November 10, 2022
Earlier this week I released my first game on Steam - Mess Quest. My goal for this game was to create something fun, but also learn the steps it takes to fully release a game. This post is sort of a postmortem, sort of a knowledge sharing opportunity, I’m going to share my experience as a solo developer and how the process went from getting a game released on Steam.
The overall goal of creating Mess Quest - to finish something #
If your like me, you have a lot of ideas for games. You probably have a backlog of game ideas that are half implemented that got abandoned because something new and shiny caught your attention. Mess Quest was my way of breaking that cycle. It’s cliche, but I started the 2022 year with the plan to finish a game - to finally get a game out there. My goal was to learn the ins and outs of the whole game making process so that there would be a lot less unknowns to account for when planning to build games. I believe I succeeded at that. It took me until June to finally get it into my head that starting new project after new project was getting me no where. Sure I was learning lots about the Godot Engine and game design through that process, but there was so much more I needed to learn that required me to actually commit to finishing something.
I don’t follow a lot of game dev channels on youtube, I used them to distract myself from working on projects in the past so I’m rarely on there anymore. But I stumbled upon this video from HeartBeast around this time that really put my time into perspective. I have a full time job and twins around 1 years old (and another on the way). If I’m to finish anything I need a schedule and I need to stick to it. I’m not not in the position to “quit my job and start working on my dream game”, if I’m to transition to full time game development I need to do so with as little risk as possible. So I gave myself a month to build the “systems” for my game. To get a collection of mechanics together that I will use for the main gameplay loop. At the end of the month, working a few hours in the evening at the end of each day, I had a player that moved around, swinged a mop to clean mess, could pickup trash, and place items back where they belonged. Also I had the more lower level stuff like saving, loading, and everyday game systems.
It was at this point where I moved onto adding content to the game. There was a lot more mechanics that I wanted to add, like rats that needed to be caught and puddles that could knock the player out if they stepped in them, but I knew at this point the stuff I had was fun and that people would enjoy it. I started with the Museum level, which is the largest in the game. I had made tools to build levels faster but man did it take a lot of time to get levels to feel right. It took a little over two weeks worth of weekends to get that level to where it is. I quickly realized at this pace it would take a long time to finish my original goal which was to have 10 playable levels. If they all stayed the same size as the Museum and took just as long it would be over 5 months of evening work just to get the levels finished. At that point I reduced the scope of the game down to 6 levels and made them slightly smaller, which actually helped with the pace of the gameplay it turns out.
The wishlist numbers and day 1 sales #
Let’s get to the numbers - Although my goals for Mess Quest didn’t involve any financial success, I’d like to share some interesting stats that I found. The chart above shows just how much difference it makes having some visibility through the steam store. To put the spikes into perspective, the first spike was when I first announced the game back in August, mostly posting on subreddits with the call to action of “wishlist my game”. The second spike near the end is about a 6 hour window where Mess Quest showed up in the “Upcoming Releases” section on Nov 8th.
This is the Upcoming Releases section, not the Popular Upcoming Releases section. You don’t need to have the mythical 7k to 10k wishlists to show up on this list. The only requirement to show up here is to have a release date set for your game. I chose to release on Nov 9th because it only had a handful of games compared to every other day that week.
It really sheds a light on just how important it is to get visibility on Steam any way you can. I suspect joining festivals and demo days would have a similar impact. Something my next game endeavour will surely do.
For those curious - Below are the units sold about a full day later as well.
Whats next - what I’ll do differently #
I’m going to follow the advise from this article here and continue to release small games on Steam. Ideally, I want to get to the point where I can release a quality game every 3-4 months, and get each of them into Steams Next Fest through out the year, which I believe happen in a February, June, and October schedule.
The type of game I want to make will shift slightly - I want to make games that fall more into the roguelike genre that have some randomness and replayability. A type of game where meaningful content can be added more easily than how Mess Quest could.
I’m going to rely as little as possible on luck. a327ex summarizes pretty well with his post here my feelings towards banking on getting lucky. It’s best to focus on the things I can do, like game development, game design, polishing, and growing creativity. There is no time to focus on the things out of my control.
Take away #
I’ll be making more games and sharing more of my experience as I do. If you would like to hear more, you can follow me on twitter - I only post about my games and game dev related stuff, there may be something of value there from time to time! If you want to get notified about future games I’ll be working on - you can follow me on steam here.