Waves: The Postmorteming

On Monday Waves sold it’s 15,000th copy during it’s Daily Deal on Steam. That’s not bad for a game that’s been out a little under 6 months and was made mostly by just one man.

So with 20k copies looking very far away indeed right now it seems like a good time for a look back at Waves to see what went right and what went wrong.

First up some statistics without any context:

  • Units sold to date: 15,238
  • Percentage sold direct: 3.7%
  • Percentage sold on Steam: 96.2%
  • Percentage sold in Steam bundles: 53%
  • Percentage sold during Daily Deal: 15%
  • Metacritic Score: 82
  • Steam Demo Downloads: 25,985
  • Steam Demo Conversion Rate: 6.8%
  • Average Time Played: 2 Hours 44 Minutes
  • Average Play Session: 22 Minutes
  • Percentage of Players who played more than 20 hours: 1%
  • Percentage of Players who reached the Score Cap: 0.4%

If you are a website looking for a story feel free to pick a headline out of those numbers although by now I don’t think there is anything that surprising about them as we all know that Steam is a pretty big deal these days.

As you can see the majority of sales have not been at the full asking price of $10. In fact the average price paid per unit is significantly south of that and I’m yet to reach the point where I have to pay Epic any royalties for my UDK license. In short I’m not rich but I’m not starving (I am however still living with my parents which helps even though it is embarrassing as a 30 year old man). Now on the assumption that the inevitable Summer and Winter Sales for this year bring in about half as much as the first Winter sale did I should be able to fund myself for the next year. Those same numbers however say that I won’t be able to afford to pay for lots of art or other content for my next game which sucks.

Why Am I not Rich?

Everybody knows all indie developers that make it onto Steam are minted and have no money problems so why am I not sitting at a gold plated desk smoking money cigars while wearing a money hat (aside from my not smoking and looking daft in hats). Read on to find out why…

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The Week After

Hello!

So Waves was released a week ago and since then there have been 2 patches on Steam and a third that will hopefully go live tonight (EDIT: It has gone live already). That’s more patches than Skyrim has had and I’ve definitely fixed more things than I’ve broken.

Generally the only bugs have been with Achievements and that’s largely because achievements are hard to debug until you can actually see the stats for them which I couldn’t during the beta. Everything else has been adding little feature requests like being able to pick a Random announcer each game or turning off the Aim Line.

Since release several people have said some very nice things about Waves in what are known as “Reviews” I shall share the ones I know about below along with some of my favourite quotes:

DealSpwn “Prepare for hectic unforgiving splendour and retinal titilation of the highest order.”
The72Pins “If you’re looking for a game to take the place of the never to be seen Geometry Wars 3, then this is it.”
Kotaku “Waves is the most addictive little twin-stick shooter I’ve played since Geometry Wars.”
IndieGamesMag “Waves is a hard hitting, spunk-filled fireworks display.”
ElectronDance “1 min of its edge-of-seat bullet ballet = the handstrain of 6 self-love sessions.”
DIYGamer “it’s a lot bloody good.”

Some other things that have happened since release is the Survival leaderboards have seen 4 players break the 1 billion barrier with one player managing to hit the score cap I had to implement because Steam Leaderboards and UDK don’t support 64bit integers.

The current top score for the Challenge mode was actually caught on camera and is on Youtube as well which was quite lucky.

I shall now address the things that people ask me (aside from “Can I have a review copy?”):

Q: Can we have more music?

A: Music is expensive. Really expensive. Waves has not yet made enough that I can afford to pay SMILETRON to make some new tracks. So at the moment no.

Q: Will the soundtrack be released?

A: We’re working on it. SMILETRON is mastering the ingame tracks into an album friendly format at the moment. When it’s closer to happening I’ll post about it.

Q: The Friends leaderboard is a bit slow isn’t it?

A: Yep it is. This is unfortunately a UDK issue and one I was hoping would be fixed with the October update. It wasn’t. This is one of those bugs that I can’t do anything about. The November UDK update may fix it but I’m not promising anything.

Q: Is there going to be a Mac, XBLA, PSN, iThing version?

A: XBLA and PSN isn’t going to happen unless the game makes a huge amount of money. The UDK licence doesn’t cover those platforms so I’d need a full Unreal licence. That’s assuming I got a slot which I think is incredibly unlikely. A Mac or iThing version may happen further down the line but it requires that I have a Mac and iThing to test on which I can’t afford right now.

 

A Release Date!

Waves will not be released in October. Sorry.

It will however be getting released on November 16th. That’s an exact date right there. Put it in your diaries.

The reasons for this are many but I’ll give you the 3 big ones:

Battlefield 3 (In the UK at least), Modern Warfare 3, and Skyrim.

I won’t be playing any of them (well maybe Skyrim) but it’s simply a matter of publicity and the fact that when expensive high profile games come out nobody buys or writes about indie games.

Now this sucks because as my followers will know I’m basically broke now. I’m running on fumes in terms of savings and it is only thanks to my lovely girlfriend and some very understanding parents that I’ve been able to keep going as long as I have. I would love to release this weekend if I didn’t think that releasing now would be worse than releasing after all the big hitters have been and gone.

The other benefit of this delay is that it will let me poke various press people into action so they can play the finished version of the game rather than a beta for their reviewing. I will also be able to put together a launch trailer which is something I just wouldn’t have had time for otherwise. Post in the comments any ideas for the trailer because if I’m honest I’m a bit rubbish at them.

So remember: November 16th. It’s not a Wednesday it’s Wavesday. Aha. See what I did there? Gosh I’m funny.

Slow Going

I just wanted to post quickly to say that I am still alive and Waves is still being worked on despite the lack of activity from myself either here or on Twitter.

This is due to my being out of the country right now helping my girlfriend move house as well as looking after a sick cat. Unfortunately moving house also means painting and doing lots of DIY which is eating my days.

The good news is that the game is feature complete and now just needs the remaining content to be completed before I start a big fat private beta and start balancing. If things go well the game should still be on track for release in the autumn.

There will be a demo of the game available.

For lack of a screenshot here is a picture of our cat Noortje who is 16 years old and is very poorly right now.

Bombing Run

Bombing Run is mostly finished.

In this mode you have no weapons and the only way to kill anything is by picking up explosives from the Red Gate and delivering them to the Nuke Gate.

It’s not simple though. The explosives are on a ten second timer and if you don’t get them into the gate on time then they’re going to explode taking you with them.

You can gain an advantage though – get a X10 Combo and you’ll receive a shield which will knock nearby enemies away if you get hit. If you want you can even trigger it early with the bomb button. It comes in very hand if you need to dive headfirst into the mass of enemies to get to the gate.

This is probably the hardest mode so far in Waves. If you notice the scores at the end of the video this was the first run I scored over 1 million in. It is incredibly harsh and made me focus very closely on the collision detection code and I spent hours tuning the players movement speed and acceleration as a result.

Even though this is the hardest mode in the game to get really high scores at I’ve found myself to be completely addicted to it. I’ve lost hours when I was testing something because I compulsively hit the “Play Again” button at the end of each round. I’m hoping this is a good sign.

There are some other graphical changes in this version – most obviously the trails behind enemies and the new explosions. All of these are in the other modes and the game is even running faster now than it was when I made the Time Attack video.

Things are moving along very quickly and should be ready for a release in the autumn.

5 Hours of Particle Effects

I’ve been working on The Cube (remember him? He’d clump about the arena not really doing much but being kinda cool).

Well The Cube has gotten a little smaller and had a facelift. He’s also learnt a new trick – Stay still too long and he might just charge straight at you. All that tumbling around? That’s just so he can line you up for a smashing.

Anyway 5 hours ago that attack looked like this:



I promise you he’s moving at a fair lick in that screenshot.

Read on to find out how it went on for 5 hours.

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The Cutting Room Floor

All ideas are not created equal. If you follow me on Twitter you will be privy to the more detailed aspects of Waves development and will have seen lots of screenshots of stuff that is in development and in some cases been cut from the game.

I thought I’d share some of them with everybody else along with why they might have ended up on the cutting room floor. This is a bit like the Deleted Scenes part of a DVD.

If you want up to the minute updates on what I’m working on then you should really follow me on Twitter.

The Sniper

Owly Images

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Communication Breakdown

Women will be acutely aware of this phenomena but men do not follow instructions. I’d argue that this is because the male mind is hard wired to problem solve, we get a big kick out it. This means that when faced with a new toy the last thing we will ever do is read a manual.

It would be disingenuous of me to say that “Gamers” also do not follow instruction. For example there are a great deal of female gamers who in my experience will pour over the manual for a game before they even install it. Gamers are also very good at following tutorials because they are a form of interactive feedback loop.

The “How to Play” screen is the Indie games equivalent of a manual. They are incredibly important but they never get read by the majority of players.

Let’s play Geometry Wars 2 (This isn’t me playing FYI).

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Not yet. But nearly.

So I pretty much figured 1000 followers by the 6th wasn’t going to happen. However I was amazed by the number of followers I did in fact gain and mostly the amount of coverage and positive comments that appeared around the net as a result.

The demo will be released.

Just not today.

The problem is that the IndieDB competition pretty much came out of left field and left me nowhere near enough time to turn Waves into a viable public demo (mostly due to the additional UI work required). I was able to scrape the game together into something I could send to the judges but I wouldn’t feel right releasing the game in it’s current state as a demo for the public (The most important judges of all).

My current problem is that my Flash trial has run out and this being my first indie game I don’t have enough cash on hand to pay for a license. Not that paying for a license would magically make me a good UI designer or capable of achieving anything better than “Functional” in appearance.

I’m hoping to improve the UI in the next week or so but the demo may have to wait until after Christmas depending on how things pan out.

There is also the fact that when I was writing the “How To Play” for the judges I even started to confuse myself so I need to do something about that as well.

Extra special thanks go out to the 50 or so people who followed me on Twitter and to everybody who joined the Facebook page and subscribed on Youtube.

Anyway here are some screenshots of various bits for you to entertain yourself with.