D-Pad Studio

Games As A Service

Part #3 - Final

Written by Jo. These thoughts are my own, and are not written on behalf of D-Pad Studio. Meet me and my team at DICE, GDC and SXSW 2017!

You can read this post in it's entierty here.

Why did we decide to expand on a game we'd decided was finished? We were already happy with sales, and we didn't really feel like the game needed anything at this point.

Well, we did it mostly as an experiment! An experiment to see what effect it'd have on the game's performance.

We started working with the fact that we had cut a lot of initial ideas for the game (yes, even 5 week projects can go through an extensive cut-out period). We'd planned bosses, levels, mechanics - all got cut under our ruthless time restraint.

Even with our game having been released for over a year, getting great reviews and sales, there was something nagging at us - a feeling that the game didn't live up to it's full potential. Savant was coming out with a new album at the time, which is when we finally buckeled to our curiosity! Let's EXPAND!

We set aside a month to work on the expansion, thinking we'd add several levels, bosses and challenges - since the ground work was in place, it'd be "easy peasy".

One should think we'd learned from past mistakes!

After a couple of days, the cutting started. This time we had to design the game with limited mobile specs in mind. We boiled down the design to include one level and one boss, already pushing our limits.

Savant's new album hit, while the game got delayed. Just a couple of days mind you, but enough so that it stabbed fiercly at our morale. Seems testing on mobile is a tricky affair, with billions of devices to consider.

Our experiment hadn't failed though, as we got the results we sought -

Now, let's get to the interesting bit! Did the release of the expansion help sales? Would reviews be affected? Would the press pick it up again? Any lasting positive effects? Well, no.

After the initial boost during launch where we put the game on the front-page of Steam using the Visibility Rounds, sales trickled down to the same steadyness as before. In fact, I don't think there was a change at all, comparing other times we've been using the Visiblity Round, but with no game expansion.

It ended up as a valuable lesson though, like experiments should!

We were really happy that our existing playerbase got a nice surprise, but that's about it for what we gained from working on the expansion.

Surprisingly, user-reviews actually suffered on all platforms after the expansion hit! We had tested it too little - so while there was more in-game content, it had been balanced poorly due to our testing woes.

Servicing can potentially help your title in many ways. The other day, I booted up Witcher 3 again and was thorughly delighted to see that they had re-worked a lot of the HUD and inventory management screens, and that made me keep playing (This time I'm completing this giant thing!)

But did they gain any extra sale from me? Nope, and I already rated the old build with a full score, despite it's inventory flaws. I guess Games as a Service says more about developer's willingness to appease it's existing crowd, than that of pure sales.

Then again, we've only released two games thus far, and the long-term effects of keeping your games updated might actually have a huge effect on future titles.

Early Accessing a game is another chapter of 'Games As Service' that I hope to experiment with later.

For now, I'm happy we get to use a little time to refine how people experience our games, as long as we don't get stuck in a rut because of maintainance. I know a lot of devs who could have spent valuable time making something new.

Thinking back, what if Sega had been stuck maintaining the original Sonic games for months and months. Would Sonic 2 have been as impactful with all it's improvements over it's predecessor? Or Sonic 3 for that matter, my absolute favorite of the bunch.

It's always been hard to tell where the standards of the industry are headed next, so for now I hope to see more developers experiment with new ways of maintaining their titles! Can't wait to get crackin on our new projects!

End Of Part #3 - Thank you for reading! Soon I will write more on Owlboy's development, and we're also doing a US tour this month! Starting in Feb, we are going talk at DICE (Las Vegas), GDC (San Francisco) and SXSW (Austin, Texas), so meet us why don'tcha!

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