Publishing my first original game

This post will be a bit different from my ordinary posts. I’m not going to talk about my game-development related work so if you are here for that, you should skip this entire post because here, I’ll be writing about and sharing my experiences of publishing my first game and a bit on what I learnt from this experience.

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On 1 Jun 2016, I published my very first Unity game. It’s also the first original game that I published online, aside from OldStory, a Flash Game simulator.

I felt a couple of things – nervousness, excitement and also exhaustion.

I felt nervous because I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know what people would think of my game. It was the same feeling I felt when I published OldStory. I was afraid people wouldn’t like my game and call it rubbish, you know, stuff like that.

I also felt excited because I was looking forward to see what people thought about the game. Ironic isn’t it? I was excited to see people playing my game, a game that I had created. I believe everyone who has created a work of art will feel the same way when they showcase their work to the public.

Lastly, I also felt tired. Having worked on this game for quite awhile, I was growing tired of it. I wanted to move on. I wanted to make another game, I wanted to focus on other ideas, other things that I wanted to make. So there is this indescribable feeling where I say to myself “FINALLY, I’M DONE!”

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All along I’ve kept most of my work to myself (and at best, shown to a few close friends) so publishing a game and pushing the Upload button was a pretty huge leap for me.

For the first hour after publishing my game, you can imagine me hitting the refresh button on the comments page, anxious to read new comments. A few hours after, not many people were commenting so I went to sleep. The game had 800 plays when I went to bed. The next day I awoke, I went to work as per normal, and when I opened my laptop, I saw that my game had grown to 7000 plays and a number of comments. I was quite taken aback because wow! That’s a lot, to me at least!

I was not expecting much from my first game, and so I was also very surprised to see my game on Reddit during the first few days when I had just posted this game.

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I’m glad I didn’t have to do any self advertisement since I’m not really a marketing person, nor do I have such friends and I don’t tend to “spread word about my game”. It’s not that I’m not proud of my game, but it’s just something I can’t see myself doing without feeling like I’m promoting myself ><

It had been two really exhausting but amazing weeks. I had too much to do especially when faced with tons of issues with WebGL. Some peoples’ browsers are incompatible with indexedDB, which is what Unity’s PlayerPrefs uses to save files, causing them to lose their save. I got a couple of messages regarding this and it is a frustrating feeling for them understandably to have spent time on a game and lost their progress. I didn’t expect this to happen for my game.

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I added my friend as a developer so he could help me reply to comments. I also worked with him to add Cloud Saving as well as an Import/Export feature to the game. He has helped me reply to the more technical comments – out of memory errors, browser incompatible with WebGL, game not saving/loading. I stayed up way past my sleeping time for several days, but finally Cloud Save and Import/Export was working and I managed to help a couple of people restore their save files within the first 3 or 4 days.

I guess publishing this game… kind of forced me to learn and sorta develop better communication skills. There were many times I simply did not know what to say to responses. The lack of a chat and forum meant that everyone was posting in the comments. I tried to reply to as many people as possible. It was very tiring.

If there’s a private message that I don’t know how to answer, how do I reply it? Should I move on to other comments & ignore it, should I wait a day? How about replies that were a few days ago but I have found the answer to – is it awkward to suddenly reply them when they had probably expected a reply long ago? All this kind of stuff and more I guess.

Because of the lack of a forum/game chat, the comments section was flooded. I’ve read good comments, bad comments etc. I try to reply to all of them.

But there is this one comment that left an impact on me. There was one time I decided to reply to a guy who had critiqued my game and called it ‘the most boring game on Kongregate’.

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Even though his comment was already downvoted by the community and I could easily ignore it, I decided to reply to his comment. His reply to me was that he decided to give my game another try. One day later, I got a PM from him and he thanked me for the reply that I had given him, saying that his earlier opinion was a bit hasty and praised the story aspect of the game. He thanked me for providing an interesting game to the community. This likely would not have happened had I chosen to just ignore his comment. Of course, most of the time it does not end so favourably.

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That’s my game down there!

As I was updating the game, I got to see how the game actually grew. The game actually started with a very low rating of 2.8 before stabilising at 3.0 for the first few days. I realised though that a low rating doesn’t mean much, and neither can high ratings speak about a game. I’ve played lowly rated games and enjoyed them and also played some highly rated games that were not as enjoyable. Still, I had kept watch over how my game was evolving so I put this together:

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The game’s rating actually rose as days passed! I don’t know if it’s normal for new games’ ratings to fluctuate so much, but it’s pretty nice to see the game get better. I had also watched the play count increase.

The game hit 20k plays after 3 days, 100k plays after 9 days, and 200k plays after about 16 days.

It’s a pretty magical experience and I’m glad I published this game, even though I met with a lot of hiccups, problems and unforeseen issues and at times, felt stressed out.

But at the end of the day, I’m happy that I got this game out. I didn’t sleep very well for the first two weeks of publishing this game. After this game is done, I plan to take a break – away from the computer, away from the stress and responsibilities of life and just go to a place where I can sit down and not think about my game, or anything.

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I ought to write a post on the top 10 things I learnt from making and publishing a game (and no, I don’t mean technical skills like programming or design, I mean other stuff like communication, time management, etc). June is the last month of my gap year and I was really busy with commitments – I had to get ready for school which starts in July, I have to go running to train up for a physical test in July and I’m also working in a game company currently. It’s actually really challenging for me because I seldom get bomboarded with so many things to deal with and thus I didn’t manage my time well. I suppose I will also write a reflection on my gap year. It has been a really crazily hectic year filled with emotional situations, scars but also some unforgettably wonderful moments. I’ll write about these next time.

Thanks for reading!

 

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