So, after something like four years of learning and development, my game was pretty much done! By this point, most people would have had months of exposure under their belt by way of forum posts/announcements and blurbs or articles on gaming sites talking about your new game. I was definitely behind the ball on this!
Being a lone developer means that you're in charge of every aspect of the game. It is an amazing way to learn every aspect there is to making a game, but also comes with a massive amount of responsibility. In my case, I spent so much time figuring out how to make the game that I completely neglected any form of promotion.
Letting people know your game exists is arguably more important than the game itself. You could have an amazing game, or you could have something truly horrendous, but if nobody knows about it, then what was the point of putting all that time and effort into making it?
The Adventure Apes and the Mayan Mystery fell somewhere in the middle. After putting some videos together, along with a little press kit, I set off to beg and plead with writers at gaming sites to try my game. A handful of merciful souls did, and a few people started making videos playing through the game. If trying to figure out how to promote the game was stressful, seeing people talk and write about the game was downright nerve wracking!!
The online reviews were fair, and seemed to get the purpose of making a retro-inspired game. That probably comes due to the fact that they can sit down and think about how to put an article together. The videos were all more of a first impression type thing, and while people generally liked the graphics and music, the gameplay was a major issue for people who didn't have a very powerful computer.
When I was learning how to make the game, my goal was to try and make something as visually interesting as possible, and one of the many terrible ideas I had was to make the blocks in each room change to a different sprite image each time the player left/entered. It fit in well with my whole concept of making something maze-like, but never considered how much processing power it would take. For instance, people playing the game on laptops would only manage a few frames per second. Ugh! Then there was the issue of jumping. For a platformer game, your movement needs to be on point or else it'll make the player feel like they're constantly fighting the game.
These two issues, along with my total lack of preparation for getting the Adventure Apes brand out there made for a pretty bumpy ride. The reviews were at times hard to swallow, but I did my best to take what I could from them and improve the game (Knowing what I know now, I should have called this a beta release!). In the end, it did make me revisit the game and make changes that ultimately improved the experience by quite a bit. It was a heck of a way to go about finding out about these issues, and I don't recommend it to anyone!
It was 2012, and I had taken my shots with the initial coverage, as well as taken the time to make the game more playable. Without that initial wave of exposure, interest in it had died down quite a bit. I'm not exactly sure how this next bit happened, but I was asked if I wanted to have the game included in a couple of bundles! One was called the Stuffing Bundle, and the other was part of a bundle for a local political party trying to promote entertainment development in the community. They were both opportunities for massive amounts of exposure, so I jumped at the chance!
Bundles are kind of interesting. On one hand, you get a small percentage of the true cost of your game, but on the other hand, the amount of people who are made aware of your game is undeniable. If you're in the position where you depend on selling your game to pay the bills, I can see how it would be a hard decision to make, especially if you aren't getting a lot of exposure. There are probably good ways to leverage the exposure from a bundle deal into sales from your website somehow, but don't expect me to know how!
Actually, if you had more than one product on your site, you could definitely expect an increase of sales after a bundle, when people are curious what else you might have :)
Wow, this post was a little on the lengthy side....in the next post, I'll briefly cover the years 2012-2016 (It will be quick, I promise!), and getting Greenlit!
Here's a little extra if you're thinking of getting in to game development (If I haven't scared you off already!), It's a really amazing resource for indie developers, called PixelProspector. Simon has put years into making this site, and the amount of useful info you can find there to help you through every aspect of making your game will surprise you!