Steam Store page is live!

I had not realized until very recently, after reading a blog on gamasutra.com, that you could publish your Steam store page live before actually having the game ready to go live. A rookie mistake by me, but means my constant reading of other developers blogs pays off sometimes!

So here is it – Battle for Korsun store page live on Steam.

It still needs some work, like the store descriptions being translated into the languages I am going to support, but I hope it will help generate interest in the game prior to launch.

 

Localization

This weekend I focused on putting the framework in place to localize Kursk – Battle at Prochorovka into French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian.

When I first wrote the game I just focused on getting it finished and published with no thought to localizing it. With Battle for Korsun, I have planned to localize right from the start. The work I have put into Korsun can now be backported into Kursk.

There are still some problems to be resolved. All the buttons are images including any wording on them. I need to redo those graphics and add in the code to localize the text on them.  I may have to resize some of them as well if the text is longer than below.

In addition, I have expanded the help guide for Kursk and decided to remove the in-game help. This was again totally graphics and would have required a fair amount of work to localize.

Why am I bothering to localize Kursk now after it has been published and out for a few months? Well, my thinking is that with the Steam Winter sale coming up there will be renewed interest in the game and more chance of sales if I have supported several languages. In addition, some of the localized text can be used in Korsun.

Time will tell if the investment is worthwhile.

Localization, Marketing and Manual writing

This week I have started to look towards the launch of my game and what I need to do to get the game out to a bigger audience than Kursk.

Localization

For Battle for Korsun, I am going to localize the game for Chinese, Spanish, German, Russian and French. I decided on these languages based on the numbers I got from Google Analytics. I set up Google Analytics on my Steam store page and one of the bits of information I get is the country location of the user who browsed to the page.

This weekend I worked on the Menu screen and put in place the ability to localize the text that appears. When I believe I have all the final text I will use fiverr.com to find people to do the translations (including the game manual).

Chinese was a bit of a problem to localize due to a large number of possible characters. I believe I have a solution but need to wait until I get all the translated strings to see if it works. I also found out that Android Studio is by default not set up correctly to recognize character sets like Chinese and I needed to change the file encoding setting to fix it.

My next problem will be if any of the translated text comes back a lot longer than the English equivalent and thus does not fit into the allotted space.

Marketing

I know that marketing is going to be important to help make Korsun a bigger success than Kursk. To this end, I have slowly been building up a list of people to send the game out to review for once’s it is ready.

In addition, I have started a twitter campaign. My wife recently started a class on painting watercolors and it gave me an idea (my first idea was for her to paint a watercolor of a Tiger tank. You can imagine how that went down!). I used Photoshop to give the effect of a watercolor painting to a picture. Once a week from now to launch I will send a different picture out.

Manual Writing

I have been struggling to find the right tool to use to write the instructions for Battle for Korsun. I tried Microsoft Word and also Adobe Acrobat Pro but neither were really doing it for me.

After a quick bit of research, I found that Adobe InDesign is the industry standard tool for writing manuals and books. It would seem my decision to invest in the Adobe Cloud suite is really paying off as InDesign comes as part of that.

I am not expecting to master InDesign, it looks like a great tool, but I can already do more with the layout compared to the others I tried.

Below is an early draft of the cover and first page.

And Finally

Another piece of eye candy from my Graphics Artist as he works on Invaders from Dimension X

Translations, Custom Map and Combat Display

Translations

This week I have been thinking about how to reach more wargamers, especially those whose native language may not be English.

As an experiment, I have decided to have some of my blogs and store items translated into Russian, Chinese and Spanish. Chinese and Spanish because they are number 2 & 3 in the list of spoken languages and Russian because I believe they have a fairly large wargame community.

To do this I have added the WPML plugin to this WordPress site. As I have woocommerce I had to buy the Multilingual CMS version to allow me to get everything fully working.

I then used Fiverr to contact some translators.

So the total cost of this experiment so far has been around $170. What I hope to get is some more hits on this website and sign-ups to my Newsletter with the knock-on effect of more sales of Battle for Korsun when I release it.

Once a month I will look to translate some of my key articles. Battle for Korsun will be supported in multiple languages. Can’t wait to see how this affects sales compared to Kursk.

Map

This week I reached out to Ilya Kudriashov to draw me a custom map for Battle for Korsun. Ilya is an upcoming star in the board game world. Check out some of this work here.

I will use this to help with the marketing of the game. Hope the investment pays off!

Combat Display

I wanted to have a good way to display some combat information in Battle for Korsun. So after a little bit of playing around with photoshop , came up with this:

Progress on all fronts

Some weeks I feel like I have made little progress. This week was looking like one of those weeks but this weekend of few things have suddenly come together and I can see things really have moved on.

Invaders from Dimension X

First up are some early drafts back from my graphics expert for Invaders from Dimension X. In the game, the alien actions are dictated by the player randomly selecting an activation chit.  This is one of those areas where converting a game to PC really shows the benefit.

From this:  

To this:

I am really enjoying working on this game. Once I get the complete set back from him I will finish coding the alien actions.

Battle for Korsun

This weekend I added in the code and data for reinforcements. I had put this off as its mainly a data entry task and laborious with checking that I have not made any input errors.

Anyway now that is done and with some other code changes, I can now play the game through. Next up is a couple of weeks of constant testing and bug fixing and then I think I can hand a version over for some further testing.

My thoughts are at the moment to release a non-AI version first on my site here and then release a full final version with AI on steam. That way those of you that follow my games closely will get the game early and at a discount. This time I will also provide steam keys to those who buy the game early so that they can also get it from steam once it’s released there.

Kampfgruppe

I have been playing around with the unit counters for Kampfgruppe. My present thoughts are to keep information on the counters to a real minimum.

In this example, the 5 represents the number of men in the squad. Other things like movement and firepower would be shown in an information box. I am working on the basis that once a player has played the game a few times they will remember a lot of the key information and can just concentrate on playing the game.

Finally

This is where a lot of the hard work takes place. I also have a laptop so sometimes at the weekend I sit outside with a coffee and enjoy the great California weather. I am aiming to make this a full-time occupation. If I can get to that state I would have reached a life goal.

Why has no one published a computer version of Squad Leader?

So before I answer that questions lets clear up a few items.

  1. Technically there has been a computer version of Squad Leader – http://www.old-games.com/download/9003/avalon-hill-s-squad-leader but I am not sure if anyone who has played the board game would recognize it as such
  2. “Squad Leader” in the heading refers to both the original Avalon Hill game called “Squad Leader” and the follow-up successor “Advanced Squad Leader”
  3. All rights of Avalon Hill, Paradox Interactive, and Hasbro are recognized (not sure I need to state this but maybe they are a fan of this blog….)

I love Squad Leader. I remember asking my parents to buy it for me as a Birthday/Christmas Gift. I remember sneaking into their bedroom and looking at the unopened box – Something I had never done before/since. It is the best gift they ever bought for me (Actually they brought many great gifts – but its probably my most favorite best gift).

Who doesn’t love this map board?

The Guards Counterattack is probably one of the most famous scenarios. If you have the game you would have played it and I am guessing love it and still think fondly about it.

The most famous wargame scenario in history?

Then came the add-ons like Cross of Iron and Crescendo of Doom. More rules, more counters, more scenarios, more boards – everything was right with the world. The problem is, and remains to some extent, finding someone to play against. You cannot explain the rules to someone in 10 minutes and start playing. If you have full knowledge of all the rules and are playing against someone that does not you have an unfair advantage.

There is still a big fan base for these games. MMP still produce material for it, as do other companies who produce add-ons that work with/extend the original game. So you would think this would make it a prime candidate for someone to produce a computer version that can live up to the game.

Buts there’s a problem.

Actually several problems.

Who owns the rights to produce an electronic version of the game?

To find out this information you have to do a little bit of digging. Eventually, you will find out that Paradox Interactive (https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/paradox-entertainment-to-develop-and-publish-diplomacy-and-squad-leader-pc-games.160146/) apparently own the digital rights to the game. But they have done nothing with this right. Why could this be?

The first reason could be that the release of their version of Diplomacy, whose digital rights they acquired at the same time as Squad Leader, was not a success.

The second that they have had tremendous success with other games and do not see the need to.

Finally, can they ever satisfy the fan base for this game?

Ok well then just go ahead and develop the game yourself

Seems reasonable right? I mean who cares about a game that was first published 40 years ago? Well, the law prevents this. Hasbro purchased the rights to many games Avalon Hill produced and therefore ultimately own the rights to them. Much of this is protected by copyright law. I am not a lawyer but with the research I have done this prevents you from doing the following:

  • You cannot copy the graphics
  • You cannot use the name
  • Likely even copying the layout of the map boards is not allowed

However, strangely, the rules mechanics are not subject to copyright laws. You cannot use the text as written by Avalon Hill but if you rewrite and utilize them them using your own words you are ok.

But Tigers on the Hunt has a Advanced Squad Leader mod

This is true but, obstensively, this was produced as a fan mod to the core game.  Seems like a bit of a grey area to me but no one has complained so far. Peter Fisla, the developer of Tigers on the Hunt – http://www.wargamer.com/reviews/review-tigers-on-the-hunt/, was originally going to write a Squad Leader game but hit the copyright problem and gave up on the idea. Tigers on the Hunt is “Inspired” by Squad Leader. Although using the rules for your own game is ok it would get labeled as a SL game by its fans and then Hasbro may come knocking.

So that’s it then?

Seems so unless Paradox have a team secretly working on it or they are prepared to pass the rights onto someone else.

If you know someone at Paradox Interactive could you please pass the following onto them:

Dear Sir

The world is waiting for a computer version of Advanced Squad Leader. Lance, from yobowargames, would welcome the opportunity to bring this great game to the Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms. 

You will forever be remembered as the savior of this legendary game should you allow this to happen.

Kind Regards

What is my place in all of this?

Since I started writing computer-based wargames I have noticed that my interest in the design of hex/counter wargames has increased, as has reading about the thoughts of renowned wargame designers (I am presently reading ). Also, I have become far more interested in the whole wargame industry (is that the right word to use for a hobby?). This new interest has left me with many questions:

  • What makes a good Hex/Counter wargame?
  • Why are there so few computer versions of wargames – especially when there are so many printed versions available to buy?
  • How is it that some of the biggest sellers of printed versions of wargames have such terrible looking websites?
  • How are so many (at least to me seems like many) publishers of wargames able to survive?
  • Why do wargamers seem happy to buy low quality (in my opinion) versions of wargames at fairly high prices? Low quality here means in terms of printed material.
  • Does a printed version of a wargame that sells for $50 mean I can sell a computer version for the same price?
  • Many wargamers play games solo, effectively playing both sides. Are they willing to do that with a computer game or are they all seeking to play an AI?
  • Why has no one published a computer version of Squad Leader?

Perhaps the biggest question for me is “What is my place in all of this?”.

  • Indie Developer? I thought this was me and my place in the industry. But was that ever true? I play board wargames. I have hundreds of books on military/political history (My wife complained a lot about them when we moved recently!). Writing computer games is actually an extension/merger of my love of history, pushing counters around a board and coding.
  • Social Commentator? While the readership of my blogs is low, I do get feedback via emails and I know readers are interested in some of my thoughts. I have been wondering whether I should comment more on the industry as I am now a part of it?
  • Publisher? When I started up yobowargames I just imagined writing computer games and selling them via other established platforms (Steam, Slitherine, GMT Games etc). But with all of these I, of course, have to share the revenue. I have no problem with this as they offer a way to get to my target audience that I do not have. But now my thoughts are changing on this. Can I become my own publisher?
  • Hobbyist? I have a full-time day job. I would love this to be my full-time day job, but the reality is I need to pay the mortgage and put food on the table for my family (and go on nice holidays!). Does this mean what I do is a Hobby?

I feel that I am still defining my role in all of this. Maybe there isn’t a definitive “place” I am in. I do have a vision of where I want to be in three years time but not yet of what path I will take to get there.

korsun.yobowargames.com

Its labor weekend and it’s hot! As I type this the temperature is around 107F/42C.

This morning I went to Pacificon – its only 5 miles away from where I live. It was good to see so many people playing board games. The hobby is alive and kicking!

As it is so hot I couldn’t really focus on coding so instead, I looked at creating my promotional website for Battle for Korsun. I am using Adobe Muse to create it. It’s great for a simple website that is graphics heavy and does not need much interaction.

Whilst it is still a work in progress I went ahead and published it live – korsun.yobowargames.com.

I still have some way to go before the game is ready to release but at least some of the marketing is ready!

 

In Game Effects

One of the advantages of playing a wargame on a computer compared to playing as a Board game is the fact you can have sound and effects. I am trying to evoke the feel of playing board games on a computer so I cannot overdo it.

When a player for Battle of Korsun starts playing for the first time I want them to feel that it really is January, snowing,  icy cold and in Russia. So I have a little falling snow, a moving cloud (that’s going to be a trademark for any of my games) and icy wind sound.

I think what I have put together does a pretty good job.

Makes me cold every time I hear that wind!