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  • Postmortem: Don't Give Up

    - Tristan Barona

    Community Building Efforts

    DON'T GIVE UP was always on a shoestring budget, even when the contract with Humble stood to bring in some extra cash, I decided to pour those funds immediately back into the game, primarily on music, polish, and features. The full budget for the game was < 30K USD.

    DON'T GIVE UP's BIGGEST problem in my opinion has always been its reach. The internet is unpredictable, and while games that are gorgeous and AAA are always going to turn heads, it's particularly hard for indies to convince people to check out your story heavy game with no senior artist to catch eyes.

    Despite having no marketing budget I pushed forward and made what I consider to be a major effort to develop a community. Here is a list of notable efforts I made. Below I'll talk about my efforts further and the effect I felt each one had:

    • The game was featured on Game Jolt for 3 days (demo phase), and throughout the course of devlog updates ended up amassing over 7K Followers

    • My Twitter started out at 200 something followers and has now crossed the finish line with over 1K

    • I've been active on Facebook, Tumblr, and a few indie developer forums

    • The game was featured on (demo phase)

    • The game had 2 Kickstarters (small amounts but both successful)

    • I attended DreamHack, PAX South, The Portland Retro Game Expo (twice), and XOXO Fest

    • I got distribution through Humble Bundle to (possibly?) 100's of thousands of subscribers

    • I was featured by a popular Let's Player

    • I have written over 200 press and influencers to try to cover the game (at times more than once over the course)

    • I have an official site dedicated to the game!

    • I had quite a few trailers (the demo, gameplay, pre-release, and release)

    • Posted on LOTS of Undertale everything

    • Before launch I setup an event to demo the game at my local arcade bar

    Despite all of those efforts, if I'm honest MOST of them had little bearing on the community of the game itself. I'll go through each of them step by step and shed some light on what it was like for me and my personal take. Keep in mind while I'm going to be honest about my experiences this in no way reflects on the storefronts/venues as they have no control over how people respond to the project or choose to engage.

    Game Jolt Feature

    The Game Jolt feature put the game at the top of the banner on the front page of the site. They provided buttons to my Kickstarter and Game Jolt game page. Over the course of this I believe I accrued over 1K followers. I learned, however, through Kickstarters analytics, that my Game Jolt traffic accounted for less than $60 that went to my Kickstarter. My personal opinion? Lots of people who use Game Jolt or are mostly looking for games to play for free. They're usually not looking to spend, which means they are probably not leaning toward investing in something that doesn't exist yet.

    Twitter Growth

    My Twitter has seen steady growth over the course of development. However, it's sad to say that I don't think that's personally due to any effort I put into posting there. I'd posted so much on Twitter; screen shots, updates, thoughts, even a few video vlogs. Everytime something cool or new was finished it went up on all my social media, but it almost NEVER resulted in new follows. Most of my new follows I think came from people who saw the game ELSEWHERE. Even releasing the game and dropping the release trailer that got 4.2K views didn't net me almost any follows. For an indie who has no marketing budget, it's hard for me to say that posting on Twitter isn't worth it, but in my case, it really was almost not worth the effort versus other things I could have done. For me Twitter is mainly a tool to keep your current fans up to date, not trying to find new ones.

    Other Social Media and Indie Hubs

    I have been pretty active over the years on other social media and forums like TIGSource, Tumblr, and Facebook. 

    TIGSource is really kind of a ghost land these days in my experience unless you are creating something really exceptional. Not to put my game down, but it would take me many, many, many years before I could even attempt to make anything as detailed as Blasphemous or Children of Morta, but then again these projects definitely have more than 2 people working on them.

    Tumblr has been a huge waste of time for me. My previous project I worked on used to easily garner 40ish likes or more on average, it was more detailed visually, but had not a sliver of the depth DON'T GIVE UP has. It was just an adventure platformer that didn't really focus on any character development and only ended up having one stage, and it still got more attention than my completed project. When I say my game is ugly people who have played it will usually respond "I like the art" or, "I think it's good", but I don't really mean ugly literally, I guess I really mean it doesn't look modern. It is proven that retro minimalist art can still do well in this age but in my opinion is diminishes your visibility odds even further. It's the, "If I have to give my attention to one game, why take a chance on the one that doesn't look as good?" And for this, DON'T GIVE UP rarely has an argument besides "You just have to try it", which in this vast sea of games is really not enough.

    Facebook has been okay. My official page hasn't been able to grow for A WHILE, and release didn't change that. But posting on all the groups I was in was surprisingly positive. People were liking the game and sharing for a few days and even saying that they bought a copy! Sadly, it didn't really circle back to the Facebook page.

    Being featured on was cool, but it didn't have any noticeable impact. Games get uploaded on FAST. By the time I put my game up it was pushed out of non-scrolling view in less than an hour! was also cool enough to tweet the game as well, it got some interactions (not as much as my release post) which was cool, but I didn't really see any change on the site. The problem I have with is I think interaction with your community could be a lot better. I would almost prefer just about any other platform to using it, Steam Discussion IMO is just superior.


    The game had 2 Kickstarters. My goal for DON'T GIVE UP was not to get a buttload of cash so that I could live a cushy startup life from my home while I made my game over the course of 8 hour work days. I only wanted enough to give my own funds the boost it needed to be completable. I ultimately believed if people wanted the game it would make more; I also thought it would be a great way to get additional exposure. But it didn't, I'm not sure why- I've seen many games that are far less along, and far less visually attractive do leaps and bounds better. Knowing lots of people and having some form of virality obviously helps a lot with Kickstarter, something I just didn't have. Even though I only raised around 8K altogether, I will say a lot of that funding came directly through people discovering me on Kickstarter so it was extremely useful. Having completed a game, I would never start another project at a funding goal that didn't allow me to complete a project without diving into my own funds. My fire to make it in this industry made me willing to make that sacrifice and it's something only you can decide.


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