Why I keep investing in a game that no one cares about

Space Truckers, like all ambitiously (read: inexperienced) laid out projects start with underestimation. We originally set out to complete the game in a single month, then into 3 months considering polish and time tabling. Our deadlines included start of December, before the Christmas Holidays, Mid-January and then every subsequent Friday beyond that.

The sensible side of us agreed that we would only complete the original project levels (80 in total broken into 4 level packs) if the game picked up interest on Android and iOS stores. We would try an optimistic (read: doubly inexperienced for me anyway) marketing push with half of those levels as a feeler.

It was simple. If we got 100 premium sales then we would deem it worthwhile to make the other levels. Mind you, we released Space Truckers then immediately started prototyping other projects so if it did not get to those sales numbers, we would just ignore it and move on. It was a sound and logical, no point putting effort in to a game that is not going anywhere. (I actually scoffed at Matt at the time saying 1000 was a better target.)

That effort was not insignificant either. A level pack, 20 levels in total, would take roughly a 4 weeks to complete due to layouts, play testing, art pass, second round of play testing, difficulty balance and ordering, tip text,  final art pass and taking the occasional break so you did not lose your mind and destroy the equipment in front of you.

Now we are in May moving to June. Space Truckers started at the start of November. We are still involved with this project 3 months after saying “No Buys equals No Work”. So why do I find myself, and Matt, tending to a project that no one either knows or cares about?

Graph

Sales Graph, Fairly typical launch sales behaviour and, without context, quite successful

Numbers

Units sold,  81 short of our total

We have rational reasons like “We just got our In-App Purchase system working” and “Matt thought the original art was bit crap and wanted to make adjustments”.

Then we have the irrational reasons.

There is an emotional wanting to keep working on this game. I feel excitement when I am experimenting with a level layout and discover new aspects on how to play Space Truckers which, more often than not, leads to me adding new features. Yes you can call it ‘feature creep’ but I am just going to be straight up corny and call it ‘fun creep’. One thing that did not make it into the latest level pack was a Police Ship which would track you down rather than patrolling. Now I am sitting there thinking “I need to put this Police Ship in but I have to do the Racing Style level pack first… Okay 80 more levels, let’s do this!” and it is insane because that amount of levels would give me so much SAN loss I would out do any Dagon cultist a run for their money.

The greatest moments I have had while making levels is seeing Matt rage up because his ship ran out of fuel, barely misses the home base and crashes into planet. Here is how the level creation process happens; I make a level, Matt plays the level, Matt shouts profanities including calling me a ‘mad man’ and tells me the level is fine, I counter follow his advice and make the level easier.

Just this process alone wants me to create more and more content but I have to take a step back at times and say ‘Is this financially viable?’ Usually the answer is ‘No, we need to be looking at other possible games.’

Space Truckers is currently in a market that is so saturated that quite possibly no one will ever care about it. And nor should they. It will possibly never see more than 1000 views which is a drop in the ocean considering how many mobile users there are in a world. But honestly, we are having too much fun to give it up.

cop screenie

New Expansion Screenshot, Another 120 hours of my working life

7 thoughts on “Why I keep investing in a game that no one cares about

  1. It is all about in the longer term finding that balance between enjoying what you do and getting paid for it! While you have the opportunity enjoy what you do!!!!

  2. I saw you guys demo at an IGDA event a few months ago after having picked up the free version a couple of days prior. The thing I and others flagged immediately was your ethos to ‘never spend more than 3 months on a project’.

    The game concept seemed solid enough, but the execution was seriously lacking. Polish is so often underestimated, both in its importance, and the time it requires.

    The other bleedingly obvious point is that if people aren’t even seeing all your existing content, the addition of more content is in no way conducive to your goal.

    Anyway, congratulation on releasing something – that in itself is an achievement.

    • Could not agree with you more about the polish. In our current state, we know that we cannot compete against the likes of Half Brick and the other hard hitting local devs, both in terms of polish and marketing. We have no idea what sticks and what does not so we’re hurling stuff at the wall at the moment. Our comment of 3 months development time tries to include polish to a degree but as we found in retrospect, it was not up to our standard and we went back and worked on it.

      Your points are very valid and what every Indie has to deal with, we’re dealing with them every day :)

      If you have additional game feedback by all means please send it through.

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