Tuesday, June 14, 2016

[IndieDev] My Game Eon Altar Gets a Release Date!

So for folks who've been following my blog, I've been doing the indie dev thing for nearly 2 years now--will be 2 years as of July 1st. Eon Altar has been my baby, and what a baby it's been! But eventually children leave the nest, and we'll be pushing Eon Altar into the light, blinking and disoriented, Thursday, June 23rd.

Our announcement is here, but I wanted to talk a little about our decision making process on my blog. Some behind the scenes, if you will.

Early Access

First of all, let's chat Early Access. We've been in Early Access since August 29th, 2015. Just under 10 months. That's a decent chunk of time, but we've also had to contend with folks having other full time jobs, contract work, and losing some employees because indie and keeping the lights on is hard.

But that being said, I think slowing down a bit and getting a lot of feedback and bake time has been amazing for the game. We were nowhere near ready for release on our original launch trajectory, which would've been around May of 2015. We needed that extra year. Turns out making an RPG is hard! Who knew?

But our Early Access response has been amazing. Not as many folks as we may have hoped, but the folks who helped us out were absolutely fantastic, going the extra mile to help us narrow down bug repros, get us logs, and be patient with some of our quirks and issues. Being candid about the state of the game, what's working, and what wasn't also helped. Without their feedback, our game would be in a much worse state today.

Which led to the discussion of somehow rewarding our Early Access customers. Luke--our financial dude/lore guy/streamer/tester/other things because I'm bad at titles and indie is a lot of hats--had this really cool idea. We ran with it, of course.

Intense Tactical Discussion


Early Access was priced extremely cheap because for us, getting our name and game out there was more important at the time than trying to wring dollars out of our (relatively few) customers. $4.99 USD is a steal for what we delivered in Early Access--Combat Arena plus about 4 hours of quality co-op RPG game play. We've had a number of reviews mention price seemed really low for what we delivered.

But for our Early Access customers we decided that we'd give them the entirety of Season 1 (Episodes 1-3) for their $4.99 USD they already gave us. It was a great way to reward them for helping us and supporting us. Folks who come in to buy Season 1 now will pay $14.99 USD (or $6.99 USD per episode if you want piecemeal).

Still damn cheap given the entirety of Season 1 runs about 12 - 15 hours of game play, plus Combat Arenas which are technically endless (a massive hit at Dreamhack and PAX East), and you can play with up to 4 players at the same time on a single copy. But we're also an unknown company, so we're cognizant that if we price ourselves too high, people won't want to take the risk. On the other hand, if we don't make money soon, continuing development becomes an issue.


We're polished enough that I'm confident in our game, even if we have a few issues remaining. Pro-tip, you'll never actually hit zero bugs in software development. Ever. Seriously.

I had 120 bugs on my plate as of two months ago, half of those blockers or criticals (versus major or minor). I've bounced between 30 and 45 I think six times now over the past three weeks? Mind you, I'm down to a total of 8 criticals and 0 blockers, so the quality is still going up; many of the bugs being logged now are major at worst, which for our definitions is not great, but shippable.

My point being is we could be here forever fixing bugs. Perfection is unattainable, despite the fact that I really, really, really, really want it to be perfect. Like the child analogy earlier, eventually you need to let them out into the daylight and hope you gave them the skills and qualities to survive and thrive.

That's not to say we won't continue releasing fixes and patches. The reality of software development--especially games--is that you're never really done. Look at Stardew Valley, continuing to make major additions and fixes after ship. But the base game is awesome and still totally worth the $15 I paid for it. But again, need to eat and keep the lights on, and our build is in fact very stable, so to release we go.


A few months back we pegged June 1st, 2016 as our release date. Thankfully we were bright enough (this time) not to promise anything too early, so when we realized we had a few more things to do, and timing-wise it was kind of crappy, so we could push the date. E3 of course is a huge blackout period. Other timings I can't discuss also nudged the date here or there, until we settled on June 23rd. Unfortunately, it's Luke's anniversary with his fiancé, but turns out our tertiary date would've been his birthday, so he couldn't win either way.

Summer in general also keeps us out of harm's way of major blockbusters, at the risk of yeah, it's summer. But being a local co-op game, maybe being summer will work for us as people want to hang out? I'm not so certain of my reasoning there.

Ideally we'll have Episode 2 out soonish after. I won't commit to a timing,but I will say if it's like 6 months after Episode 1, I will be an extremely sad panda.

Excitement and Terror

I am beyond excited for our release. Eon Altar has been my life basically for 2 years. My dream job of making a game, an RPG, and making a game that plays like no other video game that exists today. We're pushing game play, UI, and form factor boundaries that very few developers have even tried, let alone shipped.

And yeah, I've had my doubts along the way; I've had total imposter syndrome moments. Other times I've had moments where I'm like, "this is crazy, it'll never fly." But watching people play our game on Twitch, on YouTube, at PAX, Dreamhack, Casual Connect, and even in person at play tests in my apartment, I know, empirically, that we have something unique and awesome.

I'm also terrified. What if we hit it big and something horrible happens and things break? What if we never get the eyeballs we need and we fade into obscurity--which, to be brutally honest, is the more likely of the two scenarios because marketing budget and indie dev. What if, despite all evidence so far to the contrary, people just don't get it? What if people don't read my troubleshooting instructions and I just drown in debugging people's networks over forum post?

Putting the game out there to be judged on its own merits as a shipped product is a lot of pressure. And when I look at it from an analytical perspective, I'm confident we're ready for this. But that visceral, emotional reaction is still there.

9 days.#IndieDev, #EonAltar