Archive for January, 2019

My 2018 Indie Game Picks (PC)

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Each year I put the most interesting and fun PC games I playd in a folder. Most of them are indie(ish)

Here are my 2018 picks (note that they may not have been new in 2018):

I got very addicted to Kingdom (and it looks great). I thought Intro the Breach and Slay the Spire were very clever. I played a bunch of shoot ‘em ups for fun. Some card and turn-based combat games for research (many did not make it onto this list). And I played a bunch of other weird things, some of which were great!

What were your 2018 picks?

My 2013-2016 Indie Game Picks (PC)

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Every year I put PC games that were fun and/or interesting into a special folder. Most of then are indie games but an occasional AAA game creeps in sometimes.

The games weren’t necessarily new that year but that was just when I happened to play them.

Anyway, here are my lists from 2013-2016. Do you remember playing some of these?

2013

My favourite game was FTL. I got super-addicted to it and managed to beat it eventually.

2014

Steamworld Dig is a fantastic game and the newer Steamworld Dig 2 is even better. Also Crypt of the Necrodancer was great.

2015

Darkest Dungeon was fantastic, and hard, and it made an impression on me. Shovel Knight was also really great, and so were many of the other games I played that year.

2016

Legend of Grimrock 2 was my favourite. I’ve been a fan of Dungeon Master style games ever since the Amiga.

2018 Review and 2019 Goals

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

Right then, it’s that time of year when I review last year’s goals and come up with some new goals for 2019.

Summary

It was a strange year because at the start I felt burned out after releasing Shadowhand and took a couple of months off development whilst I recovered.

During this time I applied to the UK Games Fund for Ancient Enemy and went to a few conferences such as Games Forum London, Casual Connect (London), and GDC (where I spent most of the time at the first “IchiroCon”, which was epic.) Those conferences yielded some good contacts and information, and resulted in me publishing some Jewel Match Solitaire games on Steam for a German developer associate I met with at Casual Connect.

Then I did a few updates to Shadowhand and began working on a casual port of the game with no combat (only puzzle levels), a modified story, and a less complex RPG system. I didn’t actually ship the casual version before starting work on Ancient Enemy (more on this in the Mistakes section below).

Helen and I also did some planning for a new game which we’ll announce soon. We hope the news will make a lot of people happy.

I also spoke at a conference in Latvia, where I made a good contact (more in this in a blog post soon!) Then I spoke at Develop in Brighton, and later in the year I got invited to speak in Dublin, Ireland. I also made a bunch of interesting data-filled blog posts this year and a video called “You are spending too long on your game“, which got shared widely.

During the summer I found out that we weren’t successful with getting funding from the UK Games Fund and I tweeted that I needed some money to make my next game and prompty got 5 funding offers! That was pretty amazing and we ended up getting some financial support from Bithell Games, which is great. Around that time I also received a chunk of money from Video Game Tax Relief which I put towards Ancient Enemy development.

So at the start of August I began work on Ancient Enemy (wishlist it!) and worked on that for the remainder of the year. We’ve got an all-star team working on this including Jim Rossignol (writer/designer), Jen Pattison (artist), Dan Emmerson (artist), and we’re just about to bring a well-known indie on board, which I’ll announce soon! We’ve probably got about 3 more months to go if all goes to plan because it’s supposed to be a short project utilising the existing (modified) Shadowhand engine.

In September I flew to Boston for an “Ichirocon” and had a really great time. Hoping there will be one in 2019.

In terms of revenue, this is what 2018 looks like. Basically 2017 was a poor year because we didn’t release anything until December. So 2018 was a definite improvement (+50%), though not as good as some past years. With the release of Ancient Enemy in 2019, and some other projects I’ve got in the works, I hope that 2019 can be a great year.

Currently I’m feeling very positive, despite my Steam revenue dropping due to discovery algorithm changes in October 2018. I’m productive and getting good work done, and I’ve spent the year trying to make optimised decisions by applying the 80/20 rule where possible (look it up). I want to keep improving that way of thinking during 2019.

2018 Work Goals

1) Shadowhand hits $150K gross on Steam. (FAILED: Got pretty close though, so I’ll award half a point. After the launch sales slowed down quicker than I hoped.)
2) I secure some funding for a new game. (SUCCESS! For Ancient Enemy. See the summary above.)
3) I ship a new game. Most likely reusing either Regency or Shadowhand engine. (FAILED: I worked on two, but didn’t ship either yet! Not going to award any points as you can’t half ship a game, well maybe you can.)
4) I stay in business until the end of 2018. (SUCCESS! I’m still here and revenue was up from 2017.)

Success rate = 2.5/4 = 62.5%. Not bad (and better than last year). If I’d got my act together I could have shipped Shadowhand Solitaire and scored 3.5/4 or started work on Ancient Enemy sooner.

Stretch goals:
1) Shadowhand hits $250K gross on Steam and other channels. (FAILED: Sadly not close. We’d hoped to get Shadowhand in a humble bundle/monthly, but got rejected! Also I really needed to release the casual version to help hit this goal, which I didn’t.)
2) I ship a second game. (FAILED: Didn’t even ship a first game, ho hum.)

2018 Personal Goals

1) Get my fitness and health back to previous levels. (SUCCESS! I did a lot of walking in the first half of the year and managed to lose 6kg (which I mostly put back on in the run up to Christmas) and my SI joint gradually got better and now I rarely get any trouble from it. Really pleased about this because the pain was dragging me down for over 18 months!)
2) Have a “staycation” with my wife. (SUCCESS! We needed this because Christmas 2017 wasn’t very relaxing due to the usual family stuff and because we’d just shipped a game. We had planned to tidy up the attic during our staycation but we didn’t even get round to that, which is fine.)
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. (SUCCESS! We totally did this and stayed in our friends’ fancy apartment in the middle of Graz and also in a cabin by a lake in the mountains.)
4) Get back into playing guitar. (FAILED: I played a bit here and there but never re-developed my finger calluses properly.)
5) Make at least 6 pieces of art. (SUCCESS! I only made 2 digital paintings, but I did some pixel art and some mockup art for Ancient Enemy which I’m including in these 6 pieces. You can see some of them here.)
6) Do a gamejam. (SUCCESS! Right at the end of the year I used Pico-8 for the first time to make a game called CyberJam. It’s not really finished but it’s pretty cool and I’m pleased with it. I’d like to spend a bit more time on it so I can release it to the public.)

Success rate = 5/6 = 83%. This is a great score, much better than last year. I think these were reasonable goals and I made sure I did them.

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. (FAILED: Sadly Shadowhand didn’t make enough money for this to happen and as I didn’t release any other games, this wasn’t possible. In fact we ended up lending the company some more money.)
2) Make another mortgage lump sum overpayment at some point in the year. Minimum £1000. (SUCCESS! Yes we did exactly that ha. It’s not much but it’s something.)

Bonus Points

- Early in the year Cliff Harris said I should blog more often. And so I wrote a bunch of informative blog posts that got widely shared and were a factor in me doing talks and getting funding for Ancient Enemy. I even turned down two international talks because I was too busy with work and didn’t want to travel. People even mentioned my blog posts in their GDC talks and articles. So I think I got a good visiblity boost within the industry this year and I also had a fun year networking.
- I wasn’t expecting to turn into a “publisher” but it’s worked out pretty well. So far I’ve published three Jewel Match Soltaire games on Steam and there are more coming in 2019. It’s bonus money and helps with my branding as a card game developer.
- I got contacted by a developer rep from a well-known console manufacturer and now plans are afoot for something interesting…(more on this soon)
- I went to a couple of great Aikido courses. My Aikido has been changing in the last few years as I gain more understanding of different principles from different teachers.
- I had nice a Christmas break at home and I played tons of games.
- I lost some weight, which wasn’t a goal I’d set, but I just did it anyway. I’ve also been using my standing desk a lot and my legs and back feel stronger.

Mistakes
- I didn’t get going fast enough with new projects after shipping Shadowhand. To be fair this was because of burnout and it happens to me pretty much every time I ship something but it was quite powerful this time.
- I didn’t ship Shadowhand Solitaire in the summer. I only needed a few more weeks to finish it and if I had shipped it then by now I would be receiving income from it, which would have been REALLY useful. This is because I didn’t want to delay working on Ancient Enemy after I got the funding and the team together. I’ll probably go back to this after Ancient Enemy ships, but the casual markets have declined further in 2018 and it is really starting to look like a non-viable earner.
- Early in the year I had a meeting with a large mobile game dev company and I had the possibility of making a deal with them about a certain IP we own. However, I just couldn’t work out a deal that I was happy with. This was during my burnout period and thinking back on it, maybe I should have persisted more and tried diferent approaches. However, the rest of the year has worked out anyway and I’m happy with what I’m doing now.
- I put the weight I lost back on in the run up to Christmas. To be honest I was just enjoying myself eating food and feeling that “hibernation” vibe. But it’s OK as my BMI is still in the normal range.
- I wish I’d done more art and music and spent more time with my youngest son who is 15 now (though we did get into watching Brooklyn 99 together, which is great).

2019 Work Goals

1) Grey Alien Games’ revenue is over $100K. This is reasonable based on past years but a lot depends on the timing and success of my upcoming projects.
2) I ship Ancient Enemy before June 2019.
3) I ship secret project 1 in Q2.
4) I ship secret project 2 in 2019 and it is at least part-funded by Kickstarter/an investor/grant.
5) I stay in business until the end of 2019.

I’m breaking my usual rule of only working on one project at time in 2019 but I’m aiming to work with other reliable people to get stuff done so that I’m no longer the bottleneck in my business. That should also free me up to do more biz dev, which has been succesful this year, in order to create more opportunities.

Stretch Goals:
1) Ancient Enemy breaks even. Whilst I’ll do everything I can to make this happen, it’s mostly out of my control due to market forces, so I won’t make it an official goal.
2) I start work on a new game (preferably our own IP.) Self-funded if I have enough $, otherwise externally funded.

2019 Personal Goals

1) Get my weight down to 65Kg (its 67kg right now, so this isn’t too hard) and maintain that to the end of the year.
2) Go on 10 nice walks/daytrips/long weekends with my wife.
3) Help my eldest son to pass his Aikido black belt.
4) Have a week long staycation, probably after Ancient Enemy ships and the dust settles, but maybe before if I need it.
5) Go on a week long vacation with my wife to Wales or Scotland, or maybe Ireland, and look at castles and standing stones.
6) Spend more time with my youngest son (playing games, watching TV, cinema etc). This should probably more specific, but I’m going to go with gut feel on this by the end of the year.
7) Finish my Cyberjam game in pico-8.

That’s more goals than last year and I’ve missed off things like make art and music, but I’ll probably do some of that as well anyway and I don’t want to make the goals list too long.

Stretch Goals (these are almost the same as last year):
1) Pay our joint account back some of the money we have loaned my company in recent years. I’ll put a figure of £10000 on this.
2) Make another mortgage lump sum overpayment at some point in the year. Minimum £2000.