It almost seems unbelievable, but we’re already pushing into our sixth year of full-time development!
Once again it’s time to look back over the past year at our progress, which in 2018 includes several major releases, other roguelike happenings, and our first full year on Steam. Here’s an image collage to get us started :D
Selection of images from the past year of Cogmind-related development as posted on this blog,
forums, and Twitter (full mega size here).
This year we hit a pretty surprising milestone: Over 10,000 hours of work on Cogmind!
Cogmind Monthly Development Hours, 2013.7-2018.11 (click for crisper full-size version).
(The color coding is for different aspects of development tackled each month,
the subject of a future in-depth article to come at a later time.)
The tally at the end of November just edged past that mark to reach 10,062. In Year 5 I added another 1,690 hours, which is 17.4% less than the 2,046 hours of 2017. Work on the game itself totaled 763 hours this year, compared to 896 hours of community-related work (purple). That’s a 1:1.17 game-to-community ratio for 2018, compared to 1:1.10 last year. The lower ratio, as well as overall decrease in hours, can both be attributed to a number of factors:
- Prior to Steam I did occasional small progress updates on the forums, but shortly after the Steam launch there were community requests for frequent news, so I decided to try even more regular reports in the form of “SITREP Saturday.” This does mean I have to spend more time preparing these updates, though I’ll admit they’ve been crucial in helping the dev process seem more alive and driving more sales to… keep development going xD
- I’ve also been streaming more! And over this past year have even started uploading most of the videos to my YouTube channel. This, too, is taking more time out of direct development, but I’ll also admit it’s been beneficial in a number of ways, like helping new players learn more about the game, sometimes attracting new players, and giving me more chances to play and walk through everything that’s going on, which sometimes leads to balance changes or new content. I mean I’m going to play anyway, so may as well do it online to get the other benefits, too, right? :) (it’s also been a lot of fun just hanging out with the community, but technically it still counts as “work”!)
- Even now, 19 months after it happened, The Concussion continues to be a drag on development. Dealing with it still requires a fair number of hours spent on hospital visits every week for treatment, and I have no choice but to sleep more than I normally would each day. Altogether these hours come out of direct dev time, since I can’t reasonably reduce the amount of community involvement without taking a clear hit in terms of revenue :/
The biggest chunk of total usable hours that were instead allocated elsewhere went to POLYBOT-7, although technically that has indirect benefits for Cogmind as well, since it’s a somewhat similar game and got some decent attention. I’ll talk more about that later.
All that said, 2018 has certainly been a very productive year. According to the graph, November actually saw more work on the game proper than any single month since April 2017, the month right before the major Beta 1 release--from this you can probably tell that the upcoming Beta 8 has a decent number of fresh goodies ;). And this year we finally got to a number of major features required for 1.0, making good progress checking off the last remaining bits of the roadmap, alongside other additions.
Although there were only four major releases in Year 5, every one pushed Cogmind forward in a big way.
Beta 4 and Beta 5 piled on tons more QoL, improved the early game, and reworked imprinting to make it a much more interesting strategic choice. Then the following two releases took longer than any had before…
Most recently Beta 7 finally replaced the placeholder robot hacking system that’s been in there since 2015, which I’d dubbed the “last major system” we’d need before heading to 1.0. I’m pleased with how it’s turned out (better be--it took forever to design and implement!) Some further adjustments were made in Beta 7.1, and we’ll probably get some more robot hacks eventually, but for now you can play with the 65 already in there :D
We also had a little fun for April Fool’s this year, the kind of thing I’d like to do again… On that note, be on the lookout for another special intermediate update at some point this month, hopefully not long before Beta 8 itself lands.
So what other peripheral activities was I up to this year instead of working purely on Cogmind?
Well, 2018 is only the second time I’ve participated in 7DRL since creating the first iteration of Cogmind back in 2012. You can read more about that, and the game itself, in the original release announcement. One could say it’s a Cogmind-like ;)
It really ate up a ton of time, though, which is kinda funny because it’s suppose to be a “7-day” roguelike xD. All told I took a month off for that including planning, the week itself, and writing a massive postmortem. I’m very glad to have done it, and would love to do more 7DRLs, though I’m thinking it’s probably a better idea to skip 2019 in the interest of getting Cogmind to 1.0.
I also took part in this year’s Roguelike Celebration, which while technically only a couple days long also requires that I travel around the world, so there’s that plus the fact that I need to arrive even earlier to avoid serious jet lag, and then I combined it with a bit of vacation to make the trip more worthwhile. Such a great event, and although my talk wasn’t focused on Cogmind in particular, being about roguelikes did of course still provide a few opportunities to mention my own work. Beyond the actual attendees, the video of that talk was watched over 6,000 times in its first month o_O
And although it didn’t really take much time, I did finally release a new version of REXPaint, one of my primary dev tools and one that’s used by quite a few other devs and artists. I do have bigger plans for it, including putting out a sizable 2.0 one day, but don’t want that to interfere with Cogmind development so keep waiting until at least Cogmind 1.0 is a thing.
As usual I’ve been writing a lot--documenting events, analyzing things, sharing knowledge…
One of the highlights this year is being featured as the front page main article on Gamasutra three separate times!
- Workflow and Design Behind Creating One Game from Another in a Single Week (7DRL Postmortem)
- Designing and Building a Robust, Comprehensive Achievement System
- How to Make a Roguelike
These are all articles originally serialized on the Grid Sage blog which I then merged into larger single articles for that site.
As mentioned earlier, this year I’ve also been putting together a ton of progress reports for the forums/Steam. We’re up to 40 SITREPs now…
In addition to the blog and these other outlets, I’ve continued hosting the r/RoguelikeDev FAQ Friday discussions. #69 through #76 are all from this year, and you can check them out for writings on topics like Packaging and Deployment, Map Memory, Movement, Procedural Generation, and Consumables.
Steam, Year 1
While Cogmind may have been on sale for three and a half years now, it’s only been on Steam for a little over a year. I haven’t been doing any business-related articles like I used to, not since the launch post-mortem from November 2017, though I did take a stat-heavy look at player metrics on Steam. (It was nice to get that out of the way before GDPR this year convinced me to change Cogmind stats back to being opt-in only, meaning that any data we collect now is only a minority of the total.)
Today I’ve put together a graph showing how sales on Steam have been trending over time:
Cogmind sales history on Steam, Oct 2017~Nov 2018 (click for full size). Note: Sales off Steam are excluded here, but I mirror all discounts on my website, and the relative amount of revenue from direct sales pretty consistently hovers between 10-15% of all revenue, because yeah a lot of people buy games through Steam but Valve takes a huge nearly one-third cut of revenue from games sold on their site!
Sales are decent considering it’s already been a year, though you can clearly see the total volume shrinking. Apparently I need to do more major releases paired with visibility rounds :P (“Visibility rounds” are Steam’s option for developers to show a game off to more people a limited number of times during its lifetime, and which must be paired with a significant update.)
Or I guess just doing discounts like 25%+ would likely bring in a lot of revenue, although I don’t really like the potential long-term impact that can have, not with a game as niche as Cogmind. I’m being as conservative as possible here… Besides, I already promised to keep the occasional discounts to 10% during EA, so not much room to maneuver there ;)
I did have that single two-week 25% discount at the end of last year in exchange for Valve giving me free front-page publicity for a day during that period, so it’s good to see what kind of impact those things can have (I wrote about this on TIGS).
Financially we’re doing okay, but I’m starting to get worried about next year. This won’t change much with regards to development plans since it was already about time to start aiming closer to 1.0 anyway, though I can see it keeping me from straying too far from that goal in 2019 :P
Special thanks to Shogo, Joshua, Wladimir, Gary, and others for your generous donations this year to help keep development going!
If possible I’d like to reach 1.0 next year! So first we’re going to get an action-packed Beta 8, then I’ll switch gears to focus on features that must be done by 1.0 (which is just a milestone, by the way, not the end of the road!).
There are absolutely tons more optional features I’d like to add, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to safely fund development past another year of EA. We haven’t yet hit the review threshold I was hoping for, at least not in Steam terms (we’ve passed the threshold, but they don’t count reviews from non-Steam purchasers :/). I mean, yeah we could’ve hit it already if I’d only released on Steam rather than via direct sales so long before, but to be honest this wouldn’t have been a net positive because a huge chunk of Alpha revenue would’ve gone to Valve rather than me, making it hard to put so much time into polishing, so I’m glad things have worked out as they have so far.
But anyway, who knows, we may still hit it if I take too long to finish 1.0 ;)
Many thanks to everyone who’s left a review so far--we’ve definitely got a much higher review-to-sale ratio than your average game on Steam <3
As for the release date, “next year” is a pretty broad target, though I can get a little more specific for you: We’re going to get at least several more Betas before reaching 1.0, so it’s unlikely to happen before Q4. Of course, if it gets too late I may have to avoid the holiday season and end up pushing it into 2020. October would be an okay month, but I’m not too keen on releasing in the months shortly after that. Anyway, we’re flexible here :)