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Archive for January, 2011

Paid game betas aren’t for everyone

Friday, January 7th, 2011

So, I just sent out my “hey everyone, come get a refund” email to all the people who purchased the Stealth Target beta. There are a number of pretty high-profile indie games that have built an entire business upon being a paid beta. Minecraft, Wolfire’s Overgrowth, Data Realm’s Cortex Command are a few that come to mind.

Here’s some analysis on the subject, and why it didn’t work for Stealth Target .. and at the same time, the factors I think that would be important to having a successful paid-beta project.

  • Commitment to a larger vision. In the case of Stealth Target, I had a larger vision, but I eventually realized it was too grand for me to realize.  I’m more of a small-scale game kind of guy at this point.  Perhaps later in my game development career I’ll be doing larger projects, but right now, a “Galcon-sized” game is about as large as I can manage.  I think paid-beta games need to be larger to justify the whole “user-buy in to help fund an epic game” concept.
  • Commitment to regular updates. I’m only one dev, and when I take a month to work on Galcon updates, and then take another month to take a break, suddenly the beta users haven’t heard a peep from me about the game in 3 months.  Pretty weak “paid beta”.  If I had a team and I had someone always working on the beta so it kept living despite my other obligations / plans, it might have gone better.
  • Building a development team. Yeah, I just touched on that, but it really does make sense.  I could have a team, but my lifestyle doesn’t allow for it at the moment.  My hours are too random and my work schedule too unpredictable.  To have a team you have to have some consistency in your life, otherwise (I’m pretty sure) your team-members will get pretty tired of you.  I think having a team would help deliver the quantity and quality of content and updates to make a paid beta make sense.
  • You can’t change your mind and be crazy. I still plan on finishing Stealth Target, however, I’m no longer planning on doing a desktop release of the game.  The paid beta was for a desktop version of the game.  So changing to a iOS-only plan really isn’t possible.  The only way to cleanly resolve this was to terminate the entire beta and issue refunds.  Really, for a paid-beta to make sense, the users have to have something they can depend on, and changing platforms mid-stream is just asking too much.

Anyway, to wrap it all up, here’s the email I sent out to folks who already bought the game today:

Hi,

Turns out the business model of doing a pre-beta-sale really doesn’t make sense for me.  I’m more of a “do what I feel like” kind of guy, and committing to making some sort of super-great-game in some kind of pre-beta-sale promise just isn’t something I can really do.  I think in the case of “Stealth Target” I bit off way more than I can chew.

I’m hoping to finish Stealth Target this year, but I’m probably only going to release it to mobile platforms, so I don’t even think I’m going to be launching a desktop version.

Either way .. I’m offering refunds to anyone who wants one!  Just reply to this email and say so.

Thanks for coping with a crazy indie-dev :)  Your support is greatly appreciated and I hope I can churn out some cool games that you’ll enjoy in 2011!

Cheers!
-Phil

P.S. Also, thanks for all the feedback you have given me so far on Stealth Target.  I’ve been taking notes on just about everything! You’ve been a huge help!

And, who knows what the future will hold for Stealth Target.  If the mobile version comes out feeling really good, I might try and release it for the desktop.  But the important thing for me is to know that I’m not obligated to produce a “desktop-sized” title when I’m really making a “mobile-sized” game.  I’ve got a lot of things I want to do this year, and I want to do them in the order that I want them to.  A paid-beta project would have “cramped my style” so to speak, and I don’t want to subject my users to a shoddy paid-beta experience.

Thanks!
-Phil

The Galcon Survey

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Take the Galcon Survey, it should only take about 3 minutes and you’ll be helping me decide what will be best for Galcon in 2011!

Thanks!
-Phil

P.S. I added a few questions since last night, so if you already filled it out, you may want to edit your response.

2010: Phil’s picks

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

I’m a pretty avid toucharcade reader, and I got inspired by the staff picks posts to do one of my own. In the past decade I haven’t been much of a gamer, but I think in this past year I’ve really begun to game much more consistently. I think the introduction of the iPad was the biggest influence in that. The iPad is a gaming device that really works for me. For whatever it’s worth, I often game on my iPad using a pogo sketch stylus, which gives much better precision than a finger and makes it so my finger doesn’t obscure the action.

As for gaming, I’m a pretty tough customer and not many games truly strike my fancy. Personally I’ve always had a draw to side-scroller games and point-and-click adventure games, so you can see my bias towards those in my selection. I’m a rather casual gamer, so the games I like tend to work well as short-players. The gameplay does not require me to dedicated my life to mastering the game or enjoying it. That said, here are the few games that I really latched onto and played to death this year (in no particular order):

Babylon Twins

This is a side-scroller game and the best one I’ve played on the iPhone. The mechanic of having the two dependent characters really add that “difference” to make the game unique. I played this game on my iPod touch.

Robot Wants Kitty

This was a great series of flash games written by my friend Mike Hommel. These are mini Metroidvania games starring a robot who is seeking out various items (a kitty, a puppy, a gold fish, and finally some ice cream.) I had so much fun playing these games I dressed up as the character for Halloween this year.

Scarlett and the Spark of Life: Scarlett Adventures Episode 1

This is an adventure game and the writing in this game is hilarious. I’d say if you enjoyed Monkey Island you would enjoy this game. This is only the first chapter of the game, but I’m very eager to see the next. The game combines a very fun mix of characters and nonsense to build a very fun experience. I played this game on the iPad using a stylus.

Helsing’s Fire

This is a great game. The user interface was very touch oriented, which I always appreciated. The reverse-stealth mechanic really appealed to me since I’m working on a stealth game right now. And the main characters camaraderie was depicted in such a “mobile friendly” fashion that I just really enjoyed the whole game! I played it on my iPad using a stylus.

UFO on Tape

This game simulates a person in a car video taping a UFO sighting. It is a perfect simulation of the experience. I’m a huge X-Files fan, so getting to live out the attempt at videotaping a real UFO sighting from a car was a ton of fun. I played this game on my iPod touch.

There have been a TON of other really great games that came out this year. And in fact there were a few others that I invested some serious time into that I haven’t listed here. I wanted to keep my list to 5 apps, so I had to make some cuts! And if I were some kind of review site that was obligated to highlight all the best of the best, well, I’d have more to say. But really – those games are the ones I latched onto, and maybe you’ll like some of them too :)

-Phil


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