Pierre Sylvain 'Pehesse' Coq released his quirky visual novel / fighting game hybrid Honey Rose: Underdog Fighter Extraordinaire one year ago. I talked to him about his latest project, unique payment models, and the state of the game industry at large.
You chose an interesting payment model for your previous game, Honey Rose: Underdog Fighter Extraordinaire. The game was essentially free with paid DLC as a way of supporting you. How did that work out for you, are you happy with the results?
I was looking to develop a player-friendly model where they could express their support towards something they'd like. Unfortunately, while I'm proud of the game and glad of how it was met by some players, I can't count Honey's business model as a success, as to this day, the game has sold an incredibly low amount of copies relative to its number of players (that, on the other hand, is one of the model's wins). On Steam, the game has sold 199 copies for over 20,000 players, which makes for an even smaller ratio of sales compared to traditional F2P.
There are a number of reasons for which the model failed, many of them stemming from the game's quality, appeal and marketing (or lack thereof), so I still believe in the theoretical potential of the model applied to something with a bigger and better track record, but as it stands, I will not be able to attempt it again until my own financial situation gets much more stable. For Pachacuti, I will have to go through the now classic pipeline of crowdfunding and traditionally priced release, and hope for the best!
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm currently working on Pachacuti, a 2D modular action-platformer. I make it using Construct 2, for its ease of prototyping, and target desktop PC for now, with plans for console release down the line if the finished game turns out all right! The game is set in an Incan inspired environment and uses 2D tradigital animation, meaning digitally hand drawn imagery reproducing the workflow of traditional animation. To see it all in motion, you can check out the devlog here.
It's intended to be a small, replayable series of linear levels where the player's choice of playstyle (a heavier focus on platforming or combat) will determine the challenges that they face. It's essentially an "exercice de style", a smaller-scope project where I try to work on the focus and quality of the game, rather than explore new genres, mechanics or concepts.
My dream would be to make it an experience newcomers to the platforming genre would enjoy, and act as a gateway to the breadth of other platformers out there, yet still manage to hold experienced player's attention enough to eventually be run at an event like AGDQ. Admittedly, that's the long term goal, the short term plan is "simply" to make the tightest possible 2D platforming experience I can put together!
What's your strategy for tackling visibility issues when it comes to promoting your games?
In short: make gifs! Animated footage of the game in action, or of work in progress usually has been met with the best kind of audience reaction. There are so many games out there now, people simply have to leisurely scroll down their timeline to stumble upon a few dozens. To catch their eye, it's important to have something that "looks" interesting first and foremost, before diving into the intricacies of why your game might actually be of interest at all.
I've also been posting about the game's development every step of the way to try and be as open and transparent about the process as possible, both in an effort to engage the audience on a "development journey" alongside me, keep my motivation up, and manage the audience's expectations by sharing the successes and failures, the intentions and questions, the speedy progress and the crippling doubt. [Players'] expectations often become an important factor to handle as early as possible to avoid creating confusion and potentially devastating misunderstandings.
What's something you love about the games industry at the moment, and what would you like to see changed?
Unfortunately, I have a pretty sour outlook on the industry at the moment as it seems we are knee deep in controversies, issues and all around negativity stemming from a number of wildly different sources. I'm hoping to participate and help promote a more positive attitude towards all aspects of gaming as a whole, from the way games are made and presented to their critical reading and reception.
It saddens me that we ultimately find ourselves in situations where we're pitted against each other, where devs are afraid of their audience, where journalists are viciously attacked when speaking out and where players are preyed upon by conning monetary practices.
Of course, I don't believe in "too much positivity" as a solution to all issues, but as far as the current climate goes, we need a much stronger push from people who wish to have a positive impact on their favorite aspects of the medium, as silence at this point only helps spread the overall toxicity. It may "just be games", but more than ever, we need good people to speak up and do something, else we drown in the noise and furor from those who only wish us harm.
Thankfully, that's where I'd say there's a positive to look forward to: the tools to make more diverse games are accessible, and the means to communicate about them are widely available, so every one out there can be a force of change and good for the medium if they care to be one. It all starts, and ends, with us!