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Incline Strangeland - new adventure game from Wormwood Studios

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strangle end -> 200 reviews -> 10k sales
colony shit -> 300 reviews -> 15k sales
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
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No, our sales are more in the 5k range. (I don't have realtime data.) We just have a relatively strong rate of people leaving reviews, although I had hoped that we would get to more like 250 in our first month.
 
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I think its morally wrong to "work over", so to speak, the death of someone who mattered to you in some shit vidya that is being sold as a cosumerist product to randoms on the interwebs.
The implications and reasons for it are far reaching and existential in nature. But none of them that I could imagine have good qualities.
I thought about it and the "good" reasons are quasi-egoistical.
You've done wrong and are being punished for it.

Tell me, why should I ever take "inspiration", so to speak, from death of someone who mattered to me to channel "art"?
Imagine you are Hemingway and you are writing a short story and its not actually referencing the event or death in any form, but
you know that you are channeling the experience. Now tell me why the expression of it is a good thing, why are you doing it?
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
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I'm not sure I understand the question. I certainly agree with you that when I write, I am primarily writing for myself, so you can probably scratch the "quasi" and just say it's egoistical. It is probably also egotistical to think that people want to read about such things. But why would I write something other than what I want to write? If you are looking for game stories that are premised on what critics want to hear, rather than what the author wants to say, you shouldn't play games I'm involved in.

Anyway, I'm glad that Strangeland has provoked "far reaching and existential" questions in your mind. Not the way I expected to achieve that result, but hey, catch as catch can.
 
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I'm glad that Strangeland has provoked "far reaching and existential" questions in your mind.
It hasnt, I havent played it. I just read (or imagined...) that you wrote """some part of it""" because your ?grandparents? died recently? Something like that.
And I wanted to attack that as amoral or worse immoral.

The question is: is your outward expression, the channeling, the usage (use... abuse?) of someone else suffering for the purpose of presentation to an audience a moral wrong? Are you committing sin when you say "look! i am the surrogate for pain"?

Imagine you are an author and wrote a manuscript but then burned it and no one ever saw it.
You are not presenting yourself in a pornographic manner to an audience, you did the act for the purpose of the the act itself.
Drew a picture and hidden it, not being able to destroy it. Polished a literal turd and flushed it.
Its not done to "catch as catch can", its done because your brain wanted the act.
But once you show its, its not yours anymore, its defiled. And because it grew out of someone else fate, they are defiled too. Why did you do it?

I sometimes have seen these internet posts and books about grief for the dead, like a mother writing about boo-hooo losing a child and how thats a bummer.
And of course the accompanying psychologists saying in unison how thats good and proper.
I just roll my eyes. Why is she presenting her shit to me+everyone? She is not saying, "save my child, have pity!",
she is saying "look in how much pain i am" and so what is this kind of expression?
Its intrinsically social, it needs a reader.
It makes me think of twitter subhumans with "they/them, bipolar" in their descriptions.
It comes from the same Ego-place (not the freudian, just a wordplay) in the brain as twitter attention whores on oppression olympics.
And its morally wrong, right?
 

MRY

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Alas, I can't follow your train of argument, but I applaud anyone who cares strongly about art, morality, games, etc., so even though you're clearly angry about the game, I don't see any reason to try to fight over it.
 
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I'm clearly not angry about the game :lol: I am not angry at all, I am combative just for spice because on the interwebs you can.
I dunno how you cant grasp the argument.
Here is an extreme analogy: your kid dies, you go to the village public place bazaar and start crying loudly wah wah look at me, I am in pain! Look!
Yeah? Is this "attention whoring" morally wrong and why?


























Once we establish the above, we dilute the sin into expression in written form.
I am not trying to win an argument.
 

MRY

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Still not following, sorry. Are you asking me whether I think grieving itself is wrong, whether publicly grieving is wrong, or whether performative but insincere grieving is wrong? I suppose within some framework, grief might be a sinful disbelief in heaven and the resurrection. (Maybe we could cite Luke 9:59-60 or Twelfth Night I.v.61-62.) I think grieving for your child would be morally right, but ultimately I leave to the griever the manner of his or her grieving; it is rather hard for me to fathom reacting to someone's grief at the loss of a child with an impulse to scold them. Anyway, alas, my days of enjoying internet debate for its own sake are behind me. There is enough else to care about.
 

MRY

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So, a month post-release, some thoughts:

(1) It's difficult to compare SL sales figures (which I have gotten with some precision) to Primordia sales figures (which we got in monthly royalty reports), but my impression is that SL is not selling as well as Primordia. Primordia released on December 12, and by the end of February (the first point at which I can total GOG, Steam, and direct sales), it had sold over 11k copies, including presales. Strangeland had no presales. By the end of its first month, it had sold ~4500 copies. Since we can't include SL in the Steam Summer Sale (because under Steam rules you can't offer another discount <30 days from the launch discount, lest the "launch discount" prove illusory), I'm not sure that we will see many sales over the next month, which means that we may be looking at a >50% drop off. Of course, the price is higher, so the revenue drop will be lower. But ultimately I care less about revenue than how many players are connecting with it, so the drop in sales is irritating, even if it was something I expected based on the changed market and the different subject matter.

(2) When Primordia released, while Twitch existed, I was completely unaware of it, and I have no sense that anyone did Primordia streaming at all. The game did get played by Youtubers, but, overall, the viewership was a fraction of the viewership for Strangeland. I don't know how to confidently quantify it, but it seems that well over 100k people have viewed some substantial portion of the game, if not the whole thing. I'm not sure that hurt sales or helped sales, but it is another form of audience-connection that I'm overall happy about, particularly because streamers seem most likely of any constituency (professional critics, Steam reviewers, etc.) to have a super positive reaction to the game. I think the medium encourages expressiveness (no one wants to watch someone who is uninterested in the game), and Strangeland benefits a lot from players who want to be moved by it, since it is ultimately a game that has a pretense of emotional content (and hopefully the substance of it, too). I would say our Twitch success is quite good -- even though Strangeland is nothing like the runaway success that Unavowed was, there were more concomitant Twitch viewers for Strangeland (7.4k) than Unavowed (6k), though this no doubt also reflects the fact that Twitch has simply grown in the intervening three years.

(3) Steam reviews are a bit worse than Primordia's (95% vs. 97%), particularly given that the percentage for adventure games usually lowers a bit over time as less die-hard players pick up the game down the line. The aggregate also doesn't reflect the fact that the median positive review for Primordia ("I loved it!") is probably stronger than the median positive review for Strangeland ("I liked it, but..."). But while the numbers are a bit lower, and the prose a bit less enthusiastic, our purchaser:reviewer ratio for Strangeland is extremely high, probably something like one out of every 15 Steam purchasers reviews the game. For Primordia, it's something like one out of every 60, perhaps even worse than that. This may also be an anomaly of early customers being more inclined to leave reviews, but I think it's a relatively good sign of player engagement.

(4) Also perhaps an anomaly of early players and also a function of being a shorter game, over 55% of players who bought the game have completed it (only 94% of players have even started it). For Primordia, it's under 30%. (It's hard to get exact numbers because both games have multiple endings.) For Gemini Rue it's 17%, for Technobabylon it's 29%, etc. I'm curious to see how this holds up over time, but, as with the reviews, it suggests that the game does elicit a strong connection but for many players doesn't close the deal.

(5) Critical reviews are what they are. As with Primordia, smaller sites and individual reviewers have been more positive than larger sites. As noted, there are some goofball reviews from publications that slammed Primordia that now call it a classic en route to slamming Strangeland. :) Our metascore went up a bit, and we perhaps had something of a mainstream breakthrough in getting reviews by Vice and the AV Club, but this isn't a place where I felt some great sense of satisfaction, since I didn't feel that we had any major reviews that fully got the game. (The AV Club review comes closest.)

(6) A flaw in my methodology of consuming associated non-game media compulsively but not researching other games revealed itself, namely that my ignorance of games like Silent Hill 2 meant that I was unaware how familiar the terrain we were treading was. Oh well. One thing I did expect was that players would want a twist, which the game does not deliver. I enjoy twists as an audience member, but I find them a little less engaging as a writer, and the whole point of Strangeland is that the player needs to be ahead of the character, not behind him, so I don't think a twist could've worked even if I had wanted to include one. Still, when you read "I was disappointed by the lack of a twist" for the 100th time, if nothing else I feel bad for disappointing players and not signaling more clearly that no twist was coming. (Ironically, though, those very signals seem to be what makes someone feel there must be a twist coming -- it all seems like an act of misdirection.)

Not sure that I would do another adventure game, but I'm very happy with how Strangeland came out, and reasonably happy with its reception.
 

agris

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To the "not sure I would do another adventure game", I think this is natural after spending so long on a project. Give it some time, refine the Primordia 2 script, and re-examine later!
 

ghostdog

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I think that, considering how esoteric, dark and bleak Strangeland is, it did pretty well. It felt much more personal than primordia and getting to as many people, is a success imo. The only adventure I can think of that resembles somewhat Strangeland, is Sanitarium, but even that, is much more colourful and lighter in its delivery.

Primordia is more akin to the classic adventures of the golden era. Many characters, a lot of banter, humorous sidekick, worldbuilding, more locations, lighter tone, and only on top of that did it add the existential stuff, which I really enjoyed btw.
 

Alpan

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Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Kingmaker
Consider that Primordia came out during a period in which indie games were all the craze and adventure games were experiencing a renaissance, riding the dual waves of the indie and Kickstarter booms (which, you will recall, was itself kicked off by an adventure game). I knew nothing of Wormwood in 2012, but I had heard of Primordia by way of Gemini Rue and the Blackwell games. I had no reason to, but there simply was no avoiding the news, and back then everything felt more novel than they ended up being.

It was a completely different zeitgeist. Even discounting all the auspicious and highly contingent conditions that paved the way for Primordia's success, keep in mind that the market is just insanely saturated now. I detect the hint of disappointment in your musings, but ~5k sales from a studio that has not released any adventures in almost a decade still seems reasonable to me, especially given the highly introverted, tenebrous characteristics of the work. People had no reason to remember Wormwood existed -- the decade-long accumulation of critical praise for Primordia is no snowball, it's mostly just a decade passing -- and still they came for you in the end.
 

MRY

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Yes, I agree, although somewhat to my surprise, most of the player reviews suggest they did not forget about us, which is nice.

The "hint of disappointment" is true, though. The greater part of my soul thinks that our games are over-appreciated, since the notion of thousands and thousands of people playing and acclaiming something I worked on is so contrary to the formative experiences of the first decades of my life that I will basically never be able to accept it at face value. But there is also an arrogant core beneath that self-doubt that thinks our games are under-appreciated, and I feel that way more acutely with Strangeland than with Primordia. It would be self-indulgent and counterproductive to lay out this irritation, but dishonest not to admit that it exists.
 

Starwars

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I think that sort of "ego" is the core of many creative endeavours to be honest. No matter how much doubt, lack of self-confidence, whatever it may be, exists, somewhere deep inside there's that sort of slightly insane belief in what you do and that it's the best thing ever.
 

Alpan

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Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Kingmaker
But there is also an arrogant core beneath that self-doubt that thinks our games are under-appreciated, and I feel that way more acutely with Strangeland than with Primordia. It would be self-indulgent and counterproductive to lay out this irritation, but dishonest not to admit that it exists.

This is without a doubt true. I guess it is scant comfort, but in this age of winner-takes-all attention economics dictated by streamers, YouTubers and network effects more generally, a handful of games are vastly over-appreciated, and so under-apprecation becomes more or less the norm for everyone else -- even if you're operating in a niche market like point-and-clicks.
 

MRY

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Yes, although the under-appreciation that irks me is not that the game isn't some runaway success, it's more the relatively large degree of misunderstanding of the game as an effort to rehash Dark Seed or Silent Hill or whatever. I would probably be even more irritated if the game sold ten times as many copies if that commercial success came entirely from customers whose take on the game was along those lines.
 

Pyke

The Brotherhood
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Played this yesterday - thoroughly enjoyed it. The art is wonderfully weird. I loved the use of death as a game mechanic - would have loved to see that used even more! It's a smart way to bridge that gap between Sierra and Lucasarts game design philosophies.

I'll let it ruminate in my brain a little longer - but all in all, bravo. You managed to take a nice simple story and turn it into something very nuanced and layered.
 
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