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cowgod
Wandering Minstrel


Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Posts: 114
Location: Pittsburgh, USA

PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 7:17 pm    Post subject: Indie Games of Yesteryear [quote]

Has anyone here played the game "Omega Syndrome" from "Australian Game Developers"? Their site's gone. It used to be at http://www.ausgamedev.com/index.html .

The cached version on google says "Australian Game Developers
That's All She Wrote.

After four years of updating and selling The Omega Syndrome online, I have finally decided to take it off sale and shut the site down. While this game was never profitable by any measure, it was fun working on it for the first few years. However over the last year I have found my motivation to work on it and subsidise it has flagged and recently it has dropped off altogether.

While I may be back with a new site and game in the future (I was never happy with the name of this one), I don't know if I will have the high motivation that is required to make another computer RPG. Why? Fan expectations are high, the potential audience is small and fractured and the amount of work that is required to create even a low quality computer RPG, far exceeds that of any other type of game. So in short I no longer believe they can be successful financially or otherwise, unless they are properly funded and have the very best people working in each area.

As a final word I want to send out a big thank you to all of the people that bought the game and gave me a lot of encouragement over the years. :)

P.S.
If you need to contact me after the site goes offline, you can reach me through hotmail.com. Just tack david_moffatt onto the front."

I'm not some Omega Syndrome fanatic, but I was considering redownloading the demo and possibly even paying for the full game (something I rarely do).

I can still download various versions of the demo from various sites, but what's the point if I can't get the whole game? I'm not going to stalk the poor guy to get his game.

In any case, my point is that it's sad when games are eliminated like this. I've done it with one of my own games as well, though the usual end is that they don't even get finished.

He makes an excellent point about the difficulty of making a quality RPG that people will actually buy. I've always wanted to do so, and I've managed to make some RPGs. I've just never made any that people would actually buy.

Does anyone have any ideas about how we can try to stop this trend? Obviously, there's always going to be indie games that disappear like this, but I'd like to think that there's some way we can help balk this trend.

I think royalty-free art resources and engines like FIFE are helping to deal with, but they disappear just like everything else (assuming they even get done).
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Terry
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Joined: 16 Jun 2002
Posts: 798
Location: Dublin, Ireland

PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 7:20 pm    Post subject: [quote]

If this isn't a clever publicity stunt, it should be. I hadn't even heard of this guy's game until this happened.

I'd check out the demo, but I'm afraid I might like it. And then be unable to play the rest of it :(

Quote:
Does anyone have any ideas about how we can try to stop this trend? Obviously, there's always going to be indie games that disappear like this, but I'd like to think that there's some way we can help balk this trend.


In most cases like this, I think developers just release their shareware as freeware and move on. What's happened here is really unusual.
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RampantCoyote
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Joined: 16 May 2006
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 8:06 pm    Post subject: [quote]

I spoke with Dave a little bit on this a few months before he decided to throw in the towel. I respect what he did with the game, how much effort and passion he put into it, and how hard he tried to make it work. I don't have much insight into everything he did, and he's got some experience that I lack.

But I think he made some mistakes. And he may very well one day pop in over here and correct me and tell me I'm an idiot --- and maybe he'll be right. But here's what I think.

I talked about it a little bit in "Is There Hope For Indie Computer RPGs," but here are some specific thoughts:

#1 - Pricing. Dave kept experimenting with the price. It was down as low as $10 (on sale), priced at $15 for a while, and then he jacked it up to $40 or $50 at one point, then back down to $30. Personally, I felt it was very comfortably priced at $15 - $20. I felt cranking the price up too high was trying to take advantage of customers... and also priced it in the same range as mainstream RPGs like Oblivion. In spite of the fact that The Omega Syndrome had some nice features and story you wouldn't get from Oblivion, do you REALLY want to invite customers to make that comparison? Also, if any customer was hesitant about buying the game (and I think a study once found that the average Internet customer visits a site multiple times across several days / weeks before committing to a purchase), the fluctuation in price would encourage them to sit tight and see if it would drop in price again.

Not that experimenting in price is a bad thing, either. But I think it could have been handled better.

#2 - Failure to move on. I think (again, I'm playing armchair quarterback here... so feel free to disregard) that Aus Game Dev would have been better served producing an Omega Syndrome 2 and 3 using the (upgraded) engine, besides just iterating on the same game for 3+ years. IMO, rather than getting someone to pay $40 for your indie RPG, why not get them to pay $60 and buy THREE of your indie games? The cross-selling things work, and if someone likes one game in the series, they may often go back and try the prequels. Also, the fact that there are sequels to the game is a confidence-booster for prospective customers - they say to themselves, "Hey, wow, the game was good enough to spawn sequels! Maybe I ought to try it out!" But he was really, really devoted to his game (a good thing!).

#3 - Marketing. A lot of people commented that they'd never heard about the game until AFTER he shut off sales and his website. This suggests to me that his message hadn't nearly achieved the level of penetration necessary to say definitively that the game "didn't sell."

Maybe I'm fulla crap here, but that's my feeling. And I'm not saying that ANY of the above remotely resembles "easy." I think he's right on many points. I'm really sorry the game didn't do well for him. What I would hope to see is a new website and new game appear in the future, with "The Omega Syndrome" available at a discount price to help cross-sell the new title. It was a worthy game.
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Rainer Deyke
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Joined: 05 Jun 2002
Posts: 672

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 4:24 am    Post subject: [quote]

Trying to make money from indie rpgs is like trying to make money through any other artistic endeavour. It's clearly possible - just look at Aveyond, Cute Knight, or any of the Spiderweb games - but you have to be really good at it and/or have mainstream appeal.

The Omega Syndrome, I think, just wasn't good enough. I found the screenshots so unattractive that I never bothered to download the game. Maybe the game plays better than it looks, but that's not good enough when you're trying to sell something.

I find it telling that the game just disappeared, instead of being released as freeware. It looks like the developer stopped caring about the game the moment he realized it's not going to make him rich. Apparently he's not even supporting his existing customers anymore. No wonder he failed.

(And lest you think I'm being unfair, I've come to the same conclusion about my own games - that they just aren't good enough. However, at least I'm still supporting my games, and I've already released one of my shareware games as freeware.)
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Verious
Mage


Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 409
Location: Online

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 3:19 pm    Post subject: [quote]

The game title "Omega Syndrome" conjures up images of science fiction and while there have been many successful science fiction games; they are far out numbered by fantasy games. I believe his target audience was artifically limited by the game title.

Note: I have never seen nor played Omega Syndrome and only recently heard about it.

I personally love science fiction games, as well as, games that mix science fiction with fantasy (for example games set in the Shadowrun universe mix technology with magic).
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BadMrBox
Bringer of Apocalypse


Joined: 26 Jun 2002
Posts: 1019
Location: Dark Forest's of Sweden

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 5:12 pm    Post subject: [quote]

I never heard of the game before this topic :/
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DeveloperX
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Joined: 04 May 2003
Posts: 1624
Location: Decatur, IL, USA

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 5:32 pm    Post subject: [quote]

BadMrBox wrote:
I never heard of the game before this topic :/


How very interesting...I saw a download for this game somewhere (don't remember what site I was on) exactly two days before I read this post...huh...never saw this coming.
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cowgod
Wandering Minstrel


Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Posts: 114
Location: Pittsburgh, USA

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 6:22 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Terry wrote:
If this isn't a clever publicity stunt, it should be. I hadn't even heard of this guy's game until this happened.

...


It's not.

RampantCoyote wrote:

...

#1 - Pricing. Dave kept experimenting with the price. It was down as low as $10 (on sale), priced at $15 for a while, and then he jacked it up to $40 or $50 at one point, then back down to $30. Personally, I felt it was very comfortably priced at $15 - $20. I felt cranking the price up too high was trying to take advantage of customers... and also priced it in the same range as mainstream RPGs like Oblivion. In spite of the fact that The Omega Syndrome had some nice features and story you wouldn't get from Oblivion, do you REALLY want to invite customers to make that comparison? Also, if any customer was hesitant about buying the game (and I think a study once found that the average Internet customer visits a site multiple times across several days / weeks before committing to a purchase), the fluctuation in price would encourage them to sit tight and see if it would drop in price again.

Not that experimenting in price is a bad thing, either. But I think it could have been handled better.

#2 - Failure to move on. I think (again, I'm playing armchair quarterback here... so feel free to disregard) that Aus Game Dev would have been better served producing an Omega Syndrome 2 and 3 using the (upgraded) engine, besides just iterating on the same game for 3+ years. IMO, rather than getting someone to pay $40 for your indie RPG, why not get them to pay $60 and buy THREE of your indie games? The cross-selling things work, and if someone likes one game in the series, they may often go back and try the prequels. Also, the fact that there are sequels to the game is a confidence-booster for prospective customers - they say to themselves, "Hey, wow, the game was good enough to spawn sequels! Maybe I ought to try it out!" But he was really, really devoted to his game (a good thing!).

#3 - Marketing. A lot of people commented that they'd never heard about the game until AFTER he shut off sales and his website. This suggests to me that his message hadn't nearly achieved the level of penetration necessary to say definitively that the game "didn't sell."

Maybe I'm fulla crap here, but that's my feeling. And I'm not saying that ANY of the above remotely resembles "easy." I think he's right on many points. I'm really sorry the game didn't do well for him. What I would hope to see is a new website and new game appear in the future, with "The Omega Syndrome" available at a discount price to help cross-sell the new title. It was a worthy game.


#1. I don't think experimenting with the price is such a bad thing, though $40 is alot for an indie rpg. I would pay $30 for an rpg with an expansion set, but I wouldn't pay $40 for one game unless it completely blew my mind.

I can pay $10-$20 + $3 shipping on Amazon.com for a slightly old mainstream RPG. That may be part of the problem. Indie RPGs usually aren't exactly cutting edge, so they should be priced to compete with games that are a few years old.

#2. That sounds like really good advice.

#3. I probably should put more effort into marketing, but I think it would be better to have more games for sale first. Right now, I just have the one (which isn't an RPG) plus some games from Reflexive that I'm selling as an affiliate.

There seem to be alot of websites with Omega Syndrome demos (which don't seem to actually be available any more), so he at least did some free marketing for the game.

I'm planning to start development on an indie RPG after I finish my current game. I've done a couple of freeware RPGs before, though only one was really complete.

There doesn't seem to be any way to insure that I'll actually make money. There does, however, seem to be a general consensus that only casual games have much chance of selling.

I think that I'm going to take the basic structure of an RPG but make it "casual" by limiting a few staple RPG features. That seems to be what Cute Knight (as an example) did, but I plan to have different differences than what Cute Knight had.

Perhaps if I limit the features I don't like too much and enhance the features I really enjoy, I can make a game that would be pretty cool. I don't have the resources to make a real full-featured RPG, at least if I want to get it done this decade.

Maybe someone will buy it. Maybe no one will. But at least I will finally get to play that game I've always wanted but never had.
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RampantCoyote
Demon Hunter


Joined: 16 May 2006
Posts: 546
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 11:30 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Quote:
I think that I'm going to take the basic structure of an RPG but make it "casual" by limiting a few staple RPG features. That seems to be what Cute Knight (as an example) did, but I plan to have different differences than what Cute Knight had.

Georgina's let slip a couple of clues as to what she's thinking about for Cute Knight 2, but I think it's mainly thinking-aloud right now. She's just released Fatal Hearts, and has a small side-project she may be working on.

Aveyond 2 is possibly gonna make it out by the end of November.

Doing a "casual RPG" is pretty tricky. I don't think either Cute Knight or Aveyond were designed to be "casual RPGs" - they just kinda accidentally created that niche. How big is it? How many more casual RPGs can it sustain? I don't really know. The trick was getting picked up by the major portals and promoted all at some magical point in time.

Quote:
Perhaps if I limit the features I don't like too much and enhance the features I really enjoy, I can make a game that would be pretty cool. I don't have the resources to make a real full-featured RPG, at least if I want to get it done this decade.


Definitely. You want to create something you are proud of --- something you'd be happy with even if it didn't sell --- but the big trick is shrinking the scope to something you can actually complete.

At least that's what I keep telling myself. I still have only ONE non-freeware indie game out there, and its not an RPG...
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cowgod
Wandering Minstrel


Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Posts: 114
Location: Pittsburgh, USA

PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 5:41 pm    Post subject: [quote]

RampantCoyote wrote:
Doing a "casual RPG" is pretty tricky. I don't think either Cute Knight or Aveyond were designed to be "casual RPGs" - they just kinda accidentally created that niche. How big is it? How many more casual RPGs can it sustain? I don't really know. The trick was getting picked up by the major portals and promoted all at some magical point in time.


I was planning to make a casual RPG that would have an "Mature" rating (if it were ever actually rated). It probably wouldn't get picked up by portals because of content. The idea would be that busy adults would have time to play it because there isn't as much wandering around in mazes or solving puzzles.

Perhaps I should rethink things a little to make the game portal-friendly. My site gets essentially no traffic, so it's kind of hard to sell a game from it. I'm working on that, but the best way to improve my site has to be to make more games to put on it. (That and making my downloads page actually look good again.)

If I'm going to make a mature game, my guess is that I'll have to make it as mature as possible for the shock value. I don't want to make a game that's pornographic, so maybe I should stay out of the "Mature" market.

I just feel like a game that I would like to play would contain adult situations, much like Fallout 2. I have to ask myself want audience I want the game to be targeted towards.

RampantCoyote wrote:
Definitely. You want to create something you are proud of --- something you'd be happy with even if it didn't sell --- but the big trick is shrinking the scope to something you can actually complete.

With RPGs, I think the main thing is creating content. I believe the programming will be the easiest part of developing the game. Scripting the storyline and doing the artwork will be the hardest (though it will be my business partner who does the art).

I've programmed several freeware RPGs, only one of which I'd call complete (though I did have a complete, albeit pathetic, program for another, just no content). This experience leads me to believe I will get the programming done in relatively short order and then have a heck of a time trying to get the content made.

I saw that Shadowflare has a full "episode" for free and then another 2-3 episodes that are included in the full game. I don't think that would be entirely reasonable. The free part of the game will have to be much less if I'm ever going to get the game done.
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RampantCoyote
Demon Hunter


Joined: 16 May 2006
Posts: 546
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 9:26 pm    Post subject: [quote]

True - the portals are REALLY squeamish about anything resembling offensive content. It's all birthday cakes 'n stuff. Casual and mature content are largely mutually exclusive.

(Although Cute Knight does sneak in some implied prostitution...)

Anyway... in general, the major portals aren't interested in anything BUT truly casual games. The fact that CK and Aveyond were RPGs were largely incidental.

There are some other portals that you can go through with a more 'core' audience with an RPG, such as Manifesto Games, GarageGames, Shrapnel Games, Matrix Games, and Reflexive Arcade. (Oh, and Rampant Games... I have it on good authority they rock... :) )

The thing with the casual portals is that getting your game there doesn't mean automatic success. If you manage to get onto and stay on their top 10 for a few weeks, you can do very, very well. But there are a lot of guys who drop off the charts immediately, and see very little from the portals. The arguments at indiegamer rage about going portal or not. There are some risks, and the portals are getting into price-wars right now where the biggest losers are the game developers. Some guys are doing very well through the portals, and there are others who are doing quite well disregarding them.

You are not wrong in considering how you are going to market your game from the get-go.

I'm personally not fond of the "shock value" option, but that's me. However, I AM going into more grown-up territory with Frayed Knights. Topics like sex and hemp golems are just too ripe for humor to pass up.
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Hajo
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Joined: 30 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:51 am    Post subject: [quote]

cowgod wrote:

I was planning to make a casual RPG that would have an "Mature" rating (if it were ever actually rated). It probably wouldn't get picked up by portals because of content. The idea would be that busy adults would have time to play it because there isn't as much wandering around in mazes or solving puzzles.


This triggered some interest in me. Questions, once again.

At least for my place, I have heard that games offered for download on sites must be suitable for children of 12 and older. Otherise your game needs a certification, which costs some money (~ 1000 euros if I'm not mistaken).

How will you distribute your game if it has an age rating higher than that?
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BadMrBox
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Joined: 26 Jun 2002
Posts: 1019
Location: Dark Forest's of Sweden

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:38 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Quote:
At least for my place, I have heard that games offered for download on sites must be suitable for children of 12 and older. Otherise your game needs a certification, which costs some money (~ 1000 euros if I'm not mistaken).

How will you distribute your game if it has an age rating higher than that?
You have absolutely heard wrong.
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RampantCoyote
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Joined: 16 May 2006
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 4:35 pm    Post subject: [quote]

It depends upon where you do business, I guess. Perhaps your country has those requirements. So far (crossing fingers), the U.S. does not. Good luck getting your game in major retail stores without a rating, but that's a requirement by the retail stores, not by the government.

So far, every attempt by the government to legislate mandatory game ratings and to make game sales illegal based on age and rating has been struck down as unconstitutional. I really hope we keep succeeding on that front.

If your games border on pornography, there may be other laws governing that. But then you'd totally lose my interest in them.
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BadMrBox
Bringer of Apocalypse


Joined: 26 Jun 2002
Posts: 1019
Location: Dark Forest's of Sweden

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:05 pm    Post subject: [quote]

Ah, sorry Hajo. I didn't think about that you live in Germany. It is surely as you say it is, in Germany but nowhere else. You guys have seriously (excuse my french) fuckedup rules when it comes to games.

Quote:
And yes, I'm positive that games with a rating higher than "suitable for children of 12 and older" may not be offered on download sites, unless they have an official rating, telling for which age they are suitable.
Maybe so in Germany and on german servers perhaps but I have never heard of it before and less have I seen anyone care about if there would be such laws.
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