In the previous article, I told you some information about how we developed the first episode of “A Matter of Caos” and the wonderful feedback we received from the players. In this article I’ll talk about the development of the other three episodes and the relationship we established with our players!
The relationship with our players
As the first comments to the game were coming, we started to answer them really excited: the players were enjoying the game. Moreover, a lot of feedback about how to improve our next games arrived from them! While more comments were arriving, we started answering to all of them even only just to say “thank you”, and then we realized that the players really appreciated this: the majority of the developers simply ignore the player feedback (even the good ones); we wanted to be different. We decided that, as long as we would have had the opportunity, we would have answered all the players feedback (even the most negative and useless ones). This way, we created a real connection between us and them: we wanted to make our games also their games! We wanted to make them feel “part of the team”, in some way.
AMOC: Episode 2
After the release of the first episode, we dedicatad a couple of day to the release of some hotfixes and to gather all the useful feedback from the players. It was during these days that we decided to change the game interface: removing the right buttons bar, using a “full screen” background with square interactive buttons above it, and a totally black inventory space at the bottom (see Figure 1). As I already said, we also retroactively updated the first episode with this new interface.
While Eli started to write the story, the dialogues and the events of the second episode, I started the engineering of the framework (a little bit in each new episode): I wanted to build something that could give me the possibility to completely program an adventure without having to write a single line of new code. So I started to separate the framework modules, making them configurable from an XML file, building from scratch a new XML dialect.
I don’t remember which XML module I developed first, but it probably was the dialogue manager module, because it was the most time-consuming task at this stage. I also built a Unity extension to give me the possibility to completely write dialogues files with a user friendly graphical interface, directly inside the Unity environment (well this was a REAL pain: the programming interface that Unity provides for this kind of things it’s absolutely not the state of the art, for UI programming). Anyway, after I completed the tool, I was able to implement all the dialogues of the game using only a graphical tool: this saved me a lot of time and helped me to make less mistakes! Great!
I thought that if I was able to make a really easy to use framework, I could have sell it on the Unity Asset Store: unfortunately I never had the time to make it really usable by external users, so I gave up on this, focusing my efforts to make good games and not too ugly internal tools.
In this episode we also started to insert more background details, giving the possibility to change it in case of some game events (look at the mirror in the Manzaran W.C. room). We also started to implement some other game mechanics (like the monster chasing you, and the possibility to die during the game – we deleted it after the release of the second episode, because it only added some frustrating game save and load: we replaced it with some Mr. Gilbert dying jokes, without having to exit the game). The first version of the first episode didn’t give the possibility to save and load the game, we inserted it during the development of the second episode (and ported it retroactively to the first episode): I simply used the PlayerPrefs class of the Unity library for this, saving a serialized string with all the important game data. Moreover, we tried to make a better game logo and thumbnail (look at the Figure 2: still ugly isn’t it?).
The development of this episode was easier, we developed a bigger and better game, with less bugs and just using a little more time of development: we inserted 15 new characters, 13 new game areas, 27 new items and 52 interactive buttons. We really think that the second episode (together with the fourth, that is the biggest of all the episodes) is the best one of the series: from the progess of the plot to the game’s puzzles (we particularly liked the first part of the game, in which you have to win a game of poker against Mentzen and his thugs: some players found it a little bit too difficult, but that seemed a good thing for us!).
We performed the same testing phases of the first episode (alpha phase in studio, beta phase sending the executable of the game to some friends), but this time we were able to develop the game with far fewer bugs than the first episode; anyway, this way of game testing is now a standard for us. We released the game on Kongregate on March 15th, 2015: approximatively 5 weeks after the first episode.
A lot of players were waiting for the game: it immediatly jumped in the hot new games and a lot of new players liked it and loved it (the game was also frontpaged in the top games of the month for some hours). The release of the new episode also brought a lot of new players on the first episode, that now was free to grow without the dangers of the monthly and weekly contests. Again, we received a lot of positive feedback (the only big complaint of some players was the difficult to solve the initial poker puzzle, but it was good for us: we just made some steps clearer with a patch): it was at this stage that we really realized how good and addictive was the game (even with such simple graphics and mechanics).
We still wasn’t able to win a prize in the contests with the second episode, but this time we were pretty close. Anyway, the results of the second episodes really encouraged us, we were on the right track! After some days of small fixes and consideration on the second episode, we immediatly started working on the third episode!
AMOC: Episode 3
We released the third episode on Kongregate on April 22nd, 2015: again, approximatively 5 weeks after the previous episode. We developed it like the second episode, without using any difference in the work method we used in the previous episodes: while Eli was writing the story and the puzzles of the game, I engineered some others modules of the framework (I almost completed it during the development of this episode). This episode added: 16 new characters, 39 new game areas background (we extensively used context modified backgrounds this time), 23 new items and 67 interactive buttons. This time we got featured on the “hot new games” section on the Kongregate homepage and we got ten thousands plays in just 5 days: even during the contests the game didn’t get below the 3.6 of rating average and this time we won the second prize in the weekly contest! Obviously we had another peak of players playing the first two episodes that were continuing to rise in the rating average (they were hitting the 3.8/3.9).
Anyway, in our perspective, the third episode was the worse of the three: it was more linear and less intrigating than the previous. We think that this episode was so successfull because we already had a lot of fan following the series! But, in any case, it was the biggest success for us until that day: this gave us a lot of energy to make a great fourth episode!
AMOC: Episode 4
In another month of development (on May 27th, 2015) we released on Kongregate the fourth and last episode of the series: we wanted to develop something new, but we also wanted to give “A Matter of Caos” a great ending! This episode it’s the biggest of the four and it lasts more than the double of the second (the longest episode, until then); it contains: 16 new characters, 58 new game areas, 33 new items, 96 interactive buttons and also 2 minigames!
This episode have also three wonderful orignal music tracks, composed by Andrea Pagani (he’s collaborating with us also for “A Tale of Caos: Overture“): with his great music, we was able to make some totally perfect scenes (like the ending scene: even if I already knew the ending of the game, I was really touched, when I played the game!). Moreover, at the end of the game, after the epilogue, we inserted a few minutes of “special ending credits”: I won’t say anything else about that (just go play and finish the game), just that the players loved them!
I don’t even need to say that the game was a complete success! As soon as we released it, thousands of players were playing it: the game was featured in the home page and, for a few hours, it was the highest rated game EVER in the “Adventure & RPG” category on Kongregate: that was AWESOME! The game was featured in home page for a month, and was played by more than twenty thousand players in two weeks, bringing a lot of new players to play the first three episodes.
We won the first prize in the weekly contest and the seventh prize in the monthly contest; moreover, the game got the Kongregate badge (getting even more players than all the previous games got togheter in the previous months). In the next weeks also all other episodes got the badge, and currently they have (all togheter) more than 220.000 plays only on Kongregate: given this numbers (and what we have seen with the other games we released after this) we are absolutely certain that with a better graphic and a better thumbnail, we could have reached without problems 500.000 plays!
After the release of the fourth episode of “A Matter of Caos”, we decided to take a couple of days of relax, just watching the players play the game. Meanwhile, we started thinking about the next game (I’ll talk about it in the next article: it was “A Tale of Caos: Prelude“).
After a couple of months we published on itch.io a complete edition of the game, with all four episodes packed togheter, selling it for a very small price to players who wanted to really support us: a lot of players gave us more than 10$, for a game that was completely playable for free! During the same periods we also published the game on Newgrounds and GameJolt, it was really successfull also on this platforms! Unfortunately, only recently we decided to update the thumbnails of the games, to make them a little bit better: we decided to use Mr. Gilbert portrait, with some cool light effects!
In conclusion, I can say that our first complete game was a real success for us, it brought us some money and A LOT of enthusiastic players! It gave us a lot of experience and satisfactions: this way we started to make other games fully charged! If we had a little bit more experience when we released the game, and a little bit of money to invest in it, we could have avoided some beginners errors, making the game even more successful, but we are really satisfied for our very first game development experience!
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