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  • I Am Overburdened: Development Recap And Sales Analysis

    [02.22.18]
    - Tamás Karsai
  • Blog post mirrored from my website.

    Hi everyone!

    It has been more than two months since I released I Am Overburdened and since I wrote a devlog entry. Please accept my apology for this, I was super busy with the release and support of the game. But now I'm back with an in-depth analysis how the overall production and final numbers turned out ;) .

    Summary

    I want to do a fully detailed breakdown of the development and business results, but I don't want break it up into a typical postmortem format (good, bad, ugly). I've drawn my conclusions, I know what I have to improve for my upcoming projects, but I don't want to dissect the I Am Overburdened story this way, I want emphasize how much work goes into a game project and focus more on how a journey like this actually looks and feels like. If you really want know my takeaways, here it goes in a super short format: I consider the game a success from a development perspective (good), but I failed from a marketing and sales standpoint (bad and ugly).

    Now I go into the details, but will focus more on the objective "what happened, how it went, what it took" parts.

    Development

    The game started out as a simple idea with a simple goal in mind. I partially abandoned my previous project, because it ballooned into a huge ball of feature creep, so I wanted to finish a more humble concept in a much shorter time period. The original plan was to create a fun game in 4 months. I really liked the more casual and puzzle-y take on the roguelike genre like the classic Tower of the sorcerer game, or the more recent Desktop dungeons and the Enchanted cave games so I set out to create my own take.

    I designed the whole game around one core idea: strip out every "unnecessary" RPG element/trope and keep only the items/loot, but try to make it just as deep as many other roguelikes regardless of its simplicity. From this approach the "differentiating factor" was born, a foolishly big inventory, which helped me to define and present what I Am Overburdened really is.

    A silly roguelike full of crazy artifacts and a "hero" who has 20 inventory slots.

    Most of the prototyping and alpha phases of the development (first two months) went smoothly, then I had to shift gears heavily...

    Reality check

    After 3 months of development, when all of the core systems were in place and when I deemed big parts of the content non-placeholder, the time came to show the game to others. I realized something at that point, forcing me to make a huge decision about the project. The game was not fun :( . The idea was solid, the presentation was kind-of ok, but overall it was simply mediocre and a month of polishing and extra content in no way could change that!

    Back than I was super stressed out due to this and I thought about this as my hardest decision as a game maker, but looking back I think I made the right choice (now I feel like I actually only had this one). I decided to postpone release, explore the idea further even if it doubles!!! the originally planned development time (and it happened :| ) and most importantly I decided to not make or release a "shovelware", because the world really isn't interested in another one and I'm not interested in making/publishing one...

    Final scope

    So after 4 months of development, feeling a bit glum, but also feeling reinvigorated to really make the most out of I Am Overburdened I extended the scope of the design & content and I also planned to polish the hell out of the game :) . This took another 4 months and almost a dozen private beta showings, but it resulted in a game I'm so proud of, that I always speak of it as a worthy addition to the roguelike genre and as a game that proudly stands on its own!

    Some numbers about the end result:

    It takes "only" around 30 to 40 minutes to complete the game on normal mode in one sitting, but due to its nature (somewhat puzzle-y, randomized dungeons & monster/loot placements + lots of items, unlocks and multiple game modes), the full content cannot be experienced with one play-through. I suspect it takes around 6 to 12 full runs (depending on skill and luck) to see most of what the game has to offer so it lends quite a few hours of fun :) .

    There are 10 different dungeon sets and they are built from multiple dozens of hand authored templates, so that no level looks even similar to the other ones in one session. They are populated by 18 different monsters each having their own skill and archetype (not just the same enemy re-skinned multiple times).

    And the pinnacle, the artifacts. The game has more than 120 unique items, all of them having a unique sprite and almost all of them having unique bonuses, skills (not just +attributes, but reactive and passive spells) and sound effects. This makes each try feel really different and item pickup/buy choices feel important and determinative. The game was also localized to Hungarian before release, because that is my native language so I could do a good job with the translation relatively fast and this also made sure, that the game is prepared to be easily localized to multiple languages if demand turns out to be high.

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