Posts Categorized : DevBlog

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Steam Greenlight Post-Mortem

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By now, you should be aware that Radial-G : Racing Revolved has been selected in the September batch of Steam Greenlight titles. This means that we can officially publish and release the game through the Steam platform, the global leader in digital, online games retail and delivery! As of Jan’14, there were over 75 million registered Steam users and on an average day, there are typically between 3-6 million concurrent users online at any given time. That’s a lot of potential racers that we can now get the game in front of.

Steam opened the Greenlight programme a few years ago but there are rumours now that Gabe Newell (big boss of Valve, who operates Steam) has expressed his desire to close the service in the near future. With this threat in mind, we were keen to get through the Steam Greenlight process as soon as possible before this door was closed forever. Thankfully, on Thursday 4th September 2014, upon turning up at the office for another day of development, we discovered that we had been successful after 70 days since our profile launched on Friday 27th July.

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However, those 70 days have been fraught and nerve-wracking, mostly because there is no visibility into the process of selection nor knowledge of the selection criteria and with changes to the dates, numbers selected and process along the way. When we first launched the title on Steam Greenlight, there were two selection dates per month, with each selection containing 75 titles. However, tracking the titles selected in the first batch after we launched, we soon discovered that just being in the Top 75 didn’t automagically mean you were selected in that batch. There were many other selection criteria coming into play that we weren’t aware of but we can assume they include:

  • Successful Kickstarter / Indiegogo campaign
  • Online coverage of the title elsewhere
  • General levels of hype around the title
  • Community perception of the title
  • Recent and regular updates to the title Steam Greenlight profile page
  • Recent and regular updates to the public development of the title

 

We were initially very confident of passing Greenlight quickly and assumed that we would be selected in the 2nd batch since our launch. At the time of the 1st batch since launch, we were just outside the Top 100 so weren’t expecting to be selected at that point but afterwards, we jumped up to the threshold of the Top 75 as higher ranked titles were selected and taken out of the table. From that position, whilst our Kickstarter campaign was still running, we saw a lot of traffic back and forth between Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight campaigns, each feeding one another and increasing our rank daily. We soon found ourselves, after approximately 25 days, in the Top 25, bouncing between 20th & 25th. Which is where we remained for the rest of the campaign until we were finally selected.

We tried a variety of methods to gain more traction and increase our daily visitor count, and most importantly our voting ratio for YES over NO, but everything we tried, we saw little increase or spikes in activity overall. We could see on the stats page that other titles ahead of us were often having huge spikes in interest and votes but not being able to see what was currently rank 5, 10, 15, 20 etc meant that we couldn’t determine what these titles were doing to generate these. We even bowed to pressure from the vocal group of Linux gamers that we would support their platform of choice, but this only saw a small bump in activity as a result. Fortune smiled on us when the gaming page of the Red Bull website listed Radial-G : Racing Revolved as one of the top 10 games that readers should vote YES for on Steam Greenlight, in an article published mid-August. This provided a boost to our visitor count and our YES votes overall.

Overall it was a fairly blind process and we learnt quickly from other devs, who have put their games on Steam Greenlight, that they were as in the dark as much as we were but had had varying degrees of success, or failure themselves. Some wallowed on the service for over two years before being selected, others are still there, struggling to get into the Top 100, despite successful crowd-sourced funding campaigns and regular development updates. Others have flown through, being selected in just two weeks since opening their game profile page up for votes. Talking to these other devs made us feel better about our chances, especially since our stats at the time were really good, apparently. In the end, we finished with a near 50/50 split as to whether Steam users wanted to see Radial-G : Racing Revolved on Steam or not. We are happy with this as we know futuristic arcade racing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and especially as we’ve positioned ourselves as being a game for VR first-and-foremost, the current userbase for Oculus Rift is tiny compared to the larger gaming community hardware.

We are overjoyed to have made it and are now steadily working through the administrative process of setting Tammeka Games up as a Steamworks developer and preparing our official Steam store page for Radial-G : Racing Revolved, with plans to launch on Steam Early Access later in 2014 before our first full release of the game. As ever, watch this space for more details! In the meantime, if you have a title on Steam Greenlight still, we’ve included our final stats below to compare against to help you understand a bit better.

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Kickstarter Post-Mortem

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Overview

We formed Tammeka Games in January 2014, with the main purpose of developing VR games. We quickly decided to design and develop and arcade racer, based partially on some of the team background but mostly through our love of the racing game genre. We all loved F-Zero and Wipeout and were saddened at the apparent gap in the market left by these two games not being updated for many years, and the closure of the Sony Liverpool studio. We knew that we had to raise funding in order to be able to develop the full game but were able to rustle a small amount together to cover the costs of creating a single player demo, preparing and running the Kickstarter and moving onto developing a multi-player demo to release later down the line.
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What Happened

Ultimately, the Kickstarter funding campaign was unsuccessful in regards to securing us funds. But it was always about more than just funds, elements that money can’t buy and a sprinkling of good fortune too.  We spent a month creating and tweaking the Kickstarter profile, along with reaching out to the press to start creating a buzz in the games community, raise awareness of our plans and have articles published before the launch and on the big day itself.  We were also still busy working on the single player demo, creating the world assets, compiling them together in Unity3D and testing builds daily. Once we were happy with the game, the feeling and experience, we were able to package it up into an installer and prepare to submit it to Oculus Share.

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Our Game Producer, Sam Watts, was able to get the ball rolling with the press after a chance meeting with Kevin Joyce, Editor-in-Chief of VRFocus at the inaugural VR Brighton Meetup, a few months before launch of the Kickstarter. Kevin was keen to come to the studio, play the game and do some video interviews, ready for an agreed set of articles to be published during the build-up to the Kickstarter launch and throughout the campaign. This agreement also included a series of exclusive dev blogs and after so much great coverage and support from VRFocus during the campaign, we decided to give them the exclusive for publishing what you are reading now, the Kickstarter Post-Mortem.  Due to delays to the website design and not having all the social media channels up to speed in time, we delayed the launch of the Kickstarter by two weeks, so it would launch on July 3rd. This also keyed into the fact that, at the time we were still expecting, like everyone else, that Oculus VR would ship the DK2 in July, before our campaign ended and would give us a good boost towards the end.

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We attended a lot of events leading up to and throughout the Kickstarter campaign, helping build raise  awareness and letting players try out the game before the demo was released. These included the VR Brighton Meetup with other VR enthusiasts, where we got to see the game on an Oculus Rift HD Prototype, giving us a glimpse of how the visuals would be vastly improved when we got our DK2s. There was also a boisterous night at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar in Brighton, UK with the Kotaku-UK sponsored I.Am.Arcade and Fight Club games night. The game went down a storm with the gamers there and we were left positively charged ready to launch the Kickstarter. We also had a booth at Develop in Brighton Expo (more below) which was a fantastic opportunity for us to get the game in front of game developers and peers. These were all local events for us and involved lots of trudging around carrying PC hardware about town, thankfully without any issues. Towards the end of the Kickstarter campaign, we attended VR in a Bar at Loading Bar in Dalston, London, UK and the inaugural South West VR Meetup the following night in Bristol, UK. It was good to spread our wings a little bit and take the game on the road and meet more gamers outside of Brighton, since by then pretty much everyone and anyone knew of it in our neighbourhood.

Throughout the campaign, many opportunities arose that we hadn’t even thought of, or considered (that sprinkling of luck) and we made contact with gamers, developers, fans and business associates like we could never imagine or pre-empt during our preparation for Kickstarter.  So without further ado, mostly in chronological order from beginning to end, the good and the bad of the Kickstarter campaign:

Positives:

- Raised profile of game and studio, coming from nowhere to being a serious VR force
- Received high levels of praise, especially for the VR design aspects
- Meeting with Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony Studios Worldwide and having him play the
game, pledge support and initiate discussions to bring the title to Sony Project Morpheus
- Tweets from Palmer Luckey, co-inventor and founder of Oculus VR
- Amazing support from Sony, Oculus VR and Unity3D, all using their channels to promote
- Over 60 articles published online covering previews, reviews, interviews, dev Q&As, “Let’s Play”  videos, podcasts and more
- Nearly 1,000 backers with an average pledge value of £40
- Creation of dedicated fan base and hardcore supporters
- Rapid advancement through the ranks on Steam Greenlight with excellent statistics

Negatives:

- Didn’t get funded (duh)
- Delays to Oculus VR Rift DK2 (2nd Development Kit) shipping, and fewer sent than expected
- Problems with last minute SDK release on day we received our DK2 meant wasted time spent on re-working the demo support
- Unable to gain traction with a number of high profile games news websites
- Unable to gain traction with non-VR gamers, especially PS4 gamers post-PS4 dev kit news
- Gamers automatically assumed the game would make them sick
- Unable to launch on US Kickstarter meaning less visibility and pledge tier confusion over £>$
- Similarly, being UK/EU-based, difficulty gaining attention / traction with US gamers / market

 

What Went Right

1. Submission to Oculus Share – Thankfully we didn’t have any issues with our submission to Oculus Share, the primary source of hosting the files for the single player demo during the Kickstarter campaign. However, because of it being a beta and still early days, there isn’t really a formal procedure for app submission, like with Apple for example, so we were unable to control when the app went live. What we were able to do was liaise with Cybereality, Oculus VR Community Manager and life-saver, to check on progress of the submission and agree a specific date that the demo would be published. We wanted the demo to be available at the same time as the launch of the Kickstarter and Cybereality was able to do this for us. In fact, the demo went up a few hours before the launch of the Kickstarter but it was fine. We had also uploaded the demo files to other, alternative download locations as backup just in case there were any delays to the Oculus Share publish.

2. Off to a great start – Within the first few hours and at the end of the first day, we had received a healthy number of pledges from keen backers and were well on our way to reach 20% funded within the first few days. We had been told that reaching this percentage of funding, based on statistical data of previous Kickstarter campaigns, was a good yard stick measure of success.

3. High download numbers and great ratings – Last time we checked (5 minutes ago) the single player demo had been downloaded 3,500+ times from Oculus Share with an average score rating of 4.3/5 (82%) and comfort rating of “A very comfortable VR experience”. We don’t have stats from the other sites we hosted the demo files on but know that we exceeded the Dropbox bandwidth allocation. This was a great number of potential backers and way to drive traffic to the Kickstarter.

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4. Overwhelmingly positive response to the demo – Nearly every single person we saw play the demo at events was hugely enthusiastic and positive about the game and the VR integration. We appreciate that not everyone likes the racing genre but even those who weren’t fans still appreciated what we were trying to achieve. This was reflected in all the online coverage and mostly within the comments following the articles about the demo.

5. Amazing coverage and PR response – Although it’s fairly obvious that a strong product sells  itself, which we were confident of having, we couldn’t have hoped for better traction and coverage across a variety of websites. Managing to get coverage on Polygon, Kotaku, CVG & PC Gamer really gave us a confidence boost and a surge in backers as each article went live. It made it feel as if we were legitimate and making a game people were excited about. On the VR specialist websites, it was a crazy roller-coaster ride of confusion, admiration and outright fandom with lots of attention focused on why didn’t the game mechanic make people feel sick, what had we done to reduce this and generally who are these upstarts coming out of nowhere to take the VR community by storm? We’ve actually lost count but we have contributed and worked with journalists on at least 60 unique articles in just one month covering previews, reviews, interviews, dev Q&As, podcasts, VR design breakdown and much more.

6. Develop in Brighton expo – We had initially applied to be included in the Unity3D sponsored Indie Showcase that was a central feature of the Develop in Brighton expo but were not selected from the 175+ applications they received. They did then offer us a cheap “Indie Demo Area” booth for a fairly low price, which we jumped at the chance to do. However when we arrived to setup the day before the expo opened to the public, we found ourselves in the main expo area as only one other indie developer had also booked out an indie booth (of the 12 available), meaning that we had been upgraded for free to a much larger space. This was no bad thing, in no shape or form what-so-ever but it did mean we had only a few hours to ensure we had enough assets to fill the increased space with. After a quick code update, we were then able to take down with us x3 PCs to run our LAN networked two-player Vs version of the demo plus the trackside camera version outputting to a large HDTV screen, to help with drawing attention to the booth. We had a great two days at Develop expo, especially with the Sony Morpheus being present publicly for the first time in EU as their team were present and we learned a few things about the Morpheus and the attention we had received within.

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Of course the highlight of the event was having Shuhei Yoshida come to the booth, play the game and offer assistance with a PS4 dev kit and Morpheus headset in order to accelerate our plans to bring the game to PS4 in future.

7. Not making players feel sick – So whilst there will always be a few people who will feel ill from using VR or fast-paced games, the majority we spoke to said that they felt absolutely fine playing the demo with no nausea, or if they did experience it, it was fleeting until their brain adapted. We’ve covered many times elsewhere through our press coverage the specific design considerations made to reduce simulator sickness but it was great to see our choices being confirmed by real gamers with less VR experience, or “VR legs” than us. Proof is in the pudding and we’ve tracked some players who have completed over 700 laps of the single player demo in VR.

8. The /r/Oculus community – We spent a lot of time with the reddit Oculus subreddit community discussing the game demo, design and Kickstarter. We were really made to feel welcome and at home with the members there, with a lot of passion for what we were trying to achieve and deliver. Despite being involved in VR & simulation for years, we hadn’t really participated a great deal in online communities before the launch of the Kickstarter so it was refreshing to be accepted so openly. However I think this came from a) having a strong, exciting concept that was a playable game and b) being a human being within the community, discussing with honesty and transparency rather than some marketing / PR robot just trying to sell and push messages down throats. Reddit formed our largest source of Kickstarter backers (259/978 – 13.5% total pledges) and we will continue to interact and be part of the community moving forwards. Seeing Cymatic Bruce, one of the most visible and respected online VR personas, covering the game demo on his regular Sunday live stream and going bananas with excitement over it will remain one of the highlights for us.

9. Racing up the ranks on Steam Greenlight – We created our Steam Greenlight submission / page a week before the Kickstarter campaign and were amazed at the initial response we received and statistics coming from the profile. Talking other developers who had submitted their games to Steam Greenlight, we were pleasantly surprised to discover what we thought were average statistics were in fact really very good. We spent a good couple of weeks with over 65% yes votes and were steadily increasing our ranking up to and into the Top 100 within a very short space of time. There were a great number of positive comments and feedback, with growing excitement to see the game make it through and be available on the Steam platform.

10. VIP backers and influencers – Not only did we meet Shuhei Yoshida and begin discussions about PS4 dev kits and Morpheus hardware, he tweeted, retweeted and publicly pledged his support for the game to his large follower base. We were also able to connect and talk to Palmer Luckey who tweeted and posted about the game and Kickstarter.  We also managed to bring a number of other high profile game industry professionals on side, such as Ben Kurcher and Stephen “Rockjaw” Reid, who were publicly happy to show support and help spread the word through their large follower base (as well as create great coverage through a positive article on Polygon). Furthermore, tweets and promotion from the three main companies we were working with (in relation to using their hardware and software) were happy to tweet, retweet and promote the campaign. For this we are thankful to Sony, Oculus VR and Unity3D.

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What Went Wrong

1. Submission to Oculus Share, again – When we submitted the game demo to Oculus Share, we didn’t know what the Kickstarter URL would be. We thought we could guess but ultimately we were wrong. So we had to go back into our now accepted profile and update the Kickstarter link so that the profile button linked to it rather than a 404 page. However, just changing one URL on the Oculus Share profile for the demo caused the whole thing to be re-submitted again. Thankfully, Cybereality came to our rescue again and helped push the submission through as quickly as possible.

2. Not such a great start afterall – We raced up to 10% after the first day and all got excited and
confident that we were going to be successful. However it then coughed and spluttered a bit
and by lunchtime Sunday 6th July, we were just scraping 15% funded. This is when we should have been at 20% ideally, if we were to be statistically successful. It actually took us nearly two weeks to hit 20%

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This put a little bit of a dampener on the start of our first full working week on Kickstarter but we were strong of mind and knuckled down to push on.

3. Poor download count : rating ratio – Even though the single player demo was downloaded over 3,500 times from Oculus Share, and we had two great ratings, the number of people giving ratings was pretty poor; just 70 last time we checked. More ratings would have helped get us into the top 5 panel on the homepage for complete domination. Not only that, whilst we were tracking he ratings we noticed some unusual behavior one evening when we suddenly got a number of new ratings in quick succession but they were all 1/5 stars as our average suddenly plummeted from 4.9/5 to 3.9/5. This is another side effect of not having many ratings, in that a few bad ones can dramatically alter the averages. Seemed as if someone collectively had it in for us that night.

4. Failing to convert the numbers of people downloading and playing the demo into backers –Although we had nearly 1,000 backers, which is fantastic, there’s still a large difference in numbers between those who play and those who pledge. Similarly for Steam, we started off with roughly capturing about 50% of visitors to yes votes but this steadily declined over the month the longer the game was on Greenlight. At present, it’s around 25% of visitors have voted yes. With our current 50/50 split between yes and no for whether they would like to see the game on Steam, that means there’s still 50% of visitors who aren’t even voting, which doesn’t cost a thing.

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5. Missing the mainstream / big games sites press coverage – Whilst we were really happy with the websites, some of them at the top of the rung, who did run articles about the game, demo, Kickstarter and team, and will be eternally grateful to them for doing so, there are still a lot of games sites with large reader-bases that simply wouldn’t respond or cover Kickstarter campaigns. Getting a response and connection only to be told “We’d love to cover your game once you’re funded” is one of the most frustrating things to hear. It’s a chicken and egg situation; with your coverage, we’d increase our reach and increase our chances of being funded. We were hoping to gain some traction on the non-gaming websites too since VR is hot property at the moment and we were trying to piggy-back that interest as a reason to get coverage there too, but ultimately failed there too.

6. Being at the back of Develop expo – This wasn’t a huge issue but it was slightly annoying since we had “the game of show” on our booth but were stuck at the back of the expo hall, away from the main area. Not complaining, since we were upgraded for free and there were a lot of positives to take away, but there were a few student demo areas with Oculus Rift content on display as well as ours. A number of attendees, by the time they got to our booth, had been put off VR demos because of sub-optimal content elsewhere causing simulation sickness. So when they say the screen with 360-degree rotating tracks, they thought that this would definitely make them feel ill.

7. Gamers thinking they would get sick from playing – This was a common theme throughout the coverage and general feedback; people took one look at the videos and immediately assumed that the game would make them feel sick. A lot of our early coverage focused around this fact and featured many interviews and dev Q&As with the Game Producer, Sam Watts, discussing the specific design choices made to reduce simulator sickness but we couldn’t shake the thought from gamers’ minds. As discussed above, when people actually tried it and played the demo, most of them were pleasantly surprised to discover that it didn’t make them sick.

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8. Lack of engagement with “normal” gamers – We quickly had the attention and support of the VR gaming community but we utterly failed to gain any kind of traction or emphasis within the non-VR gaming communities for any of the platforms we’re looking at supporting. We switched early on from releasing Oculus Rift screenshots, with the dual channel display, to just posting the 2D screenshots from the normal version of the game. We found that gamers are very Marmite about VR; they either love it or hate it with little inbetween. As soon as they saw the Rift shots, they turned off and weren’t interested, making it near impossible to bring them back in with the 2D mode. This was even more apparent with the PS4 gamers we were trying to bring on-board after the Sony announcements; they just seem to want to know a game is going to be made, with a release date and available on the PSN Store. Which of course, at this stage, we couldn’t offer them.

9. Not having a clue about the Steam Greenlight selection process – Through our discussions with other developers who had submitted their games to Steam Greenlight and hearing their experiences of wallowing statistics, taking months or years to be selected, we were falsely encouraged and expectant that we would race through the selection process early and easily, based upon comparisons our of statistics against theirs. That didn’t happen. We are still within the Top 25 on Steam Greenlight but we saw with each batch going through, just being in the Top 75 doesn’t automatically mean you will be one of the 75 chosen in that batch. We have an idea of what other aspects affect your chances, such as a successful Kickstarter campaign, coverage online, general consensus regarding demand and potential success, as well as your profile statistics. But we still have no visibility or idea when / if we will be selected.

10. Lack of VIP testimonials early on – What we didn’t achieve, mostly through not making the game known about before the launch of the Kickstarter or attending events, was any form of celebrity game industry professionals until well within the campaign. The Kickstarter story video would have greatly benefited from some leading industry figure vox pops about why they love the game and think everyone else should be involved with backing it too.

 

What We Learned

1. Don’t rely on high pledge tier levels – For games, unless you have some serious clout and degree of fame behind you, bringing dedicated fans to the campaign, don’t calculate your goal values (base & stretch) on expecting backers to stump up a large amount of cash to help you meet them. We had some high level pledge backers, to whom we’re eternally grateful and wish we could have seen the rewards go to them, but the majority of backers went for the levels that gave access to the game and nothing more.

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2. Kickstarter stories aren’t interesting to the press - We knew that there was a certain negativity amongst the press these days regarding Kickstarter. The service is a few years old now and whilst there have been high-profile, newsworthy campaigns, there have been a lot of high-profile, catastrophic failures too. The press has got burnt out spending time and energy covering these, wasting screen space to campaigns that fail to fund, or deliver. The best way to get coverage is to have funding in place with a known development schedule and expected release date planned.

3. There is a lot of negativity in general around Kickstarter – Having been in operation for a few years, there have been many high profile success, and failure stories coming from Kickstarter projects. Obviously, Tim Schafer and Double Fine’s success showed a lot of people that Kickstarter could be a valid alternative funding option but this was some time ago and wasn’t without its own problems. A number of games and developers have jumped on the bandwagon since and fallen off spectacularly. Even successfully funded projects haven’t been without their own problems and recently, coverage of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R re-boot and controversies surrounding the IP ownership and development team, plus the collapse of the overly successful YogsAdventures and stories of mis-management and missing funds, has all added to a set of gamers wary of supporting such campaigns now and in the future.

4. Backer physical reward postage counts towards your total – One thing we didn’t gather from our investigations and research into Kickstarter was that any additional postage, for physical reward items that backers choose, is added to your fund total. So if we had just scraped over our goal, that wouldn’t have all been from straight pledges, it would have included the total amount that backers had pledged to cover the postage costs too, which we would then still have had to cover when sending out the reward items. Kickstarter should really track the two values separately of one another, actual pledges and rewards postage contributions.

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5. Stick to your original plan and don’t get distracted – Through our profile on Steam Greenlight, we soon discovered that we had completely overlooked one gaming platform; Linux. A vocal minority of Linux gamers were very noisy about our lack of Linux support and that they would only back the game if we announced official support for this platform. We tried to judge interest as we had to gauge whether the additional effort, time and cost was worthwhile but we realized that they weren’t going to budge, having been burnt by developers promising support in the past and it failing to materialize after they had pledged. We were able to work on a Linux buildbut with all the variants of Linux available and our testing abilities reduced, a number of issues soon became apparent that we just didn’t have time to fix. Coupled with the current lack of support for Linux, Oculus VR and Unity3D, we were stuck and unable to provide a demo build that supported Rifts. All in all, it proved to be a time costly distraction that we could have done without so we will have to re-think our platform support moving forwards once we have new SDKs available that re-enable Mac and Linux support for Oculus VR and Unity3D. Since we havea 2D and VR mode, each new platform adds two branches of development and testing, something that a small team needs to measure the value of having very carefully.

6. Ensure “Early Bird” means that – We set our ‘Early Bird’ reduced price pledge level to include too many pledge slots, meaning that only towards the end of the campaign had we actually sold out of these. We set the value at 500, thinking we would have more backers overall to snap these up sooner. Turns out that 500 is almost 50% of our total backer number and the value should have been much lower, making early adopters feel more special and forcing later backers into the slightly higher pledge tiers.

7. Cross-promotion really helps – We hadn’t planned any cross-promotion for our campaign at launch which soon became obvious we should have done. We were fortunate enough that many other Kickstarter campaigns, either already funded or running concurrently to yours, want to cross-promote and work together to boost each other’s numbers. We ended up promoting other indie game developers at the end of our updates, who returned the favour, plus took the opportunities as they arose e.g. integrating Trinity VR “Trinity Magnum” controller support and providing @Anticleric with game assets to integrate into his DK2-enabled, backer-only build of Technolust. For our part, all we had to do was integrate advertising into our in-game billboards for the other projects we were working with.

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8. Plan your social media strategy and messaging effectively – Although we covered all the main social media channels, we underestimated the task of having to cover all timezones and ensure that the messaging and promotion was reaching all potential backers globally with the correct messaging. Metrics soon showed where we should focus our attentions but still, have to carefully plan updates and messaging to ensure don’t come across as spammy. Google+ was a desolate wasteland compared to Twitter, even Facebook. Twitter allowed for the greatest engagement with followers and fans since everyone saw every post every time. We didn’t have the budget to pay Facebook to boost posts and reach all our fans who had liked the page there. Research and find daily hashtag posts that are repeated weekly and find suitable retweet bots to forward your messages accordingly. E.g. #indiedev and #gamedev are useful, as is the #screenshotsaturday and #madewithunity in order to spread new artwork and utilize the vast follower numbers.

9. People don’t read – We’ll freely admit that our Kickstarter campaign profile was long. We’ll admit now it was too long and contained too much information that the majority of potential backers seemed to ignore. We were constantly having to tweak it and remove content every time we wanted to update the profile because we were hitting the maximum length. We were informed before launch that potential backers don’t even watch the Kickstarter story videos anymore and instead will make a decision whether to back a project within the first few lines of the campaign, so use animated GIFs to showcase the in-game footage. We had 13% of all viewers of the story video watch it all the way through to the end.

10. Kickstarter doesn’t communicate anything to you during your campaign – Towards the end of the campaign, through idle browsing of Kickstarter ‘Staff Picks’, we noticed that we were listed under the Games > Video Games category as a having been chosen. Whilst there are hundreds, nay thousands of projects that full under being a staff pick, we never received an email from Kickstarter informing us that this had happened. The browsing of staff picks doesn’t seem to be organized in any way and sometimes we would be near the top, sometimes you’d have to scroll a long way down the list to find us, so we’re not overly sure how much impact this had on backer count but it does mean you can promote the fact on your project profile image.

 

What We Would Do Different Next Time

1. Launch the demo well in advance of the Kickstarter launch - Although we had advertising in-game for our social media channels and out Kicksarter & Steam Greenlight campaigns, we should have released a version earlier in advance to build up the coverage and awareness sooner. We could always replace the in-game ads once the Kickstarter was live. In fact we should have a system where there are a set of in-built ads for offline mode but if an Internet connection is available, stream the ad images from an online source so we can change them without needing to issue a new build.

2. Aim to pass Steam Greenlight before [re]launching the Kickstarter campaign – Having a profile on Steam already set before launching will give you a ready-made group of fans willing to support and help bring the game to release sooner.

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3. Launch with a tighter campaign – Our Kickstarter profile ended up trying to cover every aspect we had been advised to address and provide evidence for and became too long, too wooly and not concise enough. We would have a tight, short profile story with more imagery and key details, focusing on what we want to do now, rather than lengthening it with what we also want to do in the future. This information should be available to read on the official website, linked from the Kickstarter campaign, if people want to read it but ultimately, kept out of the main story.

4. Ensure enough people can play the game – We planned the campaign to co-inside with the launch of the Oculus VR Rift DK2 headset mid-way through to give us a boost during the doldrums part of the campaign but due to manufacturing, shipping and SDK delays, the amount of headsets that made their way to pre-order customers was significantly lower than expected. Combined with the issues around the new SDK and having to work on a new build and eat into development budget unexpectedly, we didn’t get that boost as expected.

5. Ensure have a large group of backers ready to go on day one - We thought we had built up enough fans and followers ready to become backers on day one launch of the campaign but we could have done so much more. By doing the points above we would ensure that this would be the case next time around and have already had confirmation from a large part of the community that they are ready to pledge and support again when we launch the next funding attempt.

 

Summary

Although we were unsuccessful in passing our base funding goal and achieving funding through the Kickstarter campaign, we feel that overall the campaign was successful in its own right, in relation to everything else that we did achieve. We announced the game and the studio to the world, we made people sit up and pay attention, we received some amazing press coverage and we started the process of creating a passionate fan base around the title, ready for step two. We also learned a great deal about what it takes to be indie developers and how best to arrange and organize the team, budgets and development plan moving forward. As covered elsewhere, we had a Plan B & C when we started, but thanks to all of the above, we now have a Plan D, E & F to follow up on and ensure that Radial-G : Racing Revolved will be more than just a month long attraction. Stay tuned for more news and announcements coming soon and details of what our next steps will be. You can subscribe to the mailing list by sending an email to info@radial-g.com and get involved sooner with development and progress. Thank you to all the wonderful people who pledged their support, got behind our vision and believed in us.

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Single Player Demo – v1.3 OVR DK2 SDK 0.4 – Guide

We’ve update the Windows version of the single player demo so that it is now compiled and utilising OVR SDK 0.4 properly for Oculus Rift DK2 headsets.

However we’ve found you still have to do the following to get it work properly as expected:

1. Go to your display properties and rotate the RIFT DK2 display 90-degrees

2. Set the Rift to ‘EXTENDED MODE’ in the 0.4 Oculus Config Tool

3. Set the RIFT DK2 as your primary display in your display settings

4.Ensure you check the ‘Oculus Rift Enabled’ tickbox on the in-game main menu!

 

It’s a good idea to move the Radial-G : Racing Revolved single player demo desktop shortcut to the right centre of your screen before doing the above.

NB. Once you have enabled ‘Oculus mode’ at least once within the demo on the game menu, you can then just use [START] on the controller or [RETURN] on the keyboard to launch, to help make it less painful until we implement Rift menus.

 

Please also make sure you have updated the firmware for the DK2 headset following Oculus VR’s instructions on how to do so.

Also please make sure you have downloaded and installed the Oculus VR Rift Config Tool from their website (requires developer account login).

 

There’s also a useful tool created by Bilago for helping launch DK2-enabled titles, which is explained and available from the /r/Oculus subreddit

 

Developer Blogs

These dev blogs originally appeared on VR Focus website.

Dev Blog #1 – Preparing for Kickstarter

We knew that we had to go via the Kickstarter route in order to gain the necessary funding to be able to achieve what we wanted to be able to release for the first version of Radial-G. Kickstarter is a generally obvious choice to do this, we looked at IndieGoGo but felt that the audience wasn’t big enough to allow us to reach the potential number of backers we needed.

We also knew that a lot of projects fail on Kickstarter, especially games related ones, so we had to make sure we were as prepared as possible with all angles covered to give us the greatest chance of success. We carried out a lot of research into what makes a successful Kickstarter campaign and profile but found a lot more information and post-mortems for why campaigns failed. Hopefully we won’t be writing our own one of these further down the line.

One of our main guiding lights in our research into Kickstarter was Thomas Bidaux, of ICO Partners, who studies, data-mines and speaks about crowdsourced funding at various conferences. We learned some important facts about Kickstarter to keep in mind whilst preparing for launch:

a)      Only 2 out of 5 games projects are successful

b)      As a general rule, if you haven’t received 20% of your goal within the first few days, your campaign will most likely fail

c)       Ensure you have built up the PR for the Kickstarter well before the launch, don’t just expect people to stumble across your project

d)      Give backers as much information about your development plans and process to build confidence in what you aim to achieve and ultimately, backing you

e)      Don’t just propose a concept, build a demo or a prototype and allow people to experience and see for themselves your vision and again, build confidence that you can deliver

So in order to prepare, we had to establish PR channels well in advance and establish connections with relevant websites to produce articles to go live before or at launch, get a demo ready, and build the audience around Kickstarter and raise awareness on the social media channels. Here are the profiles for FacebookTwitterGoogle+YouTube and Soundcloud. Part of the outcome of this effort is this blog post you are reading on VRFocus, who we are happy to be able to work with on Radial-G!

The final part of preparation was the Kickstarter campaign content copy, which once drafted, we invited select individuals to review and provide constructive feedback on so we could be sure to have covered all aspects whilst maintaining relevance and structure.

We feel we have covered the main points effectively, such as:

  1. What the game is
  2. Why you should back it
  3. When you can expect to receive it
  4. How we plan on delivering it
  5. Where the funding will be spent

Hopefully we will be able to avoid “6. If we fail, what next” but this will be covered in a future post.

-END-

 

Dev Blog #2 - Developing the single-player demo

Through our research into Kickstarter, that I covered in the previous dev blog, we knew we had to provide some tangible evidence that we have the ability to see our proposed plans through development to release, and to help build confidence in the Radial-G game and campaign.

Therefore we started developing the single player demo to give gamers a chance to try out the game and see the level of quality we wanted to achieve as a minimum, as well as build excitement and interest in the title and Kickstarter campaign.

We are a small team with little budget and tight timescales, so in order to release the game to an audience keen to get their hands on polished VR experiences, we had to move quickly and efficiently to build the demo in time for our launch.

We’ve been holding gameplay sessions at a few events and so far have had over 1,000 people try out the single player Radial-G demo and provide invaluable feedback so we can tweak and hone the experience. Gathering feedback is difficult with Oculus Rift titles since for most people, it is their first experience of the hardware so you have to be able to distinguish between the wow factor of VR and genuine feedback on the game itself.

One thing we quickly realised is that, as a single player experience, it’s great racing around the track, improving your lap time and chaining more boosts together to go faster and faster, but ultimately you’re only ever trying to beat yourself. Therefore we developed the web-based global leaderboard feature for the single player demo to give players that immediate feedback in-game to their performance and provide encouragement to keep going and better their lap times. We saw an immediate increase in competitiveness and players were soon trying hard to best themselves and improve their ranking. We wanted to be able to add a ghost feature so that you were racing against the top 10 fastest lap times but ran out of time and budget for development. It’s definitely a feature we will be adding to the main game though once we remember who owns the patent, Atari or SEGA.

The other aspect that we realised during gameplay testing was that not everyone was keen on VR (!?), nor had the necessary hardware to experience it. So we implemented the “2D NOculus Mode” in order to widen the audience and allow more gamers to be able to try and play the demo. This also helped widen the potential audience since it meant that the game demo would run on lower specified PCs, meaning that we could widen the target audience even further still. However our primary aim for the game is for it to operate at a rock solid 60 frames per second, which we have successfully achieved across a variety of hardware, based upon our initial tests. This does cause us some headaches however as capturing high quality 1080p/60fps video takes up a lot of room and takes effort to manipulate plus YouTube hasn’t rolled out full 60fps video support yet.

Now that the demo is released, we are working on updates for it to add support for Mac, Linux and Oculus Rift DK2 headsets, as these should begin to start arriving in the laps of pre-orderers this month. We had to move ahead with DK2 support to make sure everyone had a great game to try out with the new hardware and solve some issues we were having with the Mac client.

In the next blog post, I’ll look at the specifics of designing and developing the game for Oculus Rift & VR from the ground-up, to ensure we make the most compelling, immersive and yet playable game possible!

-END-

 

Dev Blog #3 - VR Design

We designed Radial-G from the start to be a VR game, supporting Oculus Rift (& hopefully Sony Morpheus too in the future) since nothing appealed to us more than a futuristic, arcade racer that was fully immersive. We’ve grown up on F-Zero, wipeout, Quantum Redshift, Extreme-G and other futuristic racers and really felt that VR was the only viable next direction for these games; leading edge technology married to sci-fi makes perfect sense!

However, through our experience of creating serious simulators and working with military-grade VR, we’ve seen the issues arise around simulator sickness when content is not designed first-and-foremost for VR. Like films shot in 2D and converted to 3D for release, the effect is always less convincing than films shot in 3D and directed to take full advantage.

With a high-speed, fast-paced arcade racer, we had to therefore take specific consideration into the design to ensure that we provided a worthwhile, fun and immersive experience without making players immediately reach for a sickbag.

The main aspects of design we factored into the design to reduce can be detailed as below:

  • Place the player in a sitting position so they are stable and steady as possible to begin with.
  • Place the player in the cockpit, to position them in a situation they would expect to be in.
  • Use futuristic, non-real-world environment to help the brain determine the difference between the game and real world.
  • The pipe track asset provided a natural, stable element within the game world players could focus on.
  • Limited rapid changes in acceleration; despite the inclusion of speed boosts and slow-down gates, the overall difference in the sensation of speed experienced by the player wasn’t huge.
  • Being in a ship attached to a pipe meant there was a natural limit to player [camera] movement within the game world.
  • Carry out extensive playtest sessions with as many different types of user as possible to measure responses, ability, ease-of-use and any sensations of sickness brought on through play.

So far there have been a couple of other factors in reducing simulator sickness that we haven’t been able to cover, which are detailed below. But out of nearly 1,000, we only witnessed a handful of players showing any signs of ill-effects as a result of playing. However, for the full release, we will be able to include these features within the setup and configuration options since each gamer will have their own PC and Oculus Rift headset, and time to do so.

  • Allow configuration for each individual user IPD, lenses
  • Ambient temperature of the play space
  • Varying age & health status of the player, since it was a public event

The last couple of points will have to covered in the EULA or health and safety information that everyone skips past and agrees to without reading but it will be there!

But we’re looking beyond Oculus Rift VR, something I will cover in the next blog post; Other Platforms and discuss where else we see the game being available to play.

-END-

 

Dev Blog #4 - Other platforms

So we’ve covered previously that first and foremost, we designed Radial-G with the intention of it being a game for Oculus Rift / VR from the beginning but that doesn’t mean we aren’t looking at other platforms to support.

We are obviously aware that the commercial version of Oculus Rift isn’t available nor has it even got a release date yet (at time of writing anyway) and that a relatively small number of people have a DK1 or a DK2 (which should have started shipping to pre-order customers at time of publishing this dev blog) and so, to make a game successful, we have to look at a larger potential audience base of just 100,000. Through playtesting and following VR gaming news, we have also seen a level of apathy or dislike of VR amongst a subset of gamers as well, so we need to appeal to them too.

This is why we developed the game to have a “2D NOculus-mode” (as we call it) available as an option, as well as supporting Oculus Rift VR HMDs. You can try this for yourself in the single player demo that’s available.

However, we want to look at a wider set of availability options beyond PC, Mac & Linux as well, since as we are currently developing the game using Unity, we have the flexibility and options to output builds on other platforms too. It’s not just a case of spitting out a mobile build by clicking a button, there are obvious technical challenges to overcome and levels of optimisation and alternative control input methods we need to incorporate as well, but the general game design allows us this flexibility.

We’re looking at recent generation tablet devices and high-end smartphones, which have the graphical horsepower and CPU grunt to be able to display the game at the framerates we require, with the level of fidelity from the screen to provide that sensation of speed we love. Due to the relative simplicity of the design, we can offer tilt or touch controls that will not detract from the gaming experience. We are especially excited about potentially being able to release a mobile VR version for up-and-coming headsets such as AlterGaze and VrAse.

Our ultimate goal for releasing the game on other platforms is to release the game on the Sony Morpheus headset with PlayStation 4 support. Again, we can achieve this with Unity and have begun discussions with them and Sony as to how we can achieve this. We expect there to be enough appeal from our Kickstarter backers to be able to fund the development if Sony is not willing to cover the costs of licensing & the dev kit hardware. If they are, then we will spend the additional funds received, that were earmarked for this aspect of development, back into the game towards more content or bringing planned, future features forward for the 1st release. Since we’ve had Shuhei Yoshida play the game and request the Morpheus support, we are now actively working with Sony to bring this stage forwards in our schedules. But we still need to raise enough funds for development and increase our reach within the PS4 gamer community.

All of this is all very well assuming that the Kickstarter campaign is hugely successful, which of course we aim for it to be. However, with years of experience in AAA game development and publishing, we know that things don’t always go according to plan, and so I’ll look at our alternative options we have available to put into action should we need to…

-END-

 

Dev Blog #5 - Beyond Plan-A

Whilst we are confident in succeeding with our Plan A for Radial-G, we wouldn’t be able to back up our claims of having carried out competent levels of research, planning and realistic projections if we didn’t also have a Plan B to fall back on.

As mentioned in the first dev blog post about preparations for Kickstarter, we dismissed IndieGoGo as our primary crowdfunding source but if we do not succeed on Kickstarter, this is where we will relaunch our campaign, albeit with a smaller, narrower focus with less lofty goals. IndieGoGo is growing and there are a number of success stories, so we didn’t want to rule it out completely, especially as it is more gaming specific.

If we went to IndieGoGo, our initial thoughts are that we would only concentrate on the PC, Mac & Linux / Oculus Rift version and drop all plans for mobile or PS4 versions. Although of course we would carry out a period of investigation and feedback amongst our committed Kickstarter backers and judge our options based upon what our community wants to see. If they want a Morpheus edition as their primary desire, then we would realign our development towards that instead.

Being an indie gives us the flexibility and option to amend and mould our development path as time passes based on the most important aspect, community feedback. The greatest appeal of being indie is that we have direct connection to our community and players, something that is generally lost with AAA games titles and the faceless PR marketing machine these titles have. Huge budgets are one thing, but genuine love and interaction is something that money cannot buy.

For those of you thinking negatively, yes there even a Plan C if Plans A and B fail. Plan C would involve Early Access on Steam. The Greenlight campaign is going very well and it looks like we will be greenlit in the end-of-July selection. We could then raise funds this way to help develop the full game.

If Plans A, B and C fail, we have options for typical game investment, with a number of parties interested in the normal manner of investment in return for equity. However this is the route that should be considered the last, final option since we want to remain independent, in control and able to make the game that you, our dedicated & growing fanbase, want us to make.

However, whatever the outcome, whichever plan is the one that is seen through to completion, there will still be the single player demo experience and the one track / one ship multiplayer demo that we are currently developing irrespective of successful crowdsourced funding campaigns. By hook or by crook, Radial-G development *will* be completed and you *will* be able to play the full version soon!

By now we should have a clear indication where the Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight campaigns are headed. My final blog post will cover the post-mortem review of both of these campaigns and their success rates.

-END-

Why Kickstarter & Why YOU Should Back Us!

You should know by now that we are launching a kickstarter campaign to help with funding further development of the game.

Check out our Kickstarter profile, read all about the intended development, pledge levels & rewards and back us here.

As you can see, the Kickstarter profile is very long! So to reduce the length and allow us to add more details for stretch goals and the like later, you can find the reasoning behind launching a Kickstarter campaign for Radial-G : Racing Revolved and why we think you should back us!

Also included below is a breakdown of where the funding will go to show you how we’ve prepared to make the most of it in an efficient manner.

 

Why-KIckstarter

Whilst the genre of racing games is already well established and full of great examples, we feel that bringing Oculus and Android tablet support offers something new, with exciting control options and a greater sense of depth to the perception of the world. However, as Oculus Rift isn’t commercially available, it’s hard to get traditional games funding without showing investors the sort of solid data they want to see before committing to a project (i.e. return on investment, projected sales, concurrent user numbers etc.)

So we decided to come to Kickstarter to source the development funds from the crowd of VR and gaming enthusiasts (such as yourself!) to help raise the money we need to develop the rest of the game while offering you, dear backer, a way to be part of this great game concept.

We already have a small amount of funding that will allow us to start developing the single player demo into a multi-player experience. However most of that budget will be spent on converting the code to support multiple players simultaneously with a lobby system. More importantly, it will help us start the coding needed to make Radial-G a proper game, adding features such as collision, slip-streaming, weapons, a variety of ships and different handling models.

We’ve seen many Kickstarters for games fail for a variety of reasons, but the main one seems to be that the game is just a concept with nothing included to give backers confidence in the game actually being finished. We’ve spent a long time planning and scheduling the features and the development around our base and stretch goals. With our previous experience in delivering high quality titles on time, within budget and to a wide audience, we hope that you will be convinced that this is a project worth believing in too! We have the experience, the knowledge, the desire and passion for what we do, we just need you to help with the funding to help us deliver on our promise.

 

Why-YOU-should-back-us-on-Kickstarter!

This isn’t just a pipe-dream (*sic), we have the technology to create something great! We want you as a Kickstarter backer to be part of it too. Hopefully you’ve downloaded and played the single-player demo and had a glimpse of our vision and agree that playing a fully-fledged game with Oculus or further platform support will be great fun. If you haven’t, do so now!

We appreciate that there has been a rush of Oculus Rift-enabled games on Kickstarter of late. Since the news that Facebook purchased Oculus VR and with the announcement of the Sony Morpheus going public at GDC this year, VR has been shoved into the limelight.

We’ve had Oculus Rift development kits since Day 1. We were Kickstarter backers and we always knew it was destined for great things and we wanted to be a part of it.Now we are ready, after months of research, prototyping and testing to determine the best methods of developing for the hardware, to share our dream with you. Now, we feel really confident that we won’t create something that feels rushed or half-baked.

Our combined experience of designing and developing racing games and MMOs gives us the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make a great multi-player racing game. Coupled with our background in serious simulators that utilise VR, we’re confident we can create a rock-solid experience for everyone and achieve the performance levels we’ve come to expect, namely low latency, high frame rates, detailed environments and good ol’ fashioned, high-speed fun!

Kickstarter Funding Breakdown

Drawing on our years of experience in development and project management, we’ve assessed all the design and development tasks before launching the Kickstarter to make sure we are:

  • Setting realistic goal values that will allow us to complete the base development tasks
  • Reducing estimated costs and budgetary needs as much as possible to increase the value of your backer investment
  • As clear and transparent about our intentions so you can be confident in the project from the get-go

Below are charts showing the high-level breakdown and more details:

  1. Development – The main element of where your pledge money will go – towards making the game! Whilst the two other elements are unavoidable, we’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure the majority of the money goes where it should.
  2. Support – During development and post-release we will have ongoing costs from hosting servers and providing bandwidth for downloads. This value has been set aside for the initial costs associated with these requirements, which will scale accordingly depending upon success.
  3. Admin - The costs of running the Kickstarter, the percentages that Kickstarter and Amazon take when a project is successfully funded and payments are processed, the PR and marketing around raising Kickstarter awareness and finally, the cost of creating and shipping the pledge rewards to backers.

Kickstarter_Development_Breakdown

intended_dev

We have already been hard at work on the single player demo, which you can download now and try out for yourself right now.

As mentioned, we have a small amount of funding already to start turning the single player experience into the multi-player demo to be released soon after the end of the Kickstarter funding period. We expect that this will be available by mid-September, in order to allow us to test and update the code based on the new SDK from Oculus VR for the DK2 HMDs which should (*fingers-crossed) be shipping in July.

Kickstarter_Development_Timeline

Next will come a longer development period using the funds raised from Kickstarter to develop the game fully with the intended features (depending on funding amount raised) and opening up access to the alpha testers as soon as we are ready. We expect the alpha test to start at the end of September 2014 and run until the 1st version release in late-November 2014.

Once the 1st version is released, we will switch to developing the updates and further content, depending on the amount of funding received and the additional income generated from sales outside of Kickstarter through channels such as Steam and Oculus VR Share.

Assuming we meet all of our stretch goals, we will revisit and review the schedule accordingly and announce when you can expect to get your hands on the tablet and PS4 Morpheus editions of the game (NB. We don’t know when Sony plan on releasing Morpheus to the public yet! It’s expected to be 2015 at present).

So that’s the whys and hows and whens. We’re confident we can achieve everything we set out to do, we would love to have you along for the ride too!

Thanks for reading, and many, many thanks for backing us on Kickstarter.

 

PayPal Pledges


We have been asked by a number of people whether they can pledge their support via PayPal instead. We’ve created a three tiered option to pledge for the game via PayPal for the unlimited rewards only; “Backmarker”, “Armchair Enthusiast” and “Apex”.

You can click the PayPal “Pay Now” button below – NOTE: If the kickstarter campaign is unsuccessful, all PayPal Pledges will be cancelled and refunded. We are only offering this option because it was requested, if administration detracts from development, we will have to withdraw the option to pay via PayPal.


Select Your PayPal Pledge Level – Values Include PayPal Costs