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The moment you freak out that your MVP gets too much attention (and other catchy titles)

The internal struggle with shipping an early build that happens to get attention.

There’s a very popular idea circulating the industry at the moment that states that games as a product are dying, and games as a service is the future. I’m not entirely sure if I agree with this sentiment when it comes to certain demographics. Since giving up my part time job and attempting to go full on pro with this game development stuff, things have inevitably gotten a little tight financially. This means I don’t have the internet in my apartment and am forced to tether off my phone in order to get online. (If you are my mobile service provider then I assure you that last sentence was a joke). This means the idea of games as a service doesn’t really work for me. I’m one of those offline Steam players and have never gotten into mobile gaming in a way that made a micro-transaction seem worth it. That being said, I’m willing to acknowledge that I am in the minority with this opinion. I love games that I buy, I play and I finish. I’m anal enough to actually sort my games by “finished” and “unfinished” to encourage me to see them through regardless of the quality. These are the types of games I’d like to make. Knowing this, I accidently went out and made a game that does not fit this criteria at all.

In a previous blog post, I talked about how my studio made “Galactic Tactics” for Windows Phone 8 and the Windows 8 as part of an eight hour game jam for Microsoft Ireland. We ended up winning “Best New Game” and were encouraged to bring the game to the market place. The idea behind the “games as a service” model seems to be to ship a minimum viable product (MVP) and test the waters. You don’t put your best foot forward; you take whatever limb happens to be working at the time and you quietly dump it in the marketplace, hoping nobody will really pay attention. The point of this is to gather information about those poor early users and utilise their behaviour as a way to improve your service. This isn’t what we wanted to do with our game but we were interested in uncovering the secrets of bringing a game to the marketplace. The idea was that we would learn the lessons we wanted to learn using this game, and apply them to projects we’re currently working on.

We spent about a day throwing in a few more features to the game, built it out and sent it off for certification. I don’t have a ton of experience doing this but what I can say is that working with Microsoft was pretty easy. We built the game in Unity and could easily build it out from our Windows Solution to our devices. The solution also contained sections for every type of image you’d need to get your game looking well on every device and in every possible state. Certification always takes longer than you’d hope but after a few days our game had passed and was on the store. The Windows 8 downloads were nothing special but the Windows Phones ones were quite interesting.

Downloads Day 1 = 3

Cool thanks Mom!

Downloads Day 2 = 50

Thanks fellow Irish game developers for the support!

Downloads Day 3 = 350

Cool I guess! We get told our game will be featured throughout Polynesia.

Downloads Day 7  = 600

Thanks Polynesia! We then get told our game will be featured in Germany, France, Canada and China.

Downloads Day 12 = 1000

Reviews are coming in quite mixed at this stage but of course they are! The game was made in two days! We also find out we’re going to be featured in the US store on all Windows Phones later this month.

Downloads Day 14 = 2000+

Okay we’ve got a problem here….

Every time I was hitting refresh the numbers were jumping and two sides of my brain were firing off at the same time with two very different feelings. I knew by successful game’s standards that these numbers were not impressive but I was being blown away. The business side of my brain was growing with excitement about being able to tell investors about this. We could spend time updating our game service with cool new features. Add some in-game currency to upgrade your weapons that you could earn grinding on a single player mode or if you prefer, you could throw us some money and skip that process. Online leader boards! A-synchronous competitive mode! Unlock the super laser with a tweet!

Meanwhile, the other side of my brain, which for the sake of argument we will call the “artist” side, wanted to pull the game from the store before another download could occur. It’s not that the game is bad and it’s not as if there isn’t a good idea behind it, it’s simply that the game is very shallow. It belongs neither in my “finished” or “unfinished” pile.  Like any MVP it is very simple and slightly flawed.  Any negative reviews were generally related to this fact and I agreed with them. This isn’t the type of game I envisioned myself releasing when we started our studio earlier this year and this isn’t the type of game I thought I would be showing off to fellow studios or members of the public as an indication of our work.

However, at the end of the day I’d be a pretty stupid person to call this a real problem. It’s great that a couple of thousand people have played something I have created and there is obviously a couple of thousand lessons being learned each day. I guess I feel that while everybody is saying to release fast and release early, very few people are warning you of the internal struggle that can occur if you feel like your product is far from ready.

For better or for worse, you can download Galactic Tactics for Windows Phone 8 here and on Windows 8 here.

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