It's been 9 months since I released my game, Prophour23. In case you never heard of it (very likely!), it's a fast-paced, replayable real-time strategy about building an organism and defending it from insects. You might call it a permadeath RTS.
I sometimes call it my first commercial game, which is a bit misleading. I made numerous games in the past, some of them were sold - but Prophour23 is the first game I treat as a complete work. It is (almost) exactly what I wanted it to be and how I wanted it to be.
I started working on it in the beginning of 2013. My plan was to make a short, replayable strategy game which borrows some elements from RTS and Tower Defense games. I had an idea for a new mechanics - the player wouldn't build any units, just "buildings". But these buildings could me moved around freely and connected in various ways to produce different effects.
I had a day job (and still do), so I worked on the game on late evenings. After two or three months I had a working prototype, which looked like this:
Looks familiar, doesn't it?
It worked quite well, but required some design changes. In the next month I added "collectable" money and playtested some variations to the mechanics.
I spent the rest of 2013 on designing a set of ~10 node types with different connection outcomes.
That's the beginning of 2014:
I already had a theme in mind: nodes would be organs and the player would create an organism. All portrayed as an old anatomy drawing.
But the implementation wasn't easy.
I'm not very good with drawing, so I asked my sister-in-law for making the organ drawings. She also helped me with general art direction. Check out her gallery!
I started adding sounds and thought about the music. I asked another family member (my cousin this time) to create a few tracks for the game. I had very specific needs (the in-game soundtrack is dynamic), but he managed to create these neo-classical pieces exactly like I wanted. You can purchase the soundtrack too!
My son was born in April 2014. You're probably aware that having a newborn baby doesn't exactly guarantee a good sleep every night... I still worked for a company every day, then spent some time with my family and crunched on my game later, while still trying to get a few hours of sleep (which averaged to maybe three hours every night, interrupted in the middle by my little boy).
I still didn't fully recuperate from this period.
But the game was moving forward. I wanted to have it done for August. I thought that would be a good moment to release the game, without any big releases around. But I was so tired that sometimes I wanted to stop working and just leave the game. I submitted P23 to Indiecade to motivate myself and it worked for a while. On another (rare) feel-good day I put Prophour23 on Steam Greenlight. That worked even better! I refreshed the page every few minutes to check for new comments and stats. It had a big impact on me. Suddenly, thousands of people were looking at my game and many of them were interested (or even excited)!
I couldn't sleep that night.
These were the days where I was able to sleep while standing, yet I couldn't close my eyes. Suddenly, thousands of people were looking at my game and many of them started having expectations. I felt some kind of responsibility that was bringing me down. Or maybe it was the permanent lack of sleep?
I blitzed through Greenlight in 10 days or so. It wasn't that common then. I was excited to get my game on Steam, but I was also feeling unwell by looking at other games on GL. Some of them looked much better than mine, I knew some of the developers (and their games) which spent half a year (or more) on Greenlight... I bet you heard about the imposter syndrome, right?
PuppyGames, who shared their library with me!
But I knew I'll miss my deadline. I decided to set a publicly visible release date on Steam to force myself to get it done by then.
And I released it on Oct 22 in 2014. The game was actually done 3 or 4 days earlier, but that's good - I had some time to create a new trailer, prepare build scripts etc. I planned to have a little launch party (that is: spend a calm evening with my wife at last), but it turned out that she needed to leave home that time. So I clicked the release button and got back to looking after my kids.
I'll cover the rights, wrongs and sales data in the second part!