So, what happened?
In less than a month*, Emerge: Cities of the Apocalypse managed to get Greenlit. Its final stats are not that impressive, save for the 60% Positive - 40% Negative vote ratio, which is quite an accomplishment and something to be happy about. Many games, even more popular ones, who manage to get Greenlit with many more Yes votes, usually have a greater Negative vote amount (I have seen Greenlight postmortems of games that were Greenlit with a 30%-70% Yes/No vote ratio).
Sure, it's not like tens of thousands of Steam users dropped their ice creams on the ground and ran home to vote for the game. But bear in mind the following:
- The game had no prior presence on the Net whatsoever. No dev blog, no elaborate posts in game development forums, no Youtube videos, no concept art/teasers, nothing at all. One month before its submission in Greenlight, a demo was posted in a few select forums, and I was looking for specific feedback, like: "Does it run on your computer? Does it crash? When? Is mission X balanced? What is your opinion on asparagus?**"
- No Kickstarter/Indiegogo/Other, more obscure crowdfunding campaigns. It is easily understandable that, if a thousand people back a game, they will help afterwards in raising its visibility: They may promote it in their own social media accounts, they may post in forums they are active in, and so on. Now imagine you have to do this promotion all by yourself (I am pretty sure that for many other developers this is the case as well - I am not trying to stand out as a singular phenomenon, I am merely trying to provide some context).
- This may sound the weirdest of all, but here it is: Prior to the game's submission, no social media presence. Yes, you read that right: No Facebook/Twitter etc. Those accounts were created soon as the demo was released, much to my allergy to social media. Well, I guess that they can be useful*** in some aspects. It is safe to say that my opinion on Social media and their role in society has improved by 5%.
- No prior communities because of past games: No active forums or Facebook groups or whatever about my previous game "X" where I could post one day: "Hey, take a look at my new and exciting game Y!"
So taking all of the above into account, I can say that I'm very happy for a game that literally one day parachuted into the internets and people, though not in hordes, judged the game solely by what they saw and played, and not by PR/viral overhyping and/or crowdfunding buzzwords and fake promises.
Again, that's not to say that all games with communities or strong social media presence or a crowdfunding campaign get more than they deserve. I am more interested here in showing that the game did good for its relatively short lifespan in the internet, rather than bashing games with a longer presence and audience.
* Don't be fooled by the "IN 57 DAYS ON GREENLIGHT" tag next to the Unique Visitors. This is how many days have passed since the game has been submitted. The green line in the diagram below the unique visitors is more accurate, as it ends at day 26, but I think it's still not perfectly reliable, because a couple of days after the game was Greenlit, Yes votes were raised by 2-3, which should not normally be possible. How can one vote after voting is closed? Eh, Valve??
** This is a real question which was actually asked over at the RPG Codex thread. More interestingly, opinions were provided. Some valid, some misguided, as asparagi is not an issue for non-experts.
*** Read: obligatory.
So, what is happening?
After trying to figure out exactly what the glorious Greek Government wants from me to be happy, which is
help promote a practically nonexistent in said country profession a ton of money and taxes for being a legitimate "provider of digital services" in their eyes, I set off for the magic lands of the Steamworks SDK. The details are long, tedious, and made my eyes roll so many times that I believe I can now manage an 180° roll by request. And this was not Steamworks' fault. Nope, not at all. I'm pretty cool with it. Game Maker 8 is where my beef is slowly sizzling to a furious crisp.
Back in 2012, it seemed like a good idea. It still does, in that the game is so easily moddable and DLC can be so easily added to it. Hell, I can create 3 new enemies with mechanics completely new to the game and add them in 3 folders, without ever touching the game's .exe. But versatility of this kind comes with a cost, and the cost is that GM8 is no longer supported. Long story short, problems were overcome, and the game now has Cloud Saves, Stats and Achievements, as well as trading Cards. Also, I think I might have managed to solve a problem that not even Hotline Miami and Risk of Rain managed to adress (they were both made in GM8), but it's too technical to elaborate. Keyword: fpcw register.
So right now I'm testing the game with my loyal min...errr testers, as well as contacting the press for reviews, coverage and mentions. Here are a few key points:
- Send emails to everyone. Make them personal*. Are you sending to James? Start your email with "Hello James", instead of generic greetings. And, for God's sake, never send an email with multiple recipients! Oh, also, if you have Steam keys available (like after your game has been Greenlit and you have set it up properly in Steamworks), provide each reviewer with one. Keep those things in a spreadsheet. Or say "Eh, I can always take a look in my Sent mailbox for this" and suffer.
- Have a press kit page. It's not hard to make, and it makes things easier for reviewers to find information and media related to your game in one place. I won't say it "makes you look more professional". It's not like Toby Fox worked for decades as a professional in the gaming industry before creating a press kit that made his latest work look even more professional and this launched Undertale to the stars. Nothing in the previous sentence is valid.
- Gamerelease *might* help increase your visibility. Visit the page for more info. Mah boi, extra visibility is what all true warriors strive for!
* PROTIP: Many Gaming websites' reviewers can be reached in the following way: email@example.com. Instead of trying to send your game to a flooded firstname.lastname@example.org or an (AHAHAHHHAHAAHAHAAAHAAAA) embedded contact form, be smart. Use an email checker to verify said smartness.
So, what will happen?
Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future*. The game will be released on April 27 2016. Initially I thought that something along $4.99 would suffice (and version 0.9b was uploaded on itch.io with this price), but in the meantime an entire DLC's worth of content was integrated with the game (not to mention Steam's particular gimmics like Trading Cards), so I think that a final price of $7.99 should be good.
What can I expect? How many sales? Positive or negative reviews? Aside from an upcoming interview with Darkstation and a possible review from IGN Greece (and the occasional decent-but-subs-not-in-the-millions Youtuber), no major coverage has occured these days. I was very glad when Rock, Paper, Shotgun posted an article about the Greenlight Campaign and I will be even gladder if they concluded this perilous journey with a simple mention of the game's upcoming release.
But I don't need miracles, not really. All that's needed is that people take a look at the game and see it for what it is: A fun, post-apocalyptic strategy/defense hybrid that can keep you invested for hours upon hours. As King Vendrick said, "The rest will follow".
* Yoda: Saving people from openly admitting they have no idea since 1980.