What are the "unwritten rules" of going commercial?

Seriel

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Kyuukon

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And if I told my child self to sell her first game on steam, she'd be flamed to death and give up on life. lol (or at least never game dev again)


That's a fine enough quote, but I don't think he's saying to publish your first works. I'm sure that author has plenty of practice writings that he wouldn't show the world - at least not published as an actual product. Encouraging someone to put their first ever project up for commercial sounds like throwing them to the wolves to me. Maybe you're all looking for that sort of entertainment???
I wasn't exactly referring to publishing on that quote, but to aim for commercial from the go :p even if you end up making it free for reasons later on.
 
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Parallax Panda

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@Jackus
Don't worry, I've been using game engines like "RPG Maker", "Ren'Py", "Multimedia Fusion", "The Games Factory" (etc) on and off since ~2001 and I don't have any real finished games to show for it either... But who cares, right? BD :rock-right:

@Hudell



Oh man, you're screwed! It will never sell! ;)
 

cekobico

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It's not about "selling your first game"; but more like.... make your first project, as if you're going to sell it to someone. That way, you'd be pressed forward to ensure 100% quality, I think that's what Kyuukon really wants to deliver with his statement.
 

Slimsy Platypus

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I appreciate everyone's comments and this discussion has been really great insight.  I'm especially appreciative of the commenters that went beyond simply stating [paraphrased] "don't release your first game commercially" with a bit of the why.


For me personally, I understand the arguments.  But they are boiling down to not releasing a poor quality game, which I never would do intentionally.  Do I risk doing so unintentionally?  Sure! But I'm not convinced the right approach (for me) is lowering the bar so much that my [paraphrased] shitty first game meets my shitty first game expectation.


I've choosen the benchmark of success to be a commercially releasable product, and I'd like to think I can achieve that.  I'm going to continue to learn and reiterate until I feel that I've met that objective.  Here's to trying!


Thank you all again for your comments.
 
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Andar

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@Slimsy Platypus


The advice on "don't make your first game commercial" goes beyond reasons of quality, even if the quality and experience is a good part of it.


To release a game commercially also means that you want to make money from it AND that you want to do it for future projects after that. Please note that this definition of "commercially release" is not the same as "I want to get some of the money I placed in it back" - because getting 10% of your money back is not making money, it's loosing money to a hobby.


To make money from creating a game, you need to know how much work you have to place into it (that includes knowing how much time to assign for bughunting), you need to know what fits together and what not and a lot of other details that you can't know on your first game project.


To learn all those details you need to gain experience on game making, and that can only be gained from making a game. And because you need that time to learn, your first game will never be commercial successfull, no matter how often you sell it - simply because you had placed too much time into it, and getting 1 cent per hour in the end is not commercial successful.


It is a lot easier in the long run to accept that, make a small game project for learning purposes only (not wasting any good ideas on it) and only start on your commercial game after that first project is completed.
 

taarna23

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I think in terms of learning, joining some contest-type arrangements was huge. A looming deadline, and trying to balance a full-time job, being a parent, and making a game. It really does help you highlight what is most important for the type of game you're making, because you prioritize, or you don't finish, and that's really it. But it really does help you see what stuff needs to be the most important. Mine was a pure dungeon runner, so environments and monster balance had the most importance. Now that I'm reworking it from the ground up, I can see that those remain most important, but I can bring up other priorities, like a better balance for the shops, nicer town and building designs, better dungeon design, and so on. Would the game be playable without these changes? Absolutely. Would improving them make the game better? Absolutely.


Anyway, I've gotten a little off point... Contests are fun, and a god test of how you put things together under pressure. If you have a chance to, join one. If you can make a loose framework of what you're trying to do as a project, and people seem to like it, then you're on the right track.
 

Missile

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#1. Read a game design book. Jesse Schell's The Art of Game Design or Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun are good choices. It'll only take a couple days to read at most and help you immensely. You might think you have a good grasp of design, but there's a lot of Dunning-Kruger effect involved in that. It's easy to convince yourself that you know more than you actually know.


#2. Loosen up creatively and do something worth doing. What can you do creatively to stand out? You'll need to in order to break through the noise, but it's probably better to do so later on when you have your bearings together, which is why starting out commercial first can be rough - it's difficult to know if you've gone through enough personal creative development to manage it elegantly. Also, you'll need to invest to accomplish this, and RM games often don't make that much money (aside from a few outliers). Like others have said, it's better to invest from a position of confidence.


#3. Play a lot of other RM games. Appreciate a lot of varied things, and fill your mental library with stuff. There's a video about this for artists and "learning" creativity, but the same applies to every endeavor; writing, game design, etc.
 
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JosephSeraph

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just an interesting thing I'd like to say:


Even if I've never sold a game and won't sell all of my next games, I think I'm going to start considering all of them Commercial.  Even  the free ones, which are all the ones I have in plan currently. Because even though I won't be getting revenue from them I'm  still exposing myself as a developer and building a relationship with potential customers, press, etc. and I want my gmes to be as professional and polish as they can, free or not.


So that's a no for grey-area resources. That's a no for antyhing that wouldn't fit in a paid game. IDK i think that's a healthy way to think about it.
 

Matseb2611

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Even if they do not suck they will ALWAYS have flaws. There generally three outcomes for first finished games:


a/ it's pretty bad


b/ it's decent but has a lot of easily fixed flaws a first timer had no time to learn about


c/ it's good but there are a lot of half-made projects behind it that did the learning (so it's not really a "first project" anymore)


To be honest, EVERY game has flaws. Yes, your first game will have flaws, but so will your second and third and so on. What does happen is that you improve from project to project, but by how much depends on a lot of factors. It depends on how fast of a learner the person is and also on how much time they spend on each project and how much time they spend using RM overall. I know a fair few people on here who haven't released their first project yet, but they know the eventing and other features of RM pretty well.


In essence, even though it is a good rule of thumb of releasing a free game first before going commercial, it's not the be all end all rule. There's no one size fits all, so to say.


To the OP: If you do decide to go commercial with your first game, you might have to spend a lot of time playing around with various functions of the engine, and you have to be prepared for having to come back to earlier parts of the game and redoing them after having learnt new and more effective methods. You might also end up having to spend longer on this project than you anticipate, because having a learning curve means it will take you longer to pull something off than for a person who knows their way around the engine.
 

Amy Pond

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Polish everything.


Test everything.


It doesn't matter how good your game is, all it takes is one game breaking bug, or one bit of missed sloppiness, and your game's tarnished with a thousand one star reviews and a bad reputation.
 

AwesomeCool

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@Matseb2611 - I can't hit that like button harder.  There is no 10/10 game.  Every game has something it can do better and every game will have something that will tick someone off.  Heck, even famous game designers that have made games for 20+ years still make games that have flaws big enough to make the game fail commercially (and end up being considered a bad game).


A game just has to be one thing, entertaining.  If you can make a game that entertain enough people, it will sell.


If you want to start off with a commercial game, you will probably have to go back and improve sections as you go along and get better.  Probably  will make Dev time take longer than normal. Something to keep in mind.


On that note: I would recommend avoiding the RTP for commerical.  Even if the game is good, it will be grouped with all of the other RTP games out there and will not sell all that well.  The indie market is currently highly competitive (for better or worse) and there will be 20+ games probably released the same day as yours alone to compete with.
 

Tai_MT

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In regards to the "I should make a commercial game first because that goal will keep me invested!".  I hate to speak from experience...  But, no, it won't.


One of the unwritten rules you need to learn about even getting to the point of publishing commercially is setting smaller goals.  This isn't something where you can run the 100m dash in 8 seconds right out of the gate, the first time you try.  It's silly to think that talent and drive will get you that far.  It won't.  Talent makes learning easier.  Drive makes you simply work longer.


You need to set smaller goals on the way to your "make a commercial game", because it is the only way you won't get discouraged on your first project.  And you will get discouraged on your first project.  Especially as you learn the program and neat tricks you can do with it (tutorials cover the basics, but not all the really cool stuff you can actually do).  The reason for releasing a non-commercial game first is simply to test the waters and get feedback.  You can only obtain so much valuable information with a demo.  Releasing a full game and getting valuable feedback is a whole new beast.  Releasing it "for free" is simply a way to get anyone to try it and give you feedback.  It's a way to learn how the industry works, how customers act/react, and how to improve yourself.  Players will be 20x more angry with you if they dropped $5 on your game and it wasn't very good compared to if they got it for free and it wasn't very good.  You create a free project first, release it to the public, so you can get a read on the barometer of Public Opinion.


Personally, I built up my own system of goals to hit as I go along so that I don't get discouraged and so I can stop at necessary points to obtain feedback and maybe fanbase as I move forward.  My first goal is simply, "A demo that's a few hours of gameplay so that I can attain feedback and get a feel for how to improve the rest of my game".  Goals after that are simple things like, "make the first episode of the game, release it, and get 10% of people who play it to enjoy it."  Once the goal is met, I move up to the next one.  The goals shift as I do more work and get more done.  New content is added as I reach personal goals that I'd like.  I currently don't have any plan to ever charge for my game.  I plan to have a kind of "donate if you like it" type system which would simply pay for assets to improve the game, but no mandatory "pay me to play this" type system.


In all honesty, I'll probably never "go commercial", because I don't like the hassle of the idea of it.  I'd rather stick to donations if possible.  After all, if the game is free, what is there to really pirate?


But, I think setting your goal for your first game to be "publish it commercially", your sights are too high.  Anyone who's ever done anything will tell you that you need to set smaller goals on the way to that big goal.  The big goal is something you hope to eventually get to, but it isn't something you try to get to right out of the gate.  You make smaller goals to get there, to give you experience, connections, feedback, and most importantly... TIME.  Nobody comes right out of high school and immediately becomes a lead member of a AAA game...  Nobody comes right out of high school and becomes lead quarterback for the NFL.  You don't come right out of college and immediately become CEO of a major corporation.  You just don't, you can't, and you need the experience.  Experience is the most valuable thing you will ever attain.  Pretty much everyone needs experience before ever making a commercial game.  Making the first game commercial is pretty much the fastest way to get a public to not buy any of your future games.  You bungle your first commercial game and you've effectively lost the goodwill of the people who bought it.  You've lost fanbase there.  Those are customers that won't be returning for your next project.


Just as you don't throw a child in the deep end and say "figure out how to swim!", you don't bail headfirst into a commercial game.  You need at least some experience with both before you can decide if you should go commercial at all.


Yes, it's a nice fantasy to say "I just want to make games as my career, it would be fantastic".  But... very few people ever get to do it.  Nobody gets to do it right out of the gate.  It takes a lot of time and effort to get to the point where that dream could even be a reality.  Experience teaches you that.
 

Saboera

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I'll add one thing.


Don't skim the business side. Learn to do it properly.


Set a vision for your game, what do you want to accomplish? Is it possible with the engine? How could I do X feature? Do scripts exists for this? Is there third party resources I could use? Ask yourself questions.


Get a solid grasp of what you'll need and how much time/money it might take. Even if it's an amazing game, you can fail because it took too much time/money and the sales didn't cover up the expenses. It's better to establish techniques early that are gonna save you a lot of time in the long run, so take your time to experiment and establish the pipeline before going all out with content creation.


Know the market, study the market. I cringe almost every time I see mobile devs transitioning over to steam, keeping the same advertising style from mobile, slapping a 15 dollars tag and calling it a day. Knowing who you are selling to, understanding how to market to them and having a plan for it is as important as the game itself.


Learn to interact with the public and take criticism (this is important). A good public reputation will contribute to success, interaction with your customers and potential customers will lead to sold copies.


And last for now, don't be afraid to get help if you need it.
 

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