A Shocktopus History – Part 4
(The Electric Shocktopus is coming to Steam on November 30th (be there or be 1/r^2), so I figured it was a good time for a history lesson. To learn more, check out the first, second, or third parts of this series.)
It’s worth remembering that I didn’t start out to make a Steam game, or even a PC game.
After having just built an iPhone game, I wanted this next one to be web-based Flash game. Web games are great! They get a wider reach, hit more eyeballs, not to mention they are a better fit for a platformer – where you can use the arrow keys to run and jump around.
So that’s what I built. And by February 2014, the Flash game was done.
The way money works in Flash games is through advertising and sponsorships. You get a sponsor to pay you to have their name blasted on the front of your game, and then you get to give out the game for free. Everyone wins.
I went to a match-making site for developers and sponsors, but I couldn’t find a sponsorship I liked. I let the game sit on the auction site for months before deciding I needed to take another tack.
What went wrong with Flash? Well, for one thing, the industry has had the rug pulled out from under it. With the decline of Flash, there’s a lot less money to go around for Flash games. My expectations may also just have been wrong – in retrospect, I don’t think the game was polished enough at the time. And I think there’s something to be said for the niche nature of this game. It’s a fun platformer, yes, but a big part of the allure of the game is the physics accuracy. You are truly simulating electromagnetism in the game. And for a sponsor who’s just looking for games, the fact this one is educational and scientifically accurate might not be a selling point at all.
What to do?
With Velocity Raptor – I simply released the game online, for free. No sponsor. No advertising. I haven’t seen a penny off of it. Which was fine, it was a labor of love I did while I still had a day job. I just wanted to get my first game out there. I couldn’t do the same thing again with The Electric Shocktopus.
But it took nearly a year to figure out what to do next. In the meantime, I moved on to other projects.
Unity to the Rescue?
In November 2014, I announced that I was bringing Shocktopus to Unity. It was time to leave the Flash world behind, once and for all.
Unity is a cross-platform game development tool, which means you can build a game in it, and export it to iOS, or web, or as a downloadable PC/Mac/Linux game, etc. And it’s a whole lot more powerful than Flash. I had been learning to user Unity in late 2013, and had been building Bond Breaker in it, and enjoying the results. It was clear to me that Shocktopus’s future lay there, too.
The major reason, aside from ‘more power’? I could easily make a standalone, non-web version of the game for players to download. It could be bigger, badder, better, and something I could charge for, unlike a Flash game. And I could still make a web version – a lite or demo version – if I wanted.
It wasn’t easy to switch over to Unity – it basically required a rebuild of the game. But by February 2015, it was done. I released the game publicly through a Humble Widget on my site.
It was technically in Beta mode, since I knew there were minor tweaks I’d like to do, but there it was. I went back to working on other projects – and having a baby.
As a historical side-bar, I’ll note this is the time I started up the Feel Bad Friday videos, which have been going on (off and on) ever since.
But selling it on my own site only gets me so far. I knew I had to try to get the game up on Steam. I prepared the materials, built a new trailer, and posted my Greenlight campaign in December 2015. It got a nice flurry of feedback, which was very useful. And then it quieted down. And then I waited. Again.
See a trend? The Electric Shocktopus has had a fair bit of downtime.
But then, in August 2016 (what’s 8 months between friends?), I heard back that Shocktopus had made it through Greenlight! Celebration ensued!
And also, questions. What do I do now? How do I release a game on Steam? What are trading cards – and how do I make them?!
Which brings us to present day. The game is getting released on Steam tomorrow, November 30, 2016, which Shocktopus gets released on Steam. It’s been a long journey, years in the making, and while I’d be foolish to state it’s over, it feels like a nice goal for the game to have reached.
Until, that is, I make a VR version of it.
(Thus concludes the history lesson! Here, have a cookie.)