Jumpsmith is available now! I figured it’s about time I write something here on the Found Time Games blog to indicate this. Many developers do a “Post-Mortem” analysis several months after releasing a game, where they talk about their development experience; what was good and/or bad about working on the game and releasing it.
Today, I’ve decided to do a “Pre-Mortem” on Jumpsmith because while the game is complete and available right now, there have been more people in space than there are people who have heard of Jumpsmith.
First, let’s look at some numbers:
- 7 sales so far. Not a typo.
- 14 months of making a game engine, implementing game mechanics, doing art…
- 10+ Pizzas for my testers.
- 8 USB controllers, which cost $10 to $30 each. Most of them have not broken yet.
- 5 bus tickets to get me to IndieCade East and back.
- 2 new php sites that I made/am making from scratch; the landing page and the community page
- 1 supportive wife who has dealt with looking at the back of my head all day for 14 months.
Yep. 7 copies (so far) of a $10 game for 14 months of work (so far). Sounds like my marketing guy (me) has been slacking off. Luckily, my game designer (also me) has an ace up his sleeve. (Hopefully).
As the proprietor of a mostly unknown one-man game studio, one must think about what compels people to tell their friends about a game. Word-of-mouth seems to be the best solution to the visibility problem. It worked for games like… Minecraft.
Why did people tell each other about Minecraft? There are many reasons, but I think that the biggest reason was that players can make stuff in the game. I think it’s easier to inspire someone to passionately say “Check out this thing I made” than it is to inspire them to say “Check out this thing this goofy-looking nerd from Maine made.”
I realized this over a year ago while I was watching Minecraft: The story of Mojang. I decided to start making a game where you could make stuff. I wanted to change the formula a bit, though. I wanted to have a paper-thin yet definite separation between playing and creating, and I didn’t want resource collection to be part of the gameplay.
The first button that I programmed into Jumpsmith was the “Toggle Level Editor” button. Right away, you could instantly swap between moving a character and placing square tiles. I also made button guides right away, so that the player could see what all the buttons did in the level editor at all times.
I knew I was on the right track when I first showed off a build of game at a local game developer meeting. A few kids were glued to my laptop for hours, making horrendous, nearly impossible levels, and sadistically challenging each other to complete them.
Over the following months, I continued to bring the latest builds of the game to the meetings. Developers and gamers ruthlessly played the game, made levels, broke stuff, told me what sucked, and what was awesome. I listened closely, and tweaked the game. I added local multiplayer, which enabled more people to test the game at once, and opened another dimension of enjoyment to the game.
Around October, I talked my friend/former bandmate/former roommate Tyler Quist into doing the soundtrack for Jumpsmith. Many of my game development hours were greatly enhanced by listening to his band, Jaw Gems, and their hip-hop beats with space keyboards just seemed to magically meld with the surreal-yet-retro Jumpsmith universe.
In December, I decided to push for a January release, and I started working about 50 hours a week on finishing the game.
In January, I decided to push for a February release, and continued to work about 50 hours a week.
On February 26th 2015, I FINALLY put up a build of the game. I only told members of my dev group, so I could find and fix minor problems. Over the following weeks, I’ve put out two patches. I added some requested features, fixed bugs, and continued to polish the game. I think this was a good move.
Now, I’m finally ready to start reaching out to press, YouTubers, Steam, etc. I plan on doing more blog posts soon about my battles with buggy video software, Greenlight, annoying video software, tech support, and horrendous video software. Sure, 7 sales is not a very impressive number, but I’m hoping that players will start sharing their levels, and making videos of their levels.