2015 In Retrospect
In 2015 I signed with Wick to publish his retro 2D space shooter Rubicon. Over the course of the next few months I started the media push to hype the game and Wick added a raft of new features that eventually turned into the rogue-lite Starship Rubicon. After getting a solid launch response from the game’s initial Kickstarter fans and the streaming community, 6 months later we were Greenlit on Steam. Wrapping up a boatload of fixes and features alongside a fresh new Linux port the Steam launch dropped and was well received. We gained more fans and players and as of now we are sitting on 25 positive Steam reviews that Google translates to an 8/10 rating. The game has a very small but dedicated following and it’s rewarding to hear some people say it’s the best game they’ve ever played. I never considered I could be part of something like that for someone and even if that is only one person, it’s still a nice feeling.
Another aspect of publishing a game I’ve really enjoyed, perhaps more than all the reviews and sales is my relationship with Wick. Wick is a very considerate person that wants to leave the planet in a better place and seems to come by that honestly. It’s also really freeing to work with someone with realistic expectations. We both approached Starship Rubicon and its commercial launch with an attitude to experimentation. This focus is really nice to work with as it brings expectations down to a more realistic level. You never really finish a game I suppose and I look forward to figuring out how the long tail of a game works with sales, giveaways and future promotion.
In keeping with what I’ve said above, releasing the game wasn’t all nice feelings and good reviews. I’ll be a bit honest here, I thought the game would find a bigger audience than it did. Not to say we didn’t find people that love the game, we did. But I did think the game would do better than it did and was honestly surprised it didn’t make a stronger landing. Part of this is because I don’t know how to launch a game that gets as much attention as I wanted (because I didn’t actually do it before or now) and the game maybe wasn’t as unique or cool as it was for me.
“Once people realize what this game is, then we will get the attention the game deserves.”
“Wicks story is pretty incredible, I think people will respond well to that.”
“Because our local community and everyone else is saying the game is so great, everyone online will think similarly. That means people will buy a lot of it.”
Each quote above is a very well intentioned thought I had that turned out to be disappointingly less true than I wanted. Just launching something you think is good wont get it noticed. All good stuff does not always find it’s intended audience either. Or maybe it’s a great game in a world of amazing games? Or maybe, Starship Rubicon isn’t as good as I thought? Or maybe it’s a great game and the advertising push wasn’t effective as I intended? I am sure it’s some of that but I don’t know entirely but it’s OK, because those questions don’t really bother me too much when I consider what we were able to accomplish with a scant budget and DIY social advertising push.
When I consider the ebook market, local PDX band scene or independent film world, Starship Rubicon did pretty damn well! For instance, I bet we pushed more Starship Rubicon games than the average local Portland band sells albums. It’s nice to be part of a game community that still values buying games in a world where most people consider it a basic right to get music for free.
In a recent video interview with Wick he said that he considers Starship Rubicon a stepping stone into a larger world for his video game adventure. I think similarly in terms of publishing and I bet the second time I publish a game it should go a bit better than before. With that, I have no plans to publish another game right now and I am not actually looking to sign one. If something comes along and the fit is right, i’d be happy to do it again. If the general wisdom of crowds and people that are a bigger deal than me are to be believed, what I SHOULD be doing is signing a bunch of games right now. It’s not a bad business perspective either as I understand it. The idea is that by signing a bunch of games eventually I get one that hits it bigtimes. Even if none of them do hit the pay sauce eventually if I grind out enough games i’ll get a larger and larger following so that each launch is bigger and bigger and then eventually everything will work out. Or at least that’s what I understand the model to be. Again, it’s not a bad strategy and one I might pursue in the future, I am just not interested in doing that right now. But honestly, I think if a set of game developers are going to pour so much of their lives into something they love I need to have as similarly met motivations as with Starship Rubicon. Starship Rubicon was a great experience and one I think fondly of and my partnership with Wick was really fun. I don’t want to turn that process into a grind or something that resembles an assembly line. At least, I am not interested in doing that right now.
Cheerful Ghost is a little video game website with a dedicated community and I love it. It’s something I created to scratch a few itches I had in gaming and to that end, it’s a success. It still hasn’t risen to be a top game site or even in the top 20 or maybe 50 but it’s number 1 in my heart. Seriously, I really do love it and I love that I get to write about gaming and have a couple people care to read it. Since I am the single developer, principal writer and such I think the site really reflects my style of imperfection and nerdiness. Cheerful Ghost doesn’t particularly hold your hand either, if you want to embed an image in a post you need to be able to find or create a URL to it. Don’t know what that is? You need to figure it out. Want to make some text in a post bold, you will need to learn a bit of HTML to do that. I don’t hate users and I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about usability and alongside that I think humans are capable of learning a few things and right now, the site expects you to. This fits nicely along with my DIY attitude and even if that will change as the site moves through the years, it’s fun to note where we are now.
I have a couple ideas of things I want to see added to Cheerful Ghost in 2016 and new things I want to do in gaming but i’ll forgo any lists in favor of surprising people when new stuff actually comes.
I want to thank everyone that has helped make Cheerful Ghost one of the most rewarding things i’ve ever been part of. If you have a dream, I encourage you to act on helping it become a reality. Cheerful Ghost was a ton of work and still is and after I launched it I was madly depressed with how bad it was but it’s better now and keeps getting better a bit at a time. Struggling through the process of creating things is hard but sometimes it turns out for good and in the case of Cheerful Ghost for me, incredibly so.
Trimming The Negative Firehose from Social
Interacting online is becoming one of the largest outlets for our lives. Facebook, Twitter and Cheerful Ghost(for me) are big parts of how I interact with the world. As such all of those social sites can foster interactions that can make life a little bit nicer or can be a load of horse shit. This year was more of the latter and after experiencing too much frustration and more, I decided to re-define how I interact with social platforms.
The recent holiday excluded(I blame the insane amount of sugar consumed) I consider Twitter and Facebook to be platforms to mostly just share stuff I am working on creatively. Social sites are one of the best ways to engage with people on awesome stuff you create and to that end, they are magical.
That said, it’s not all creativity and interesting sharing. It’s can be also a whole load of pain too.
Social sites and Facebook in particular seem to be(in part) a place to post every gripe or fanciful opinion that passes through a mind. The problem with trudging through everyone’s feed you ever met is that most people have unhelpful opinions or very dark perspectives. It’s not that I think the world is perfect or I never have a bad day. It’s just that some people seem more interested in posting a zillion things about how the world sucks all day long and they think that’s what I want to read. I get why people hold this perspective, I just don’t and think it’s harmful for me to. I have spent much effort trimming this negative firehose down and likewise spend less time on Facebook and Twitter in general. It’s not hard to know what happens in the world and you don’t need to be connected to it by reading feeds soaked in righteous anger. Also, I don’t find the discussion in this context to be insightful or useful compared to the ones I have in real life. Which, you know, shouldn’t that be the point entirely? If the goal of social site discussion is endless anger and rage, I’ll take a pass on all of that. One really great part of creating a small video game site like Cheerful Ghost is the community is respectful and the discussion engaging. I really hope as the community grows it keeps that respectful discussion and tone.