Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Company News Taking Care of Business - Iron Tower Studio 2020 Business Diary

Infinitron

I post news
Staff Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2011
Messages
97,665
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
Tags: Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game; Dungeon Rats; Iron Tower Studio; The Age of Decadence; Vince D. Weller

Right on the heels of the recent Colony Ship development update, Vault Dweller has come out with this year's installment of the Iron Tower Studio business diary. Whereas as the last two diaries were mainly focused on the studio's future, this one offers a rather sober retrospective of its recent past. With the passing away of longtime Iron Tower animator Ivan Soloviov, it has not been an easy road. Here's an excerpt:

2019 was a stressful, no good, very bad year. The loss of a friend and a team member who’s been with us since the beginning (2005) was a harsh, surreal blow, and it fell during the hardest phase of game development (hard enough even without such losses) where many indie projects (those not destined to make it) falter and fail.

Anyone who’s ever followed such projects knows how it usually goes: Year 1 - making bold promises, proudly showing concept art, weapon models, the main menu (the most important part of a game, no doubt), etc. Year 2 - the first playable, barren like a desert, noticeable drop in the team’s enthusiasm, the first wave of volunteers leaving the project. Year 3 - the grim year(s), progress slowing down to a crawl, waning support (the crowd that cheered every time a new weapon or vehicle was posted is less enthusiastic about vital but invisible things like pathfinding, functioning inventory, and object classes), more and more people leaving until only 2-3 guys remain, at which point the project enters the state of suspended animation and stays there until someone makes the final announcement.

We had a couple close calls with AoD and CSG, but we made it through our first game and we're over the hump of our second full-scale game. The purpose of this update is to take you backstage and walk you through the whole process. Maybe it would even help teams ready to throw their hats into the RPG ring prepare for the inevitable challenges ahead. Without further ado, here's a recap of how those last three years have gone for Colony Ship:

Year 3: The Long Slog.

Year 3 is about turning the first playable into something resembling a game other people might enjoy. It may sounds like fun but the list of things you need is endless and the pace gets slower and slower since tasks get more and more complex. To illustrate, it took 4 weeks to do 4 jackets since they go on top of the ballistic vests and some armguards can be worn on top of the jackets, so there are all kinds of clipping problems to solve. Would the players appreciate such attention to details or file it under ‘meh’? Fuck if I know.

Roughly, that was our development speed this year: each item on the list took about a month. 12 months – 12 development items per category (programming, animations, assets, etc). Equippables, necessary GUI improvements such as targeting, combat gadgets, feats, dialogue working fine in the dev build but refusing to start in the first Steam build (Nick had to rewrite it from scratch – another month), and so on and so forth.

Progress generates enthusiasm, visible progress generates support from your audience, so ideally you need both, yet there inevitably comes the time (a long stretch) when visible progress all but disappears (we spent a year and a half on the combat system and posting the arena screens got old pretty fast) and invisible progress slows down to the aforementioned crawl. Months go by, tasks are slowly getting off the to-do list, yet the game looks and feels about the same. That’s when everyone’s sanity and the team’s integrity are getting thoroughly tested. That’s when Ivan died.

It’s still hard to talk about Ivan's death and even harder to think about it, so I won’t as I don’t really know what to say and how to process it. So we push forward and focus on work because it’s easier.

With his 14 years of hands-on experience, 3 years with Unreal 4, there was very little he didn’t know or couldn’t do. Finding an animator to fill in the gaps left by someone else is never an easy task, especially on a short notice. It threatened to become a major project that could have easily taken well over a year. In the end we got lucky, the work resumed, and we were able to start beta-testing the combat beta in Jan 2020.

Originally, we hoped to start combat beta in the spring of 2019 to test the mechanics and add bells and whistles as we go, but Ivan got ill and the plans got derailed as we didn’t have all the animations and wearables (body armor, jackets, coats, helmets, goggles, respirator and gas masks, hair styles). There’re only so many placeholders a player can tolerate in the initial public offering.

In comparison we started testing AoD arena demo without half the features including players’ favorite save/load so they had to ironman the whole thing for the first few months. Overall, it took us 5 years and 8 months to get to the combat demo stage, so we’re still ahead.
As usual, the business diary also includes yearly sales figures for The Age of Decadence and Dungeon Rats. The games aren't bringing in much revenue anymore, but according to Vault Dweller it should be enough to carry Iron Tower until the Colony Ship Early Access release.
 

SausageInYourFace

Angelic Reinforcement
Patron
Joined
Dec 28, 2013
Messages
3,858
Location
In your face
Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. My team has the sexiest and deadliest waifus you can recruit. Pathfinder: Wrath
Anyone who’s ever followed such projects knows how it usually goes: Year 1 - making bold promises, proudly showing concept art, weapon models, the main menu (the most important part of a game, no doubt), etc. Year 2 - the first playable, barren like a desert, noticeable drop in the team’s enthusiasm, the first wave of volunteers leaving the project. Year 3 - the grim year(s), progress slowing down to a crawl, waning support (the crowd that cheered every time a new weapon or vehicle was posted is less enthusiastic about vital but invisible things like pathfinding, functioning inventory, and object classes), more and more people leaving until only 2-3 guys remain, at which point the project enters the state of suspended animation and stays there until someone makes the final announcement.

Sounds like a rough profession, where exactly is the part with the fun and enjoyment? Release day?
 

Deleted Member 22431

Guest
As usual, the business diary also includes yearly sales figures for The Age of Decadence and Dungeon Rats. The games aren't bringing in much money anymore, but according to Vault Dweller it should be enough to carry Iron Tower until the Colony Ship Early Access release.
Well, at least they have games that provide some revenue. They didn't have shit before. I would qualify that, and faster development, as progress.
 

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
Joined
Jan 7, 2003
Messages
28,038
Anyone who’s ever followed such projects knows how it usually goes: Year 1 - making bold promises, proudly showing concept art, weapon models, the main menu (the most important part of a game, no doubt), etc. Year 2 - the first playable, barren like a desert, noticeable drop in the team’s enthusiasm, the first wave of volunteers leaving the project. Year 3 - the grim year(s), progress slowing down to a crawl, waning support (the crowd that cheered every time a new weapon or vehicle was posted is less enthusiastic about vital but invisible things like pathfinding, functioning inventory, and object classes), more and more people leaving until only 2-3 guys remain, at which point the project enters the state of suspended animation and stays there until someone makes the final announcement.

Sounds like a rough profession, where exactly is the part with the fun and enjoyment? Release day?
Doing what you love.
 

Alpan

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Mar 4, 2018
Messages
1,340
Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Wrath
Interesting how they made the call to lower the base price on AoD multiple times, with a very significant effect on company revenue. One wonders how things would have gone if they had slashed base price just once but been consistent with the same discount rates. That might have been a better judge of price elasticity.
 

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
Joined
Jan 7, 2003
Messages
28,038
Interesting how they made the call to lower the base price on AoD multiple times, with a very significant effect on company revenue. One wonders how things would have gone if they had slashed base price just once but been consistent with the same discount rates. That might have been a better judge of price elasticity.
I'd say that we would have sold a lot less (but at a higher rate) had we not lowered the base price. It goes something like this: we sell what we can at the base price, then do the first significant discount, let's say 25%, the sales spike but with each new sale with the same discount we sell less and less (because most people who were waiting for this discount have already bought), then we go to 30, 40, 50%, etc, repeating the cycle every time. Eventually we hit 80% off, at which point the sale price becomes the effective price as we sell 95% of copies during the sale events. So we lowered the base price which no longer means anything at this point, and go back to 60% off, etc. When it hits 80%, we lower the base price again. The base price becomes the 'supporter edition' price. People who want to support you buy at full price, the rest wait until the next sale.
 
Joined
Dec 12, 2013
Messages
4,248
Interesting how they made the call to lower the base price on AoD multiple times, with a very significant effect on company revenue. One wonders how things would have gone if they had slashed base price just once but been consistent with the same discount rates. That might have been a better judge of price elasticity.
I'd say that we would have sold a lot less (but at a higher rate) had we not lowered the base price. It goes something like this: we sell what we can at the base price, then do the first significant discount, let's say 25%, the sales spike but with each new sale with the same discount we sell less and less (because most people who were waiting for this discount have already bought), then we go to 30, 40, 50%, etc, repeating the cycle every time. Eventually we hit 80% off, at which point the sale price becomes the effective price as we sell 95% of copies during the sale events. So we lowered the base price which no longer means anything at this point, and go back to 60% off, etc. When it hits 80%, we lower the base price again. The base price becomes the 'supporter edition' price. People who want to support you buy at full price, the rest wait until the next sale.

Lowering the base price leads to more people buying at base price than before?
 

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
Joined
Jan 7, 2003
Messages
28,038
Interesting how they made the call to lower the base price on AoD multiple times, with a very significant effect on company revenue. One wonders how things would have gone if they had slashed base price just once but been consistent with the same discount rates. That might have been a better judge of price elasticity.
I'd say that we would have sold a lot less (but at a higher rate) had we not lowered the base price. It goes something like this: we sell what we can at the base price, then do the first significant discount, let's say 25%, the sales spike but with each new sale with the same discount we sell less and less (because most people who were waiting for this discount have already bought), then we go to 30, 40, 50%, etc, repeating the cycle every time. Eventually we hit 80% off, at which point the sale price becomes the effective price as we sell 95% of copies during the sale events. So we lowered the base price which no longer means anything at this point, and go back to 60% off, etc. When it hits 80%, we lower the base price again. The base price becomes the 'supporter edition' price. People who want to support you buy at full price, the rest wait until the next sale.

Lowering the base price leads to more people buying at base price than before?
Yes. So we'd rather sell more at a lower price than less at a higher price.
 

Alpan

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Mar 4, 2018
Messages
1,340
Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Wrath
Interesting how they made the call to lower the base price on AoD multiple times, with a very significant effect on company revenue. One wonders how things would have gone if they had slashed base price just once but been consistent with the same discount rates. That might have been a better judge of price elasticity.
I'd say that we would have sold a lot less (but at a higher rate) had we not lowered the base price. It goes something like this: we sell what we can at the base price, then do the first significant discount, let's say 25%, the sales spike but with each new sale with the same discount we sell less and less (because most people who were waiting for this discount have already bought), then we go to 30, 40, 50%, etc, repeating the cycle every time. Eventually we hit 80% off, at which point the sale price becomes the effective price as we sell 95% of copies during the sale events. So we lowered the base price which no longer means anything at this point, and go back to 60% off, etc. When it hits 80%, we lower the base price again. The base price becomes the 'supporter edition' price. People who want to support you buy at full price, the rest wait until the next sale.

But why not keep the discount rate constant throughout instead of increasing it and then re-anchoring around a new base price? If you're basing your existence as an indie RPG developer on the conviction that you make niche but quality titles for a niche but committed audience, undercutting your price so regularly is a statement that you believe your niche is under attack by competitors. But it isn't. Sure, Steam is being swarmed by games. But 4.5 years after its release there is still nothing quite like AoD.

I should note that I bought AoD all the way back in 2013 when Teron and some areas of Maadoran were the only content available, using BMT Micro and all. So it may be that I am not the wisest judge of consumer behaviour.
 
Last edited:

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
Joined
Jan 7, 2003
Messages
28,038
But why not keep the discount rate constant throughout instead of increasing it...
Because sales quickly dry out if you keep the same discount for more than 3 sale events. It's easy to see it on the sales charts, a big spike when the new discount is first introduced, a medium spike about half or 2/3 of the first spike depending on the overall interest, and then a very small spike, half the second one. You go for sale event #4, you'd barely see a spike. We've seen the same trend for 5 years now.

If you're basing your existence as an indie RPG developer on the conviction that you make niche but quality titles for a niche but committed audience...
We have no convictions. We base our existence on the fact that we really like making a certain type of hardcore RPG (that won't appeal to every hardcore RPG fan) and a faint hope that enough people would like our games to keep us in business for the next 20 years.
 

PrettyDeadman

Guest
It takes me 2 months to do a prototype of a complicated IT product with modern 3d graphics (this involves creating both backend and frontend applications, database structure and stored procedures, custom webgl shaders, custom camera controllers and asset manager, plugin for object atribution and data export for our 3d modelling software of choice and much more).
 

Diggfinger

Arcane
Joined
Jan 6, 2014
Messages
1,215
Location
Belgium
Almost missed this for the Owlcat spam....

awesome!
Will support for sure

All my condolences too! What a rough time this has been...
 
Last edited:

Diggfinger

Arcane
Joined
Jan 6, 2014
Messages
1,215
Location
Belgium
Almost missed this for the Owlcat spam....

awesome!

Will support this for sure
Watch IT subforum and you won't miss a thing: https://rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?forums/iron-tower-studio.18/watch

tenor.gif
 

Mac_Orion

Stygian Software
Developer
Joined
Jun 10, 2015
Messages
115
Location
Styg's garret
Damn that's ruff, my condolence. Warrior on, let's get that baby out! Love to see all the devlogs you guys put out, I know how hard it sometimes can be as its the same for Underrail, you work like months on something and sometimes you have the feeling nothing changed, but in the end when everything comes together and the stress wears off you can be proud of your work.
 

Diggfinger

Arcane
Joined
Jan 6, 2014
Messages
1,215
Location
Belgium
Interesting how they made the call to lower the base price on AoD multiple times, with a very significant effect on company revenue. One wonders how things would have gone if they had slashed base price just once but been consistent with the same discount rates. That might have been a better judge of price elasticity.
I'd say that we would have sold a lot less (but at a higher rate) had we not lowered the base price. It goes something like this: we sell what we can at the base price, then do the first significant discount, let's say 25%, the sales spike but with each new sale with the same discount we sell less and less (because most people who were waiting for this discount have already bought), then we go to 30, 40, 50%, etc, repeating the cycle every time. Eventually we hit 80% off, at which point the sale price becomes the effective price as we sell 95% of copies during the sale events. So we lowered the base price which no longer means anything at this point, and go back to 60% off, etc. When it hits 80%, we lower the base price again. The base price becomes the 'supporter edition' price. People who want to support you buy at full price, the rest wait until the next sale.

637adfdffb67bf45a76f88750c1e3b78.gif
 

Slimu

Augur
Patron
Joined
Sep 26, 2011
Messages
169
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pathfinder: Kingmaker Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
I hope that when the game is released in Early Access, there will be the option of buying the game directly from the devs.
 

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
Joined
Jan 7, 2003
Messages
28,038
I hope that when the game is released in Early Access, there will be the option of buying the game directly from the devs.
Undecided. While we keep more revenue, we lose the reviews. When Steam changed the policy and excluded reviews written by players with activated keys (pre-orders and direct buys), our rating dropped from 87 to 81.
 

Deleted Member 22431

Guest
I hope that when the game is released in Early Access, there will be the option of buying the game directly from the devs.
If the objective is to give them more money just buy two steam units instead of one.
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Back
Top Bottom