MacGuffin’s Mystery #2

Looks like something fancy. Is that the focus of Lucas’ ire?

Or is it something in this new wallpaper?

iPhone (640x960)

iPad (1024x768)

Widescreen (1280x1024)

HD 1080p (1920x1080)

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MacGuffin’s Mystery #1

What’s got Lucas so riled up? And what’s with that statue?

And more to the point, what’s with this awesome wallpaper in various shapes and sizes?

iPhone (640x960)

iPad (1024x768)

Widescreen (1280x1024)

HD 1080p (1920x1080)

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MacGuffin’s Curse and Jolly Rover drop DRM

Yes, I know Jolly Rover has been available DRM Free on Desura since the hugely successful Indie Royale Bundle, but the big news is that MacGuffin’s Curse is also coming out with a DRM Free version! And that’s not all! MacGuffin’s Curse’s DRM Free debut is through none other than the Humble Bundle store!

That not enough!? Geez, tough crowd. Okay, well let me tell you also that when you pick up either Jolly Rover or MacGuffin’s Curse through Humble Bundle store, not only do you get links to DRM Free PC and Mac builds, but also your very own Steam key, all in the same purchase. So now you don’t have to choose, you can have you cake and eat it too! (I think that’s the right analogy…)

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Indie dev email #1

From time to time I get emails from indie developers, students mostly, just starting out all bright eyed and optimistic. I still remember what it was like to be those, mostly.

When responding I find myself going over the same information a bit, so I thought it might be a good idea to post one of these to give others access to this information, and also create a nice link to send people to if they’re asking roughly the same questions. Efficiency!

The questions, which were asked in a very polite and gracious manner, I will paraphrase, and replace key words [LIKE THIS]:

I’m currently completing my final year at [GAMES UNI] studying Games Design, I’ve recently decided in opening up my very own Indie Studio. This year I will be trying to develop a few games briefly and quickly to gain an income to move onto this full time as I finish the course. My first project is a [GAME] that will be for iOS, Android, Android Tablets and Steam (PC and maybe Mac).

I’m trying to build a portfolio and I wanted to have a discussion about the processes and development cycle you had undertook with Jolly Rover. Especially in terms of business model, marketing approach and various other topics. Also curious about how you charted the project in terms of what were the biggest achievements, individual deadlines to parts of the project, if you out sourced parts of the game and what milestones you had inputted.

This was my response.

Well it only took about a week, but I’m getting back to you! Now, what were you saying… Ah ok. So firstly it seems like you want to develop a few projects quickly to earn money. Not sure how much you’re expecting to earn off a few quick projects, but I can tell you that some projects that have taken 3 months full time to develop by professional developers have barely made $100, so be careful about your expectations on this. I’m not trying to discourage you, but what I would suggest is taking the time to polish one simple idea and then spending some time marketing it to see how that goes. Even decent quality indie games may only bring in a few hundred a month, outside of sale periods. So what you need to to earn will depend largely on what your living expenses are like, and what money you need to move on to a new project.

Before you release you’ll need some kind of infrastructure, which will be the website at least, then a facebook page, and twitter, and a nice logo. You can get a pretty good looking page up and running quickly using wordpress, so if you haven’t thought of what you might use then that might be a good place to start. You’ll find more and more that to get a game out to market successfully, you’ll be doing less and less game development. I used to say it was 50% development 50% everything else, but that number is skewing to maybe more like 20-30% game development, then everything else. Ultimately, it’s a business. Do you have your business hat handy?

Then after you release the game you’ll go into support mode, or a handful of customers will get loud and cranky and tell everyone to avoid your game. Each new game you release will need to be supported via bug fixes and responding to users, even doing interviews and providing press with keys. You’ve got to do this or your game will essentially die. So keep in mind you’ll be supporting the previous game as you’re developing the new one. So again, best to focus on one nice title, than a few “cheap” ones.

With regard to Jolly Rover, that was funded through Film Vic, so I had to do a business and marketing plan, and a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, I also had to provide them with a budget, that took into account business expenses such as internet, phone, utilities, etc, as well as payment of contractors, and a project plan, which charted major milestones, and how I was going to achieve them. This isn’t required for any game developer to do, but it is important to really understand how the game you’re making will work from a business standpoint. i.e. if you want to make a 2D platformer, who are your competitors (75% of indie developers!), what are their weaknesses, what are your strengths, what is the opportunity for your game to stand out, what threats/challenges (i.e. inexperience) affect the game. I had to properly analyse my market, the adventure market, and try to determine the audience size, and demographic, and how many copies I could expect to sell, at what price, and how I was going to achieve that. I got in touch with a number of adventure enthusiast websites to ask them about traffic and numbers, and sales, but all this is usually difficult information to come by. This is so you don’t make a mistake of thinking there’s a market where there isn’t one, i.e. making an FPS for 80 year old women, or a dress up game for 12-18 year old boys, or even releasing a game in a highly saturated market, i.e. WW2 FPS, or 2D retro platformer.

You’ll notice our latest game is a werewolf, comedy, puzzle, adventure. Why? Well, how many of those are there? Also, werewolves are still relatively well known and referenced in popular culture, and there haven’t been any notable werewolf games of late, at least not focusing on the werewolf as a main character, in addition we have a puzzle mechanic that has never been used before in this space (sokoban-style game, where one character is actually two, with unique abilities). So, even though we started out like “werewolves are cool, let’s make a werewolf game!”, we wouldn’t have moved ahead unless it made sense, because you really don’t want to spend over a year working on something only to have it fail miserably. Now look at Jolly Rover as an example. That was great because there hadn’t been a decent pirate adventure game in the last 10 years, but as soon as I got it funded LucasArts announced the re-release of their Monkey Island series, and TellTale announced they were working on a new set of Monkey Island games. Bad timing indeed!

So there you have it. I hope there was something in there for you. If I get any new emails, and have time to answer them, I’ll post again if I think it’s relevant to a wider audience.

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MacGuffin’s Curse Launch!

In the wee hours of this morning, Ben and Alastair put the icing on the new MacGuffin’s Curse Official website, which is the culmination of this long labour of love.

Not only that, but we let a new trailer drop this morning, which started life as a joke at GDC. I remember Alastair framing the air with his hands, describing how we could play up the fact that Ben got some feedback from Double Fine‘s Tim Schafer on some of his writing, and subsequently a little of that feedback went into the game in the form of one line of dialogue. A small thing, really, which is why we hope the trailer can be seen with the necessary good humour.

Also mentioned in the trailer is the wonderfully zen Dave Grossman, whose feedback I have greatly valued ever since Jolly Rover, and who surprised us by getting pretty darn far in MacGuffin’s Curse. Of course, we couldn’t mention Dave and Tim without mentioning Ron, who has, probably wisely, avoided our pestering emails to date. We’ll keep trying Ron, you know we love you =0).

As I write this, MacGuffin’s Curse has released in the App and Mac App stores in Australia, so if you’re on the early side of the dateline, you can grab them now. Our Steam version launches in less than a day.

Oh and if you’d like to see more of Alastair’s considerable talents, please head over to Rubber Chicken Audio.

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Midweek Madness!

Good morning! I just logged into Steam to check out a fix I finally made for Jolly Rover on Lion (cats and dogs, eh), and the Midweek Madness image popped up with a very familiar looking parrot heading the sale!

Then I remembered, “That’s right!” I asked Steam if they would like to do this, and they were quick to respond. Essentially I wanted to put Jolly Rover in an awesome Indie Adventure bundle with some of Dave Gilbert’s games, and possibly Machinarium, and lo and behold, Jolly Rover is in the bundle with none other than the award winning Gemini Rue, and Machinarium, along with games I simply must try – Lume, and Tiny Bang Story.

The bundle ends this Friday, and if you haven’t played any of the games in this bundle, you know what to do! (I’m asking you to buy it! Was that clear?)

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MacGuffin’s Curse launch party!

Lower your expectations! We’re having a “launch party” for MacGuffin’s Curse!

Okay, so what we’re actually doing is piggy backing on the very cool and well planned IGDA Melbourne event on Tuesday April 10th at The Workers Club, cnr Brunswick and Gertrude Streets, Fitzroy. The event is a wrap up of GDC experiences from the movers and shakers of the industry and will be the next best thing to being there, maybe even better!*

In keeping with this theme we’ll also be giving people a taste of what they would have experienced if they had forked out the cash to come all the way to San Francisco to see MacGuffin’s Curse at our GDC Play Kiosk. We’ll be running through the game, and enthralling you by talking about whatever pops into our head, including amusing anecdotes from our childhood, and what we think about the state of the economy. We’ll have Steam keys to give away, for performing some dangerous task or another, like… asking a question. And we’re rounding up as many of the team that are still talking to us to lend their awesome presence to the event.

Now, I know what you’re thinking “I thought this awesome game was releasing on April 19th?”. Don’t worry, your grasp on reality is sound, at least in this respect. The game will still be launching through Steam (PC/Mac) and the App stores (iPhone/iPad/Mac) on April 19th, but we just wanted to get a little pre-launch partying in. That and, I’m washing my hair on the 19th, so we couldn’t do it then.

* Probably not better

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3D Rover

Check out this awesome Jolly Rover fanart, in 3D!

I never thought Jolly Rover would look that great in 3D, which is why I made the artistic choice to do it in 2D, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this fan art by Karen Soroe is definitely that. Thanks so much for sending this through Karen, you’re awesome!

What do you think?

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Jolly Rover in Indie Royale Bundle

Even now, nearly two years after release, I’m so happy to still be able to announce new things for Jolly Rover. First and foremost, is it’s in the latest Indie Royale Bundle (PC/Mac), which is St Patrick’s Day themed. I can’t exactly explain how Jolly Rover fits into this, maybe it’s the green pants?! I was fortunate enough to chat with Simon Carless about it at GDC, and it turns out he’s a big fan of adventure games, which is why you might see a skew towards adventure on the Indie Royale Bundles. No problems there! With Double Fine securing over $3.3M for their next game the future of adventure looks bright!

By the way, the bundle will be on sale for 5 days only, it’s a great chance to check out some of the other awesome games in the bundle you might not have heard of. I particularly like the look of DLC Quest.

Also of importance, is that this is the first legit DRM Free version of Jolly Rover, and after the bundle has finished it will remain on Desura in all it’s DRM free glory! Desura currently has an exclusive on the DRM free version, but I will no doubt be getting a DRM free version available here in the near future, probably some time after MacGuffin’s Curse launches on April 19.

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Ayopa to publish MacGuffin’s Curse on App stores

I’ve just received word that I can finally announce some news I’ve been sitting on for months. Ayopa games will be publishing MacGuffin’s Curse on the App stores this April. This includes the Mac App Store!

We will still be handling distribution and marketing for all platforms outside of Apple’s distribution network, but we decided that because the App stores can be very noisy places, that Ayopa, based in San Francisco, and thus with close proximity to Apple and their outstanding history in the industry, would give us a better chance at being noticed amongst the hundreds of apps that launch every day.

We began talking to Ayopa back in September 2011, and at the time we weren’t considering getting a publisher at all. Actually, we were pretty against the idea at first. Personally, I’m a bit cynical when it comes to publishers. But after talking to Johnny, who launched Angry Birds and Cut the Rope while at Chillingo, and Elliott, who was PR manager on World of Warcraft, and previously Executive Editor at GameSpot, we felt they were better poised to operate a successful PR and marketing campaign than we were.

So, did we make the right decision to go with a publisher for MacGuffin’s Curse? I couldn’t tell you that, but so far the Ayopa team have been great, and we wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t feel really strongly that this was the best way to go. Ask me in July if I still feel the same way!

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