Friday, 25 January 2013

Indie Dev Insight: RocketCat Games

To quote RocketCat Games their design philosophy is to have huge amounts of replay value; create deep and varied gameplay; while having unlockable Upgrades and Hats. This philosophy has served them well with Punch Quest being very well received by the industry but important lessons learnt on the way.

This is the second in the series of discussions with indie developers of all shapes and sizes who share their experiences and thoughts on the indie scene.

What got you into writing games?
I just felt like doing it one day. I was a big fan of free independent games for a long time. They made the process of making a game seem attainable. The App Store meant there was no barrier to entry to trying to make a commercial game, so I got a couple of friends to try it with me.

What's good and bad about what you do?
The best thing is probably the huge amount of freedom in being able to make a living off making games. The worst thing is maybe that it's a very solitary sort of thing. I still have never seen any of the people working with me.

How many people are involved in writing games at RocketCat Games. What roles do they take on?
3 people. I design the games, make the levels and tweak everything, and handle the business stuff. Jeremy Orlando does the programming. Brandon Rhodes does the art.

What would you do differently now given what you know from projects completed and experience from the gaming and app market?
It's really hard to say what I'd do differently. We learned a lot about how free game pricing works, so if I had to do Punch Quest over I'd tweak that for the release of the game. Otherwise I don't think I'd change too much.

What tools do you use. By this I mean software development kits/engines (Cocos2d, Corona, Unity3D etc), audio packages, art packages.
We make all of our own stuff, except for some audio packages. Mostly from cheap/free sound sites. I'd like to check out Unity.

What marketing tactics do you employ? Forums, twitter, paid PR etc
I post to a couple forums and run a twitter account. I have a press list of people that like my games, so when a new one comes out I make sure the list gets codes for review. That list is always expanding. Also, with Punch Quest we started to get into cross-promotion with other developers again, which is really important.

What effect do you think free to play has had upon your game design?
It definitely affects the design. Or at least it did eventually. When Punch Quest was first released, free to play didn't affect the design much. We had higher end money sinks, but didn't make the game grindier than it was intended to be. As a result, the game didn't make much money at all. After awhile, we gave in and raised the price of in-game upgrades/equipment by 5 times the amount. This made profits surge. We'd like to see if there's a way to do free to play without it messing with the design.

There has been a lot in the press recently that app development is going through a gold rush and that the bubble will burst soon. Do you see it like this?
Gold rush ended in 2009, didn't it? I have noticed that it's been getting steadily harder to break in and make a name for yourself. Still seems possible, though, like with the recent success of 10000000. It just seems to get more difficult.

Do you think app games will eventually kill off AAA titles as we know them?
They don't seem to be. They're very different markets. Especially since app games seem to be solidifying into certain preferred genres. Big AAA companies seem to mostly be avoiding the App Store, still, after all these years. I wonder if it's because they see the App Store as a casual-dominated market, where with a couple notable exceptions it's probably a mistake to do a big AAA title. So I don't see why app games would kill off AAA titles, because there's very clear divider between the two audiences.

What does 2013 have in store for RocketCat Games?
We're doing a free hack and slash game, with random dungeons. It will be similar to Mage Gauntlet. You'll pay to buy new character classes to play as. In that way, we're hoping we can keep the game design untouched by it being free. We'd also like to try making some no-IAP $5 games.

Any additional advice you would give for up and coming indie developers?
Here's some pricing thoughts. $3's still a nice price point if you can make a game fairly quickly, are a very small team, or a solo developer. Making a free-to-play game is unlikely to make you money as your first game, but it may be worth it just to get the exposure and a bunch of possible fans that you can show your next game to. $2 seems like a waste, most would just be willing to pay $3. I hate the 99 cent price point, seems like even more of a gamble than making a game free. May as well just charge $0, for the significant extra downloads.

Go and see what all the fuss is about and download Punch Quest for free.

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