As most game developers will probably agree with me on this, release day is both the most stressful and the most joyful day in the lifecycle of a project. You put out your game to the public so they can enjoy it or tear it apart, but at the same time one can be happy that they finished a project, which sometimes takes months or years. This is how I felt yesterday.
I’ve worked hard in the last couple of months to get my latest game – Rolling Arcade – ready, and hopefully, people will enjoy it. But let’s get one thing out of the way: this is not a serious, complex videogame. No, my goal with this was to make a small game in a short period of time, which is easy to pick up and play. I can just hope that I succeeded. This is the reason why I ask the bare minimum for this, since it really is just a small side project for me. Thus the $1 price tag on Steam. I’m really curious how it will do compared to my previous project (Exile Squadron), which took almost 3 years to make and I sold it for $10 originally.
In case you don’t know what Rolling Arcade is, let me recap it for you in this post.
A Blast From The Past
If you grew up in the ’80 and ’90s, I’m sure you encountered old mechanical arcade machines, but at least you heard others talking about it. There was a simple, but very fun machine I really liked, called Ice Cold Beer. Yeah, it had a pretty funny name. When I was brainstorming for my 3rd project, I encountered the picture of this machine on Facebook, and it gave me an idea. What if I reimagine this game in a digital form, but I expand it, giving it more features, keeping the gameplay intact. After I got the idea I started to transfer my thoughts into Gamemaker Studio 2, the engine I’m still using. Your goal in the game remained the same which means you have to steer a small ball into a target hole while avoiding the non-active, „trap” holes. You need good hand-eye coordination and a lot of patience for this, but once you get used to the feel of the game, it is exciting.
Someone told me that my game is just a clone of the classic arcade machine. Well, they are right in a sense. On the one hand, I don’t really care, and on the other, I think I gave it so much extra content, that it can stand as its own game.
What is this content? There are much more levels, to begin with. The original machine obviously had just one, but in Rolling Arcade, the base game has 10 levels, plus I created a level pack DLC, which adds another 10 levels to the game. And there are a lot of levels (tables) which are not static, they have moving holes which makes them more dynamic and even more challenging. The player can unlock these levels by playing the standard mode and reaching at least 1000 points in a level. I think it is not that hard to get that score, although the player definitely has to feel the game to be able to move the ball efficiently.
The standard mode I mentioned is the basic mode of the game. It is similar to the original machine’s gameplay. You have three balls you can use in total, and you have to score with the ball before the time runs out. Once you hit all 10 targets, you win the level.
The endless mode is a bit more relaxing since it doesn’t have a timer. On the other hand, the player only has one ball (that’s what she said). One can play this game forever if that ball is not lost, there is no specific end goal.
Last but not least, I implemented a local 2 player mode, you can’t have a good arcade game without that. If you have a friend or family member next to you, you can play against each other, seeing who can score the more points. And although there is no online multiplayer capability, thanks to Steam’s Remote Play Together feature, you can actually play with your online friends as well, if you invite them into your game. This way you stream your game to them, and they can interact with it, playing it like a normal multiplayer game. It’s a pretty cool feature.
Continuing my habit of supporting Linux, there is a penguin version for Rolling Arcade, just like with Exile Squadron. To be honest, releasing on that platform requires zero work on my side since the engine can export to that platform with ease. So that is the least I can do.
You know what this game doesn’t have? Steam trading cards. I learned my lesson with Exile Squadron. In that game, there are trading cards implemented. But you will never see it. You know why? Because someone at Valve had the brilliant idea of limiting the availability of trading cards, and your game only starts dropping them if you reach a certain level of confidence metric. What is that confidence metric you ask? Nobody knows but Valve, it is not public. Some say you have to sell at least 1000 copies of your game, but nobody could confirm that. Unfortunately, I didn’t sell that many copies, so tough luck for me. I know this was implemented to battle asset flippers who only published games on Steam to get some money from the trading cards. But there are so many legitimate small developers who make a small game and just want to reward their players with trading cards. But if Valve says no, then it is no. Tough luck for us. No problem, at least I have less work to do because I didn’t make any trading cards for Rolling Arcade.
What else is bugging me…? Oh, marketing. Almost zero, even less than previously, and I didn’t do any serious marketing for my older games either. I did the mandatory social media shares, wrote a few blogs like this one, but I know this is not much. I know that I (or someone) should do more serious marketing if I want to have financially successful games. But I just …hate…it….so….much. That’s the truth, I’m sorry. I’m a bit of an extrovert, so I don’t like to connect with random strangers online, and shouting stuff into social media. Except you, you are cool and it is nice sharing this stuff with you. But every minute I don’t spend on creating the game seems like wasted time. I’m probably wrong here, but this is how I feel. I don’t know about the future, I know I should take marketing more seriously, but it is damn hard.
As a closing thought, I just want to say that I know this is not a complex, big game. But if you don’t have anything else to do, or you don’t want to fire up a serious game, you can just launch Rolling Arcade, playing a level and trying to beat your highscore. I remember there was a game which was similar in this sense. Kung Fury: The Game. It was a one-button brawler, where all you had to do was hitting enemy nazies in the face with the press of a button. I can’t express how much I liked that game, although I only played it in few minute bursts. If my game can be something similar, then it was a success.