2017 Review and 2018 Goals

I make a habit of defining some annual goals and reviewing my progress. This year we also shipped a game in December and so it was a really good time to take stock and plan ahead for 2018.

I’ve been musing what game to make next over the Christmas period and this week I’ve been talking to other developers of casual games to see what I can find out about the current state of the market. Next week I’ll be talking to publishers and investors to see if I can get some part-funding for my next game (or the one after that), as well as chatting to trusted friends to get feedback on my plans.

Anyway here are last year’s goals and I’ve reviewed them below as well as stating my 2018 goals.

Summary

Basically I just worked on Shadowhand for the whole year. It got done, but it meant a lot of other goals fell to the wayside. Also we paid a good salary for 8 months, but then ran out of money for the last 4 months, which isn’t great. Though now the game has launched we are at least getting a bit more money in. I should probably do a proper postmortem of Shadowhand at some point to go into more detail.

Also my company had the lowest earnings since 2012. But this is to be expected because we haven’t released any new games since 2015 and have been coasting off past revenue, which has gone very low now.

The big positive for the year is the fact that Shadowhand got released (later than planned in the less than ideal month of December), but it had a pretty good launch in the current climate for indie games, and people like it a lot. I think it’ll do reasonably well in the long term, we’ll see!

2017 Work Goals

1) Ship Shadowhand (SUCCESS! We shipped on Dec 7th)
2) Shadowhand makes a $100,000 profit on top of the investment. (FAILED. It hasn’t had long enough to generate that kind of revenue. Hopefully it will achieve this goal in 2018, but it’s not certain.)
3) Ship some Shadowhand DLC or start work on a related game (FAILED. There’s been no time to do this yet.)
4) Get the second part of the Video Game Tax Relief for Shadowhand. (SUCCESS! This was an easy win tbh, I just had to do some accounting. The VGTR is *really* useful and has helped keep us afloat whilst we finished the game.)
5) Make $150,000 net revenue from all my games/tax relief/investment. (FAILED. Nowhere near. As I said above this has been our worst year for revenue since 2012. It shouldn’t be hard to do better in 2018 though.)

Success rate = 2/5 = 40%. Yeah not great. If we’d shipped earlier in the year then maybe some/all of those goals could have been met. Maybe they’ll happen in 2018 though.

Stretch Goals:
1) Make $250,000 net revenue. (FAILED. Pahahaha!)

2017 Personal Goals

1) Make another mortgage lump sum overpayment (FAILED: I could have done this but it would have been irresponsible and left us further up the creek without a paddle :-) )
2) Do a gamejam (FAILED: Nope, just solidly working on Shadowhand. I could have done this during the Christmas holiday period, but I was just too tired/burned out from shipping Shadowhand in December.)
3) Go on holiday in Scotland with my wife (SUCCESS! We went to Scotland and Orkney for 6 days and it was really awesome.)
4) Host a successful Aikido summer school in my town. (SUCCESS! The summer school went well. It was also the 20th anniversary of the Aikido club that I run.)
5) Make 6 pieces of art from scratch. (FAILED: I didn’t make any unique pieces of art but I edited a TON of art for Shadowhand and made promotional artwork etc. so I certainly got plenty of photoshop practice. There are 1650 graphic files for Shadowhand!)
6) Get back into playing the guitar. (FAILED: I played a bit here and there but nothing significant, just too busy with Shadowhand)

Success rate = 2/6 = 33%. Not great but at least the two goals I achieved were big and important. I basically spent a whole year in service of finishing Shadowhand but in 2018 I want to get back to a more balanced lifestyle.

Stretch Goals:
1) Pay off my mortgage (FAILED: Nope, nowhere near)

Bonus Points

- Generally I’ve had a positive year and enjoyed working on Shadowhand. I’ve learned a TON about game design which I can put to use in future games. After a busy summer I managed to lock down multiple months in which I didn’t go anywhere or do anything except for work on the game, and that increased period of focus was very good for getting the game done to a high standard.
- Shadowhand got nominated for FIVE TIGA awards, which was pretty cool, though sadly we didn’t win in any of those categories. Oh well.
- I launched Spring Bonus on Steam and also sold some keys to GreenManGaming. Now I have a bundle of 4 games on Steam.
- Holiday Bonus gold hit $100K lifetime net revenue. Not bad for a 11 year old game that I made in 3 months.
- Went to a great Aikido course in the summer in the Lake District.
- Had a decent Christmas break with my family and played some great games.
- I’m still in business! 13 years now.

Mistakes

- I said last year that Shadowhand was overscoped and thus has taken too long to finish and that continued into this year. We ended up making a pretty long game which is great value for money but tbh it could probably have been HALF as long and still people would have loved it and it may well have made the same amount of money but taken less time to develop (maybe not half the time, but still, quicker).
- Didn’t go on a family holiday. At least I had a holiday with my wife. Our kids are 16 and 14 now and they are at the age where they are permanently plugged into electronics and talking to their friends so they don’t even seem too bothered about going on holiday, plus family holidays are stressful in my experience. However, it would probably still be a good idea to go on one in 2018 if we can afford it because time is running out in terms of them leaving home soonish.
- Entering the IGF. We entered Regency Solitaire in 2015, then Shadowhand two years running and didn’t get any kind of mention. Tbh, they are just the wrong types of games for the IGF’s categories. So one could view it as a waste of time and money, but many influential people (IGF judges) played Shadowhand and that may have helped spread the word via Twitter at launch.
- I hurt my sacroiliac joint in January 2017 by crawling under my desk to switch on some plug sockets. It was AGONY for days but I hoped it would clear up soon as other injuries have done in the past. Unfortunately it was very painful for months and affected how much I could work (contributing to Shadowhand’s delay) and isn’t great for my mental wellbeing. It’s not as bad now but it is still lingering a full year later. It’s literally a huge pain in the ass. You might think this is not a “mistake”, it’s just something that happened, but I feel it was because I spent too much time sitting at my desk in the weeks running up to the injury and if I’d taken better care of myself, it may not have happened. I realy hope it clears up in 2018 as it is becoming tiresome.

2018 Work Goals

1) Shadowhand hits $150K gross on Steam. This should be totally doable.
2) I secure some funding for a new game (just for assets, I can self-fund the coding, probably)
3) I ship a new game. Most likely reusing either Regency or Shadowhand engine.
4) I stay in business until the end of 2018.

That’s it. Keeping it simple. I want to make stuff fast using existing tech in order to consolidate my finances after a long stretch of self-indulgent overscoped game making with Shadowhand.

Stretch goals:
1) Shadowhand hits $250K gross on Steam and other channels (e.g. casual sites, bundles, retail, whatever). This isn’t a giant leap, it’s definitely doable.
2) I ship a second game. Again reusing existing engine (either solitaire or match 3) or possible a small “indie” game for fun. Again, this is also definitely doable if I control scope and stay focused.

2018 Personal Goals

1) Get my fitness and health back to previous levels. I need to do lots of stretches, walking, standing desk and more to help my get my SI joint functional without pain again.
2) Have a “staycation” with my wife. A week at home just chilling, preferably when the kids are on a school trip.
3) Go on a vacation with my wife and kids. Maybe to Austria as we have friends there with a flat we can stay in.
4) Get back into playing guitar.
5) Make at least 6 pieces of art.
6) Do a gamejam

Stretch Goals:
1) Pay our joint account back some of the money we have loaned my company in recent years. I’ll put a figure of £5000 on this.
2) Make another mortgage lump sum overpayment at some point in the year. Minimum £1000.

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