07 August 2011

Wanna See My GDD?

So, while we are unfortunately shelving Space Miner 2 for a bit (see last blog post if you missed it), a couple of cool things have happened for our favorite space game recently. One is that we were asked to provide assets for Wired for their upcoming App Store issue! Hopefully, that'll mean a sales bumpJ The other is that we were asked for the "Space Miner Dev Story" for inclusion in an upcoming book about the App Store.

I've spent the last couple of hours working on that, and while trying to remember exactly how the whole thing went down, I decided to go through our svn archive and look at how our GDD changed over time. I'm actually surprised how close we were to our original game design in the end, although it seemed like there were some big feature changes at the time. I guess hindsight brings perspective though, and looking back they apparently weren't core features after all.

Anyhow, I was reading it through and thought to myself "Hey, this is kind of interesting." Honestly, it's been long enough now I felt like I was reading it for the first time, and I wrote most of it! Since it seems like a lot of our twitter followers and blog readers are other devs, I thought I'd just post it for the curious to check out. It's not 100% accurate, probably more like 80% (some of it towards the end is just not finished), and it's not everything, since we have a lot of helper spreadsheets and documents, but it definitely has the heart of the game. To guarantee its authenticity I even left in all of the typos J

So I'm throwing it out on the interwebs to see if people are interested and we'll see what kind of comments we get. Happy reading!


Space Miner GDD

PS - Do not consider this gdd a template for what a "game industry gdd" is. There is no such thing. To be honest, our preferred method now is just working with loosely organized wiki pages, and I think that's the best way yet.

27 June 2011

Up Next - A New Direction

Hello All,

It's been a quiet six or seven months since we launched Space Miner Blast and my last blog post. Ok, so it's more like 9 months, but that time does go by fast! Most of it was spent on some game contracts, with a smattering of some Space Miner 2. As a result, we didn't really have much to blog about.

Unfortunately, while Space Miner was a great critical success (Yay, GOTY on Toucharcade!), its commercial success was only mediocre, so finding time and funding to dedicate towards the sequel has been a challenge. We had a few months back from November to January when it was in active development, but we had to put it on hold when other, paying projects came up. At this point, we have a lot of design and prototype work done, but a lot more work remains before we have a Space Miner 2 sequel.

This leads me to a couple of unfortunate admissions. The first being we won't be doing a sequel this year, like we were planning. The second being we are working on something else instead.

Hence, the title for this post.

Let me start by saying I love Space Miner. Our company loves Space Miner. As a game developer, it is my favorite game I've ever made. So, as the head of Venan, the decision to not continue work on it was an agonizing one. I want to make this game so badly even writing this post makes me feel ill inside. But at the end of the day, we need to do what's right for the company. And I know deep down that doing Space Miner 2 right now isn't the best decision for us, because we don't currently have the time and capital to do it right, and I refuse to do it wrong.

So what next? The answer is, simply, something smaller.

We needed a project that we could reasonably expect to get out by the end of the summer, and SM2 is at least 6 months of work. So that meant re-evaluating our plans and finding a new game design to bring to the table. We did that, and we now have something new underway that we're really excited about. But I'll talk about that more later when things are a bit further along.

As for the "new direction" though, this next product will be freemium. Looking at the App Store, it is becoming increasingly clear that this will be the dominant business model going forward, with 8 of the top 10 grossing apps (as of this evening) being freemium games. Even the mighty Angry Birds finds itself out of the top grossing spot with two free titles in front of it.

I'm pretty sure if you did a head-to-head survey of these other games with Angry Birds among average consumers, (or even Space Miner!) they would not fare too well. Now I don't consider Angry Birds the best game on the App Store, I think it's a solid piece of work that resonated with people. But these other games are all clearly inferior. iMobsters is currently sitting at #12 and I hardly consider that a game. So why are they making more money?

I think when you see a bunch of mediocre products making a lot of money, and a lot of great products making equal or less money, it speaks a lot to which business model is working. And as much as I'd like to just make the games I want to make, the business side is what affords us that luxury.

That being said, I think there is a lot of opportunity here, since most of these games suck. Play-testing them is like pulling out my teeth. As far as I can tell it's a space dominated by good businessmen (or women) and lousy game designers. So our mantra is to make the freemium game we don't hate and hopefully find some success in the process. We've been working on it for about a month now, and I already enjoy it more than 95% of the ones I've played on mobile, Facebook or otherwise. Hopefully you'll all think so as well.

Ok, the cat's out of the bag now. It's unfortunate to announce this, but it's only a delay, not a burial. There is more to come for Uncle Jeb and clan, so be patient and stay tuned.