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Post feature RSS Army of Pixels postmortem

So yeah, AoP 2 is in the making, and I guessed I should write a bit about our experiences with AoP 1. Gameplay, sales and the like - a post-mortem if you want.

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AoP, Army of Pixels was initially a small gig, a little game for Android devices. The team was just a single programmer and a single artist, that is it. We didn't really have any high hopes, we just wanted to do something to try how we can work together.

What went good:

1. Teamwork. Since there was only 2 of us, it was really easy to communicate. We are both strategy fans, so we were able to quickly explain and understand the various concepts of the game.

2. Start small. AoP is an Unity game with pixel based graphics, basically as easy to make as possible. This allowed us to develop rather fast, because we met no technical problems. Only gameplay and design problems, but that is our fault :D

3. Steam Greenlight. Originally we didn't even wanted to greenlight, because frankly, AoP is a very small game and mobile ports aren't even welcomed on steam. But we did it eventually, and we learned a lot, and by that I mean a LOT.

4. Weekend works. Since both of us are employed, we had to work on AoP in our spare time. In some weekends we rented an office or just went to each other's house to develop the game. It was really nice to instantly communicate with each other, getting feedback and changing ideas, also a huge morale boost. You just work harder if you know that the dude next to you also works hard.

5. Reworking the mechanics. Initially AoP was a bit different, much more "realtime" than now. Believe me, that mode was just bad. All you did was spamming your units without any tactics. So we rewrote main parts of the game mechanics, added traits and counter-units, and the game suddenly got a lot better, more strategical.

What went bad:

1. Marketing. We had NO idea how to do; also we felt that is somehow not important. Well, IT IS :D We basically didn't built any community, didn't sent screenshots and demos to press, didn't bundle, and so on. We did almost nothing at the marketing front. That resulted in low sales number: despite the almost 90% positive reviews, we made less than 800 sales, and about 3000 USD income. For 2 people and about 2 months of work, that isn't stellar.

2. Mobile version. We initially made AoP for tablets; later we realized that PC players are far more supportive towards indie, pixel titles. However the heritage of the mobile port stuck. No right click, no mouseover, simplified mechanics, quick sessions, hints of a cash shop. All in all, if you make a PC game, don't start on mobile :D

3. No real campaign or multiplayer mode. This is also because the game started as a gig, and we didn't really wanted to put a lot of work into it. But if the foundations are not there, you can't really build on them. We added campaign maps later when we realized that many players wanted it, but they felt rather bland, since the game wasn't prepared for having a lot of different scenarios. Multiplayer was out of question because of this.

4. Not doing it full-time. While we didn't have a lot of coices there, handling AoP as a "secondary project" made all work on it a bit sluggish, unfinished and sporadical. After a long workday you don't really want to debug why saves don't save the position of your flying units; you just want to watch a movie. It is understandable, but it also makes the work a LOT slower, and the end result buggier.

5. Not enough testing. And we don't talk about balance here, but the "the game freezes if you click on continue twice quickly" style mega-showstopper-bugs. The thing is, we were usually so excited that we finished an update, that we tried to push it to live as fast as possible, and we just hoped there won't be any bugs. Yep, we were wrong. Every time.

All in all, we learned a lot from our mistakes, and we are super excited to work on AoP 2. It is certainly much easier to make a sequel of a game: you have a much clearer picture what you want to achieve, and you can avoid all the pitfalls and design mistakes you did in the first one. This time we aim for PC from the beginning, we will have a nice campaign, multiplayer, 3d art, and we won't skip testing this time, hopefully resulting in a better game :)

Anyways, thanks for reading this!

The AoP team

Thr111 - - 96 comments

Neet, like a PvP plants vs zombie match, except both players control the zombies.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes
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