability
- Added Channel Heal Ability
- Added Burst Shot Ability
- Added Cripple Ability
- Added Silence Ability
- Added Mass Silence Ability