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  • Postmortem: Don't Give Up

    [12.17.19]
    - Tristan Barona

  • Conventions

    Throughout the game's development I attended 4 shows:

    Portland Retro Game Expo

    DreamHack

    PAX South

    XOXO Fest

    Portland Retro Game Expo was cool because my game has a retro feel to it. It's local and small, but was great for getting my feet wet and talking about my game.

    DreamHack was okay, to be fair they are really kind and awesome enough to offer free booth space to the indies. Although the deal is less sweet when you have to travel from out of state. DreamHack is in a huge part, for folks who are into eSports. It's no secret that the indies weren't a highlight and still a growing part of their venue. Traffic was slow but that's no reflection on the people who invited me to attend. With my budget I probably could have invested the travel funds a bit differently.

    PAX South was great. I was selected to be in rising, I know a lot of rough around the edges games can make it in there but still it felt good. More people obviously played my game than at the other venues, the feedback was good, and people were visibly jamming to the music on most of the playthroughs. I felt like my game was really, finally on its way to shine, but real life set in pretty quick afterward. I didn't really see any growth when I came back even though I totally did recognize a few followers that I'd met down there. However, the experience was still worth it. Why? Because I got to see people play the game dozens of times a day, seeing people play your game over and over in its development days will almost inevitably bring about some ideas you'd never thought of that will make something even better, or make you realize that something isn't as good as you thought it was and might actually be better removed. A fresh set of eyes on your game is PRICELESS, more so in large quantities.

    XOXO Fest is another local, very exclusive event. I wasn't a headliner but a part of a local showcase, and with less than 600 attendees traffic was obviously not going to be bustling. The feedback that I got here was the best of all the venues I would say because the crowd was a lot more invested in the creators and not just the games. I left XOXO Fest feeling energized and confident as a creator!

    Humble Deal

    After my Kickstarter I signed a deal to become a Humble Original, to be honest, in order to take the game where I wanted it to go this was a bit of a necessity. I won't say too much about this or the terms because I'm not sure if that would be proper etiquette. But basically, they get to have the game be exclusive to their bundle for a set amount of time and I'm able to create an expanded version and sell it later. When the game was released in the bundle, my abysmal wishlists did spike and it was helpful, but absolutely not as much as I had hoped for with a potential 400K subscribers, but it was better than I was doing on my own. The terms really weren't unreasonable.

    Press

    I wrote over 200 press and influencers trying to just get them to try the game. Offering someone something for free just isn't really a selling point anymore. I really did my best and tried to target lots of folks who did let's plays of Undertale. Writing to press and being unknown is a masochistic game of sorts; I literally only ended up getting 1 let's player to play the game off of my emails, and a very rude review from a press site after release. Honestly, this is another thing that isn't really worth the effort, much like busting your butt on Twitter, but when you have no marketing budget, not really worth the effort is all you've got.

    Let's Play Traffic

    I had a let's play from a popular YouTuber named YuB, it actually came out of the blue and they didn't contact me until the video was actually up. It also led to a trickle down where some other mid ranged YouTubers checked it out. I was really excited when this happened, it was sort of the universe saying, you're not crazy and someone who has a crap ton of viewers thinks your game makes good content. This was quite helpful, and the video resulted in over 60 followers. I know this isn't a lot, but nowhere else was I able to garner that kind of surge, and that's over a video that got over 60K views. Being an indie is hard :P

    Trailers

    Each time I hit a major milestone toward release I made a trailer. For the new major public versions, a gameplay version (in order to feed less narrative and show how the game plays), a pre-release trailer, and a release trailer where I revealed more of the game than I had in the 3 years.

    Undertale

    Finally I posted on Undertale hubs anywhere I could: Reddit, Facebook Pages, Discords, etc. When people are always telling you that your game reminds them of Undertale, even if that wasn't your intent, you might as well try to use it to your advantage, right? People here and there were interested, but for the most part I think the thing with hardcore Undertale fans is that.... Well, they only want Undertale. They don't really want to bother with something else because it isn't Undertale, so you see, there's a big problem.

    Local Arcade Bar

    I'm a Portland dev so why not show the game somewhere in Portland?! We have a few arcade bars, and the one that let me show the game was REALLY helpful and supportive. The problem is, for one, Portland has a HUGE pinball crowd, and probably people looking to get drunk with friends aren't looking to play or process an RPG about quirky humor and depression. There's also a lot of people that aren't gamers who go to arcade bars for once in a while fun. That being said, I made some fun connections with folks and had some AMAZING conversations, and I'm certain I converted a couple of people into sales. It was worth it especially with launch just two days away.

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