Developers Log 010

"How I made a video game, did not market it, and got a fully predictable result."

So here's the rub. I work full time as a web developer at a local community college. I got the crazy idea to make video games when I did some freelance web work for a local indie. I wanted to do contract art for them, but they didn't like my portfolio. Which is fair. Even though I went to art school I've been working as a web developer for a long time, so my illustration portfolio is not great.

I made enough money doing freelance web work that my equipment is pretty much paid for. My full time job pays the bills, keeps the family fed, and my Xbox flush in fresh games. I grabbed a pro license for Game Maker Studio to help a buddy out with his top down shooter which never released. No biggie. I'll just do this myself.

I started exploring tutorials to learn how to code in Game Maker which led me to Tom Francis' How to Make a Game with No Experience YouTube playlist. Thanks Tom!

Following Tom's tutorials led to my first prototype. I began to use Game Makers' physics engine and that's where my prototype diverged from Tom's tutorials. I coded, made art, read documentation, haunted forums, Googled solutions for a year and made Zero G Fighter.

I learned along the way that:

If you don't destroy your particle systems properly you create a massive memory leak for several months and your game doesn't work right for many people you may share it with. I learned how to use global variables incorrectly. (Don't worry I've learned from that mistake). I learned that enumerators and arrays aren't that scary once you figure them out.

I've learned that making a game by yourself isn't that hard. Connecting with people, play testing, taking feedback, and making your game better and better through relentless polish is really damned hard. Making your game stand out from the thousands of other indie games and devs just like you is really hard unless you devote as much energy to communicating about your game as you do to making it.

And I knew this. I read Gamasutra, I follow video game news, I watch GDC presentations when they are made available. I failed to communicate and I failed to follow through on polishing my game to the best it could be.

In January 2016, I self published Zero G Fighter on itch.io and allowed folks to pay what they wish for it. To this date and without marketing (other than some occasional posts to Twitter) Zero G Fighter has received 1092 views on itch.io and a total of 80 downloads. Two downloads converted into sales totaling $6.99.

This past September I picked up the UWP module for Game Maker Studio for a significantly reduced price via a Humble Bundle. I created a UWP app, submitted to Microsoft, passed cert, and quietly launched the game on the Windows store for Windows 10 PC's. The game has received one sale totaling $1.99.

I'm not devastated by lack of sales. I have a full time job. I'm gonna be alright. What I did was make a game, not very well, did not have patience with the development of the game, and then bumbled my way through the publishing process with little to no forethought. I'm not special in this regard.

Ultimately I made a game and I published it. Zero G Fighter is out there. I am glad it's out there, and I am proud of it.