Warning to rookie journalists

Some rookie journalist for an unknown site reached out to me the other day asking about Oointah. It was 100% phishing, but still, they found us. I was excited.

Initially.

I asked him to get back to me with some real meaty questions about game development, Steam, and all the other usual confrontational “stuff” Jim Sterling goes after (or goes after him as the case may be).

I didn’t think there would be much value in doing a shallow, surface only interview. If the questions were uninteresting, there would be no interest in Death by Game Show or Oointah. It needed balls for people to read obviously.

So with carte blanche to ask anything this is what the journalist comes back to me with…

When is the expected release date?
What is mobile gaming changing for game developers?
What is the expected price?
What platforms will it be coming out on?

What the f***!

Carte blanche. Carte blanche on the questions!!!!

My excitement was gone.

Expected release…  January 2016!  It’s been out for years.  Nice research fella.

I did want to write back slamming the lack of originality or inventiveness. Suffice to say, I didn’t and won’t. It’s bad enough I’m doing this.

My frustration comes because I know curiosity lives on Steam. I’ve had great conversations about the gaming industry with players on the platform covering everything from Early Access to Greenlight, to market saturation and mobile ports.

Why couldn’t they be journalists with interesting questions and opinions?

And here’s my point. If any journalist, big or small want to ask any REAL questions reach out to us.

Peace, as the hipsters say.

Please follow us on Twitter, YouTube or add the game to your wishlist if it interests you. Also please check out our Steam Group for Death by Game Show.

How late is too late?

Believe it or not, even though Death by Game Show has been an unparalleled disaster we are silently trying to turn it around.

Some people say that if it crashes and burns, leave it and move on. Yet I’m a firm believer that from ashes a Phoenix can be born.

What horseh*t.

What I’m actually a believer in is, not leaving things fudged up.

Almost anything, with the right TLC and jiggery-pokery, could become “something”. What that something is, is up to the market and how you market it.

Perhaps if we add zombies, goats, a top down twin stick shooter mechanic and repeated the same sh*t everyone else does it’ll work.

“Or make it a survival game where you chop down trees, kill pigs and make weapons to fight other players doing the same thing” shouted a team member.

Yes. Death by Game Show will become a top-down twin-stick survival game about making weapons that you can gank players with as they dress up as goats and zombies. Perfect.

Sarcasm aside, there is an audience for side-scrolling strategy games. Lemmings, Worms, Swords and Soldiers, Reus and others have proven this. Death by Game Show just needs to pivot and find them.

The journey continues.

Please follow us on Twitter, YouTube or add the game to your wishlist if it interests you. Also please check out our Steam Group for Death by Game Show.

A Death by Game Show post-mortem

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away we started planning and designing a game called Plunder/p. That part went well.

The idea was to make a comical base builder set amongst the stars.  It would have been player resource gathering corporation versus asynchronous player corporations.

We didn’t just pluck the idea out of our backsides, it was based on a Steam report that came out, focused on what was selling, coming into fashion amongst gamers and all set to a Machinarium art style which seemed to be universally loved by young and old.

Our first mistake was thinking Steam’s previous years on market would continue. Everything Steam did to late 2014 was fantastic. Yet by the time we launched, at the start of 2016, the marketplace was dramatically different. It wasn’t the same platform, business or even audience.

Our second mistake was changing art style. It made sense at the time because we were looking to leverage glory from a massively successful Gold Miner game. We believed this would be our best way to console and beyond.

There is no doubt, the art made for Plunder/p was fantastic but as good as it was, it also reminded some people of Flash or mobile games, and made the game look casual when it was intended to be hardcore. Simply put, the moment the art direction changed, so should have the idea and theme. Yet if Futurama, King of the Hill and South Park could be a success by blending cartoon and brash content, why couldn’t we?  The answer was because we are not Futurama, King of the Hill or South Park.

In a horrible twist of fate, a few months later we did decide to change the game. We were dramatically behind on schedule, with estimates incredibly off, a prototype that underwhelmed and with panic kicking in we decided to return to an earlier idea of making an arcade game. Good move right?

Wrong. As we changed to what we thought would be a simpler game we realized much of what had been done already must be used. Plus we didn’t predict that Steam gamers would adopt Early Access considering the furor at the time over F2P, mobile or casual games ending up on Steam. Surely this hardcore audience of Steam’s, which had made Steam a major force wouldn’t change anytime soon.  So our game would need to have depth, challenge and hours of content at release, like the audience always demanded.  Once again, wrong.

So the project went from what was planned thoroughly in Plunder/p to an ad-hoc development jigsaw trying to fuse casual looking flash art made for a procedurally generated strategy game, into an arcade structure while still hitting our goal of a “Mike Judge Idiocracy inspired strategy game” that was already behind schedule.

We should have stopped to re-think but we buckled down and this is often the problem with small teams.  We worked so hard we took our eyes off the marketplace.

By the time we lifted our heads and had a product that could go to Greenlight, some nine months after starting design and production the community on Steam had soured regarding Greenlight.

For two months it was all hands on deck trying to push interest in our game which had come from nowhere. Sadly our title at the time “iLikeMoney” and the casual looking art made it difficult. Especially as the toxified community was mostly annoyed by the mobile game trash coming to Steam. This is just one area where taking our eyes off the marketplace would have repercussions, and the truth was – while in Greenlight we were looking at our product and problems more-so than the changing landscape of Steam.

However, we did get Greenlighted.

So, we started preparing for launch by adding elements suggested like controller support, community support etc. So we go into overdrive.  We also decided to change our name from iLikeMoney to Death by Game Show. Considering the months of effort marketing during Greenlight and the grown digital footprint under the name iLikeMoney, changing the name probably wasn’t ideal but we were so desperate to break away from the casual mobile vibe our art and title gave off we were willing to try anything.  We truly felt this was one of the reasons we struggled during Greenlight – it had nothing to do with the rampant keys for votes bribery going on or the hatred towards Greenlight by the bulk of Steam’s original community.

Additionally, the behemoth that is now Early Access had just kicked onto Steam. The community weren’t fans of the service and it was considered a risk.  We were told that launching on Early Access was only for unfinished games, not games adapting which is ironic considering what it’s used for now. Having already spent so much time on development, we couldn’t wait anymore.

We fully launched in January 2016 and on our big day Steam messed up. They put the product live, promoted it on the store but didn’t add a button to buy it. We had lost half a day promotion immediately. Steam compensated us (with more promotion) but it was already too late. The game had slumped. We tried to re-ignite interest in updates fixing every bit of feedback given, and even offering cash prizes for leaderboard success and achievement completion.  Our efforts were lost in the flood of other games and we couldn’t get traction with the now dominant teenage audience on Steam chasing achievements.

Side note, believe it or not, idling a game for achievements and collector cards is incredibly popular on Steam…  Making a game without gameplay seems to be the trend right now.

All sarcasm and bitterness aside.  We made the wrong game at the wrong time – and decisions throughout were often guided by panic.  We focused on working hard and naively believed Steam wouldn’t change.  Each time we panicked we should have gone to the market and adapted.  This would have solved all of the problems, and still, could in future iterations.  However, we can only change the product, the challenge of discoverability would forever remain and this turned out to be our biggest mistake right from the start.  We focused on development, tools for streamers and YouTubers but not actually buying marketing.  It’s a user acquisition driven marketplace, the more you spend, shout and buy influence, the better you do.

Please follow us on Twitter, YouTube or add the game to your wishlist if it interests you. Also please check out our Steam Group for Death by Game Show.