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Luckslinger postmortem - our story

We felt that we were sitting on something so unique and good that it would be a waste if we would never finish it. So Donald and I decided to quit our jobs to start working fulltime on Luckslinger....

The preface

Personally, I’ve wanted to write this for a long time. I found myself writing a small part here and there, but never actually writing the full thing, but after reading the PONCHO postmortem I felt inspired to do a write-up, so here goes!

My name is Marciano Viereck and this is the postmortem of Luckslinger, the first steam released game that Donald Kooiker, Rik Ravenswaaij and I developed as a company (Duckbridge).

I’ll start at the beginning: Donald and I met each other in 2010 in a game of late-night League of Legends. I had a course web development the next day but I figured I could play one last game of League at 3:30 am, in that game I got matched against Donald and his friends, I lost, but we still messed around a lot so we decided to play some games together. Slowly we all became friends and in 2012-2013’ish Donald and I both found out that we really enjoy making videogames and that we have the same work ethic.

Chilling at E3
Donald and me, chilling at E3

Donald and I started making some small and crappy games and released them to Newgrounds and Gamejolt, it was all just for fun. Then one day Donald wanted to make a game about Luck. We brainstormed a bit and for some reason we thought a western theme would fit really well. So we decided to try something out, at first the game was called ‘Bullets and Beats’.

After making a demo version of Luckslinger (which was then called Bullets and Beats) we decided to upload it to Newgrounds because we’ve always found the players on Newgrounds really honest and brutal with their feedback. So if they would tell us that Bullets and Beats sucked or that our concept was boring then it might mean that our Luck concept isn’t as fun or as good as we thought it would be.

We were quite nervous to release a first version of Luckslinger to the public and were scared that people wouldn’t like it (like all game devs I guess). But the players enjoyed Bullet and Beats, they were really excited about the concept and said that the music cool and gameplay fun as well. This in turn made us excited and gave us more confident that we were working on something ‘good’.

Bullets and beats was listed as one of the popular games on Newgrounds!

Duckbridge was born

We felt that we were sitting on something so unique and good that it would be a waste if we would never finish it. So Donald and I decided to quit our jobs to start working fulltime on Luckslinger. Donald would be doing all the pixel-art and game design, I would do all the programming and Rik joined us to do the music and sound effects for the game.

When we started working fulltime it felt so good to wake up every day and spend all our time on this game that we were so excited about. We worked so many hours a day and it all just felt effortless. Because Luckslinger was a very linear game, the overall design wasn’t that complicated and it was very easy for us to see the game progressing. By the time we had our game flow, the first two levels and the town done, we decided it was ready to be shown to the public.

Our first event and coverage

After working on Luckslinger for a few months, we didn’t do any marketing and we didn’t visit any events yet. We wanted to but, despite all the positive feedback from Newgrounds, we were scared that people might not like it after all. Now that we’ve quit our jobs and were risking so much we were really afraid of some kind of disappointment.

Either way, we decided to just go for it, we went to Groningen to Hell’o bullets as our first event. It was small but cozy! At first we were kind of nervous, it was the first time that we let other people play it, so we just watched people as they played and took plenty of notes.  People were positive about Luckslinger in general and we felt confident. On the last day of the event we met a guy who was really into our game, he enjoyed Luckslinger a lot and we talked for a while about the game and about our company etc. A few days after the event the guy added me on Facebook and told me he works for the game-magazine Power Unlimited (The biggest game magazine in The Netherlands) and wanted to publish an interview with us!

We learned that events are scary, but they are a good opportunity to get your game tested and to see how people react to your game, it’s also good to meet press and other people who are excited about what you’re making.


The magazine article

 

Steam greenlight and Kickstarter

When we started working on Luckslinger, one of our goals was to release a  ‘Steam-worthy-game’ so we really wanted to try to release Lucksligner on Steam. Around January of 2015 we decided that we had to start with our steam-greenlight campaign. We read that getting through Steam-greenlight was hard and that doing a Kickstarter at the same time as your Steam-greenlight was a good idea to gain more traffic and visibility. 

We made quite some mistakes with the Kickstarter; since we were self-funded (our savings) and we were going to finish Luckslinger no matter what, we didn’t really ‘need’ the money. So we asked for a low amount of 7000 euros (which is considered low). We invested a lot of time into creating the page, the trailers, the images, writing up the texts, coming up with incentives and all that. We thought that once your Kickstarter page was live, you’d just email some press and kind of spread the news and the rest would go by itself.


Our kickstarter page

We were wrong! Preparing a Kickstarter page takes a lot of time and effort, but running the Kickstarter itself takes even more time and effort. You constantly have to engage with your backers and send them updates, keep them in the loop and try to promote your Kickstarter page wherever you can. Some developers also allow backers to have an influence on the game (as an backing reward) and we also didn’t want that. We knew what Luckslinger was going to be and we didn’t want others to make a random boss or random level that didn’t fit in the game.

After a couple of days it already showed that we would probably not make our goal of 7000 euros, even though I was happy with all the people that wanted to support us, it was far from enough and we felt kind of demotivated to really try to make our funding goal.

 
Reading this kickstarter comment makes me excited and proud of what we’ve made.

Even though Kickstarter wasn’t going well, Steam-greenlight was going pretty well. We shot up in rank pretty quickly but after a few weeks the ranking slowed. We were stuck at ’33% from the top 100’ for a while, for weeks even.

It was quite a scary period; we woke up every day wondering if Luckslinger got closer to the top 100, we just refreshed the page all day obsessively. Because it was so important to us it was very hard to think of anything else, development slowed down a bit because we were trying really hard to make it into the top 100. It was very discouraging that even after all the press Luckslinger received, we were still far from the top. Our goal of getting Luckslinger on Steam-greenlight seemed more and more unlikely as the weeks passed.

After a month or so on Steam-greenlight, we kind of lost all hope to get Luckslinger greenlit. At some point in the following weeks a guy contacted us and asked if we wanted to run banner-ads on his site, which he claimed had a lot of Steam-greenlight voters on there. He claimed it could help us gain extra visibility but it was going to cost us 200 euros. Donald and I debated on what to do for a bit and even though we didn’t agree, I decided to just pay the guy 200 euros, make the ads and run them. We didn’t have much to lose anyways. The ads helped (at least according to me they did) we got closer and closer to the top 100 as the traffic grew and more and more people were voting.

One night when watching some Speedruns, Donald texted me and told me that Valve had emailed us with the ‘congratulations’ email! At first I thought he was joking and decided to check for myself, when I saw the email I felt so relieved. I think that getting greenlit also took so long because our banner art wasn’t impressive enough (we did what we could), since most people decide in 2-3 seconds if they ‘yes’ or ’no’ vote on your game, so the banner/thumbnail art is crucial. But anyways, after almost two months on Stream-greenlight we were finally allowed to release on Steam! Now that Steam-greenlight was behind us we could focus on finishing Luckslinger and release it on July 2015.

E3

We read somewhere that the indie-game submissions to Indiecade were open, so we decided to try our luck and submit Luckslinger to Indiecade. There were so many entrants from all over the world that we didn’t expect to win anything or to even qualify for anything at all.

A few weeks later we received an email that we could not believe at first! We were selected by the judges of Indiecade(link) to showcase Luckslinger at E3! This was insane to us because (like most) we’ve always wanted to go to E3 and Los Angeles in general. It didn’t take long for us to make the decision and book our flight tickets and stuff. 


Indiecase selection 2015!

The event itself was amazing, it was so big and there were so many games. It felt so special to be there, just 24 or so indie-games selected worldwide and we were one of them! There was so much press and so many excited gamers who exactly understood our game and what we were trying to do. We received great feedback and Kotaku Australia even posted about our game afterwards (link). We were really excited to release Luckslinger in the following month, and we felt that we were really doing well because we’ve showcased at one of the biggest game events worldwide and there were so many journalists that we could email about the release and they could help spread the news and review the game.  

Since all the feedback was so good and people were so excited, we thought that our release would go smoothly and we did everything right. We made it this far, how can a game that was selected for E3 amongst so many not sell ‘well’. We must have something special on our hands to be selected to showcase! And so many people were looking forward to the release, so we felt that we’ve already built up some kind of community.

14-07-2015 Release day!

The 13th of July 2015 we worked through the night just to finish the last things, upload the OST, do some final tests and prepare for the next day, it was going to be an awesome moment! We’ve worked so long towards this moment, finally releasing Luckslinger on Steam to the public, finally letting all those excited people play it and maybe even speedrun it. We didn’t know what good ‘sales numbers’ would be for the first days (weeks) but we felt optimistic.

At 9am on the 14th of July 2015 we released Luckslinger to the world! It was a huge relief, finally done! We did it!

We worked a year on this game and managed to release it on Steam. It was a great moment, but not for both of us. For me, that moment quickly turned into a horrible moment and would lead me to a very low point in my life. Shortly after we released Luckslinger, there was a huge fight downstairs and a lot of family issues followed. After the fight we had a family discussion on how we would be able to pay the mortgage and I felt insanely strange, stressed. I wanted to help but I already spent most of my savings into this videogame I spent the last year creating. I felt kind of guilty but mostly confused about how I felt. I felt worried, stressed and unhappy for some reason. I always thought that this moment would feel great, finally releasing Luckslinger. And not worrying about anything for a while, I couldn’t enjoy the release, as much as I tried. Luckslinger also wasn’t selling that well, we couldn’t find our game on the ‘main front page’ and we got worried. Did we mess up? Why didn’t some sites pick up our game and wrote about it? What happened, I thought it was going so great. We had great press before but now it seemed a bit lacking. The reviews were positive and people were excited about the game, but it was hard for me to get excited about that in the state that I was in.

What happened?!

I felt lost, I burned through most of my savings and I was trying to support my mom with the rent. I also felt like I disappointed a lot of people who believed in me/us and I didn’t know what to feel anymore. I was sad and confused. I just wanted to lie in bed all day and not do anything. I always felt so sad when people asked me excitingly ‘so how’s it selling?!’ and I had to tell them that it wasn’t selling very well.

At some point I started questioning why I felt the way I did. I questioned why I thought that I was supposed to be happy, but wasn’t. So I started reading books about ‘what happiness is’, why we feel what we feel, why we think what we think. After reading many of these books I started to understand my own feelings and I managed to get over the depressed state.

We had enough money left to last one more year, so we decided to make the best of it and make a new game; Boy Beats World! We also decided to work on console ports of Luckslinger in order to gain some extra income and because it would be cool to do it. But after a while it was hard for me to get motivated again to work on anything. I still enjoyed developing videogames and working on Boy Beats World, but it was really difficult for me to get as excited as I was before. I guess everything felt a bit toned down.

What are we doing now?

After working on Boy Beats world for a year we’ve made great progress, and we’re still working on it. But I found that I missed working with more people, brainstorming about programming solutions, learning new programming languages and learning from other (better) developers.

So after a year I found a job as a Software Engineer. I’m currently still employed there and enjoy it a lot. We’re still working on Boy Beats World on the side and I feel excited again to work on Boy Beats World again, because we work on Boy Beats World part-time there is no ‘pressure’ to release the game within X months or to sell X copies of the game.

In the Netherlands most of us work 40 hours a week, so there is still plenty of time to work on Boy Beats World! And I also feel more excited about working on Boy Beats World than I before. Now that there is no time and financial pressure I can just relax and focus on finishing the game and feel more motivated, it feels fun again!


Screenshot of Boy Beats World

The ending of this postmortem might have a sad tone but we did have a great time, we learned a lot about game development and I feel that we’re much more confident about developing games right now. I feel that we know a lot more about game design and coming up with ideas for new concepts and prototyping them. We developed and released Luckslinger on steam within a year and it has gotten really good reviews, so that’s a whole achievement by itself! We did all we could (we think) and honestly, nobody knows how to exactly do this thing, we all just try our best and do what we can.

If I could give any game development advice, I would say just try to make something that you are proud of. I don’t know how to make anything that ‘sells’ (I don’t believe that anyone knows that), but I do know that if you make something that you are proud of that it will stay with you. And of course, if you release a game (regardless of the platform) you should be proud of it and know that many other developers would ‘like’ to make games, but never actually do/finish anything. If you’ve made something that doesn’t sell, or isn’t well received, you’ve at least made something and gained experience as a developer! If you spend a lot of time doing something that you want to do/like to do. You might not always get to the destination that you had in mind,but you will gain experience and be closer to it than you were before!

 

Bonus gif of Boy Beats World! : 

Thanks for reading,


Marciano Viereck, Donald Kooiker & Rik Ravenswaaij
Duckbridge

Feel free to contact/follow us!

Preview of Boy Beats World!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/duckbridge

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/duckbridgegames/

Email: [email protected]

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