Friday, August 23, 2013

7DFPS 2013 Postmortem

The 7DFPS 2013 challenge is over. Since the first game-jam that I ever entered was the original 7DFPS, I felt that even though I was only going to be able to put in around 40 hours towards a game that I would still try and get an entry this year. Moon Base Z chapter 1 is my entry. It is in a lot rougher state than I would hope but is a fully playable game. As usual, here is my postmortem for the challenge.

What went right

I quickly came up with a story for the game but almost immediately realized that the story was way too ambitious for a week. This gave me two options: break up the story into chapters and just focus on getting the first chapter done for the challenge or re-work the story so it can fit. As much as I wanted a complete stand-alone game for the challenge, going with the chapter route would not only allow me to finish a playable level, but would give me months of extra time to properly create the game I jotted down. Seeing how I barely managed to get a single chapter finished, this clearly was the correct choice.

What went both right and wrong

As people who have been following this blog already know, I am getting heavy into using Dart as my web programming language. The decision to use Dart was actually a good one as I find myself far more productive using Dart than JavaScript. The plan to port my earlier 7DFPS engine to Dart, however, took far longer than I had anticipated. What is intersting, is that some of the bugs I was looking into in CQFPS were clearly marked as errors or warnings once the code was ported over. I find I am really enjoying Dart as a language, even with its idiosyncrasies and really hope that the language does take off.

What went wrong

I was going to get help with the artwork for the game. Sadly other things happened making it impossible for my artist to contribute directly to this game. Instead I had to cut-and-paste existing artwork and create new artwork.  I also did not have the time to experiment with HTML5 sound, which is something I really need to do.


Overall not as good of a showing as I would like, but the game is far from finished. As I finish off the remaining 3 chapters I do hope that the resulting game will be much better than this first chapter indicates. My plans are to release each chapter as a beta each independently playable. Once all the chapters are out, I will do a final reworking of all the levels and combine it into a single game. I have no timeframe for doing this but do hope that it is sooner rather than later.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Steam Trading Cards

I have been thinking about the Steam Trading Cards quite a bit lately as my free evenings have been spent playing games in order to collect the free card drops for games that have trading cards. I have received quite a few cards and have been selling the duplicates on the steam marketplace. Overall, I think it was an interesting marketing idea but at it's current implementation is a flawed system. As a programmer, I am use to debugging things so figured I would debug the Steam trading card system. Unfortunately, I do not work at Valve so my thoughts will lead to nothing but the exceeding remote chance that someone at Valve will somehow read this post and agree with my opinions.

Marketing wise, I am not sure that the addition of trading cards will actually sway any purchasing decisions very much for most people. That said, interest in the game generated by people playing the game more to gather trading cards will lead other people to buy the game so from an extended sales perspective this system could be potentially valuable. Unfortunately, due to the way the system is designed, it does not really do this but instead focuses on making commission profit from the marketplace. Why do I say this, well lets look at how the cards work.

There are a set of cards for a game, the number of cards varies but I have seen 5 to 15 Half that number of cards are earned by card drops from simply playing the game. This is the brilliant part of the scheme as poorer players earn stuff simply for playing which encourages them to play. There is the problem of people simply running the game and not actually playing it, but I don't consider it a real problem as the vast majority of people will actually play the game. Once the player has earned the drops from the game, they need to trade with other people, buy cards from the market, or wait for booster packs. Booster packs are only eligible to people who have used all their drops. This actually is a good idea. The problem is that the booster packs gives you cards immediately instead of adding more card drops. This means that once you have received all the card drops you never have to play the game again. This means that instead of encouraging players to play games longer and benefit from the word-of-mouth sales from people continuing to play older games, they are only making a few cents of commission from the marketplace when people sell cards.

The obvious solution is to make booster packs card drops. Still, I am not sure this is the best solution. Getting free cards is really nice and encourages people to continually log on to Steam which could lead to more sales. A much better solution is to keep the random booster packs, but also to give people an extra drop each week capped at the half-the-cards limit. People with drops would no longer be eligible for booster packs which would encourage players to play the older games keeping the communities for those games more active and resulting in more sales. While this would mean more people would earn badges, it would also mean more people trading cards on the market so the market commission profit would not go away plus there would be more sales of trading-card related games.

Such a very simple change would actually make the trading card scheme interesting instead of resulting in people simply playing games to gather the trading cards then not bothering with that game anymore.