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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.

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.

Why are we forced to cut words to fit character limits?

We always try to reply to constructive reviews on Steam for Death by Game Show.  We find people’s feedback invaluable.

As we bundled the game last week for the first time we’ve found a host of new reviews.  Many negative sadly saying the game is too hard, too simple, too chaotic, too boring and too much text but not enough explanation.  You can imagine our heads are a little like a pinball bouncing about with the contradictions.

Yet, I focused on one review and started to write a reply. I wanted it to be a sincere response explaining why the game is chaotic and why many people who like it seem to stop playing between 1.5 and 4 hours into the game.

Several paragraphs in and it was a succinct but explanation full response to an angered and frustrated player.

I had explained that the chaos of the game is representative of how the lead character sees’s the world, full of noise and only when thinking (aka stopping time) and strategizing can they succeed. I also admitted the game gets much harder and varied after 1.5 hours. Sadly, some people get frustrated and stop playing due to the difficulty curve.

Yet each time I tried to submit I was told by Steam’s platform it had too many characters.

I shortened. Nope. Shortened again. Nope. By the end, it was a husk taking only the key points without any sentiment. Somehow my sincerity was reduced to a wedge of text that sounded more like an excuse rather than what I wanted to say. Why are these systems in place?

The only logic could be that they’re trying to cut down what people say to each other online. Turning our wonderful languages into a series of short catch phrases and abbreviations. What’s next, no words – just emoji’s?

If language allowed the human race to evolve, what does the loss of language represent? No doubt, less expensive reading glasses.

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 the market lives through thumbs

Every product that comes to market lives and dies by the simplest of measurement, the thumbs of TL: DR.

Only 30% of you got to this paragraph but if we added a giant great big thumb up and a counter saying 1,152 next to it that percentage of “giving a sh*t” hikes to 50%. Over time that’s a significant jump.

Ironically, I’ve likely lost you again already because “stuff” flashed, beeped or popped up and it’s no doubt really (un)important to you and must take focus.

Notifications, alerts and other incoming traffic is a consumers life blood. Just like a thumbs up or down is the life blood of a product. Everything is a beat, a flow, and if you’re not rapid, you cannot keep up with the pace consumers have set. Simple.

This is where today’s marketing and products live. In a marketplace so saturated with desperate attempts at buying your attention via white hot bullsh*t that if we don’t make your life better, simpler, or entertain within 0.4 hours it’s over.

This is why Early Access on Steam is so popular. The illusion of progression and pace. A product (allegedly) on the move. It’s the same with all MVP’s as they are abbreviated. A minimum viable product that just does enough to get beyond that 0.4-hour hurdle before looping back to repeat exactly what it just did.

I can hear the cries of the crowd, “Nooooo, we don’t buy into BS” but that in itself is BS. You, like I, are manipulated so heavily by marketing and products that we act in a way that deserves sectioning.

The madness isn’t forced, it flows with consumer demands. It’s our own choosing, we want more options, quicker, cheaper and most of all simpler. We don’t want to read, review, examine or research. We just want a big thumbs up and a “buy now” button.

However, sometimes a thumbs up don’t mean good and a thumbs down don’t mean bad. It’s just opinion and like *ss holes everyone has one.

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.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

When I was a lad, kids use to play out and old people stayed married. What has happened to this world? Technology.

The blinking light of a notification waiting for view has all the character and personality of the modern masses. An empty glare momentarily on and then just as quickly idle of expression. It just waits for fumbling interaction resulting in irritation or gratification.

The irony here is you’re not sure if I’m talking about a person or a phone…

The mobile phone has somehow managed to turn a once vibrant world of disconnected opinion and clicks of personalities that thrived amongst like-minded individuals and warred with those not fitting their ideals into a slanging match via wifi, that also has wars.

So as that notification light blinks on and off and users do the usual grunt, shuffle and thumb slide before consuming vapid sweet nothings once reserved for landlines and in-person high-fives. The rest of the world devolves attention spans, IQ and diversity. We really have achieved maximum idiocracy.

The next step after zombies is the pain for entertainment purposes. Then again, we already have MTV and the Kardashians.

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.

Steam, huh, yeah, What is it good for…

Absolutely nothing. Say it again, y’all.

I know that is harsh, but it’s crystal clear the uniqueness of Steam is largely smoke and mirrors.

The illusion of millions of gamers having huge libraries of games might make you believe the consumer market is strong but outside of mega sales, bundle activations and key giveaways, Steam is a graveyard of hopes drowning in a flood of desperation and panic.

Ignore what Steam says and know that you are more likely to inspire its audience with games like Genital Jousting than Death by Game Show. Shock value + simplicity = success. Don’t try to add layers of complexity or progression, don’t try to add depth or hours upon hours of content. Don’t even come to market with a finished product.

This isn’t a slight on Genital Jousting, it’s a mini-postmortem on Death by Game Show and Steam. Death by Game Show was all about what Steam said it was in September 2014 and what gamers demanded back then.

In 16 months Steam changed dramatically. We’ve all seen the flood of content it released. An insane 60% of Steam’s content has been released since July 2014. With the growing library of content, the audience no longer needed games which had hours of game time as there were hundreds of thousands of new titles at low to no cost to cover any and all voids. Gamers were spoilt for choice and like mobile gaming, spending time in any game unless immediately gratifying was pointless. So each new wave of games became more and more gimmicky to stand out and quick to please.

The same methods and ideas delivered on mobile have become commonplace in Steam games. In September 2014, the Steam community would have been in an uproar with mobile games on Steam. Now, it’s normal.

By the time Death by Game Show came out the idea of having to learn controls rather than it adhering to familiarity was a bridge too far for most reviewers. The number of times we heard “no jump?” even though the lead character is a 300lbs tub of goo is bamboozling. Running, moving the cursor and clicking was too much work and let’s not get started on attention. Too many clicks to win = overwhelming gameplay.  Although majors get away with it as gamers are more willing to invest in the more popular or mainstream titles.

So at some point between starting development and launching Death by Game Show the market swung. Steam is now a hybrid of mobile ideals and PC visuals. Indie has been fragmented between the two extremes, probably forever lost to simplification and obviousness.  Unless itch.io can once again put indie in the light.

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.

We’re having a droidgasm

So last week we spoke about a new route for the Death by Game Show entourage. It’s all still very much in discussion, but here’s what we’re thinking.

Firstly, our WIP title is Droidpocolypse but it may become Droidgasm.

Secondly, it is inspired by Clicker Heroes. I can hear the moaning already but remember, we tried to be innovative with Death by Game Show and it backfired.

Thirdly, it’s survival based… But I cannot go into more detail that that as it’s our unique +1 feature. Isn’t that the trend? Copy and add something.

We do know there is a fair amount of Clicker Heroes clones and more release every day, like Ragnarok Clicker. Yet our game will be ad based only – so no nickel or diming you at every turn. Think of it more as a conduit from super casual clicker to intense mayhem Death by Game Show.

Expect more information regarding Death by Game Show’s sales, upcoming bundling and the mobile spin-off soon.

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.

The reckless abandon of sense and fair value!

Yeeeehah, there’ll be a patch released this week.  Yeeeenah, don’t get excited it’s just a bug fix.  A requested fix by a gamer who has impressively completed the game, see, we’re caring developers.  

So what’s with the radio silence last month?  Well, we were making the hard call to go bundling.  So expect to see Death by Game Show available for ridiculous prices over the coming months.  

We’ve also setup sales on Greenman Gaming to run through March.  Sales with an extraordinary price drop of 90% putting it at $0.99!  Which is a ridiculous bargain considering you can’t get a decent snack for that price.  

The best news is that Death by Game Show’s characters might be going mobile in a casual free-to-play spin-off.  More news on this soon but we’re excited about it and we hope you’ll be too once you find out more.  

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.

Pre-emptive Good Intentions

In a previous blog I spoke about a looming update that would reduce the difficulty, and then went onto explaining how. That explanation, albeit with good intentions was pre-emptive.

Don’t grab those pitchforks yet as there is still a patch coming. It will include 15+ changes, mostly minor but they should accumulate to a big improvement in making Death by Game Show more accessible for a broader audience.

So, when will it come? We wanted December 2016, failed. We are hoping for the end of January 2017 at this point but the reality is, it will probably be the end of February where we can launch it with another sale and marketing push.

We’ll keep you posted on developments but hope there will be no further delays.

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.

Another Year, Another Consideration

We’ve had some more feedback during the Steam Winter Sale and it’s pretty darn clear Death by Game Show is too hard, too unintuitive and worst still, doesn’t fit our envisioned target audience.  

The reason it’s too hard is simple, it’s meant to be old school arcade and we’re still being blamed for players not reducing the difficulty.  

The reason it’s unintuitive is simple, it’s not an obvious hybrid and requires trial and error.  You need to know the inputs and react, or plan to win – like in Dark Souls.  All of which making it less familiar and more complicated than traditional casual strategy games.  

The big realization is that we’ve been focused on pitching Death by Game Show as an action strategy game for twenty something core gamers but our art style, humor, and genre hybrid isn’t resonating with that target audience.  

With all three in mind, our next patch which has been in the works for a while (thanks to Unity changes) will focus on reducing difficulty via AI speed and HP.  It will condense as many inputs as possible, automating or removing where possible so that it is more obvious for casual gamers – and finally – all marketing going forwards from the patch will target casual audiences.

Fingers crossed 2017 will become year of the Game Show!

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.