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  • First 18 Months Of An Amazingly Awful XBLIG Dev

    One fateful day, some time in October 2010 an awful Indie Developer was in the process of starting his very first Indie game to be unleashed on XBLIG. This individual was to go on to make absolutely no impact on XBLIG whatsoever, but he’s had a lot of fun in his insignificance!

    The first game I worked on was ETMD – ExtraTerrestrials Must Die. I was learning as I went along, as I reached dead ends because of my knowledge I learned the new skills to get round it. As most new XBLIG devs do I had high hopes for my first game, in March 2011 it was finally ready for release, I looked upon my creation with the rose tinted glasses of a virgin dev and jumped with joy as it finally got through peer review.

    Unfortunately the Indie buying public were not looking upon my game with the same rosy glasses I was. The game had to be sold at 240 points due to all the music taking it over the 50MB mark, and my game was nowhere near to the standards of other 240 point games out there. It flopped … by god did it flop, at the time I couldn’t believe why hardly anybody was going near my game.

    It was pretty obvious why, it wasn’t the price really, if the game was good enough people would have been happy to pay, my presentation and my artistic skills were basically non existent, the game was flawed, and the menus, oh the humanity, my menus were a horrible mess of a mockery of a sham of a catastrophe … programmer art at it’s very worst.

    Looking back though I saw some positives, there were people who really enjoyed the game and though it sold few I now see that some people liked the game enough to pay triple the price of most indie games.

    After picking up the shattered pieces of my pride I decided to work on the next game, unfortunately for the world whilst looking for inspiration I stumbled on an article for the old Cascade Cassette 50 for the Commodore 64, and then watched a youtube video of some poor bugger playing Action 52. Those things, combined with sulking and not wanting to put so much effort into a game just for it to fail, lead to the creation of 10 Amazingly Awful Games.

    10 Amazingly Awful Games was vomited into the XBLIG marketplace on the 10th May 2011. I didn’t expect anything from it, it was quickly cobbled together for a laugh and possibly for a petty act of revenge against the indie community for not buying my first game. Shockingly a lot of people liked it … I never expected that to happen, sure there were bad reviews comparing it to the great Action 52, but the majority of feedback on it was very positive. To date 10 Amazingly Awful Games is my best selling XBLIG by quite a lot.

    Block Vengeance Alpha, the third game, was essentially a souped up “Revenge Of The Blocks” from the awful games compilation. Most of the praise for 10 Amazingly Awful Games was directed at Revenge Of The Blocks with suggestions that it could have been a full price game by itself.

    At this stage I was going to see if I could commission some graphics and actually make a decent looking game. Philippe Chabot did a great mock-up of what the game could look like with his art, but again my dev naivety struck again, I never properly thought how much it would cost and the amount of effort that goes into the art. I ended up sticking to my awful programmer graphics in the end, something I regret, I probably should have tried to find enough money from somewhere or held out.

    Block Vengeance Alpha was finally released, with butt ugly programmer art on the 9th of July 2011. It didn’t do too badly, better than ETMD but not as well as Amazingly Awful Games, if I’d been able to afford Philippe’s graphics I think it would have done a lot better.

    After this game I ended up in a new crummy job, started programming a lot less and eventually it dried up completely, but then at the start of the year I decided to push myself, and eventually 10 Amazingly Awful Games Volume 2 came out at the start of this month (April 2012). After a very poor first day sales it picked up a bit, but it’s come nowhere near the popularity of the first one.

    Though it still has my programmer graphics it manages to look better than the first one, I feel the games were also better and more involved than in the first one, but yet it’s only done half as well. I think to be honest that the games in the first one and the whole package itself just had a more crap charm to it, it revelled in it’s badness and people had fun with it. At first I said I wouldn’t do any more of these ….. but they are fun to make, so Volume 3 will probably be spewed out of my mind at some point.

    So we get up to now, I was messing about with a 4 player shmup called Strange Raiders, it was going to be a silly quirky shoot em up, and it was nearly finished, but I decided to can it. I just don’t feel like it’s good enough to release, yeah people would probably buy a few copies, it would make me some money, but if I ever want to do more than get a couple of hundred sales I feel that I have to be more professional about it and not just release a game that I’m not feeling just for the sake of it.

    So what next? I couldn’t decide what project to work on at first but earlier this week I made my mind up. ETMD did badly because I did badly at it, I was wet behind the ears and didn’t have much of a clue about anything then, I made poor design choices and if the me of now met the me who released that game I would beat the terrible menu system out of him! I’ve started on ETMD2, I’m going to make the game I wanted to make back then but didn’t have the skills and knowledge that I’ve learned over this last year or so.

    I’ve learnt from the lessons of the past, I always had lousy presentation not just because of lack of artistic talent, but because I left front ends and menus to the end because I find them boring. I love making the game, I hate making everything around it, and it shows, the menus and front-ends always look half-arsed because they are. With ETMD I have been working on all the boring stuff first, all the menus, the pause functions, the file storage, once it’s done to my satisfaction then all that will be left to do is all the fun parts!

    So 18 months and 929 sales on how do I feel about XBLIG? I’ve got over the naive hope that I can ever make a proper living out of this. I’d love it to be the case but there’s some amazingly talented games makers out there who I will never be able to get near, they’re the guys who can make a living out of it and I’m happy for them. Making XBLIG games becomes a lot more fun when you accept that you’re not going to be the men, once you are doing it for the enjoyment and not for the hope of becoming the next break out indie dev.

    I’ll never be swimming in my piles of cash, I’ll never be able to give up my crappy warehouse job to do games full time, but in another 18 months I’ll still be here, I’ll still be making games, I’ll probably still be awful :p and maybe, just maybe I’ll have scraped together enough sales and money to get a graphic artist on board.

    Thanks for reading my ramblings, thanks to all the guys out there who have peer reviewed and tested my games, all the guys who have done reviews for me and to all the people who have pitied me enough to buy my games!



  • Reviews for 10 Amazingly Awful Games

    Well several reviews have appeared for 10 Amazingly Awful Games
    Unfortunately testing procedures were not correctly followed hence unfortunately some people have managed to find “fun” and some unforseen “playability” within the games. While we did our best to remove all traces of fun and playability sometimes things slip through the net as the following reviews show

    If anybody comes across any other reviews please let me know Thanks for reading and I do apologise if you also discover any playability that was accidentally left in.


  • ETMD – Postmortem

    ETMD – EXTRATERRESTRIALS MUST DIE

    AN INDIE GAME POSTMORTEM

    ETMD was released on March 10th 2011 for 240 Microsoft Points and now just over a couple of months after it’s release I thought I’d have a look back on it.
    ETMD was my first game for the X-Box Live Indie Game channel and went through several versions before the final one that actually got released. It started off like galaxians with commodore 64 like graphics then eventually became the vertical scrolling game with pre-rendered 3d objects for sprites and lots of weapons and add-ons.

    Like any game maker I hoped that it would do well.

    It didn’t.

    In fact it bombed spectacularly, gaining only 55 sales to date from 1427 trials with a 3.85% conversion. I’ve had people tell me that they’re amazed it didn’t do much better, and it’s nice to hear their kind words and compliments about the game however I’m pretty sure I’ve identified a lot of reasons it bombed. These are in no particular order.

    1) PROGRAMMER GRAPHICS
    I did the best I could with the graphics, they’re a lot better than the games first incarnations, the backgrounds were done using filters from the Filter Forge program and the sprites were done using renders from 3D objects made in blender. I did my best but I’m no graphic artist and it shows.

    2) POOR PRESENTATION
    When I finished my game I looked at it with rose-tinted glasses and thought everything looked great. Looking now the first thing people see, the menu screens, doesn’t look great, my menu system and title screen lack any kind of polish, and my power and weapon selection screens look even worse. These are the first things a potential customer sees before they even get to play the game.

    3) CONTROL CONFUSION
    The game uses A for main weapons and RT for side weapons, however I didn’t even think about people not bothering with the instructions and assumed people would work out the controls. A lot of people expected to shoot with RT, and when that made the side-weapons fire several people assumed that was the only guns and didn’t use A for the main weapon, this made people think it was ridiculously hard and would have put a lot of people off.

    4) OVERLY HARD
    On top of the problems above it is true that a lot of people who did use the right fire buttons also found the game way too hard. I didn’t take into account that myself and my friends who tested were getting better and better at the game and I actually worried I’d made it too easy, obviously someone first picking up the game didn’t find it that easy.

    5) BAD TRIAL
    The trial mode doesn’t really do the game justice, you get to try 2 of the games 20 levels, but it doesn’t really show the strategy and depth of all the different weapon selections that become possible, and of course there’s the terrible menus to get through before you reach the game.

    6) THE PRICE
    If I had the choice I would have sold the game at 80 Microsoft Points, however I made a lot of music for the game, and this pushed the final package to well above the 50MB cut off for 80MP games. Some games have done well at that price point but being my first game, having the presentation and graphics also done by myself, a person who is definitely no great artist, there was no way I could compete with the polished games that people expect at that price tag.

    So here I am, 2 months and 2 weeks(ish) in, several months of work, and a whopping 55 sales. I won’t be retiring any time soon, this will net me about £55. However it’s worth is far greater than that to me in terms of what I’ve learned:
    I know that for any future games I need to forget the fact that menu creation is boring and force myself to work on this presentation as it’s the first thing potential buyers see.
    I know that I need a clear control system and a quick and efficient way to communicate that to a new player.
    I know that I need to make sure I do much better playtesting of games before release.
    I know that I need to make the trial one of my biggest priorities when making a game, not just put a quick limit on once I’ve finished.

    At the end of the day I was initially disappointed and upset when I realised how badly my game was doing, but when I look back now I just think about the positives.
    55 people decided my game was worth buying despite the fact it costs 3 times more than most games on the system.
    People in the UK, Europe, US and Japan are all enjoying something that I’ve made
    I’ve learnt a hell of a lot from my experience making this game, commercially it’s a fail, but to me it’s a success, I made and released a game, some people out there have enjoyed it, that is a satisfying feeling and deserves a happy face

    Thanks if you have taken the time to read this, and double-thanks if you bought the game :p