It feels like a great deal longer than a year ago that we passed through the Kickstarter trenches, yet the feels are still so vivid. Yes, we didn't hit our target, but I'm absolutely glad we attempted to. We learnt a huge amount and the whole thing was really an experience like no other.
So, one year later. What has changed? Where are we now? How is little FranknJohn doing? Post-Kickstarter we decided to really knuckle down and finish off the core systems. We had spent much of the prior year getting the game expo-ready (Rezzed, EGX), meaning a lot of band-aid was used and we were constantly having to clean our wounds. By Christmas, all of the hacky work was removed and the game finally made it to Alpha. We were getting closer to our goal - releasing it on Steam Early Access.
Early in the new year, we were given the opportunity to travel to Boston in March to show FranknJohn at PAX East. Wow! Our incredibly generous friends Chris and Hollie asked us to come over and share some space with themselves and some other indie devs. This was an opportunity not to be missed, for sure. But a few things stood in our way. 1. We could afford it, but only at the expense of other important stuff. 2. The game needed to be out on Early Access for it to warrant the trip. The decision ran to the wire but it happened in the end. I got to fly over alone, but I was far from it when I got there. The group were super nice and made the whole thing just so pleasant. PAX was an amazing experience and a real highlight for me in my career. If there's one thing American's exude, it's positivity. I felt so good coming home. Oh, and we had chosen to launch Early Access on the first day of PAX. Yup, that happened.
The game has been live on Steam for 4 months now and the whole experience has been eye opening. I have some tips for you if you want them, some of which we ourselves could do with listening to more often.
1. Simply launching a game on Steam does not = $$$
2. Don't expect press to write about your game
3. You need to give a reason for people to care about your game
4. If your game is rad enough, talk to an established publisher
5. Prepare for being overworked, know that it will happen, know when to take breaks
6. Listen to feedback, listen to feedback, listen to feedback
7. Target hundreds of small Twitch/ YT streamers over 10 big ones
8. Keep your community engaged - a simple tweet every day, a blog, a vlog, a devlog, any kind of log
Progress hasn't been as quick as we'd have liked. Making games is really, really hard. I'm sure you've heard this a million times, but unless you love it enough to do it for free (if you're going the indie route), I would suggest rethinking things. We've been doing it part-time for a number of years now and it's a real tough gig. Most of the team teach in various colleges in order to get by and fund ourselves and when you are the type to put 110% into everything, it can becoming a real strain. Having to jump from one train of thought to another, often times in the same day, is really quite sapping. Contrary to that, I won't deny that we are in the nice position of being able to teach the same subjects we work in, we are very fortunate.
That brings us up to today. We are half-way through the summer and development is continuing nicely. We are working on some super-fun stuff like FranknBall (which went down a treat at dubLudo) and of course progress on the Furnace of Anger, the next area, continues. We recently launched the co-op update for the game which our players really seem to dig. It's something we've wanted to put in from the start and we're so happy to see the positive reaction to it.
If you haven't checked out FranknJohn on Steam yet, check it out! You can read back over our past updates to see how the game has developed since going live, including big changes to the combat system, based on feedback provided by our early access players.
Lastly, I'd like to mention Imirt, (Irish abbreviation for the Irish Game Makers Association), a new initiative set up by Brenda Romero and a host of our best talent with the aim to creating a unified, one-stop shop for everything Irish game creator related. Similar in structure to the IGDA, creates can join for a yearly membership of a measily €20, which can be paid to any of the steering committee members (or online soon I'm sure). Any member will be able to run for election, so if you have an agenda you would like to push, this could be your chance. Check it out!
Until next time,
Paul and the team