Posted on Leave a comment

Space Mercs – Beta 1 released

Hello close-to-release Giants!

It’s time to roll out the Space Mercs Beta 1 to all our Patreon subscribers and amazing Discord users who do not take turns taking jabs at my under powered development pc! Snark aside this is what to expect in the first beta:

Performance first and foremost

The game was designed to work and look great on the intel HD 4000 series of integrated graphics card. I know a ton of Linux users are having it on their laptops and I want to make sure they are covered. I’ve been testing the game on my 2012-ish Elitebook 2170p 12” laptop and performance is stable with slight dips when huge battles are happening.

So as Beta 1 rolls out all of you get access to one of the game’s missions: A full on frontal assault of a space station together with some wingmen. It’s a bige battle with ~70 ships, a huge titan ship that spawns in and quite a few turrets blasting away at you from the station. It’s a medium-difficulty mission and I want to see how well it runs on your pc’s.

Gameplay and feel

As soon as we get performance out of the way the subsequent beta’s are going to focus on gameplay and feel. In Beta 1 you get to fly and annihilate everything that moves. Bullets are flying EVERYWHERE, from AI space ships, turrets on the station walls and if that’s not enough, a well placed rocket or a miss managed AI ship might send an asteroid hurling towards you. You guys will have to fly in style and use the Boost (SPACE) and roll (Shift + A/D)! Since it’s one of the missions that happen mid-game you already have access to the prototype hull-regeneration script that triggers when you take down an enemy ship so in-between objectives make sure to pew-pew some red targets out of the way.

If performance is settled (aka it runs well on everything) then I’ll unlock more content in Beta 2 and more features. Just know this: your main weapon is randomized at the beginning of the level. Weapon load outs from Beta 2 onward.

If you’re a Patreon subscriber you already have access to the #test-release channel on Discord! That’s where you can find a link to the latest beta. If you’re not a patreon subscriber you might still get in. Jump on the server and let us know your specs.

Screenshots, Videos and Gifs

It’s beta but it’s not too early to get the word out about the game. If you’re playing the Beta make sure to press R if you just stumbled on a cool sequence of events. Pressing R will record and export a gif of your last 5 in-game seconds to /home/user/.config/unity3D/BeardedGiantGames/SpaceMercs. Feel free to share it everywhere you want. The same thing goes for twitch streams or youtube videos! Heck send us a link to it when it’s up, I want to see it.

 

Blow them up, Giants! o7

 

Posted on Leave a comment

The problem with releasing on Steam

Hello development Giants!

Ever since I announced the Beta test for Space Mercs (which happens on the 20th of May – click here for details) people have been poking me on twitter, reddit and discord about the possibility of releasing the game on Steam – and I’ve been really vague about it. It’s time to see why.

Let’s look at the facts

As with any game developer that tries to take his job at least a tiny bit serious I have to do some market research to understand what exactly to expect and how much I can stretch with my game. When I started working on Space Mercs (which, by the way is exactly one month old – development time wise, today – yay) I had the following goals in mind:

  • It must be a space combat game with emphasis on fast aerial combat and dodges
  • Allow ease of content production based on a tight core-loop experience
  • Has a linux-centric approach (aka tries to promote Linux as an OS)
  • Should not take more than a month to validate is gameplay
  • Can be categorized as a coffee-break game
  • Runs on a toaster or a 10 year old pc
  • Developed on Linux

The goals I’ve set for the game are mirroring more or less the goals I have for Bearded Giant Games as a studio and game store: one time purchases of, drm-free, premium games with high replay value and tight+exploitable gameplay mechanics. Or, better said, Bearded Giant Games wants to deliver games with decent graphics, that scratch an itch and are fun to play in 5-10 minutes bursts. I cannot, by myself, produce high quality games with a deep and immersive storyline, that can keep you engaged for hours on end, games that also look great and play amazing. It’s just not possible for me as a one-man studio to do that – I know my limits. If I had a huge budget for my games I’d be crazy enough to try but as things are it’s out of my hands.

So what does this have to do with releasing Space Mercs on steam? Pretty much everything at this point.

I’m not sure how many of you are aware of Ebony Spire’s 2017 release? To keep it short – I expected that I could ship at least 700 copies of the game on Steam in two months. The kicker? I shipped over 6000 copies but not after failing, HARD, to achieve my two months goal. And I reached the 6000 copies sold thanks to one of my blog posts exploding all over Hacker News and Gamasutra – not something I can hope to achieve again today. Well and with the help of a bundle that drastically de-evaluated the game but that’s not the point. The point is that two years ago, when the space was less crowded than it is now, I barely managed to sell 100 copies in two months – on Steam. It was a shocking truth to wake up too but I learned my lesson.

So what are the chances that, in a similar situation, I can outsell Ebony Spire on Steam at release? With objectively the same reach (in terms of marketing) as before? If you’re not going to say it – I will: ZILCH, so close to zero it’s basically being floored back to it.

The truth is, no matter how awesome gifs from the game look like on twitter, my Space Mercs account hasn’t even passed 50 followers yet despite getting a couple of retweets from accounts with a huge number of followers for the past few weeks. I want traction – I’m just not able to get it with my reach.

Market Research

I’ve been showing off the game to friends, devs and possible future owners, in preparation for the Beta on the 20th of May. A few discussions that spun off from the game was the price tag. I mentioned I’m going to sell it for about 10$ and that I need to sell about 500 copies of the game in order to afford to not do any more contracting work or get a job till the end of this year. A fellow dev I love and respect, rightfully, asked why not go for a 6$ price tag and hope for ~900 sales and the thing is there’s no way I can achieve that. I think.

Truth is I scouted out my “competition” on steam in the past few days and narrowed it down to this excel spreadsheet. It’s split into two categories: Games on the low-end of the indie pricing scheme (<10$) and the high end ($10+). Each entry on the spreedsheet has a Name, a link, the price, number of reviews and estimated copies sold based on the good-ol’ number of reviews * 50 method. Going by the averages games in the low end category average at 8$ and ~6000 copies sold while those on the high end have a price point around 17$ and >80K copies sold.

Fitting somewhere in there would be amazing but that’s not the objective truth. The objective truth is that if I compare the scope of the games, their production value and features 90% of the games on that list have me beat.

The game I closest come to in terms of features and scope is Strike Suit Infinity but it clearly kicks my ass at graphical quality (production value) and price point (5.99$). So if that game is objectively better than mine (on paper) does supporting Linux and having the game run well even on old hardware warrant a higher price that SS: Infinity? By almost 100% (9.99$ vs 5.99$)?

As a steam buyer – knowing that Strike Suit Infinity exists on Steam why would you purchase Space Mercs when you can purchase that one? And if you already purchased SSI why purchase SM? And the same argument applies to a few of the other games on that list right now. I beat some of them in an area and they kick my ass in the remaining ones. The only, logical, solution is to drop the price of the game accordingly to somewhere between 2.99$ and 4.99$. But that comes with other problems as well: Will I be able to sell enough copies at a much much lower price point in order for me to reach my goal? At 9.99$ a pop I just need to sell 500 copies of the game and I can work on more Bearded Giant Games till the end of the year. At 4.99$ I’d need to sell 1000 copies. At 2.99$ I’d have to sell >1600 copies of the game.

And this doesn’t even take into account the 30% cut Steam takes, the 10% America cut and my own taxes. So in reality at 4.99$ in order to reach the current goal I would have to sell ~2000 copies of the game on Steam. That’s 4 times as much as if I were to sell it on my own.

Surviving on Indie Games is hard yo….

Okay, you can say “Bro, release it on your website but put it up on Steam and you’ll get some extra cash” which might be true however – this requires extra effort. Maintaining the Steam build (this includes Windows) up-to-date with the BGG version, adding Steam features (cloud saves, trading card games, achievements) and managing support on Steam for the buyers. And no, I’d get little to no exposure or purchases on steam without Steam features btw, so just throwing a build up there won’t even make back the 100$ price for a submission – learned that the hard way.

So what can I do, if I don’t release on steam I KNOW I’ll miss out on some of your hard earned money, my lovely little giants! And it’s not that I don’t want to release on Steam – I already paid the submission fee, it’s just that it’s not worth it at my scale and reach.

But it can be

Hear me out on this one because it’s a doozy and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who ever thought about trying it this way: I’ll setup the steam page and use it to collect wishlists. With the Steam version being the same as the one on BGG (no steam specific features) I can keep the game page there and keep the steam page in coming soon mode to acquire wishlists as time passes. People that purchase the game on the BGG store will receive a key for the unreleased steam version so they can play it through steam.

The game will stay on steam in an un-released fashion until releasing on it will be worth it:

  • the game was purchased enough times on BGG to warrant more additions to it so it will beat out it’s competition in terms of features/producton value
  • or the wishlist number grows a ton and the conversion rate is worth it for a full supported release
  • or something magical happens that screams – do it – release it now

And I believe it’s a good middle of the road scenario. You guys get to have the game on Steam if that’s what you want, I get to avoid headache’s in having to support steam and it’s features and I offer no competition to the games already there. By placing a release date so far into the future I‘m not going to eat any space from the already crowded market so other devs won’t hate me for it. The only caveat being if Valve decides to do something about this and ban me from steam (or the game) at which point, they are in the right to do it. At least you can’t say I didn’t try to please you.

Truth be told that’s the scenario I’m facing right now. I don’t want to do any more freelancing or get another job as a designer doing things that I hate. Free2play is clearly not for me or in my blood – I’m good at it but that’s just because I hate it. But I can’t work on Bearded Giant Games full time unless I earn AT THE VERY MINIMUM 1000$ / month from it.

So that’s my approach to Steam nowadays. I can’t compete in it at my scale, I can’t not release on it because everyone and their grandmother is yelling for a steam release. I believe I found a good middle-ground scenario for now.

Or

You guys can help me take the plunge towards doing a full featured steam release – in two ways:

  • Becoming a patron and moving the bar towards the first target: 1000$. With that I can afford to take steam into account and not have to do ugly hacks that might get me banned from the platform in order to please possible buyers. And by being a 5$ tiered patron you get access to all my current, and future, games on the BGG platform to use and abuse until you decide to remove your Patreon pledge (you can still keep and use the games you download even after that).

  • Another option would be to purchase the games on the BGG store on release and help me reach 100 copies sold on Bearded Giant Games. That’s almost 1000$ for me on release, enough to “pay myself” to add the needed Steam features to incline the balance a bit in my favor and pay for rent during development so I can post-pone picking up more work.

That’s the other options in the current state of things. I support and do development on Linux – it gets me enough good will from Linux users and I’m happy to do that. I love it as a platform, both for development and general usage and I want to see it grow. It’s part of the reason why I started Bearded Giant Games. The other reason is in this blog post. Even if none of the two alternative best cases scenarios happen – Space Mercs releasing on BGG only is still good for the future because it helps me grow my catalogue of games and hopefully amas more fans in the process. And with the next release I’ll see even more purchases and coverage at launch – even if it means just a simple +1.

Thank your for reading Giants! Till next time.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Space Mercs – Linux Beta on the 20th of May

Hello mercenary Giants!

We’re going to do a Beta test for the game on the 20th of May on our Discord Server! The game is shaping up for release and I want to make sure it’s in the best shape possible – and that includes the game’s feel.

Just like I did with Ebony Spire‘s launch, the game will be in beta until it’s deemed complete. That means we’re going to do rolling betas: Release 1, get feedback and bug reports -> fix them -> release another one. Repeat until complete.

That being said the game might receive drastic changes while in beta – from flight mechanics to weapons use to balancing. Ebony Spire got 2 new enemies during the beta and an entire set of new items in the world map. IIRC I even threw some procedural generation in it before launch at the players behest.

But in order to avoid being overwhelmed with all the suggestions I’m also unlocking features throughout the Beta period. That means, the first few releases will only feature the Quick Battle mode – the action packed core of the game. I’m interested in how do you guys like the “Feel” of the game! Once that is nailed more features like the Campaign and post-game mode will unlock.

But that’s enough talk, here’s a quick gameplay trailer I made for the Beta. And, as an added bonus, the footage was recorded on a 8 year old laptop with an Intel HD4000 integrated graphics card so It’s safe to say: Performance should be top-notch. Lowspec Linux gamers – this bearded giant’s got you taken care off!

How do you join the beta? Hop up on Discord and fill out the form. Depending on your system specs we might give you Beta access. Want to make sure you’re in the Beta? Become our Patron because your support is really needed!

Fly safe, Giants!

Posted on Leave a comment

Resources for Linux Game Developers

Hello tuxedo giants,

With the help of Raven67854 (co-host of the Offtopical Podcast and fellow gamedev) I compiled a list of resources for Linux Game Developers. It covers topics such as Streamers and Youtubers, using Unity, Services (people porting or offering porting services) and more. I’m hoping that with this resource list I can aid other game devs that are bringing their games to Linux OR give a bit more of a nudge to those who are on the fence about doing it! It’s not a complete, exhaustive list, but it should help getting you started on the journey! We need more native games on the platform, now more than ever!

Unity for Linux Developers

I published an article on this blog a few months ago about using Unity on Linux in 2019 and I was quite rough with it. For my last two projects, Farm Life and Space Mercs, I’ve been using Unity exclusively – the 2018 edition and it’s been wonderful. Marc (mdiluz) reached out to me after the article and pointed out some problems with my approach towards Unity’s “Stable” builds and the fact that the one I should use is the “experimental” 2018 version and let me say, it’s a huge difference. I will rebute the previous article soon enough but until then here’s where to get the latest Unity Hub version together with my overview on the situation!

  • Download Unit Hub 1.6.0 for Linux from here: https://forum.unity.com/threads/unity-hub-v-1-6-0-is-now-available.640792/
  • Install the 2018.4.0f1 official release version
  • 2019.1.2f1 seems to have problems with built-in packages like TextMesh Pro and the LWRP. All the errors you get on start require you to remove all the packages installed by default. I’m looking to upgrade my projects from 2018 to 2019 and I’ll update this bullet list with an article on what I did soon!

Unity 2018 is mostly stable for me with little to no crashes and really decent performance, at least compared to the 2017 version. I’ve used it to port Farm Life to linux and exclusively to work on Space Mercs with little to no problems. There are a few issues tho’, like trying to close Unity windows which requires a lot of fiddling with the mouse. But overall the performance is almost on par with the Windows counterpart. Note one thing: It does not ship with MonoDevelop or any other text editor. I recommend doing the following:

  • Download Visual Studio Code from here: https://code.visualstudio.com/docs/setup/linux
    • They have .deb, .rpm, snap packages and even a repo to use!
  • Install the .NET Core SDK on your distribution based on the article here: https://dotnet.microsoft.com/download/linux-package-manager/ubuntu18-10/sdk-current
    • There are guides for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu 18.10 to 14.04 (19.04 is not covered yet and there are a few problems with getting it to work on 19.04 due to missing packages – to be fixed soon), Debian 9, Fedora 27 and 28, CentOS, OpenSUse and SLES! Should cover most of your needs!
  • Open up the Unity editor and go into Edit -> Preferences -> External Tools tab
    • From External Script Editor click the drop down menu and select browse. Navigate to your the binary for Visual Studio Code and select it
      • if you don’t know where the binary for Visual Studio Code is located, open up a terminal and do: which code
      • normally it should be under /usr/bin/code
    • Create a new script inside Unity’s Project Browser and double click on it. VSCode should pop-up and work properly!

Unity seems to have really picked-up the pace with development and with the 2019 edition reaching preview status Linux is really close to becoming a first class citizen. I can, finally, wholeheartedly recommend it!

Porting your games to Linux

Linux needs more native games! I love Proton and what Valve are doing with it but using Proton doesn’t guarantee full support and games working on it at this point can break in the future with updates and due to middleware support (see the EAC scandal). I’ll say it, Proton is amazing, but native support is better! Depending on the technology your game is based on, porting to Linux can be as simple as outputting a build for it with the click of a button (Unity) to just compiling it on Linux directly. In other cases you really need to dive deep into the code and change quite a few things. Luckily, there are many solutions and services to aid you here – including hiring someone who specializes on that! We’ll start with this.

At this point in time I know of a few developers who specialize in this and, with my interactions with them, can recommend them for this task:

  • Ethan Lee
    • Website: http://www.flibitijibibo.com
    • References: Super Hexagon, Capsized, Rogue Legacy! Active developer on FNA and Proton!
  • Timothee Besset
    • Website: https://about.me/TimotheeBesset
    • Refferences: RocketLeague, Quake Live – mostly unreal engine from what I gathered.

As for known studios, there are quite a few you could reach out to! There’s Aspyr Media (Civilization VI, Start Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Geometry Wars, Broderlands 2), Feral Interactive (DiRT 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex), Abstraction Games ( Danganronpa ), RuneSoft (Ankh).

Twitter user @hardpenguin13 maintains a Github repo with a more comprehensive list of Studios and Developers porting games to Linux!

For resources, here’s a compiled list of articles and videos that can help you get started!

  • Building for Linux the smart way [Article – Leszek Godlewski]
  • Game Development with SDL2 [Video – Ryan C. Gordon, Slides ]
  • Getting Started with Linux Game Development [Video, Ryan C. Gordon, Slides]
  • Porting to Linux at Linux Conf Australia [Video – Cheeseness, Slides]
  • Linux/SteamOS Game Development [Video – Ethan Lee, Slides]
  • Cheeseness talking with Ethan [Article – interview style! Good resources and points of view on technology to use]

List of Linux Gamecasters/YouTubers

First thing’s first, the reason this list was compiled. Besides, the wonderful linux news website, GamingOnLinux I did not know other places or people (Influencers. let’s call them that) with whom to speak to put more eyeballs on my latest project. As such I reached out to Raven67854 to see if he can aid me. And he did, so be sure to thank him dearly on twitter. This is a list of Linux streamers and youtubers that can put some eyeballs on your game after you brought it to Linux!

JakeJw93 
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Jakejw93
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jakejw93

Xpander69
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Xpander666
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Xpander69
Mastadon: https://mastodon.social/@xpander69

Snowdreike
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/snowdreike
Twitter: https://twitter.com/snowdreike

HexDSL
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/hexdsl/
Mastadon: https://linuxrocks.online/@HexDSL

Eegee
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/EtherealGaming1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/egee_irl

Penguin Recordings
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/PenguinRecordings
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sabunator

GamingTux
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/GTuxTV
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gtuxtv

Holarse
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/holarse
Twitter: https://twitter.com/holarse

Gotbletu
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/gotbletu/

Linux4UnMe
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Linux4UnMe/

sneekylinux
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/sneekylinux
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sneekylinux

quidsup
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/quidsup
Twitter: https://twitter.com/quidsup

Ghost67Linux
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCglkWuyZDppWD2BVsyI4r3A

ChrisTitusTech
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/homergfunk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/christitustech

SwitchedToLinux
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoryWpk4QVYKFCJul9KBdyw
Twitter: https://twitter.com/switchedtolinux

GasGregor
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/DasGregor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DasGregor

JoeCollins
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/BadEditPro
Website: https://www.ezeelinux.com/

DistroTube
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVls1GmFKf6WlTraIb_IaJg
Mastadon: https://mastodon.technology/@distrotube

Bryan Lunduke
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/BryanLunduke
Website: http://www.lunduke.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BryanLunduke
Mastadon: https://social.librem.one/@lunduke

TheLinuxGamer
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/tuxreviews
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thelinuxgamer
Mastadon: https://social.librem.one/@gbryant

GamingOnLinux
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/GamingOnLinuxcom
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gamingonlinux
Mastadon: https://mastodon.social/@gamingonlinux
Website: https://www.gamingonlinux.com/

Level1Tech
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/teksyndicate
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Level1Techs
Website: https://www.level1techs.com/

The Linux Experiment
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5UAwBUum7CPN5buc-_N1Fw
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thelinuxexp

Linux4Poets
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChAZdofPrVJ4i2aXbLm_V3Q

KyLinux Cast
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC30WrT9v3qc4UCmDtIyH3ww

InfinitelyGalactic
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/InfinitelyGalactic
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ingalactic

DwangoAC
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/dwangoAC
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MrTASBot

ChrisWereDigital
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAPR27YUyxmgwm3Wc2WSHLw
Mastadon: https://linuxrocks.online/@ChrisWere

Destination Linux
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWJUSpXVHTaHErtGWC5qPlQ
Website: https://destinationlinux.org/

Linux Gamecast
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/linuxgamecast
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VennStone
Website: https://linuxgamecast.com/

We opted to include public means of contact in the form of twitter/mastadon or their website’s contact form instead of providing a list of e-mails that can be used to spam them.

I hope this list is going to help you get started with bringing more games to Linux! Like I said in the begining – we can never have too many native games! As for me, I hope you are all aware of my Linux 1st Initiative and methodology behind my games. You can help support this initiative by becoming a patreon subscriber, and get some amazing Linux games in the process!

Good luck Giants!

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Farm life revenue + Patreon Support

Hello Giants,

Farm Life was officially released a couple of days ago and the sales have been going better than I expected. Thank you for the kind words and for supporting Bearded Giant Games, I am immensely humbled by everyone’s reactions. I am glad you are enjoying the game and happy to provide one of the few premium Match 3 experiences for Linux!

Since it’s release Farm Life sold 27 copies totaling about 200$ in revenue. For a small indie that’s publishing a casual game for a platform as small, and lovely, as ours that’s amazing. It doesn’t sound like much but just think about it a little: most indie games releasing on Steam, at this point, barely recoup their 100$ fee to publish on the platform at the end of the month. For me this thought alone is amazing and enough to melt my bearded heart.

Here’s something that happened tho’: Quite a few users reached out to me and asked about other methods of payment for my game since they believe paypal is invasive. And I agree with that statement however, at this point, I cannot afford to integrate another payment method (and Stripe is not supported in Romania). This is why I decided to setup a Patreon page for the store. By pledging to support Bearded Giant Games on Patreon you’ll get access to all the games I release on the store (past, present and future), access to private releases on our Discord channel and many many many other goodies!

This way you can sidestep paypal and use other payment processors, support Linux Game Development (or at least, my little area of it) and put a big smile on this Bearded Giant’s Face. This is also a good way towards establishing a stable revenue stream for the future: The more my income from BGG stabilizes the more I can focus on it instead of doing more freelancing gigs. It will allow me to focus more on creating games like Farm Life and Ebony Spire! So head on over the Patreon page and become an officially pledged Giant! Then join our Discord server and join Sheo in bossing me around.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Farm Life launches on Linux on April 23rd

Hello Giants!

Five months ago I’ve setup the Bearded Giant Store as a mean of distributing my games to the world without having to worry about spreading my resources too thin on 3rd party platforms and stores. It’s also back then that I wrote the Linux 1st Initiative – the driving force behind this website existence, and made public my desire to have Linux as a 1st class citizen on this website. At the end of the manifesto I also mentioned that I’m interested in bringing more games to Linux as a platform and now, just five months later, that part of the initiative bore fruit!

Why bring a premium Match 3 to Linux?

When most people think of premium games they don’t usually think of Match 3 or casual games so when I announced I’m porting and publishing a game in the aformentioned genres some eyebrows were raised. Honestly there are multiple reasons for partnering with RVL Games and bringing Farm Life to Linux but here’s my favorite one:

Linux as a platform is growing! We know that from Steam’s Hardware reports, from the amount of Help and Hello posts (mostly titled with “Migrated”) on reddit and heck, even Linux Tech Tips started paying more and more attention to Linux. As more and more people jump on the platform and we get some growth so does the variation in taste and types of games. What I’m saying is that amongst new users there are those who love and want casual games and if we, as a platform, can’t fulfill their needs they might just go away. So if you ask me why I’m porting and publishing Farm Life well, here it is: There are barely any quality Match 3 games for the platform and a demand for them might start popping up soon! Heck it looks to me like an underserved niche.

Besides, if the game performs well (and in time it should), I might get some more work porting and bringing new titles to the platform from developers who otherwise would not have it on their radar. In case of RVL Games this is a good tryout and if they like it they might bring more of their catalogue of games here (not necessarily to the BGG Store) . We keep looking at Triple A studios and asking them to bring their big titles over but what about the smaller guys and their audience?

The Linux 1st Initiative doesn’t just mean that I’m exclusively making games for Linux and that’s that. It’s about putting Linux first and doing my best to help it grow. In exchange for that I hope to make a decent amount of revenue to keep me going for as long as possible. Hopefully till there will be no more need for me to do this but hopefully longer.

Farm Life - aunt linda's farmWhat’s up with Farm Life?

The port is done. Last RC is being tested on the Bearded Giant discord server but things are looking sweet. I know from the Steam Hardware survey that there are a lot of low to mid-end machines on Linux so part of my tasks during the porting process was optimizing the game for those machines. The lowest spec I tested the game on is my NAS machine with a Intel J1800 CPU and Integrated Graphics at a smooth 40+ FPS. In order to make sure the game runs on low spec hardware and with Farm Life being a unity game I had to play around with a ton of things ranging from Unity Terrain support, particle effects, shaders and more. It wasn’t as hard to port as it is to make a new game but it did have it’s challenges. Heck I even used my experience in designing match 3 games from my time at Mobility-Games to update some levels a bit for those of you playing through the classic mode of the game.

And the game is great. When I signed with RVL Games I knew they had tons of experience designing casual games but I did not expect to enjoy Farm Life so much. The levels are fun but the storyline and the minor details on the Farm Area of the game are amazing. When I refer to the game as a Premium experience I don’t mean that it just doesn’t have In-App Purchases. I mean the whole package is premium. From the characters and their bios to the birds flying around and the cars stopping near the farm with a subtle halt that imitates a cartoon car braking.

I’m actually happy the original developer decided to take a risk with me and my little store as I believe many will benefit from the game being here (in terms of satisfaction). I really hope the game does well on Linux as that might mean more developers like RVL Games might join the fray (again, not necessarily on the Bearded Giant Store – any new game natively brought to Linux is a WIN for ALL OF US).

So when is the game coming out you ask? On Tuesday, April 23rd. Sometimes at noon in Europe. I want to celebrate the launch with a beverage in my hand and my cats will likely kill me if I start drinking before 5 PM. It’s going to cost you 6.99$ and you’ll get around 10+ hours of fun (likely more if you don’t just skip through the story) and working fullscreen support (learned my lesson with Ebony Spire thank you very much). Ogh and building up the farm is pretty fun. The game looks great, in my opinion at least.

So join me in discord for any last minute drama that’s normally bound to happen with my releases. Worst case you’ll just see Sheo pestering me about something non-essential and get a laugh out of that. Or in case socializing on the new mass-appeal discount-irc discussion system isn’t for you drop us a follow on the Store’s Twitter page to stay up to date. Or just refresh your browser every 10 seconds like I did for the Dragon Age Origins launch a decade ago (no really, I almost broke a keyboard back then waiting for it to launch).

P.S. Some screens from the game

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

New game launch + Thoughts on Unity on Linux in 2019

Hello Giants!

Those of you who keep an eye on the front page, follow me on twitter or are active in our discord server know I just launched a small game for Android today called Retro Sail. It’s cute, skill based, features no ads as lacks any kind of IAP. It was also designed and developed in under five days with Unity. Now those of you who think this is some kind of a praise for Unity as an engine, especially those who weren’t in discord, let me warn you – it is not.

For the past 5 days I’ve been through a roller coaster of emotions due to using Unity and I’ll walk you through the reasons in a second. Before that let me just say that after spending these past days using it on Linux makes me want to focus even more on Pint as my main game development tool. Let’s jump through it.

The most stable version of unity, 2017 LTS would put even a Bethesda game, on release, to shame in terms of crashes and bugs.

Last time I got to try Unity engine on Linux was in 2016 and for a first attempt at supporting the Editor on Linux they were onto something. Yes it wasn’t extremely stable and there were a ton of problems with dragging and dropping but it was also an experimental, fresh build. Fast forward to today and well, nothing much has changed. Unity now comes with a launcher called the Unity Hub and all I can say about it is that it’s a convenient way to manage different versions of the engine. In my case I had the option of installing:

  • Unity 2018.3.4.f1
  • Unity 2018.2.2.20f1
  • Unity 2017.4.19f1(LTS)

Out of the three choices the only one who would open up the editor was 2017 version, the 2018 ones would crash as soon as a project was created and loaded. 2017 isn’t far off from this behavior but at least I managed to do get the editor working.

2017 LTS version of Unity comes without Mono Develop, does not install the Android subsystem needed to build Android projects and crashes every single time you open up a project unless the project folder isn’t cleaned of any Interface or Project setting. But again, at least it works. Barely.

Mono develop can be installed externally but actually getting it integrated properly with Unity 2017 is a tale in itself. Let’s just say that I finally got it working but had to default to Visual Studio Code because:

  • Copy pasting anything from outside Mono Develop into Mono Develop was not an option
  • Trying to edit a script from the editor by double clicking on it would open up a new Mono Develop window and solution
  • Even more so sometimes Unity would point out errors on code lines that weren’t there in a given file.

So if you’re looking to try out Unity 2017 on Linux save yourself some trouble, get Visual Studio Code and install the .NET required plugins for it.

Building for Android is a no-no unless you install p7zip-full.

I needed Unity so I can develop a Android game (still Linux, right?) in a few days to put up on the Bearded Giant Games store. Let’s be honest, the BGG store is lacking content and I’m bleeding a lot of new visitors and old visitors. Might as well design a tight game to keep them busy until Outwarp comes out. Back to Unity tho’. If you try to install the Android subsystem needed to build games for Android and use the Unity Hub you’ll just be notified, after the install, that it failed due to an unknown error. After digging for a while the solution for this was simple, get p7zip-full onto my system because Unity requires it. Ubuntu users can just do a

apt-get install p7zip-full

Again this took quite a few hours to debug and figure out since, from my research, it wasn’t documented anywhere. Thank you who ever tweeted about this, you were a life saver (and the reason Retro Sail is out).

Importing audio files is a no-no in 2017.4.19f (LTS) because it is deployed with the wrong library.

Main mechanics completed it was time for me to focus on sounds and audio design for the game and another what the hell moment came when trying to import some audio files into the game. Long story short Unity would default on importing the Audio Files because of a problem with FSBTool and actively required me to download fmod and copy libvorbis.so.2 from it into the Data Folder (editor’s data folder, not the game’s). However, due to FMOD’s licensing I did not want to touch it. After some more browsing I decided to download Unity 2018.2.2.20f1 and copy the FSBTool libraries from it into 2017 and voila, it worked perfectly in 90% of the cases (the remainder 10% required me to import Audio file into Audacity and Export it again as an .ogg file).

Massive processor hog after a few hours of usage

My biggest problem with Unity on Linux didn’t come from android subsystem and/or the FSB Tool problems. Nor did the lack of MonoDevelop (as I affectionately use VSCode for Pint and my other projects) but the fact that a couple of hours in my little Brix PC would slow down to a crawl. And remember this is the same Brix PC I used Unity on for the past few years on major projects as a contractor/freelancer. The OS is installed on a SSD so closing unity and restarting it to get rid of the proc hog wasn’t a problem. Having to delete the ENTIRE LIBRARY FOLDER, Project Settings, Package Manager and Packages after every restart in order to be able to open up the editor? Now that can drive people crazy.

For those of you asking what’s the big deal here’s a small painting of the situation: At best I could go with Unity editor open for ~2 hours before pressing the play button became an exercise in frustration. Closing down the editor and making sure my changes are saved: 4-5 minutes. Restarting the PC from off state? 35 seconds. Deleting the Library, Project Settings and UnityPackage manager folder? 4 seconds. Waiting for the library to be rebuild? 14 minutes. Time for a FIRST BUILD for Android after a reboot? 23 minutes (with subsequent builds being done in < 1 minute). Also, remember, every new opening of the editor had me having to assign the scenes again and set the proper player settings anew.

So for every two hours of work in Unity 2017 under Linux I would loose 43 minutes trying to get it back up again. Add in a few Random Crashes from trying to change the Editor’s Interface elements and mandatory PC restarts and yeah, I lost almost 40% of my development time without doing anything for the game.

Other Linux specific quirks worth mentioning

One issue I discovered today happened while I was preparing Retro Sail for release on the Play Store. The game’s version for Bearded Giant Games was already up after being spitted out by Unity so that wasn’t a problem and it was deemed to work great by the people on Discord. So I did what any other person would do and spit up a Gradle projects and prepare the release for google Play. And release indeed it did but with a small quirk that I believe cost me a few refunds: The FIRST and LAST SCENES were reversed. That means the Main Menu scene of the game was positioned last (scene 4) in the build and the Game Over scene was the scene that welcomed users to their new purchase.

Another thing to note is that any window that pops up outside of the Unity Editor (profiler, shaders, etc) will not position itself accordingly on the screen. What I mean by that is that the top bar and half of the window in height will be hidden on the upper part of your monitor without the ability to move it. When you are a person that lives and dies with the profiler in it’s hand this can and will be a huge turn off. For this I found no fix and I only tested Unity 3D on Gnome. Not sure if this issue occurs on KDE, Unity (hehe) or any other desktop environment.

Ending Thoughts

I was on the fence about using Unity as a tool for my OWN games. I still have to use it for my legacy client projects but for my own titles I’m not sure I want to touch it again. I made a game in about 5 days with it and that shows it’s power. On the other hand those 5 days could have easily been an extended jam period (48h + 20-ish more for polishing) from conception to publishing. It’s a decent engine but on Linux it’s behaves worse than anything else I ever got my hands on. I recommend staying away from the LTS version if you can. And hopefully you’re not running integrated graphics on your machine or else the 2018 version won’t even start.

I made Retro Sail from inception to publishing it on the Bearded Giant Store and the Play Store in just five days using Unity 2017 on Linux because I am a masochist and you shouldn’t do it. But hey, if you want to support such masochistic acts get my games. It will only encourage me to keep doing stuff like this.

Posted on Leave a comment

[Announcement]: Outwarp 50S – your favorite coffee-break shoot ’em up for Linux

Hello Giants! 

Like I mentioned in the previous post, I’m working on a new Game! A devilish hard shoot ’em up that you can play one handed while you sip from your favorite coffee mug! It’s developed using Pint, my work in progress framework, and the core of the game is done! You can shoot, you can dodge, you can change your ship’s height on the map, since we’ve got a small faux-3D feel to the game using 3D perspective projection and all that in less than 50 MB of Drive Space. Check out the screenshot and we’ll get back to the nitty-gritty details after you glance at it!

Outwarp 50S SHMUP

Outwarp 50S

Outwarp Fifty-Es (or Es-Ogh-Es) aims to scratch a few itches:

  1. Gameplay sessions will be short (but not do to the lack of content). You’ll probably die in the first 10-15 seconds during your first playthroughs
  2. It auto-pauses when you switch to another window so hopefully you can sneak in some practice sessions at work
  3. Comes with a low memory footprint! In the current form the game gulps up around 48 MB of ram! It’s going to eat up 96 MB ram at maximum but I’m aiming to get it as low as 32 MB.
    • The idea is you can keep running it in the background and go for another run when you have the chance.
  4. You can collect tokens that are dropped by enemies or destructible environment elements! With them you can
    • Unlock new ships with different weapons, power up’s and special attacks!
    • Unlock new environment segments that can alter your current run
      • Enemy types with new movement patterns
      • Bullet types with various configurations and effects
      • Power-ups and
      • Even more destructible elements
  5. It aims to be the shmup you play while your steam client updates or your favorite online game is queuing you up!

Outwarp 50S’s source code

And let’s not forget my Linux first initiative! The game is developed on Linux and will release first for Linux. If enough interest in it will be gathered I’ll port it to another platform. Or you can port it yourself given that the source code of the game and engine (more on Pint in the next few days) will be available under a MIT license. Like my previous games the only thing that stays proprietary are the graphics because I need to make a living and have to pay to get some art! But you are free to get your own open source art assets into the game and distribute it with those.

What’s left to be done

The core of the game is completed. I need to hire an artist to get some quality pixel art graphics for the game and start working on the audio elements. The game’s content has been established but pacing and feel still needs work. Abilities will be added and removed constantly as I juggle around with the difficulty and feel of the game. Adding new content to the game is easy tho’.

Bullet patterns, enemy paths, enemies, power-up’s and even map segments are defined and controlled via CSV files. Map segments are designed in TileD and exported to Pint in simple Lua scripts. Technically, you can use the CSV files to make your own shmup with your own rules without even touching the source code. I’m aiming for a release sometimes near the end of Q1 (aka March). The game should be done by then but I want some buffer time to make sure all the art will be ready and given that I’m moving into another apartment I want to make sure I won’t backtrack on the launch date.

But fret not, if that happens, you will be updated. I’m planning a weekly development update on this blog with info on how development is going. Due to my privacy policy and commitment to protecting your data I do not have or use a mailing list so you’ll have to follow me up on twitter (or the facebook page) to stay up to date with new blog posts. You can also join our Discord Server for more updates in-between keyboard discussions and Sheo’s mad ramblings. Or go the old school way and refresh the Bearded Giant Game’s front page every day :).

If you’re wondering about the final price of the game, I haven’t decided on one yet. It’s going to be between $3 and $10 depending on how much the assets end up costing me. I’ll come back with more information on price soon enough.

P.s. I’m aiming to fit the game on a 3.5″ floppy disk. If I can get it under 1.44 MB of drive space and have it eat less than 32 MB of ram I’ll have a special surprise for all of you. But I’m keeping it a secret for now!

Thank you Giants! 

Posted on Leave a comment

January Studio Update – Income report

Hello Giants,

It’s a new year and with it comes my new transparency studio report on our earnings via the Bearded Giant Store, in-development projects and my open source tools/frameworks. I strongly believe in my Linux 1st Initiative and want more people to join in developing for Linux as a target platform. The best way I can raise awareness towards Linux as a viable platform is to publish my earnings in a monthly income report post and have said earnings, hopefully, grow as I release more games. My goal so far is to reach a steady 300$ / month of income from my web store before the year ends.

I get that for some people 300$ is nothing but do keep in mind that I have other income sources from freelancing to game design courses. I want to grow the Bearded Giant brand/business steadily over the next few years. With more games comes a bigger back-catalogue that will earn income passively and, in theory, each new released game should increase the monthly revenue. My hopes are that with each new income report the numbers get higher and higher and more people are attracted towards setting up their own long-term Linux centered side/main business.

Income Report!

I announced the Bearded Giant Store in December and thanks to Gaming on Linux and the r/linux_gaming subreddit the reception has blown my expectations in terms of sales. As such the turnover for December is way higher than what I expect the norm to be and is reflected in this month (January) sales.

The total amount of sales from December:

Ebony Spire Heresy:

  • Linux: 64 copies sold – 447$
  • Windows: 5 copies sold – 34,95$

Rogue Sweeper:

  • Linux: 26 copies sold – 36,14$
  • Windows: 7 copies sold – 9,73$

Total: 527$.

December was a great month for me that blew my expectations, however, it’s important to note that a huge chunk of the sales were from people who heard about the Linux 1st Initiative and wanted to support it. As such December will not contribute to my baseline towards the 300$/month target for 2019. For some more juicy December data check this out:

  • Visits to the Bearded Giant Store: 3.7K
  • Highest referral being GoL’s article with 893 visitors sent this way! (Thank you Liam and GoL’s staff! You are all amazing)
  • Number of requests to delete purchase data: 7 (check out my privacy policy for more details)
  • Most visits by country: US with 712 visits followed closely by Germany (347) and Romania (312)

Moving onto January things are a bit different and more in-line with my expectations for this month.

The total amount of sales from January:

Ebony Spire Heresy:

  • Linux: 6 copies sold – 41,94$
  • Windows: 2 copies sold – 13,98$

Rogue Sweeper:

  • Linux: 6 copies sold – 8,34$

Total: 64,26$

Like I previously stated there’s a huge discrepancy between December’s sales and January and that’s because of the amount of traffic sent my way from news coverage on the Linux 1st Initiative. However I’m not taking this as a bad thing since it’s pretty much in-line with my expectations! Let’s go over the other stats:

  • Visits to the Bearded Giant Store: 263
  • Highest referral being google with 43 unique visitors sent my way
  • Number of requests to delete purchase data: 0
  • Most visits by country: Romania with 97 visits followed by the US with 63 and UK with 27!

The total amount of revenue generated from the Bearded Giant Store so far:

Following up before the end of the month will be a blog post announcing the new game in development for Linux under the Bearded Giant Brand and a progress report on my new game development framework called Pint! If you want to get in contact with me you can do so via our DISCORD server or by sending me an e-mail at contact@beardedgiant.games! You can also follow me on twitter or stay up-to-date with Bearded Giant Games on Facebook!

Thank you Giants and have an amazing year! 

Posted on Leave a comment

December studio update and Pint progress report

Hello Giants,

Welcome to the last Bearded Giant Games studio report for 2018! The store has been live for a while now and sales have been steady. I’m happy with how well it performed ahead of my initial launch estimate. Starting with January 2019 I’ll open up a new blog category titled Sales and Transparency report where I’ll go into details on how the studio is performing. Hopefully people will be able to learn from my experience and I can grow both as a business and as a developer.

For the past few days I’ve been bedridden, struck by the flu so I had enough time to work on Pint, my new internal game engine. It’s pretty stable and nice so far and I cannot wait to push it out into full production use soon. In the video bellow I’m rendering ~1400 sprites for both backgrounds + the enemies on screen. All scaled, transformed and translated and the FPS is over 100 even on my little Chromebook 14. The memory footprint itself is also extremely small with the game eating less than 48 mb of ram.

Graphics are all placeholders from google images/oga for testing purposes. I’m using a neat little rendering technique inspired by how the scene/roads are rendered in a game like Outrun and it seems pretty fun. Once I add support for animation frames in Pint I think I’ll have a pretty nice demo to release alongside the engine. It just needs some explosions, some screen shakes and proper animations.

On the game development side I have no new game in progress right now however I am toying with a few ideas. I like the faux 3D and fake perspective usage in other games and I’ll probably play with that for my next title. The goal is to have a working game prototype by the end of January so I can focus on developing that in the upcoming months. I’ve already been throwing out some ideas and started a few debates on this subject with people from our Discord server (you are free to join the server and tag along in the conversations as they happen) so I guess I’m narrowing down the list of possible game candidates from a handful to 3-4 projects. Only one will survive in the end!

That’s all for this Studio Update. Pint development is going great, evolving slowly but steady into a framework I can use and abuse in the future. The discord community has been growing nicely in the past few weeks and more and more people are learning about the Linux 1st Initiative (a huge thank you to GamingOnLinux for their shoutout and the discussion it started on their article).

Thank you Giants and Happy Holidays!