December 11, 2018


Christmas Stories: Alice's Adventures

from Casual Game Guides

Christmas Stories: Alice’s Adventures is a charming holiday waltz through the imagination with gameplay that is suited for all ages. Join The Cheshire Cat, The White Rabbit, and other Wonderland characters as you race to save Christmas once again. 



» Christmas Stories: Alice's Adventures Walkthrough & Forum

» Christmas Stories: Alice's Adventures Free Trial & Related Games



December 07, 2018


Grey Alien Games and Suricate Software bring Jewel Match Solitaire Winterscapes to Steam

from Grey Alien Games

Jewel Match Solitaire Winterscapes by Suricate Software is coming to Steam for PC. UK-based Grey Alien Games will publish the game on behalf of Suricate Software, a European game developer behind numerous classic casual titles. This follows a similar agreement to bring Suricate’s other Jewel Match Solitaire titles to Steam earlier this year.

Jewel Match Twilight Solitaire Winterscapes includes 200 solitaire levels, 12 additional Solitaire variants like Yukon or Emperor, five beautiful winter scenes to build and multiple card decks. Players will be able to choose between three different play modes, unlock stunning desktop wallpapers and enjoy a beautiful holiday soundtrack.

Jake Birkett, owner of Grey Alien Games said: “We are delighted to publish Suricate Software’s holiday themed game on Steam. The wintery locations and engaging gameplay will keep everyone entertained on days when you just want to hunker down beside a cosy fire.”

Grey Alien Games has several of its own titles on Steam, including Regency Solitaire and solitaire-driven RPG, Shadowhand.

Jewel Match Solitaire Winterscapes is due to launch on 21st December, 2018.

For more details or to wishlist, please visit the Steam store page, here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/993780/Jewel_Match_Solitaire_Winterscapes/



December 06, 2018


Episode 522: Civving Up

from Casual Gamer Chick

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This week’s episode is full of industry news in the wake of The Game Awards. There wasn’t many news items but there was plenty to talk about with the Awards, especially with this week’s Gaming Flashback, Unlimited Adventures.

This week’s news items include:

Let us know what you think.

This week’s episode is full of industry news in the wake of The Game Awards. There wasn’t many news items but there was plenty to talk about with the Awards, especially with this week’s Gaming Flashback, Unlimited Adventures. This week’s news items include: Rumor: Starfield in trouble Epic launching Steam rival Maori announced as second civ for Gathering Storm Let us know what you think.



December 03, 2018


Lost Artifacts: Time Machine

from Casual Game Guides

Lost Artifacts: Time Machine is a super fun play and a refreshing take on the time management / resource management genre that will have you quickly restarting levels as you apply new strategies to boards in order to win your coveted 3-star rating. 



» Lost Artifacts: Time Machine Walkthrough & Forum

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Steam’s discovery algorithm killed my sales

from Grey Alien Games

Firstly I want to be clear that I have had some measure of success on Steam and I’ve enjoyed going to Steam Dev Days and other events and talking to their reps who seem to be genuinely interested supporting indie developers. So this blog post is not about me hating on Steam, rather it’s to discuss a recent issue that has impacted my sales and the sales of many other indies too.

Here’s a huge Steamworks forum post about the issue (you have to be logged on as a developer to read it).

The October Discovery Bug

In early October Valve changed something in their discovery algorithm and introduced a bad bug which meant that Steam was only recommending some big name games instead of relevant games, oops!

Ongoing Discovery Issues

Valve fixed the October discovery bug quickly (within a week I think) but since then many indies have seen a big dip in their traffic from “Other Product Pages” and “Home Page”. Other product pages includes a sub-category of “Discovery Queue” and traffic from that source appears to have decreased significantly for me if I compare before and after the October bug.

Here’s a good week (click to enlarge the image):

And here’s a bad week (click to enlarge the image):

You can see that Other Product Pages has gone from being my top traffic source with 305 visits to a mediocre traffic source with only 91 visits.

This effect can also be seen on the traffic graphs in Steamworks (click image below to enlarge it). The orange line is “Other Product Pages”. I ran a weeklong sale at the start of Oct but straight after the sale finished the traffic from other product pages dropped and stayed low. The other two peaks are the Steam Halloween and Thanksgiving sales.

I can see the same drop in traffic for two of my other games and some devs have showed me charts with an even more severe drop.

Impact on Sales

I compared full price sales before and after the October bug (being careful to avoid weeklong sales and Steam sales) and my total units sold have halved. Revenue has dipped even more because our most expensive game has dropped to 36% of previous unit sales.

I’m not sure if this issue also affects traffic during a) discount sales and b) game launches because those are a lot harder to analyse like for like, but based on some data I’ve seen from other developers I’m suspicious that those things may also be impacted.

Has this issue affected all indies?

I’ve heard in private that some games are either not affected by this issue or have actually benefited from it with increased traffic! It stands to reason that if many devs are losing traffic, then that traffic must be going elsewhere. That said, a huge number of smaller indies have been hit hard by this issue, harder than me, with traffic and sales dropping to near zero in many cases.

Have I told Valve about it?

Like many indies who added games to Steam since Steam Greenlight I don’t have an official rep. However I did email a couple of reps who I got business cards from and they said they would look into it, but I haven’t heard from them since then.

Admittedly I should chase them up but I was waiting to see if the problem resolved itself, but it’s been ongoing for two months now. Other indies I know have emailed their reps but I haven’t heard anything positive yet.

Here’s the data I sent to Valve (click to enlarge) along with screenshots of the traffic graphs.

Theories

Fellow indie dev Danny Day has suggested that the discovery algorithm may have a historical data component to it and after the initial October bug the historical data got trashed and so the algorithm is not giving the same results as before.

October/November is also AAA release season and includes two Steam sales so it’s possible that our sales are impacted slightly, but that doesn’t explain the sudden huge drop off in discovery traffic that many indies are seeing.

Another possibility is just that Valve changed the algorithm to highlight different games and some devs have benefited and others have not.

It’s even possible that Valve shifted some kind of slider from “show a variety of indie games” further towards “show popular games that earn more money”. They are a corporation after all and corporations like to make money and they don’t have any real obligation to help out smaller indie teams. This particular point seems evident when taking into account the recent news that games grossing over $10M will receive a greater share of the revenue but struggling indies will not.

Also I’ve heard Valve say multiple times that they put the customer first (understandably) and so they probably believe whatever changes they make improve the experience for customers.

But I must stress that the above points are just theories, we haven’t heard anything official from Valve yet.

Selling Direct and Itch.io

So, should I double down on selling direct or use itch.io?

Well I’ve been selling direct since 2006, but sadly my direct sales are about 1% of my total revenue. I need distributors like Steam to survive. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is.

Btw, you can buy all my games direct from me here. I get 100% of the revenue minus a small processing fee, so it’s amazing and the best way you can support indies is to buy direct.

The second best way is to buy through itch.io because they only take a small fee (in fact developers can set it at a rate they think is fair). I haven’t put my games on itch.io yet because I’ve heard that sales on there are very low and I’ve been busy with potentially higher value tasks. However, I will try out Regency Solitaire on there soon and see how it gets on as I’d like to support the platform now more than ever.

More discussion

Check out these Twitter threads for more discussion with other devs who have also shared their data.

Conclusion

In the past I have felt positive about Steam, but these discovery changes and the recent revenue share changes that are only relevant to hugely successful games don’t make me feel particularly positive about the future of selling games on Steam. In fact I’d go as far as to say I’m worried.

Making indie games is my full time job and I’d really like it to continue for many years. I’ve had to adapt a lot over the years and it feels like another phase of adaption is fast approaching…



November 30, 2018


AdventureX game design talk

from Grey Alien Games

Helen recently gave a talk on game design at AdventureX in London on Interweaving story and mechanics in Shadowhand.

It’s now available to watch on YouTube.

Here’s the outline: Using mechanics that don’t fit the world and story can frustrate players, or break their immersion. Mechanics and story must work in harmony. In this design session, Helen Carmichael (Grey Alien Games) shares how story fed into game mechanics in RPG card game Shadowhand, and how mechanics also sometimes inspired a better story.

AdventureX is the only convention dedicated to narrative-driven games. AdventureX 2018 was run in partnership with the British Library as part of International Games Week.



November 29, 2018


Mystery Case Files: The Countess

from Casual Game Guides

Mystery Case Files: The Countess is the newest addition to the much-lauded Mystery Case Files Franchise and will put you in the direct path of the terrifying power of the Lady in Black. Get ready for a creepy adventure that will put your Master Detective Skills to the test in this new MCF game.



» Mystery Case Files: The Countess Walkthrough & Forum

» Mystery Case Files: The Countess Free Trial & Related Games




Episode 521: Power Outage

from Casual Gamer Chick

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Last week’s podcast couldn’t be uploaded thanks to some good old-fashioned California power outages. This week’s episode is full of snark — enjoy.

The news items include:

  • PlayStation Classic using PAL versions for several games regardless of region
  • Bethesda apologizes about Fallout 76 launch
  • Fortnite surpasses 200 million players
  • No Man’s Sky Visions update improves diversity

Let us know what you think.

Last week’s podcast couldn’t be uploaded thanks to some good old-fashioned California power outages. This week’s episode is full of snark — enjoy. The news items include: PlayStation Classic using PAL versions for several games regardless of region Bethesda apologizes about Fallout 76 launch Fortnite surpasses 200 million players No Man’s Sky Visions update improves diversity Let us know what you think.



November 28, 2018


Viking Brothers 5

from Casual Game Guides

Viking Brothers 5 brings us back to the world of the Norsemen in this always entertaining and well-designed time management game franchise. Join Everand and Boromir as they once again must face the trials of the gods in order to save the world from a lurking evil.



» Viking Brothers 5 Walkthrough & Forum

» Viking Brothers 5 Free Trial & Related Games



November 27, 2018


Next Stop 3

from Casual Game Guides

Next Stop 3 is a return to a fun and entertaining franchise that challenges you to restore an aging railroad system along with the fearless Margaret and her tireless crew of railway workers. Do you have what it takes to beat the clock and get the edge on your competition? Found out in Next Stop 3!



» Next Stop 3 Walkthrough & Forum

» Next Stop 3 Free Trial & Related Games



November 25, 2018


Did the last game you shipped cover its costs?

from Grey Alien Games

I recently ran a poll on Twitter asking game devs if their last game covered its costs including a nominal salary for themselves, and you can see the results in the above image. You might want to click on the link and read the Twitter thread because there were some interesting replies.

I then asked a follow up question to find out what people thought the main reason was that they didn’t make a profit, with examples such as:
- Spent too much
- Spent too long
- Platform crowded
- No one wanted game
- Game was bad
- Marketing failed

Flaws in the poll

The poll was just meant to be a casual poll for fun and so it may be flawed in the following ways, so please take it with a pinch of salt:
1) I should have added a “Just show me the results” option so that people didn’t pick something random just to see the results.
2) I could have requested that only full-time devs answer because many hobbyists answered and I suspect the results are likely to be different for hobbyists due to their potentially low costs. Still, the combined result is interesting.
3) I’m suspicious that many devs don’t really calculate their costs properly including a nominal salary for themselves and so may have chosen “break even” or “profit” when that’s not really true.
4) No time scales were specified such as launch month, or first year, or lifetime etc. I personally know that over many years a game can move from a loss into a decent profit.

Observations

Despite the possible flaws in the poll, it looks like just over a third (38%) of devs broke even or made a profit. This is actually WAY higher than I was expecting because – based on various discussions I’ve had with people over the years – I had a figure in mind of maybe 10% making a profit, and then only a much smaller percentage making a significant profit. Though admittedly the figure of 10% I had in mind was for full-time devs, so it’s possible that hobbyists are skewing the poll towards profit, or just that I was too pessimistic!

New indie devs might find the results shocking (62% of games making a loss) but I actually found them to be positive because I believe that I can make games that break even or make a profit in the future as I’ve done it many times before. Although my last game, Shadowhand, is the one that has made the biggest loss so far, simply because it took too long to make and therefore my nominal salary is huge. My current game, Ancient Enemy has a much more ambitious schedule and lower budget in an effort to break even sooner. We’ll find out if that worked in early 2019!

I also suspect that ongoing overcrowding of the market will contribute towards more games making a loss in the coming years unless more devs switch to lower budgets, faster dev cycles and maybe even higher prices! The race to the bottom of indie game prices has been a big concern of mine for years ever since I saw it happen to the casual download market in the late 2000s.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the poll. Let me know what you’d have chosen in the comments.



November 21, 2018


Ancient Enemy Dev Diary #2

from Grey Alien Games

We are really delighted to be working with artist Jen Pattison on Ancient Enemy. This week in our dev diary Jen shares a bit about the art development and progress:

A world in tatters
The overall visual design of the characters in Ancient Enemy is intended to follow the theme of the story that the world has seen a lot of conflict and everyone has mostly been left in tatters as a result, one way or another.

That manifests in scruffy or damaged clothes; armour rusted, bloomed, or falling off; fungal growths; and in some cases people just being stitched back together to join the fight again.

Here are a couple of poses for an enemy bandit character:

All the human characters are not quite human anymore, and the bandits are maybe the simplest expression of that by not having faces, just empty dark hoods like wraiths, but otherwise displaying the physically fit body type you might expect from their lifestyle.

Warped nature
The Boarstool, on the other hand, is an example of warped nature, partly grown over and partly altered in fundamentals to be somewhere in the middle of plant and animal.

We did a few iterations to get him a bit meaner and a bit more gross along the way, altering his expression and giving him a rotting leg.

I also tried out a number of palette options for him, as some colours that could read as toxic/poisonous were also quite friendly/cute fantasy in tone.

Ultimately we decided to have different colours of Boarstool in different areas of the game to add to the variety and to fit in with the mood of the zones where they appear.

The aim for the characters’ stances was to create something dynamic and illustrative, within the limitations of the card based UI, which has taken a lot of back and forth to get right but it’s the sort of thing that’s very satisfying to work on as a team when it all finally comes together.



November 19, 2018


Roman Adventure: Britons - Season One

from Casual Game Guides

Roman Adventures: Britons – Season One takes you on a fantastic resource management game that will delight any fan of the genre. With plenty of buildings, workers, and tasks to manage, you’ll have your hands full achieving expert times.



» Roman Adventure: Britons - Season One Walkthrough & Forum

» Roman Adventure: Britons - Season One Free Trial & Related Games



November 16, 2018


Ancient Enemy Dev Diary #1

from Grey Alien Games

It’s been less than a month since we announced Ancient Enemy, and we’ve been making good progress.

Jen has been finalizing the main character’s various fighting stances. First she drew some sketches, which we tested in-game, and then she spent a while painting them.

Jake plugged them in to the game and made videos of them animating so that the team could check them out and suggest improvements.

Since the announcement we brought Dan Emmerson on board. He made the game logo, which we really loved, so we asked him to design the playing cards, collectible cards and user interface in a similar style to the logo. We hope to have some screenshots we can share next week.

Jim has been working closely with Jen and Dan on art direction and has generated a draft map screen.

Jake has been working on detailed art lists for Dan and producer stuff like updating the schedule and making sure everyone is fully aware of the budget and time constraints. He has also been coding a map node system, which allows us to have non-linear mini maps for each main map location. We’re also going to use this code for a skill tree system later on.

Jake is now finalizing a list of collectible cards that the game will have so that we can code these and make art for them. And Jen is working on some awesome enemies that will take several weeks, we will post some of these soon…



November 15, 2018


Episode 520: Excelsior!

from Casual Gamer Chick

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The news cycle has begun to explode, as the holiday season looms and Black Friday in sight. Jonah and TJ get into a heated argument about Destiny 2, to liven up the proceedings after the bummer of Stan Lee’s death.

This week’s news include:

  • Obsidian and inXile join Microsoft Studios
  • Stan Lee dies at 95
  • Destiny 2 director assures players Bungie is “not disappointed” with Forsaken

The Question of the Week is indeed “How would you fix Destiny 2?”

The news cycle has begun to explode, as the holiday season looms and Black Friday in sight. Jonah and TJ get into a heated argument about Destiny 2, to liven up the proceedings after the bummer of Stan Lee’s death. This week’s news include: Obsidian and inXile join Microsoft Studios Stan Lee dies at 95 Destiny 2 director assures players Bungie is “not disappointed” with Forsaken The Question of the Week is indeed “How would you fix Destiny 2?”