Surviving the first three days of Alpha release

In my last blog I closed with the line “My expectations? I will happy if just a handful of people buy it.” So was I happy after the first 3 days of my game being available to buy and download on Steam Early Access? Read on and find out.

My biggest concern was that no one would be able to run the game after they downloaded it. Had I missed something critical? Was my desktop PC different from everyone else’s? I had a little bit of reassurance as Steam actually do a quick test of your game prior to allowing you to push it live. Since I had passed that surely everything must be ok.

The High

Within about one hour of release I had my first sale. On the Friday I was checking my sales figures every 10 minutes and reading every comment that was posted. It was very exciting.

The Low – The First Bug

I released the game fairly late on a Thursday night. It was a pleasant surprise to find that some people had brought the game overnight. But with that came the first report of a bug and it was a big one – quite literally. I had some code that made a selected unit grow and shrink a little so you could clearly see what unit you had picked while deciding where to move it to. Now I tested this game on 3 different Laptops of various ages and power to try and cover any hardware differences that might effect my game. This feature worked perfectly on all of them.

But in the real world it had an altogether different effect. The selected unit would grow and grow until it almost covered the whole screen. I think it also flashed a lot. Below is a screenshot in all its glory. The unit even ends up being upside down!

Luckily the game was still playable you just had to decide your move quickly before the monster icon devoured your screen. Also not all users saw this.

Also another defect was found overnight on Friday that caused the game to crash. I was up early Saturday morning fixing these two issues and had a patch out by midday. Since then nothing much has been reported wrong with the game functionality as it is now.

Community

One thing I was desperately seeking was feedback on the game. I have previously released 2 games on Google Play and 1 on Apple Store but had got very little feedback about my games. So I wanted feedback but I was taken by surprise on how willing purchasers of the game were to give really useful feedback on what they liked, what they didn’t and what they wanted to see in the final version. I now have a small community willing the game on. This has been a real motivator for me.

The suggestions for improvements for the game have been incredible useful to me. I will definitely get some of them into the game. Others I will add into the design of my next game.

I also have found the small community that has built up in such a short time to be very supportive. I had a bug, they accepted it and were really pleased I had it fixed within 24 hours.

The nonsense emails

Since the game became available I have had several emails asking me to give out free steam keys so they can offer them as prizes. What do I get in return? Maybe a good review. I know my market well. Its a very niched section of game players who have similar interests to me. Giving out free keys in this way is not going to generate anything meaningful for me and I certainly don’t want fake reviews.

Next steps

I have a great looking menu coming in the next release and I will try to get some of the features requested into it as well. The next release will mean the game is complete for the player that likes to play both sides in a game. This is a fairly big proportion of my market. After that I can focus on the AI. If I can get that right then I will have something for the other major section of game players.

So back to my opening sentence – In my last blog I closed with the line “My expectations? I will happy if just a handful of people buy it.”

I am very happy.

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