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October 24, 2020
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How I decided to make a game inspired by Heroes of Might and Magic and lost money (part 1/3)

by Sergey Pomorin on 09/23/20 10:23:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

This story will consist of 3 parts, because I have released three games:

Every article will contain particular figures: how much I invested (spent) in the game I’m talking about, and how much I earned.

I should say, I am a fan of Heroes of Might and Magic (HoMM) and King’s Bounty series. I’ve played almost all parts and addons — except HoMM7 because time goes by, life changes, and there’s no time left for playing games.

I got acquainted with the HoMM series in the early 2000s — it was HoMM3 I played at school. When I got into university, I started skipping classes to play Heroes with my friends on a single computer. The other player’s turn always lasted forever, so we never finished the game =)

Since 2005, I started developing flash games, and the years went by. And when the year 2013 came, I decided to play HoMM 2 once more. So carried away was I! Even though I’d finished the game before, this time I had an idea: what if I make my own game with turn-based battles?!

This article is focused on the first game I made — Beasts Battle. I’ll tell you how it was step-by-step released on different platforms: Web, Mobile (GooglePlay, AppStore), and PC (Steam).

Flash version development

I started development on April 14, 2013, made a hexagonal field like it was in Heroes 2 and added 2 types of units-warriors and archers. The units looked like hexagons with the number of troops and type. They moved around the field and fought each other.

I worked on the game in my spare time within a year. At the same time, I stopped working on it 2 times for a long time. The time of development looked approximately like this:

1 week - development of combat mechanics and then was a pause for a few months
1 week - development of the purchase of troops, victory screens, etc. and then again there was a pause for a few months
2.5 months of intensive work without stopping and the game is ready =)

The idea was just to make battles like in Heroes and that's it. Without maps and taking castles and so on. I was going to make arenas with spells and different units. I wanted to do a minimum and then, if the game would have been liked by players, then I would have developed the idea and improved the game in the next parts. The work on the game can last forever, as many beginners like to do =)

Art

After I finished the battle mechanics, I decided to show it to the artist and my friend NeexGames. He has his own hits (Heaven or Hell) and we have already worked on lots of other games.

When I showed him my work, he shared his sprites of units from the game, so that I could add the animation to the battles and the game would become smoother and more interesting (instead of static hexes). Lucky for me, he agreed to cooperate, but only if I finish writing the game engine with all the screens, so that he would just make an art and insert it into the game.

Thanks to him, the game was improved, it became bright and juicy. He brought a lot to the concept, I decided not to make the stereotypical races and came up with something original, so the theme became "animals". But the demon race still appeared. I am very glad that he completely redrawn the "store" in the game the way I didn't plan it. I had to rewrite the mechanics of the entire store, but it's only for the best.

Testing

I sent the game to get reviews in the flash games community (those times it was active and flash was alive!). There were a lot of comments and tips. And I spent about a month improving the game. And here's what was added to the game, although I didn't plan all of that because game development would have taken much longer:

  • English localization
  • levels of complexity
  • the game plot (I got bored while I was waiting for art so I decided to take a look at the game Kingdom Rush)
  • 2 campaigns instead of one (the artist also had spare time and decided to draw a hero for the race and the selection screen)
  • achievements
  • tutorial (well, of course it wouldn't be a good game without it, thanks gamers for reminding me).

Feedback helped a lot, and the game had become much better.

Balance

I spent about 4-5 months working on game balance. And still the game was not balanced, if you read the comments. At first the game was difficult (after all, Heroes is a hardcore one), but then I made it easier and easier, because of the gamers` comments. But still, some creatures turned out to be cheap and strong, and some expensive and unnecessary. It was difficult to balance. I've played the game a hundred times.

Expenses

Time was the most valuable resource we spent. We agreed with the artist for a fixed price after the game was sold. The music was completely written for free by a novice composer, because he needed it for his portfolio. And he did his job well, lucky for us. I also ordered an art for the game ending for $20 and localization in English for $7. This was my first time spending money on freelancers. It was difficult to part with money. =) At that time my salary was $400 a month from my main job.

Selling the flash version

Developers used to sell flash games through the FGL platform, where the game was evaluated by moderators and then watched by sponsors. There were auctions between them for the game, if they liked the game of course. Sometimes no one paid any attention to the game at all.

I put the game on this site for sale. And then came an exciting moment. I wondered if there would be any suggestions? =) Fortunately, there was a bid of $200 on the first day and $500 the next day from another sponsor. And that was it... 2 months of silence. I mailed sponsors, wrote to admins, how could nobody like such a good game with a good rating, there were no views at all! I put a lot of effort into getting the game watched. No one answered, and no one wanted to buy it, except the sponsor, who put in $500. I did all I could. The sponsor was the Armor Games Studio. Even on this site, there was such an opportunity as making the last call, notifying everyone interested that I was ready to sell the game. I wrote to them, you might want to get it for $800, if I last call will not help and we would be good? He said it was OK. I was very glad that he agreed, because I could pay the artist. In the end, the last call and 3rd sponsor puts up $1,000 for the exclusive. Armor Games immediately put in $1,200, I waited a couple of days and accepted the offer.

Web release

On the sponsor's website, the game got a 50 points rating at launch, I was very upset, to be honest) But finally it reached 64 (which is OK), 694k views on the sponsor's website for a month and 600 favorites (it may look not so big, but I was very pleased). In general I was happy with how the game was perceived and the sponsor did too) The game met my expectations. After all, the game turned out quite simple, despite all our efforts. And I admit that the project was too hard for me, I barely managed to cope with it.

After that, I sold my game with a certain license to several sponsors for a small amount.

Summary of the Flash version of the game

Two of us developed the game from the beginning to the release for a year. The game brought me $1,710.

Mobile version development

In the summer of 2014 I received a lot of comments from the web version from players about what I need to improve. I was very passionate about the project, was inspired and decided to port the game to mobile phones! In order to do it I decided to use the Corona SDK engine (now it's called the Solar SDK). I was good at the engine and spent 4 months porting the game to another engine and to rewrite everything in the new programming language. The engine, like Unity, Unreal and others, is a multi - platform, so I expected to post the game on GooglePlay and AppStore.

What's new

I changed the balance of buying troops completely. In the flash version the troops were limited in the store, so at some point you could lose some unit types without restoring possibility. In the mobile version I added a new parameter “leadership” so units in the store became unlimited, but the player’s ability to buy them depended on the number of “leadership” points (as well as on the gold amount, of course).

I also added a third campaign in which you could play the Boss as a main hero — I thought it was an interesting idea and made it just for fun. A player could open this campaign only after clearing the main one.

Also implemented the new HotSeat mode, which allowed players to choose any race and fight with a friend on the same device.

Besides, I added a hardcore mission to each campaign, it was even marked by a skull pic. =)

And moreover, I updated the art from 640p to 720p.

Since this is a mobile game, updates followed after the release. I added:

  • a new arena
  • a new unit for each race
  • a new achievement
  • artifacts for heroes

The mobile version release

It was the year 2015. I released the game which was completely free, without any ads and donations. I really wanted to release a clean game, what were the chances I could do it again? =) Because everyone wants to make money. And I do too. =) But why would I do a free game without any ingame payments? I had a clever plan - I knew I was going to do the next part. I expected that since the game is free it will be downloaded, played and enjoyed. I would have traffic, fans, and communities that would switch to another game in the future.

BUT! I was naive, because without marketing, no one knew about the game and nobody even cared. Sometimes gamers find it and even leave positive reviews. They write what needs to be improved in the game, what content to add and so on. This is nice and unexpected, because for me the game is quite simple compared to what came after it. =)

Development of the Steam version

The year 2016 arrived and I decided to release the game on Steam, back then it was known as Greenight and I had to work hard to get through, looked for options, who would like the game and so on. When the game was approved, I created a Steam page. After that, I began to work on API to make leaderboards, achievements and others work. There were cards in the game!!! Now, in order to have them for your game you need to get high game sales.

What's new

● Multiplayer
● 1080p graphics
● Redrawn global map

Yes, I added cross-platform multiplayer, a friend of mine helped me with this one. You can play on Steam with someone on your phone.

Steam version release

I had the idea to release the game on Steam for free, because it is free on mobile phones, but I was dissuaded. They said that free games don`t get. And then I put the price of $1 for the game. After I added multiplayer to the game (it was an update), I raised the price of the game up to $2 - this happened about 4-6 months after the release.

The game was released on June 15, 2016. In the 4 years the game was sold in 3,341 copies ($2,642). Among them 2,474 copies ($1,597) were sold during the first year, and 826 copies ($698) were sold during the first month. This is the total income from Steam. I don’t deduct commission and refunds, taxes. So these numbers can be divided in 2. So these are the numbers.

Total result

This time I took a profit, without considering all the time I spent.

Developing all the game versions lasted 3 years, from 14.04.2013 till 15.06.2016.

Game was released on the Web, GooglePlay, Appstore, Steam.

A $3031 profit for the entire lifetime of the game in release (2014–2020).

This game helped me to feel the market and find out how everything works from start to finish. It gave me a huge experience. Next, I started the development of a new game called Necromancer Returns…


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