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Colossal Cave Adventure remake from Ken & Roberta Williams

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
 

Narushima

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probably priced a bit too high.
I'm quite baffled by the price
Ken has heard what the kids were saying:

PRICE CHANGE​


"I have good news! Colossal Cave has a new price! Colossal Cave is now $24.99!

(Note: Due to restrictions, Meta Quest 2 will not lower in price until April.)

82454aa3-0ece-4533-2bfc-68b3fe517dce.jpg
Behind the scenes, there was a debate between myself and our marketing group. I thought the correct price should be significantly higher, and we did launch at $40. But our marketing group insisted that the world has changed since Roberta and I last released a game, and that gamers expect lower prices from indie developers.

There were a few reasons I felt a higher price was justified, including that this was a very expensive game to build! And yet, I'm not sure this is a game for everyone. It targets a fairly small slice of the market. It's a mentally challenging game in a world where the bigger hits are action oriented. We didn't want to cheapen the quality of the game. So, when you look at our production cost, and divide it by the size of the target market, you recognize that the price per copy needs to be high.

I didn't (and still don't) consider $39.99 to be a big number. You can hardly go to the movies these days, with popcorn and parking, and not spend that much. Roberta's last game sold over a million copies at $59.99, over 25 years ago! That's probably over $100 in 2023 numbers. I'd also mention that many of today's games, that are available at low cost, have in-game spending. We have none of that and don't plan on using this game in any way to make money beyond the initial purchase.

I should also mention that buying the game (at least through Steam) gives you all of: The Windows version, the Mac version, the Steam Deck version, and the Steam VR version (when it is available .. soon I hope!) The Steam Deck version is a true Linux version that runs awesome on a Steam Deck, and the Steam VR version of the game is a big step up from what we released on the Quest 2. I should probably also admit that we got pinged for a few things on the initial release of the Quest 2 version and we are addressing those issues now for our Steam VR version of the game. The Steam VR (or should I call it PC VR?) release will be an amazing one. From my perspective, it's a heck of a deal. Note that all improved functionality and polish will be automatically updated on the Meta Quest 2, as well as all future VR ports.

And all of that said: Today's price points are lower and player expectations are for lower prices. It doesn't matter what I think is fair, what math I run through my spreadsheets, or anything except what players think. The message I've heard is that $39.99 is too high, so we lowered it."
 

Tom Selleck

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tldr; out of touch millionaire doesn't the understand current market. Get back on your boat.

I should also mention that buying the game (at least through Steam) gives you all of: The Windows version, the Mac version, the Steam Deck version, and the Steam VR version (when it is available .. soon I hope!)

It's almost like you're getting four games for the price of four! Not the Steam Deck version too!?!!?! Wow, you spoil me, Ken.
 

Maxie

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tldr; out of touch millionaire doesn't the understand current market. Get back on your boat.

I should also mention that buying the game (at least through Steam) gives you all of: The Windows version, the Mac version, the Steam Deck version, and the Steam VR version (when it is available .. soon I hope!)

It's almost like you're getting four games for the price of four! Not the Steam Deck version too!?!!?! Wow, you spoil me, Ken.
nigga still don't understand why was his price ridiculous lol. so out of touch with the market it's absurd, he should check how many adventure games are priced $40
 

Fictive Cunt

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100% if they made an original, traditional p&c adventure it would generate some real interest (from me.)

Tech be damned this antique remake doesn't interest me. Rather'd have a Mystery House remake.
 
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Man that’s a weirdly passive aggressive post from Ken.

“Everyone told me I was out of touch with the market and that I was pricing it too high, but I did it anyways because I just kind of wanted to and wasn’t willing to check my ego. Apparently they were right (although I still think that they were wrong) so I’m now capitulating to try and recoup our losses, but the real takeaway here is that consumers in 2022 are objectively worse at being good consumers than those of 1993.”

I like Ken, I like his willingness to talk about his thought processes and business methodologies, and I’ve even bought and read his books, but this response reads petulant at best, and like scapegoating at worst. Unfortunate.
 
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RobotSquirrel

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takeaway here is that consumers in 2022 are objectively worse at being good consumers than those of 1993
Here's the thing though, you're releasing a $40USD Adventure Game during a global recession. Even if people were interested in your game their budget is limited so you're losing customers just from the price.
I think that's pretty damn unfair a comparison to make especially when you're comparing Sierra being the biggest adventure game publisher in the business at the time with all the access to retailers who promote your games, to now with this studio being effectively an indie studio and competing for access. Welcome to what its like to be an indie developer in the 21st Century Ken. Try harder.
 
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takeaway here is that consumers in 2022 are objectively worse at being good consumers than those of 1993
Here's the thing though, you're releasing a $40USD Adventure Game during a global recession. Even if people were interested in your game their budget is limited so you're losing customers just from the price.
I think that's pretty damn unfair a comparison to make especially when you're comparing Sierra being the biggest adventure game publisher in the business at the time with all the access to retailers who promote your games, to now with this studio being effectively an indie studio and competing for access. Welcome to what its like to be an indie developer in the 21st Century Ken. Try harder.
Check your sarcasm detector, it seems to be malfunctioning.
 

RobotSquirrel

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Check your sarcasm detector, it seems to be malfunctioning.
I read the version of the rant that was posted to steam (the one on the patch logs), it came across more that they wanted to make this game for the fans and less to turn a profit but that sounds really out of character for Ken making me think it was Roberta that wrote that. That's more respectable.
I will give Ken credit that he at least communicates well that's the sort of transparency that should at least be praised I wish more developers did that.

But yeah the modern market is hostile, if anything it just proves Ken naivety that he was going into this with a business plan that was going to fail no matter what he did.
They aren't going to make a dent in such a noisy market. I'm glad the game exists because its an important part of our heritage, its just a shame that its not going to bring in anybody that wasn't already familiar with it.

At the same time though I'm not sympathetic to Ken, he should have known better he's been at this long enough. It is very out of touch.
I don't fault any of the team here they did as was expected, its not their fault if the business plan hadn't factored in an audience would even be there on release day.

I would love a post-mortem on this game though, it'd serve as a pretty good warning to indies. This is a very common problem.
 
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RobotSquirrel

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He's been not at it for a long time while the market was changing
Even in the 90s doing a market assessment was standard in design documents, you don't go into production without first proving that your idea has a market. The data you get is valuable.
At certain intervals in the dev process you need the community providing you that feedback, that's what we have to do as indies now. You're not so much focusing entirely on developing a game rather growing a community as you develop your game, its very different from the 90s where you're just smacking someone across the head with cool screenshots and an awesome demo, that worked back then it doesn't anymore everything runs a lot slower now. Mostly its impressive they stuck to the 2 years development and actually shipped. Most indies wouldn't do that.
 
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Narushima

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Even in the 90s doing a market assessment was standard in design documents, you don't go into production without first proving that your idea has a market. The data you get is valuable.
I'm not saying you're wrong, but Ken was/is obviously out of touch with current market trends.
 

negator2vc

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So doing what he was doing back in Sierra days. Big surprise!
Unfortunately for him the market has changed and he no longer is one of the big boys.
 

Blackthorne

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We've got a post-mortem coming up soon. One thing I can say, having worked with Ken on this, is that he is transparent, he owns his mea culpeas and in the end... we'll have a cool game out there. I bet people will mod the crap out of this down the line... it's a cool environment to work with. I wish I had more time and resources of my own; I'd add a lot of cool things to the cave environment if I could! Honestly, this was never about making money for them - he wanted to recoup his investment, but the real thing was just making the game. And I can tell you - day in and day out, Ken was there with his hands in that code - programming, running things, making sure source control worked... he definitely wasn't some off-site guy with money. This was an old school legit hacker making a game because he found it fun... he just had a bigger budget than most of us poors down here trying to make games with scraps! But I talk to the dude everyday, still, I'm still working with them to get the last few ports/versions out, and I try to get his ear about things that concern the player/customers, cause I spend a lot more time down in the muck... Anyway, it was pretty awesome to work with him and Roberta on this project, and yeah, there were some mis-steps and things missed/ignored... but all in all, for me, I can't think of a better way to spend a year, and for gamers... some will pay now, others will pay when it goes rock bottom on sales... there's cool stuff in that game.
 

RobotSquirrel

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That is awesome Blackthorne. Extremely useful information in there.
Things I've learned so far
  • Ken is still using the "hook" approach to game pitches - this doesn't exactly work in the current market because generally everyone has a pretty good hook, this knowledge is pretty widespread so everyone is trying as hard as they can to stand out from the market. I can't give a solution to this other than take it a lot slower and build a community around the game early on because the main thing is getting those wishlists up and then transitioning it into sales. If people aren't aware of what you're doing from the very beginning of development, then you've not really given your product enough time to grow. It's being blind and naive if you're not aware of your competition and how they're doing it better than you.
  • Roberta came in and feature creeped the hell out of the game from the sounds of things, the issue there is that Ken was clearly not on the same page at the start of the project so effectively you're starting again with new leadership, Roberta should have been there from the start so that everyone was on the same page as to what this game was, how much it was going to cost, the risks involved and what its market expectations would be and also to rein in some of Roberta's ambitions because it seems like rather than taking steps towards quality she just expected quality from the get go which you just can't do as an indie- especially when you're using some inexperienced developers. Having to repeat parts of the process was also a big mistake as that 2 year development sounds more like it was 1 year production, with 1 year of repeating pre-production until they got it right finally.

  • As Ken identified, going VR was a huge mistake. "A couple of months into VR development, we wound up throwing away all the graphics we had done to date, and much of the code." YIKES, I get his thinking for going for multi-platform, that's a smart approach but VR obviously was a mistake.
  • "Because of Roberta's and my reputation, I was 100% confident that I could easily find a publisher who would fund development and market the product. " oof yeah I think that whole reliance on your reputation is doing you a lot of harm there Ken when you realise most younger generations don't even know who you or Roberta even are, and most have never played a Sierra game before. Plus with Publishers these days your reputation means nothing.

  • "Do not hand off your code to QA without beating it up yourself first. " this one is just common sense. What kind of programmer doesn't debug lol.
  • "With 20/20 hindsight I could have done more to ensure all versions of the game, and the marketing, was ready on release day, but I didn't consider it the priority. If players want the game in January, they'll still want it in March. In the great scheme of things, the release date is irrelevant. What counts is whether it is a great game. " Yeah Ken that's where you were wrong, when you launch a game is super important its wrong to assume that your release window will always remain open, more importantly identifying who these players are and staying in communication with them would give you a fairly good indication on if you're doing the right thing or not as far as release is concerned. The customer loves to complain about the release, they obsess over it "Why does this region get it first!" "Why can't I preload!" "Release the game already" etc, they'll usually tell you. I think Ken released with a lot of assumed knowledge that was just out right false hence the naivety. "Worrying about the box, the marketing, or the calendar, are distractions that really aren't important when the time comes for a player to sit down to play a game." this is also obviously wrong, if your marketing isn't ready to go that player never shows up therefore it makes no difference to them if your game was good or not. Your marketing is so damn important and you have to take things very slowly otherwise you get this result.

  • "Some reviewers went into the review thinking we were marketing the next big triple-A action game, and that's not what it is" Well your pricing point said otherwise. Clearly there was a lot of miscommunication to the market. The customer will run on tangents and assume a game is "What they think it is" based on wishful thinking, when they get to the reality though if it doesn't meet that expectation you get this result.
  • "There are innumerable articles pointing to a minority of male gamers who are resistant to the idea of female designers." Really...?! Really you're pulling a Gamergate. Ugh. Come the hell on Ken. Roberta is pretty much beloved by most of the people in the market *that knows of her and industry. Ken you're fairly notorious, lots of people blame you for Sierra's fate (myself included), did you not think maybe you were the problem?

Overall really good post-mortem. I think there's probably a lot more to this but yeah. I think Ken's original pre-Roberta vision was likely the better one and probably would have accomplished the initial goal of just updating Colossal Cave to modern standards and be a really great learning opportunity. Roberta tried her hardest and it shows but really should have either been involved from the start or not at all, I think she's too valuable as a designer to just bring in half way through a project. I'm really pleased though with this because its valuable information and I do get the impression that Ken and Roberta have been humbled somewhat from the experience.

TLDR; Ken made a lot of assumptions that were completely wrong, Roberta being involved demanded a far higher expectation then Ken was probably willing to accept early on. They over relied on their reputation and they did a VR release that they probably shouldn't have. Ken also botched the marketing.
 
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Dexter

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Funny thing, the only reason I might buy this is the VR version when it comes to PC. The "hook" of "Text adventure in 3D" isn't speaking to me, and it looks low-budget and kinda mediocre on top, so it doesn't stand out against any would-be competitors. "In VR" (given that it works and isn't a buggy piece of shit Quest port) is another matter and a lot more enticing, especially since there aren't a lot of competitors right now. Should probably go for PSVR2 instead of PicoVR in hopes of additional sales though.
 
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Blackthorne

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The PSVR2 version is looking pretty cool, if I do say so myself, as far as VR versions go. VRs a gimmick to me, and I didn't enjoy playing the VR versions as much as I enjoyed playing the PC version. It was a cool project to work on from my perspective, though. I'll probably talk more about the project down the line!
 

RobotSquirrel

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In reply to what ken said, Microsoft sold their IPs back to Access software, so there's potential they'd sell the older Sierra IPs back to Ken and Roberta. It's very likely they'd at the minimum they'd get Phantasmagoria out of the deal. I do hope they get to do the game Roberta wanted to make originally, I just hope they have some people this time advising them, collaborating with Big Finish Games would be a smart idea. If they did they'd be an excellent publisher because they've been through this before and proven it works, they're basically the gold standard for FMV games now.
 

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