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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusiness[Diary of a Steam Noob] Our First Full Steam Release - Ask Me Anything
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joe_eyemobi
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« on: April 16, 2016, 09:27:38 pm »



Hey guys,

Intro
I’ve been inspired by a lot of other forum members in the past including their willingness to help the rest of the community.  I just wanted to do the same in the hopes that my humble information might help and inspire other devs who were at the same point I was a couple of years ago.

I’ve been bungling my way through the whole process, feeling like a complete noob most of the time, but I learned a ton along the way.

Background
A couple of years ago I did a game jam, which seemed to garner a bit of interest, and I ended up working on it further, and posted up here for feedback. https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=39267.msg1029153#msg1029153

Since then the game has been through Steam Greenlight, Early Access and now it’s just been released Fully into steam.

The game itself is a survival horror roguelike (or roguelite) with Lovecraftian themes based in the Kowloon Walled City http://store.steampowered.com/app/342550/

I had no idea what to expect once we hit Full Release - but so far it’s selling more than zero which has been my only hope Smiley

Lessons Learned
I plan to do an even more in-depth analysis in future, but for now I’ll give you the highlights of what I learned:

Early Access
Early Access was a great experience for us.  Essentially it gave us a small taste of what it was to be like on steam without being overwhelmed. We learned a lot about things like community management and releasing regular builds which we had little experience before.

We spent a year in EA though, and looking back I think that was too long.  Also if we do it again, I think we’ll get our game to at least a beta state first.  Standards are definitely rising among players even for EA.

Also leaving such a big gap between EA and Full Release meant that a lot of press just forgot about us.  It definitely felt much harder trying to drum up interest even compared to EA.

Community Management
With regards to community management, I was quite proud of the little community that we had cultivated.  We decided early on to foster an atmosphere of positivity and fun, but at the same time we did not tolerate any trolling or flaming.  I was genuinely surprised at how nice everyone was on the forum.  It was important that we didn’t respond negatively even to the worst, harshest reviews or comments - it was paramount to stay 100% professional.

I was blown away when one commenter actually complimented us on how respectful we were to the community!
http://steamcommunity.com/app/342550/discussions/0/613956964603341537/

It’s not always easy to keep a cool head, so if something really annoyed us, we would take some time before responding.

Recognizing our Players
This is part of community management, but I feel like it has been really important for us.  Although our fan base wasn’t immense, we had a small number of really passionate players who would spend time taking the best screenshots or diligently testing the game.

I was personally really touched by their dedication, so for the most dedicated fans, I made sure I recognized them in our later updates - actually giving them shout outs in our steam announcements.

For some outstanding fans, I even included easter eggs that mentioned their names or a couple of screenshots of their work in the game itself.  They seemed to really appreciate these gestures.

Marketing
I’ve always understood that as devs we hate marketing - we just love working on the game!  So this time I tried really hard to leave dev to the other guys and focus at least 90% on marketing in the last 3 months before release.

I had the good fortune to have Morgan Jaffit from Defiant Developer to guide me with our marketing plan, which was as follows:

  • Create a prioritized contact list of youtubers, press, and streamers (I sourced this from the Pixel Prospectors big list of youtubers and many other publicly available press lists originally)
  • Pick out the top priority contacts to email 4 weeks before release
  • 2 Weeks out contact everyone on the list: Personalized emails for top priority contacts and mailchimp for the lower tier contacts.
  • Spend a decent amount of time taking new screenshots and update page content
  • Requests fans who enjoyed the game in
  • A/B Test or capsule images and trailer assets (more on this below)


A/B Testing refers to running multiple similar ads at the same time to see which one people respond to most.  We used this with Facebook and Twitter Ads to test images and the trailer.  For example I had 4 slightly different images of the Steam Capsule image (i.e. the one you see in lists in steam) and ran an ad that served them up to equal amounts of people at the same time.

From the analytics we could see which ones people clicked on the most.  All the times we did the tests, it was always clear that people favored one particular picture or video over the others, so we used this to decide on what pictures/videos to use on the steam page.  In some cases I ran multiple tests to refine the best picture/videos.

I only started doing this 3 month from release, but I wished I had done this from the start!

Social Media
We focused largely on Twitter and Facebook in terms of sending out updates and things.  The most valuable interactions have been engagement with other users rather than spamming out advertising though.

Testing
Mid way through the project we lost our dedicated tester/community manager so I ended up having to shoulder that role too.  Although we managed, I feel having a dedicated internal tester would have improved quality immensely for us.  A few bugs made it out to full release that could have been easily avoided unfortunately.  Sadly this is a role that few people like doing.

For our next project I’ll definitely get a reliable resource on board.

Planning
Trello was a great way to plan monthly dev cycles (or sprints), and gantt charts were really useful for release milestones where I needed to track every single dependency for tasks that multiple connections to each other.  I found Gantter to be quite good for this.

Analytics
We used Google Analytics to measure traffic to the site, but Steamworks has great tools for tracking sales and traffic.

Here are the stats from Google Analytics for the steam page:

 

Valve has some restrictions in terms of information I can disclose, so I’ll need to just verify them before I release our specific sales info (as much as I’d like to).

Steamspy http://steamspy.com/app/342550 has some roughly accurate numbers, but they were proportional to the number of visits from google analytics, i.e. sales on Full Release were about 4 times that at the peak of Early Access.

Conclusion
In general I think as much reading and research as I had done, going through the end to end process was still a huge learning curve.  I screwed up lots of things, but hopefully through those mistakes I’ll learn for next time.

Anyway, I hope this will be of use to some of you.  I plan to do a more detailed analysis in future, once the dusts settles.  If you have any questions feel free to fire them through!
« Last Edit: April 16, 2016, 10:44:26 pm by joe_eyemobi » Logged

neutonm
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2016, 10:44:41 am »

Wow, just wow! Looks decent.

Gotta try your game soon; adore horror games (amnesia, soma, etc). Is it mainly about scare jumps or it's a thriller?
Thanks for sharing your experience. I've learned something from what you learned :p

I have some questions...

How greenlight campaign went?

What language, engine and tools/software was used to make the game?
Edit: figured out.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2016, 01:57:42 pm by neutonm » Logged

2mass
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2016, 10:59:23 am »

Looks scary, indeed. Something to play on a dark lonely night.

I really enjoyed reading your diary as I'm about to join Greenlight myself, I hope to skip early access tho. It was a really nice read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.
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joe_eyemobi
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2016, 01:07:19 pm »

Wow, just wow! Looks decent.

Gotta try your game soon; adore horror games (amnesia, soma, etc). Is it mainly about scare jumps or it's a thriller?
Thanks for sharing your experience. I've learned something from what you learned :p

I have some questions...

How greenlight campaign went?

What language, engine and tools/software was used to make the game?

Thanks @2mass and @neutonm!  Beer!
The Steam greenlight process took about 2-3 months for us.  I don't think we were even at the top 10 and then all of a sudden we were in!  I think someone at Valve must have seen that we had been kickstarted, and fast tracked the process.

Mind you that was 1-2 years ago - it feels like GL is a lot faster and easier now.

I also had a blog I wrote for Gamasutra that covers the SGL and KS Process:
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JoeChang/20141117/230163/Postmortem_for_a_Kickstarter_Project_that_just_made_it_over_the_line.php

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Impmaster
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« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2016, 11:35:47 pm »

It's crazy that you guys had a community, had features in PC Gamer, RPS and IGN, and still sold so few units. Think you stayed on EA too long? Your game looks fine from the trailer.
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joe_eyemobi
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« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2016, 04:13:39 am »

It's crazy that you guys had a community, had features in PC Gamer, RPS and IGN, and still sold so few units. Think you stayed on EA too long? Your game looks fine from the trailer.

Thanks Impmaster - yeah one thing I felt we did quite well on was the marketing early on.  I believe that we stayed way too long in EA - with our next project we'll definitely shorten that part and the entire project life cycle significantly.  I also think that technically our game could have had a lot more polish - we lost our dedicated tester mid way through and that screwed us up a bit.
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