We launched Goblins & Grottos on Steam last Thursday. The next couple of days were pretty hectic, as expected, and involved some late nights and early mornings. But overall we're pleased with how things went and how the game has been received. I wanted to capture here some of the highlights and lessons learned, as these may be useful to other developers.
We ran a launch-day AMA ('Ask Me Anything') thread on reddit which went really well, and I'd recommend this approach to anyone releasing a game. I was very impressed by the very varied and thoughtful questions posed by the /r/pcgaming subreddit community, and we received a nice amount of traffic to our Steam page from this. Our thread sat high up on the first page of the subreddit for the full 24 hour period that it was live, and undoubtedly contributed to the 'legitimacy' of our game. In the longer term, it serves as an excellent repository of information nuggets about us and the game - I noticed that the RPS article, for example, used it as a source of info.
Local Game Dev Community = Awesome
We received an awesome amount of support from the Galway Game Development community, and also from some of the wider Irish community. My good friends from Galway rallied round, posting and tweeting about the game over the launch period. If you don't have a local community of mutually supportive game developers, then you're missing out. In Galway, our community has built up from pretty much nothing to a situation where 10+ studios are actively developing games, running events, meeting socially, and generally helping each other out. If you don't have a community like this, then make one; that's what we did.
We received enquiries about the game from two very large youtubers. They haven't yet confirmed whether they will be covering us, but communication lines are open, which is half the battle.
Rock Paper Shotgun
We got a nice mention in Rock Paper Shotgun. This lead to a substantial spike in traffic to our page, and was followed 20 minutes later by one of the two youtuber contacts mentioned above. I'm not sure whether RPS noticed us directly on Steam, or whether they saw our press release or tweets that we had tagged them in; possibly all of these. As mentioned above, they made use of information from the Reddit thread, and may indeed have been influenced by it to cover us at all.
Someone with my amount of experience at game dev should have known better, but despite ourselves we made some small (insignificant, we thought) tweaks to the game in the last couple of days before launch. One of these (removing the 'black movie bars' from the top/bottom of the screen during cutscenes on smaller screens) lead to a game breaking bug which I ended up troubleshooting in the middle of the night.
Another mistake was not getting really detailed with the testing of game controls. We had assumed that the early access players (or ourselves) would notice/report unintuitive things, but actually they didn't. I suppose the lesson is that early access players are fans who expect glitches and don't necessarily report them, so you can't expect to treat early access as a rigorous playtesting process, even if hundreds of players are involved. When you have left early access, your userbase switches to being the general public, and if anything doesn't work exactly how they expect it, their assumption is that the game is 'broken' - and they may well give a scathing/damaging review on that basis. Again, this lead to some middle-of-the-night coding