by Chris Jorgensen on February 24, 2015
"You don't get to just wake up and say, 'I want to be' or 'I want to do.' It's a long haul. It's a thousand little decisions to put yourself in position where you're capable." - Quin Snyder
I've had the long-term goal of building a sustainable business — one that I could confidently replace contracting or full-time work with. An incredibly rough 2013 derailed the momentum I had built up to that point. That made 2014 a period of recovery more than anything. After the release of Ammo Pigs, I felt it was time to assess the state of Cascadia Games.
To be fair, I started this assessment in late 2013 when I decided that I needed to measure how long a project took and, more importantly, how much it effectively paid. Tracking the development time closely on Cavorite 3 and 2-bit Cowboy revealed that games were taking too long to make. Ammo Pigs was the first attempt to address the biggest issue: content was taking too much time to produce.
Here is how content production has gone.
- Original way: draw on graph paper, build in TGB Editor
- Current way: draw on graph paper, built in Tiled / TGB Editor
- It took 35 hours to make the 12 levels for Ammo Pigs
Three hours per "large" level may not seem like a lot. But in a world where typical mobile games come with dozens of levels, these production routes simply don't scale up. Therefore, I've charted out how these methods will change in the future.
- Next way: draft on graph paper, build in Tiled, on-load generation of tiles and sprites
- This is the current technique used for Wacky Wheels
- Future way: draw level as pixel minimap, have game generate entire level just-in-time
- This will be the technique used for the upcoming "Metroidvania" project
- Far future way: computer generates levels entirely (i.e. procedural)
The next biggest issue was stale technology. iTGB 1.6 is an old engine and one I had only used reliably on iOS. So when the first of the revenue from 2-bit Cowboy arrived, I set aside part to hire Max Gaming Technologies to help port iTGB 1.6 to Android. Yes, it's still an old and slow engine, but it now can hit four major platforms (iOS, Android, PC, and Mac). I started the work of making the code completely cross-platform with Ammo Pigs... either it or Wacky Wheels will be my first 4-platform game. The Android port already has already paid for itself with the success of 2-bit Cowboy in the Crescent Moon Mobile Humble Bundle and its debut on Google Play. The Cavorite series will also get an Android port, hopefully later this year.
The next issue? Product catalog. First and foremost, Cascadia Games lacks an "expensive" product, a niche that the TGB Kart Kit once filled and one I tried to fill again with GameDock to no avail. Part of this problem will hopefully be solved by higher priced games such as Wacky Wheels, which will likely cost $10. The TGB Kart Kit, however, brought in either $50 or $250 (commercial license) per sale. I still don't know how to fill this gap. And the remaining products, mobile games ranging from $0.99 to $2.99, with only two less than a year old, are a poor base to build from. Porting Cavorite 1-3 to Android will help a bit, but this won't be a problem easily solved.
Still, here's the modest catalog improvement plan moving forward:
- Port all remaining mobile games (ie the Cavorite series) to Android
- Port at least Ammo Pigs to Mac and PC
- Make bigger games that rightfully should cost more
- Keep an eye out for opportunities to make a niche, higher priced product
Finally, there is a poor marketing foundation in place for Cascadia Games. While my Twitter following has grown to around 1,850 followers, I have a mere 85 Facebook likes, 21 Tumblr follows, and 19 Youtube subscribers. I need a much, much bigger presence online if I ever want to escape the 100% reliance on various app store features. This will be the hardest foundation of all to build.
Here's what I'm doing and what I plan on doing to help fix this:
- Improve the site
- I've added Google Play and Amazon Appstore buy buttons where appropriate
- The Ammo Pigs and 2-bit Cowboy pages have trailer buttons
- Wacky Wheels will soon get a Greenlight trailer and a button
- The GameDock list has been converted over to a Cascadia news email list, with a signup form now on the Contact page
- Blog more!
- More social media
- Associate with bigger brands
- Start marketing early
- Share games when they're earlier in development
- Public beta testing
- Better landing pages with more information; and put them up well in advance of launch
There is lots of work to be done! But I'm happy to report much is underway. With the year of recovery behind me, I'm looking forward to the year of rebuilding.