CORE BUILD AND DLC, 15th August 2016
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, we love the idea of crowd-funding along with all of its pros and cons. We also really like the idea of alpha funding or early access – the idea where your community funds your playable builds at an early stage and then actively engages in its development. However, for us, these options were not viable simply because when we first found out about these development alternatives, we were just too far along with our own code base. So instead, we simply got on with it and slogged away developing on our own dime. Then finally, back in 2012 we released a low cost minimum viable product version of The Surfer®, on the PC.
We made a few sales and received a lot of valuable feedback from fans – people really interested in the game. This direct feedback has been enormous and has helped us to refine what we had developed till that point and this same feedback then assisted with our direction as we built more content. Since then we have been silently working away trying to build a great surfing game. We had implemented a huge feature list after our fledgling 2012 release, understanding that among other things we needed to focus on content and production values. We also understood that despite our size or lack of resources, in the end, our customer still deserves a quality game experience. People don’t expect that an independent game should have as many bells and whistles as a triple A title, but they do expect it to be good, which is reasonable. To implement our features and to achieve the quality level we are aiming for, we needed to plan carefully as to how we were going to achieve our goals on a daily basis. At this stage, our budget only allows us to afford to work 3 days per week and some of us work second jobs, so this extra content was always going to take a while. A “while” in this instance (from PC to console) literally meant another three and a half years! In light of this snail’s pace timeframe, we had to figure out a way around our obvious conundrum. So what we decided to do was to deliver a core build followed by DLC. If we could give our audience a great game earlier at a lower price, then with a little luck and a few sales we can expedite the development of the remaining content as well. And no, DLC in this instance isn’t a cynical money grab by a large publisher with a singular focus on the bottom line. Nor is it a case notbeing able to finish what we started on our own dime; our problem is simply the slow pace of the development. We decided that for us, the best method was to pursue something similar to an episodic game, or “quasi episodic” as Sony put it. This is where each piece of content sells at a lower amount but is, nevertheless, a polished and complete product. As it stands, our core build is essentially 60% of our full game. “Core” is a stand-alone product with hours of gameplay, and so we can sleep at night knowing we are not ripping anyone off. Our download content in this case, is delivered in two parts and is essentially the remaining 20% of content for each part – specifically, 3 extra levels, some game modes and characters. To that end we have actually also started a couple of the remaining locations now. The two levels we have started are nowhere near ready, but they are taking shape and they look promising. But, first things first and we need to walk before we run. Our main goal at this stage is to get through the Sony Certification process, which is a tough road that could take us months.