This is the first of several dev blog posts we’ll be doing as we head in to PAX; this first one focuses on our release strategy for All Heroes Die. Our further posts later this week will start to delve into the specifics of gameplay.
Right now, we’re working hard to get ready for our “$5 Beta” at PAX East. I’ve been asked a lot about exactly what the $5 Beta is, and wanted to take a few minutes to explain it.
What I call the $5 Beta is a release strategy that has been used by a number of smaller / indie studios, as well as by many other products in other industries. With it, you are looking to release your game in a very rough form; in some ways, the rougher the better. It’s a very Web 2.0 philosophy: ship early and often. Get your game into the hands of the people who will play it, and then use their feedback to develop it further. It’s a strategy that I first saw used by TaleWorlds’ for Mount and Blade, and also is being used by the gorgeous indie MMO Love. The indie devs Wolfire are also doing something similar with their game Overgrowth.
There are some advantages and disadvantages to this strategy…
- Start getting real feedback on your game.
- Start building your game’s community.
- Get some actual cash flow!
- Reduce the risk of continued investment in the game by gauging the market’s interest.
- It feels somewhat like that dream where you show up to school with no clothes on, and are just waiting for everyone to notice. (You know that dream, right? Right?)
- You risk forming poor first impressions. These may be hard to break, especially for media folks who look at tons of games all the time.
- You are increasing your workload with an added component of community interaction and community management.
- You’re now seriously on the hook to deliver to your fans.
Overall, we feel that this strategy is a great one to take for first-time game makers like ourselves – to us, all the cons I’ve listed are overcome by the first pro point – real feedback. The amount of time and energy you put in to a game means that you’re going to have blinders on regarding your gameplay and UI – you’re eating and breathing this thing, and you most likely long ago made your peace with dozens of issues that will completely vex your players. Getting honest feedback on these things is paramount.
Personally, I’m quite interested to see how this strategy turns out for us, and I’ll definitely be blogging our results. All Heroes Die is a curious mix of old-school and new-school, in terms of its technology and business model. On the one hand, we’re using an installed .exe that people download – very close to the shareware model that was pioneered by Apogee and ID in the early 90′s. On the other hand, we realize that our success is tied on almost every level to having a robust and engaged online community – something that brings us a lot closer to the social games of today.