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  • Shadowhand Postmortem: Our Top 10 Takeaways

    [07.26.18]
    - Helen Carmichael

  • 6 Testing
    Test when ready and allow time to process the results. In-house testing can also be a powerful development tool.

    Taking your game to a show early in development and having the public play it is a great way to get feedback and test that the core loop is fun.

    Taking the time to code a dedicated testing system may also be worthwhile. In our case, a rapid simulation of thousands of duels proved invaluable for balancing the RPG elements of our game.

    Consider the timing of testing carefully. Don't rush to pay for testing - wait until your game is at the correct stage to make the most of the results and feedback you will get. Conversely, towards the end of the project, make sure you leave enough time after getting results from your beta testers to make full use of them before you ship!

    7 PR & Marketing
    Know your strengths and plan ahead

    If you plan to attend shows, think about timing, and whether the spend is worth it. In our case, a show early on in the development cycle was actually very useful in proving that our concept and core gameplay were fun and marketable. However, we attended too many shows at an early stage, and they were all UK-based. Exhibiting at shows closer to launch or across different continents may have been a better use of that budget.

    Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses in PR and marketing, and be prepared to ask for assistance. Our PR reach is good for an indie microstudio and our publisher has considerable expertise in marketing. But there were still things we could have improved upon, such as connecting with streamers and the American press.

    8 Launch
    Plan this in as much detail as possible.

    Launching will probably be a stressful time so keeping a cool head and having good checklists is a must.

    Don't make changes to the build hours or minutes before launch...(yeah, we did this and it screwed up.)

    9 Sustaining post-launch momentum
    Make yourself available

    Remember that if your PR efforts have been successful, you can expect to spend the next few weeks helping various media professionals to discuss your game via podcasts, streams, written interviews and so on. Also you'll be fending off a huge volume of fake Steam key requests.

    Despite the huge effort of getting the game finished and the understandable desire to take a break, this is when sustained promotion and making yourself available pays off.

    10 Customer support
    Be responsive but also selective

    Scheduling time post-launch to keep up with discussions, forums and reviews is important. We have made a number of updates to the game post-launch to fix various minor issues or add things to the game based on player feedback. Go for the changes that give the "biggest bang for your buck" though. The amount of time you invest in this should be proportional to the number of players who will benefit, and the likely effect on future Steam review scores.

    A final note on decision-making

    Our project took over two years and involved a great deal of decision-making, both at the meta/business level and at the micro/game design level. As we were taking these decisions throughout the project, the majority of them seemed to be logical, sensible business decisions backed up by numbers and facts.

    In hindsight, it is much clearer to us how many of those decisions were in fact based on emotions - both positive and negative - that largely fall into two categories: being very excited for our project and putting too much into it; and trying to avoid tasks or situations that we found difficult.

    Going forward, we will come up with a stronger logical framework for approaching our decisions, and simultaneously acknowledge that emotion plays a large part in the choices we make and so reframe our discussions accordingly.

    A big takeaway for us is to make time to understand the emotions that drive or hinder a project. We hope this will make us a better and more productive team in future.

    Helen Carmichael @bchezza &
    Jake Birkett @greyalien

    This post originally appeared on the Grey Alien Games Blog, here.

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