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Preserverance is a key to success - The Mims Beginning (Interview)

If you want to learn more about indie games marketing with no budget and how to kill it on reddit, you should definitely read this. An interview with Squatting Penguins, a 2-man team behind The Mims Beginning, exclusively on Gamasutra.

Albert Palka, Blogger

June 8, 2015

9 Min Read

Tom and Jacob started working on The Mims Beginning over 3 years ago. They had no money but were crazy and passionate about their game to keep working on it even when the times were tough.

Today, The Mims Beginning is in Early Access and will be officially released later this year. I've sat down with Tom and Jacob for a small chat about their marketing strategy, how they become so successful on Reddit and what is important while running a crowdfunding campaign.

The Mims Beginning Interview

Your game, The Mims Beginning, just recently hit Steam Early Access. What do you think about your 3-year journey? What were you able to learn during your game’s development?

Tom Pająk (Programmer) – It was an extremely bumpy road. Although we grappled with both financial and technical issues we managed to take our game from the idea phase to fully playable version. We’ve learned that perseverance is a key to success. We believed in ourselves and our strengths which will allow us to complete many projects in the future. To every game dev beginner I have one advice: Don’t start your career with big projects *wink*

Jacob Machowski (Design): I totally agree with Tom; however, I’d like to add that making our game taught me plenty of additional things such as patience, compromise, being able to endure hate on the Internet and keeping composure. It all comes down, obviously, to perseverance.

Making games in your own team teaches you a lot about life. It can be annoying when you pour your heart and life into your game and don’t make enough money from the start. While making The Mims Beginning, I’ve learned things which shape me as a human being I am today. It throws obstacles at you that you have to tackle and then allows you to share your story with others. Isn’t it what life’s about? About experience, sharing and becoming a better person.

I’ll share an advice with you – passion, hard work and honesty. Money should never come first. I think this is the formula of making a successful Indie game.

Has Early Access met your expectations? How important was the feedback you received from players?

"We usually ask let’s players about changes they would introduce to our game and most of the time we receive  an answer.We strongly suggest you do the same!"

We think that in case of games like The Mims Beginning game’s optimization, buildings and units costs, production time, units’ power are extremely important. There are dozens of things you have to balance. To us, YouTube let’s play videos were the most helpful sources. We usually ask let’s players about changes they would introduce to our game and most of the time we receive  an answer.We strongly suggest you do the same!

An important element of our Early Access is that players could “make” us to change certain game’s elements which we would’ve never changed if not for the EA. We suggest you check out our EA’s Update 2.0 to understand what we meant.

Unfortunately, Early Access market is tough due to a high volume of prototypes in “Alpha” stage which Steam allows to sell on their platform. We would never sell our game with plenty of bugs and issues. What you can buy on Steam is a very polished Beta with a few missing levels which we are working on at the moment.

Maybe if other developers thought exactly the same way about Early Access as we do, EA would be much more trusted.

Many people, including myself, got interested in your game because of the guerrilla Indie marketing. I saw your threads on Reddit and Wykop (Polish Reddit). Where did you get an idea of making an appearance there?

To be honest, we got on both platforms by accident. Wykop saved us from a failure on Wspieram.to (Polish crowdfunding platform). Reddit has accepted us because of our story. After all, how many 2-man teams decides to create a God Simulator strategy game and keeps working on the project for 3,5 years while lacking money and promotes their IP by writing on every forum and to every journalist we came across for ten to twelve hours a day. Everything done with no budget, based on our creativity. It’s actually hard to talk about any budget at all as we had no money to create Mims at all.

Both communities (Reddit and Wykop) are usually hard on non-active users. How did you achieve a success there? What do you have to do in order to get 1000 upvotes?

"Money should be a side-effect of your passion and dreams. Not the other way around!"

It’s all about being true to yourself and others. Social Media have bullshit detectors. Both us and our history is real and we hope that it has inspired someone to actually start doing what one wants in life instead of what the society tells him/her to or choosing life’s path based on money.

Money should be a side-effect of your passion and dreams. Not the other way around. And that’s why I think we were successful on both platforms. It’s also a good idea to give back to the communities that supported you by hosting contests or giveaways.

What other channels have you used to promote The Mims Beginning? Besides Reddit, was there any other place that gave you so much publicity?

There was no single place like Reddit that gave us so much publicity. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and crowdfunding campaigns were some of our other well-performing platforms. But the true strength of our promotional activities were consistency and fully professional approach towards smaller communities, YouTubers and players. I think there was no e-mail we have left unanswered.

Generally speaking, you should promote your game everywhere you can. You should host events that the press can write about too. That’s how you keep constant interest in your game among the players.

We talk a lot about Reddit, but I am not going to lie – I loved the way you approached it. And I know that many developers want to become more visible there. What’s your secret? Besides being true and honest of course. What worked best for you?

Pictures with a good Call To Action. On r/gaming, one of our best-performing posts was our development progress picture after dozens of months of hard work. We’ve noticed that contests work great too. And videos! But something else than a trailer. You have maybe 10 seconds to get someone interested. 

r/linuxgaming accepts almost every game that works on Linux. Linux community is super friendly and gives you a lot of feedback. There was no single case of “hate” towards our game.

You can check out Squatting Penguins posts on Reddit! 

You have also run two successful crowdfunding campaigns – the first one was on Wspieram.to, and the second on IndieGoGo. Why have you decided to run two campaigns instead of one?

It’s all about promoting your game. However, IndieGoGo allowed us to survive until the Early Access release. I highly recommend crowdfunding to all Indie Developers, but I suggest you pay extra attention to pledge rewards and their prices. Sometimes shipping and the reward itself may cost you more than expected.

What’s interesting is that on IndieGoGo the highest pledge from 1 person was $1,500 which was a bit of a shock for us. Thanks to the donation we were able to add a female astronaut, Catherine Kimbridge, to The Mims Beginning. I suggest you google her *wink*

How long did the preparation for crowdfunding campaigns take?

"Credibility and a good story are your keys to success in crowdfunding."

Around 1,5 month. Preparing the campaign is an arduous work. In our case, one person worked on the campaign while the other worked on the game. The most important aspects are prizes and campaign’s video. People who support your project have to know that you already have at least a prototype to be more credible.

Credibility and a good story are your keys to success in crowdfunding. Obviously, we released a demo of The Mims Beginning during our campaign. A free version of your game is the best advertising you can have.

Let’s talk about your demo for a second. How many people have actually played it? Some people think that providing a demo build doesn’t really support the campaign.

Game’s demo is a great feature of a campaign in our opinion, but it has to be playable. With The Mims Beginning we had a great timing too as there were no God Games announced at that time.

During our campaign, our demo was downloaded by 1,500 people on Game Jolt and between 15-20,000 downloads came directly from our servers. This might not be accurate number because 1 person might have downloaded the game more than once.

We assume that around 15,000 people played our game during that 3-week period. Demo gives you the credibility you need. Also, reddit loves free stuff! *wink*

If you could go back in time to your crowdfunding days, is there anything you’d change?

We would be a much better video, that’s for sure. We would show our faces, and put more enthusiasm and humor into it. Video has to make people share it with others and not just showcase your project’s gameplay.

When are you planning to end Early Access and release the game? What are your plans after the release?

We want to release the game in Autumn 2015. As for our plans, we will be releasing updates for The Mims Beginning. There are no plans for another project. At least not at the moment. However, it can be anything – not necessarily another God game. We have this luxury as Indie Developers that no one tells us what to do.

You can support Squatting Penguins by following the links below!

The Mims Beginning on Steam - http://store.steampowered.com/app/337820
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mimsthegame
Official website - http://www.mimsthegame.com/

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