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  • Postmortem: Don't Give Up

    [12.17.19]
    - Tristan Barona

  • Which finally brings us to the heart of this journey...

    The Release

    I want to note that about a month and a 1/2 before wrapping production I ran 2 in person QA sessions locally where people played the FULL game, gave me feedback, and reported bugs. (Partially to ensure I wasn't crazy and I'd created something good). I think it was around 14 people in all. ALL of that feedback and bug reports were fixed before launch!

    Before release I obviously rallied all my troops and let everyone know, especially my Kickstarter backers that it was coming. I've posted probably an average of 2 updates a month since my project was funded keeping them in the loop almost every step of the way. I worked really hard to build trust with my backers and have them see how dedicated I was to delivering a good game. I'd hoped that of my 400ish backers that I would hopefully see at minimum 20-30 reviews on day one. I warmed myself up by looking at articles from other folks who had the release day jitters with things not ending up nearly as bad as they thought. My confidence began to rise, my game that I'd spent 3 years on was good enough to sell itself, sure it may not be destined for 5 digit sales, but surely a few thousand would be an easy task for such a labor of love.

    Well. Reality often has a complicated sense of humor. I've only cried twice in the past 6-7 years, once was when I found it too hard to medicate my mood, and the other was the day after release.  

    As of today, approximately one month after launch, DON'T GIVE UP has sold a mere 235 units, which equates to $2082 USD in revenue. To put it in perspective, working for minimum wage for a month where I live would have surpassed my first month sales. 

    That being said, let's put my expectations into perspective. Despite not having made a cent off this game all I ever wanted was 3 things: to tell my story, to get my name out as a developer, and to have at least enough funds for the next prototype. As far as I'm concerned 10K in sales was my bar for success, or in other words my best case scenario hope, worst was somewhere around 5K. With these tools I felt like regardless of what happened beyond that I would have what I needed to keep the dream alive. To put it in context, where I live, even at minimum wage I could eclipse these in a month, but no need to beat it over the head. I think if you're even reading this you know how bad that is.

    I am also really lucky to have someone in my corner who supports me doing what I love and believed in my vision. We get by okay because the field they have decided to be in allows for that. The morale of a supportive partner is... huge, I'm not saying that you should go out today and find yourself someone who will blindly support your indie dreams, but it was a huge pillar of motivation to carry on for me.

    So what could I have done different?

    Well honestly, not much. Not in my specific situation anyway. I tapped every funding source I had, the soundtrack came out great, the game is a good length, I'm happy with the script, and even though the art isn't the greatest, I did it ALL myself. I got better along the way, and didn't cut corners. The final boss areas have the most complex sprites in terms of size and animation frames so I had tangible proof that I'd grown as a creator.

    What COULD have been different?

    If I had the money I'd have had better sprite work for sure, even if it was just for the combat and the overworld remained the same. Secondly, I'd have invested in marketing, it exists for a reason, and while it isn't as vital as having an actual project worth playing, if you want reach, it practically almost is.

    I don't think this would have made a total difference but IMO I released in quite possibly the worst week of the year for games, Goose Game, Link's Awakening remake, and Borderlands 3 and others all came out during that week. (This release date was planned far in advance and with the little fan base I had I decided putting out confusion or discrepancy in the release date was really not wise so I rolled with it).

    I don't think it was wise for me to sink this much time into my first commercial game, for obvious reasons now, but also, it was just...... a lot. I wrote over 260 pages of dialogue, did all the art, social media, QA sessions, conventions, marketing (by marketing I mean blind emailing editors in vain) and a lot of other stuff. But I was raised on the SNES RPGs and that's when my love for what games could be really developed. I grew up poor, and could only get 1 used game per month, so I would always go for the SNES RPGs because they would get so much mileage. I HAD to make this game. Going forward I'm definitely making something more simple in depth.

    A Final Gold Lining

    Prepare to get sappy. Yes, the sales are as bad, but I don't need to let that dictate the gravity of my accomplishment. I created the game I wanted to make! Not only that, it turned out the way I wanted it to! I had a story to tell, and I told it. And while 1000's of people aren't playing it, there are people who have who enjoyed it, I've even been thanked numerous times for making this game. Every review I've gotten (even this scathing one) makes it clear that the story is emotional and the character development of the main character was done right, which is all my game aimed to do. To tell the story of my trials in a captivating way, so I say I've succeeded. I've earned the respect of my peers for taking the chance to do something I love, and yes, I know that respect doesn't pay bills, but there are a lot of people who are afraid to take that chance, and instead of having a period in their life where they'll get to truly do what they love for them, they'll play it safe, and only know the corporate rat race. No one can take this accomplishment from me. People can always say, yeah I worked here for X amount of years and so on, but I get to straight up say yeah I MADE A GAME. And, it'll likely be the same for you should you cross that finish line. (I'm sure this has a diminishing return after the first dev though)

    And listen, 2K isn't a lot, but it's something, and it will certainly find its use, and the sales will (hopefully) continue to trickle in over time, so I see it as an asset going forward.

    What's Next

    Well the journey isn't over! I've got a couple of features still coming up and currently waiting to hear back about approval for porting to Nintendo Switch! Who knows what the future holds?

    Well, thanks for reading, if you want to support my work, obviously the best way to do that would be to check the game out for yourself if it's your cup of tea! Good luck fellow devs!

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