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Company News Taking Care of Business - Iron Tower Studio 2021 Business Diary

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Infinitron, May 30, 2021.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    RPG Wokedex 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: Kingmaker
    Tags: Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game; Iron Tower Studio; Vince D. Weller

    As you might imagine, this year's belated installment of the annual Iron Tower Studio business diary is all about the Colony Ship Early Access launch. The article has some details about how the team reached this point and what they're working on now. I'm happy to learn that the game has sold relatively well, despite being completely ignored by the mainstream gaming media. An excerpt:

    After five years of work we finally released Colony Ship’s first chapter on Early Access (Steam) and Games in Development (GOG). It's the second most important milestone (the first was the combat demo), because the hardest part - the long slog of building the foundation, the systems, the assets - is behind us now, and we can finally focus on the content, which is the best, most exciting part of development.

    To give you a quick analogy, imagine wanting to build something from LEGO bricks, only before you get to enjoy it, you need to 3D-print all the different pieces. It took awhile but we finally have all the pieces. Now we're ready to play.

    What took you so long?

    We switched to Unreal 4 in 2016, when we finished working on The Age of Decadence. Making another game with Torque would have been far easier and taken less time, but the engine wasn’t getting any younger and sooner or later we'd be forced to switch. Switching to such a powerful engine brings many benefits but it also means starting from scratch. There’s a huge difference between an engine you’ve just downloaded and a well-oiled RPG engine with all the systems, and this difference is measured in years of work.

    It took us 3 years to get to the first playable build, 4 years to shape it into a combat demo. Combat demo sounds deceptively simple - nothing but combat there, right? - but it’s essentially a small slice of the game with most systems in: character & party, combat & combat AI, upgradeable gadgets, dialogue, inventory, grid & pathfinding, ending slides, save/load, etc.

    We released the combat demo in Apr 2020. It took us two months to process feedback, improve the design, and fix reported issues. Only then we started working on the first chapter, still missing many critical components (we added the stealth system in September, the code for non-human enemies only in Oct, etc). The final missing piece (the party management screen) was added last month, so now we can fully focus on quests, locations, and balance.

    Why Early Access?

    No, it's not beta testing or raising funds, although the extra money will certainly help and go toward development, allowing us to do more. The main reason is to run everything by our core audience and get instant feedback, which is the most important development tool there is. Anyone who isn't using it is working blind.

    Essentially, players' feedback is guiding the development, pointing out everything that should be improved, changed, or expanded. Now that chapter 1 is 'approved' by the players, we can focus on one location at a time and so will the players, acting as the ultimate quality control.

    Rapid updates are key here: we already released six updates, fixing everything we overlooked before the release and implementing many great suggestions and quality-of-life improvements. While it's tempting to delve deeper into the systems, nobody's going to be happy if by the end of the year we still have only 3 locations available. Right now we spend 80% of our time on the next location (the Factory) and 20% on improving the first chapter, systems, and balance.

    Slow and Steady…

    The game is well-received (86% based on 321 reviews) - thank you very much to everyone who decided to support us. The Age of Decadence did well for a hardcore indie but Roman fantasy with ancient mysteries and Lovecraftian elements is one thing, a colony ship with well-familiar political themes, without any overt space opera or over-the-top futuristic elements a la Mass Effect, is another.

    In the first month we sold 14,271 copies. In comparison AoD sold ~3,300 copies during the same period in Early Access, so we can consider it a very promising start. I never hype our games but if the players liked the first, fairly low-key chapter, they're going to love what comes next.

    Regional data: I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that the United States reigns supreme - 54% of all units are sold in the land of the free. Russia is the second biggest market with 7%, UK 6%, and so on and so forth.

    Wishlists: we were sitting on 30k wishlists (courtesy of releasing the combat demo last year), it went up to 50k in the final week (after the first videos), then quickly jumped to 100k a week after release. Promising on this front as well.

    Demo downloads jumped up by 2,265% so demos certainly remain an important tool that shouldn’t be underestimated.

    AoD's sales went up 3,400% in the last month, which is an unexpected but very welcome bonus. Our development budgets are generated by our sales (which allows us to stay independent), so the stronger the sales, the more we'd be able to do to bring our worlds to life.
    The full article concludes with an amusing description of Vault Dweller's interactions with the various publishers who have contacted him about publishing Colony Ship. Beyond their apparent worthlessness, he believes that a publishing deal is unlikely to be worthwhile in terms of revenue.
     
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  2. TheSentinel Arcane

    TheSentinel
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    Pure iron is not very useful because it is very soft and brittle. This means it bends and breaks easily, and so it cannot be used to build structures.
     
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  3. Roguey Codex Staff Sawyerite

    Roguey
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    Switching to the commie avatar didn't save ol' Iron Cross, huh? :)
     
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  4. Zeriel Arcane

    Zeriel
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    The chad 2,000 year old unreinforced concrete dome versus the virgin 50 year old broken iron-reinforced bridge.
     
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  5. holla_cabezas_de_mierda Arcane

    holla_cabezas_de_mierda
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    that all sounds very promising, the units sold in EA in comparison to AoD and the wishlist numbers...I know I am looking forward to it..
     
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  6. Agesilaus Antiquity Studio Patron Developer

    Agesilaus
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Codex USB, 2014
    Anyone who gave Colony Ship a thumbs-down review on Steam will be denied entry to the PC Gamer ethnostate.
     
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  7. Kalin Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck Zionist Agent

    Kalin
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    To even use Steam lol
     
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  8. c u in da ballpit ashren Novice

    c u in da ballpit ashren
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    Real nice read. Useful for me.
     
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  9. Alphons Savant

    Alphons
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    Vault Dweller
    Does Steam show you a number of refunded copies?
    If yes, how CS compares on that front with AoD?
     
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  10. Alpan Magister Patron

    Alpan
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    These updates are always a gold mine of insight, and it's good to see that the game has done relatively well.
     
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  11. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    About the same. Last 10 refund reasons:

    - The writing is poor. 20 words are used where 5 will fit better. This makes every interaction with an NPC feels like I needed to take notes to make informed decisions. Instead it's slog of boring text after slog boring of text.
    - this game came out early access but it literally has 00.1% content
    - The text is way to small and hurts my eyes to read
    - think a book will replace the game just fine.. There is no voice acts its all text to read ... It will give me a headic in a few hours of this.
    - The overall visuals of the game gives me a headache and it's difficult to figure out the different places you can walk. On top of it the fact that there's no voice overs further adds to the headache as you're having to read a novel. Mechanically and story wise, seems interesting but just can push through the visuals and need to read everything
    - Thought it would be more like Shadowrun. gameplay was slow and difficult
    - I understand its early access but not even having partially voiced dialog makes the game world feel empty.
    - point blank and i miss with a sub machine gun? Come on this is just stupid mechanics. This game is not fun at all to me, too archaic for this genre.
    - Game too hard. Unable to progress through the game
    - The game is an early access, but i died way too many times for the tutorial section, or beginning, for me to have any type of fun. Needs lots of work and balance fixes
     
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  12. Daedalos Arcane The Real Fanboy

    Daedalos
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    I can support some of the suggestions to up the sound design in terms of more varied music, sound, ambience and of course my biggest wishlist, a few voiced VIP NPCs going a long long way in a text-heavy game ;)

    Nothing of that is at all refund reason tho, but people do what they do.
     
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  13. Alpan Magister Patron

    Alpan
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    One of those complaints don't seem like the others:

    I can see how this would apply to Colony Ship but not to AoD: The game looks AA-tier, unlike AoD which basically screams indie passion project. With such a presentation it becomes more natural, I think, to expect a modicum of voice acting.

    I don't agree with the complaint, and obviously even partial VA is expensive and laborious, but I can see how it would be justified.
     
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  14. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    And that's why being able to refund games you don't like for any reason whatsoever is a good thing.
     
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  15. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer Sad Loser

    J_C
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    Reading these, I have a feeling this game will be a fantastic RPG which we will enjoy.
     
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  16. Diggfinger Cipher

    Diggfinger
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    Awesome.

    Also liked the content so far, although it slowed down for me where you meet the frogs.
    Not a huge fan of near-impossible non-human enemies.

    Anyway, will give it a spin again once bigger updates are around...
     
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  17. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    Whether or not they're impossible depends entirely on your build. Combat specialists should be able to deal with them fairly easily (the nests are a different story), everyone else should avoid them like the plague, which is fitting.
     
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  18. HoboForEternity sunset tequila Patron

    HoboForEternity
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    Tbh this was my minor ish complaint too from the short time i tried the game but overall it's not a big deal since i just teleport everywhere like in AoD anyway.
     
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  19. Outlander Custom Tags Are For Fags. Patron

    Outlander
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    Someone never played Fallout :lol:
     
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  20. ghostdog Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

    ghostdog
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    In fallout your companions didn't miss altogether, they usually hit you, or your other companions, with their trusty submachine gun.
     
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  21. Zeriel Arcane

    Zeriel
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    I don't know what to make of the refund reasons because all of the text gave me a headic, and I couldn't finish reading.
     
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  22. Quantomas Learned

    Quantomas
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    Very good read. Reasons to be optimistic too!

    You know Brian Fargo used this stunt as well and we all know how this ended and where he ended up.

    In truth it isn't about the money, instead it is about keeping in control, you being in charge of your own project.

    That is the reason why I believe you will succeed, that you keep your feet firmly on the ground and make step after step. I wished more indie studios would take this no-nonsense approach to viewing money and marketing realistically and based on what these do for you. My guess is the publishers try to fish for bargains, developers that would accept unfavourable terms because they are under pressure to make ends meet. Of course a lot of devs take more risks than they should. You staying in control is a good litmus test that you are on the right track and have the know-how to run your business. That you have a plan for the next 18 months and longer even better. Steady substantial progress is underrated these days.

    There is only one thing that I disagree with: the land of the free -- is full of people who aren't because they are no longer in control.
     
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  23. Maxie Arcane

    Maxie
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    i find it improbable that colon ship will be any good given that aod was unplayable and vince appears too recalcitrant to consider any substantial changes to gameplay design
     
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  24. Think big! Smoking Dicks

    Think big!
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    Admittedly this one
    could be legitimate. Any there options for text sizes?
     
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  25. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    Adding an option to increase the font size is on the list, but it's not as easy as it sounds as it requires a scalable interface, so we won't be able to do it in the near future. Higher priority is given to tasks that affect more players.
     
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