Devblog Update #76: Post-Mortem???
Jasper Vice has been on Steam for two weeks now, so I figured I should wrap up the blog, and social media stuff for now. We’ll be picking it back up next year as we start working on the sequel though!
Leading up to the launch, it’s always difficult to know what to expect, especially with doing something for the first time like this. Looking back though, I think there are a few overall thoughts and reflections I’d like to share.
While this blog has been active since the beginning, I don’t feel like it lived up to anywhere near it’s full potential. Oftentimes Friday would come around, and I’d be like “gotta write a devblog!” and just sit down and write it, throwing in a few screenshots that I scraped together. While it was helpful to do the bare minimum to keep a record of the games’ overall progress, I would have liked for it to have been more. A few ideas of how we could do things differently next time would be:
– When planning the Sprint, be thinking about how what’s being worked on could best be explained in a devblog.
– Have more targeted deep-dives into the design of the game. Why was that audio chosen? Why was that puzzle done that way? etc.
– Maintain a better balance of who the devblog is directed at. Is it for other game developers to follow along and learn/be inspired by? Or is it for the prospective players to get hyped about the game?
The same applies to social media. We focused on Twitter an Instagram, but never really got *that* much traction on either. Maybe because I personally rarely use social media, but nothing seemed to catch on. I experimented with posting GIFs, images, and videos, at various times of day, with a variety of hashtags, but I couldn’t identify any patterns to success. Suggested learnings would be:
– When first designing the game, research similar games, and figure out what hashtags they’re using. Be thinking about the sort of person who’d be interested in playing the game from the start. (Classic first-time indie mistake, I know)
– Direct the posts clearly at who they’re for. Some posts might be behind-the-scenes for fans, other posts might be meant to bring awareness of the game to new people. What words are used to describe the image? Is it language only a fan would know?
Playtest early, playtest often. But who playtests? That was the biggest challenge. You can only get someone’s first-time experience once, and if you’re only having friends and family playtest, then you’ll quickly exhaust that pool of people. Another significant challenge we faced was getting solid feedback from the players. Only a small portion of the people who would playtest would deliver actionable feedback, which made it difficult to know when things like pacing or difficulty felt off. I still don’t have any clear path forward to improve this for next time, other than hire professional playtesters, or otherwise incentivize players to leave feedback.
One of the pieces of feedback we got post-launch was that “the puzzles are a mix of simple and confusing”, which I think is pretty accurate! Looking back there are a number of challenges that I really wish we had implemented differently.
After the release of an early demo of the game back in April of 2020, we made some pretty significant changes to the games’ design, based on feedback we received, and internal discussions. The game went from being and obstacle-course racing game to being an adventure rpg, along with switching from Unity3D to Unreal Engine. From that point on we were basically designing the game as we were implementing it, and it felt like we never really got ahead. Maybe stopping for longer to drop back into a pre-production phase would have been better, but I don’t know. For me personally the constant “we really need to design X, because it’s due to be implemented next week” took a toll on me. Having more game designers on the team would certainly help with that though. Also, having a clearer idea of what the next game is from the outset.
I’m sure there’s a lot more, like getting the Steam page up early, how wonderful our automated build system was, etc. But I think that’s enough for now. 😛
Thanks for coming with us on this crazy journey! Things will be a bit quiet for a few months, but then early next year we’ll pick things back up as we start work on game #2 in this series. Lots to look forward to!