Bearded Giant Games – Studio update 2018

It’s been almost 6 months since Ebony Spire: Heresy has been released! We had a bumpy start but things picked up and I finally reached a point post-release where I can afford to continue working on my games again and focus on the studio.

Before I move on any further: there’s a mailing list you can subscribe to. Doing so before this Friday will net you an itch.io copy of Ebony Spire and Rogue Sweeper. Get two cool games for free and stay up-to-date with my projects and articles.

Launch and End of 2017

For a recap with what happened during the launch, check out my  gamasutra post from back then.

Things picked up afterwards. Ebony Spire: Heresy was and is played by more than 1000 people! If you payed attention to my sales goals we managed to reach them, albeit not as fast as I would have liked. However, the gamasutra post got shared far and wide and support from players and developers alike kept coming in. So let me say this: Thank you! Thank you! Without the help of so many developers, marketers and players I would have never been able to make it.

And I made it! It’s April 2018 and the studio is still here, my apartment is still in my possession and my cats are even happier than ever. The mental fatigue has passed and I can open up twitter again without feeling ashamed of having let people down. I learned a few, extremely, valuable lessons, from this experience and I’m going to put them to good use.

Some changes did occur with me relocating in Bucharest to pursue a new contract in order to keep paying the bills and make sure I’ll never have to go through that entire experience again! But work has been steady now and the paycheck can cover the mortgage, rent and leave me with a bit more cash to travel back-and-forth between Iasi and Bucharest. And I can even put some money aside for the future. Most if not all of the revenue from ES:H February onward was put aside and is used to fund a future project so I can say that, at least, my future game is founded by the previous one.

2018 Plans and Goals

Now that things have settled down it’s time to get back to work. I have a beta for Ebony Spire almost wrapped up and ready to go with better international keyboard support and more content. Hoping to wrap it up soon on the Steam front (Windows, Mac and Linux). Right now I’m focusing on handling an Android port of the game due to release sometime next month. I’ll discuss the changes in a future article but for now, know this: 100% of the content is shared between the Desktop and Mobile version. Adapting the UI and interaction with the game’s elements is an interesting experience and I think I have it nailed down. You guys will be the judge of that. So in the near future a portable version of Ebony Spire will be out and about for Mobile and ChromeOS users.

I also plan on releasing a new game before 2019 ends. It won’t be a sequel of Ebony Spire but it will use an upgraded version of the engine. Can’t give many details now since I do not want to raise expectation but I’ll just say this: If you liked Ebony Spire, you will absolutely love the new game.

As for Ebony Spire itself, if the Android port works well enough I plan on using it to release new adventures in the world of Dae’eria. It seems like a good and cost-effective way to finance more games.

As for me, I have lowered my goals, at least for the time being. Side work is lucrative enough so I currently do not rely on having to make bank with my games. That being said, here’s what I plan to achieve with the two projects under development:

  • Ebony Spire (Android): 200 copies sold at a 1.99$ price. It’s way less than other premium first person dungeon crawlers on the play store and it’s well suited for the mobile experience (short play sessions in a coffee-break game). The revenue from it will be used to finance the marketing strategies for Game #2 (trailer, ads, promotional art).
  • Game #2: 400 copies at a 2.99$ price tag on Steam (Linux, Windows and Mac). And I’m not looking at selling 400 copies in ~1-2 months as with Ebony Spire. But it should be enough to keep the ball rolling on getting my games to finance the next one. And the next one after that.

Let’s be honest here

I’m not here to make hit games or mass-appeal games. I’m a weirdo who likes a certain subset of genres and wants to create the games he would like to play. I’m now okay with the idea of not being able to survive only on my games (although I would love it). This being said I do not plan on quitting. Game development has been part of my life since 2006 and I do not see it going away any time soon. But in order to keep it that way, I have to adapt to the state of things. Yes, Steam is big and extremely over crowded. And I’m fine with that. It’s still the best way for me to reach a wider audience than I’ll ever be able to do it. So for my type of games and projects Steam is ideal.

But there’s one thing the launch from November taught me. Even if I “make it” with my next game and somehow the numbers represent a sustainable business model I’ll still keep my contracts and/or jobs. At least until I manage to score 2-3 games like that in a row. Last time I budgeted for about 4-5 months and everything got tossed up-side down in a single month. A wise poster on hacker news said to me: “Boy, save enough money to survive for 2 years next time”. And that’s what I plan to do, but instead of being able to survive for two years, I want to prove that I can meet my goals consistently.

I’m also doing something I haven’t done last year: Invest in marketing! I have the website and blog up and running. And a facebook page. And I’m setting aside funds to afford to pay someone for the promotional art and trailers. And I’m using all the funds from my games to invest in the next one.

I was lucky enough to survive in an industry harsh and cruel. But I was lucky and I had nothing to do with it. Say what you want about the games industry at this point but here’s one thing I’m certain: Indie Developers and players are amazing. So it’s because of people like them that I wake up every morning, safe and sound, able to keep working on my dream.

I love you all. Hopefully I’ll make you proud.

P.s. I have a mailing list setup and ready to go! You can subscribe and get a free-copy of Ebony Spire: Heresy and Rogue Sweeper on itch.io.

P.s.s. There’s also a facebook page setup for the studio. If you’re on facebook (yes, I know) and fancy following us (and you absolutely hate mailing-lists) give it a like!