For the I Will Prevail project, I decided to use the Warbits post-mortem by Reilly Stroope, one of the developers behind the game as my case analysis.
Warbits is a turn-based strategy game for the iOS platform developed by Risky Lab, a two-man indie team: Reilly Stroope and Joe Borghetti. The game has 20 mission campaigns and supports online and local multiplayer. The game took four years in development, starting in early 2012 and launching Warbits on the Apple app store on 14th April 2016. Their original estimation time to develop Warbits? 6 months.
The first two years were spent on learning how to make a game in the first place. They had to learn the tools required to create their game such as Object-orientated programming and creating sprite sheets. They also had to figure out what management methodology worked best for them: Trello, Dropbox, and Google Hangouts became their tools of choice.
For those who do not know, Trello is a management tool that is best described as a virtual whiteboard. The team can create tasks and move the tasks to the appropriate headers. I used it for my final project over at SAE Singapore but was not personally a fan of it as a management tool.
Back on topic. The total cost of Warbits cost $12,384USD. According to Reilly, however, he felt they were rather frugal with their expenses.
So what went wrong for Risky Labs?
The first mistake was they took on a project that had a large scope, required complex mechanics compounded by learning new tools which lead their developmental process to be a long arduous journey of trial and error.
The second problem was that they were developing a game with a very niche market, and marketing it as a premium game. Warbits was conceived to bring the allure of Advance Wars series to the mobile platform. While the market was underserved, they were assuming the market would still be untapped as they developed the game. Not to mention the fact, they were releasing Warbits for one platform only. Although we are releasing I Will Prevail on one platform as well, so I suppose I cannot complain. It is a risk, in fact, one of the reasons we are choosing the Android as our platform is because the process of releasing a game onto that platform is smoother compared to the iOS market. From memory of what I’ve been told, to release a game on the iOS market you needed to purchase a license and you had to wait for approval from the reviewing community before they allow your game to go up onto the iOS store.
If they had taken the time to initially create smaller projects, they would have established their developmental process earlier and streamlined it for larger projects. Not only that, they would have a more solid foundation in understanding what was required for creating Warbits and possibly cut down the time required to develop the game. As Reilly admitted, many of the problems they encountered could be attributed to inexperience.
With that in mind, I have to admit I am impressed they even finished Warbits at all. Especially when you add onto the fact, they were keeping their full-time day jobs and working on this during their evenings and weekends off. I do not think I would have the patience or mindset to stick with it all the way to the end. Considering I am the kind of person who has 50+ projects/ideas and never get around to finishing them…moving on!
Leading up to their launch date (13th April @ 6pm), they noticed the news for new iOS games diminishing and rumors that some app developers were asked to avoid launching during that week due to the Apps for Earth campaign. With the launch date already set, they had to bite the bullet and see what happened. It proved to be a blessing in disguise for them, with the larger publishers having their launch dates pushed back, it allowed Warbits to shine thus receiving the Editors Choice award for that week. After the event ended, they were blessed with having the Editors Choice award for the second week which garnered them a lot of traffic to their page.
The boost of being featured for two weeks helped their overall sales, leading to them making 87% of their total made in those two weeks. Even though they heard nothing from the mainstream gaming sites, they had overwhelmingly positive reviews from bloggers and iTunes, not forgetting the mobile gaming community such as TouchArcade, Pocket Tactics, and Gamezebo certainly did not hurt either.
This reminds me that we will have to make sure that people know about our game. We could do this by sending out emails out to the gaming community requesting they check out the game and letting us know about their thoughts, or even asking for assistance in getting the game out there. In fact, Sam had talked with the editor over at BrisbaneByte who said when the game is nearly ready for release in the future, he would be willing to give us a small promotional shoutout in the article. It would prove very helpful in promoting the game and reaching a wider audience.
Overall, the points I am taking from this post-mortem are the following:
- Make sure your developmental pipeline is optimized and have a management methodology that works for the team.
- You spent a considerable chunk of time learning how to develop the game you want to make – this is something we are experiencing currently as we develop our prototype. As we have three designers who are not strong programmers and the game requires a lot of programming work.
- The scope of the project – this is something we were painfully aware of and trying our best to mitigate it by developing a project that fits within our skillsets.
- Marketing – they developed a game that appealed to a very niche market on a single platform. We will have to make sure our game appeals to our target market, as while, it is not as niche compared to theirs, it will only appeal to a certain group of players.
- Community – We can have the community help test our game, or even ask them for assistance by asking questions to solve any issues we are experiencing. Including if the community enjoys the game, they may spread the word of the game which will bring in more players.