Friday, 11 May 2018

Mushroom: The Ruckus - A Post-Mortem

Oh lord, what a mistake I have made.

I'm not referring to Mushroom: The Ruckus just yet, I'm still stuck on the fact that I apparently can't keep a steady upload schedule to save my life. I'll give some explanation as to why at the end of the video, but it's not very interesting so I don't want to scare away all the people who legit just wanna know how my game did.

So, for those of you who don't know (and I wouldn't blame you for not knowing) Mushroom: The Ruckus is a top-down hack'n'slash thingy where you play as a mushroom and you kill all the other mushrooms. It costs $2 or £1.69 so it's not expensive but there's not a lot of content going on there. The reason for this was because I decided that I'd seriously cut down on how much time I would spend on this one.

My last project, Mass O' Kyzt, took me about 9 months from start to end. It still didn't have a lot of content because a lot of that time was just me removing the content and making it again but better. This meant that I effectively wasted a lot of time to create a pretty sub-par project.

This time, I decided that I'd seriously speed up the dev cycle and just get it done before I could even have time to start hating it. Trust me, I still got to that stage in the last week of development or so but I managed to pump out most of the game before I got there. Mushroom: The Ruckus only actually took me a little over one month to create. I started the main character design at about 1AM on March 23rd while talking to a friend and I released the whole game on May 1st.

I think overall, yeah this is way preferable to spending 9 months on something that's not even fun to play by most metrics. However, I think I cut the dev time a little bit short when I could maybe have used a bit more time. I don't know if more time would have even helped because quite frankly I'm not that good at a lot of the things this game focuses on- things like story, graphics and whatnot.

However, I did find myself working 8 hours a day plus school plus social responsibilities for about a month and feeling absolutely destroyed by the end of it. In fact, I still feel mostly destroyed, just a little less so than I have done. And yeah, that's pretty much why I haven't uploaded a video in ages. I'm not exactly presenting this as an excuse because that was a horrible decision.

For the purposes of disclosure, since May 1st and as of May 11th my game has sold 50 copies. This is WAY less than Mass O' Kyzt which sold a lot more, even despite its initially greater price tag and (in my opinion) less appealing visuals. Now you might be thinking "well, 50 copies at $2 a copy isn't bad, that basically makes you back the Steam Direct fee" but unfortunately that is not actually the case. You see, I put the game at a 40% launch discount - another mistake - which meant that about 40 of those 50 copies are only worth barely over one dollar each.

So for the time being, I'm at a net loss. That sucks, but I've only myself to blame in this case. I'm not super upset about it(well, anymore) because I have definitely learned some lessons from the experience and I'm sure as hell not gonna do most of the things I've done again.

So why did Mushroom: The Ruckus only sell 50 copies? There are a lot of reasons and I'm pretty sure all of them are because my marketing SERIOUSLY sucked. Pretty much all the marketing I did was a half-hearted YouTube video and a bad trailer, and I send some copies to some Steam curators. If I was smart, I would have taken an extra month, worked on the game more slowly and actually marketed it properly as I was working on it.

In my defense I did show some gifs on Twitter which netted me about 15-20 followers over the course of two weeks, but unfortunately those were not the weeks leading up to release day, those were like April 1st to April 14th. Even my real life friends who are generally pretty clued into what I do legitimately did not know that my game was being released on May 1st, because up until literally the day before release it was only ever an internal release date.

On April 30th I tweeted something like "oh yeah, by the way, game's coming out tomorrow" which is by far the worst way to build hype since I only have a little under 200 followers and I'm pretty sure a lot of them are bots. 

Also, I should have made proper YouTube videos that document the process a little bit more. This isn't just for motivational purposes, this is because I have a free bank of 800 people who signed up for regular notifications about my content and for some reason, I'm not utilizing that!

One more thing I might add is the price point. Yeah, maybe my game wasn't worth any more than $2 and that's not really the point I'm making but people will believe that your game has more value if it is priced higher. Regardless of the actual "value for money", people generally don't pay attention to a smaller product for smaller money because they perceive it as being disposable or worth less.

I think that the solution to this is to just make slightly bigger games. Nothing too big, but games that would maybe fit a $5 price tag. Also, I have to learn to think in terms of dollars which is great because I don't use that damned currency in my country.

Lastly, lemme talk about how this is the first large game I've made with Godot 3. 

The transition to Godot 3 from Godot 2.1 is one of the smoothest things I've ever done. It is honestly so much nicer to use a nice, slick UI and the audio bus system than it is to have a slightly less nice and less slick UI with whatever the fuck audio system Godot 2.1 uses.

Not only that, but Godot 3 has native support for autotiling. It's not very well documented at the moment so I had to spend a while figuring out how to use it but it's really convenient, albeit a bit buggy with saving collision shapes.

Speaking of bugs, the trail effect after the player dashes.

Now when I was implementing the dash effect, I thought "hey, let's add a lovely trail effect". So after a little while of googling some neat implementations of something like that I found a kind of tutorial that uses a Line2D. I know what you're thinking, "Hey, Alex! You should use the particle system which is like a thousand times better for trail effects!" and yes, you are absolutely right. However, I didn't realize this at the time for some reason.

So I created a Line2D and made it sync up nicely and everything, but in a pixel art-style game I should really try and make the Line2D node actually display in a pixelly way. So I applied a simple pixelization shader to the Line2D.

Well, that didn't work. For whatever reason, we live to suffer and it just turned the Line2D white. I tried applying the shader to a normal sprite and it worked perfectly, pixelated the sprite and everything was in order. Back to the Line2D - not pixelated, just white.

I must have spent like an hour just trying to deal with that and figuring out why even modulating it didn't make it any less white but after a small breakdown I came up with the idea to create a slightly larger Line2D object that is given the exact same data as the other one but uses a screen-space shader to pixelize(pixelate?) anything that is underneath it.

Sadly, this worked. It's really hacky and if you look carefully you can actually see that it slightly messes with the ground in an area around the trail effect, but yeah. It works.

Also, it seems that Godot 3.0.2 actually has some problematic bugs on Ubuntu. I talked about it a bit in a forum post that was made in the community hub but I cannot figure out what the problem is, just that it only seems to occur with the Unity desktop manager, and segfaults when "New Game" is selected in the main menu.

I have seen some bug reports on Github for similar issues, so I didn't make a proper bug report. I suppose the point of this section is just to beware. Hopefully a lot of these growing pains will be fixed in Godot 3.1 or 3.0.3, but yeah- for the moment they're a little problematic.

With all the complaining I've done about the engine I just wanna reiterate that yeah, this engine is awesome and I could hardly love it more. I've made a few successful contributions to the repo too, so I'm slowly climbing my way up to being listed as a developer(which requires 10 commits). 

Anyway thanks for watching(or reading, if you're reading this) and stay tuned for a video regarding my next project. Yikes. I have exams, you know, I can't be doing this to myself.

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