What does that mean? A few things, actually. Here's a breakdown:
Update the Demo
As mentioned above, the demo hasn't received an update in quite some time. As a snapshot of the gameplay from late March, it lacks many of the cool new features I've since added. The new night/day system, player camps, combat, and wound systems really transformed the game for the better. Providing players a chance to see those in action is a priority, especially before driving prospective customers to the website.
|The new combat system alone is a highlight, according to veteran players.|
I'm considering several options for demo limitations, such as fewer skill slots, no access to vehicles/special camps, and no save games.
I'm also maintaining the current limit of no content beyond the DMC gates. Though that's currently also the case for the beta, until the new content gets added.
However, one interesting limitation that has been proposed by both players and Cameron is a time limit. What if we only gave players 48 hours of in-game time? 48 hours is enough time to experience a full day cycle, get some interesting items and experiences, but not enough to really dig in and power game. I was initially scared of such a limit, but it's growing on me. It's somewhat akin to the demo in Civilization, which only granted 100 turns.
As mentioned last time, Desura has contacted me, indicating that they'd be interested in carrying NEO Scavenger as an alpha-funded title. Since I now know that's an option, I can move up my plans to deploy on their platform.
Doing so, however, requires that the game be in a downloadable format. Flash should technically be able to create projector formats for each of the major PC platforms. I just have to figure out what's involved, and how to test them.
Plus, this prepares NEO Scavenger for easier distribution to things like the IGF, Steam, and publications.
Create a Trailer
One of Desura's requirements is that every game they carry include at least 10 screenshots and a gameplay video. The screenshots are no problem. However, the trailer is a different story.
Sure, I could vidcap a few minutes worth of gameplay, slap it together in After Effects/Premiere, throw in some music, and use that. However, the trailer is an opportunity to really sell the game and its atmosphere. If done right, it could become a strong vehicle for exciting new players and drawing them to try the demo.
So I've been exploring ways of doing just that. Josh Culler has submitted some great music for NEO Scavenger, and one piece in particular seems like a great fit for the trailer. The trick will be choosing footage that both describes NEO Scavenger, but doesn't require the viewer to read tiny on-screen text.
NEO Scavenger is not very animation-heavy, so there isn't much to see in a video. In fact, most of the interesting mechanics of NEO Scavenger require watching a few turns of gameplay, and reading text. Not very good for a trailer, unfortunately.
What I'm considering, then, is maybe telling a short story about a player's predicament, and using bits of footage to show some of the systems that got them there. Perhaps with the right narrative, the succession of screenshot-like footage will be more engaging.
Update the Website
Finally, I'll also need to update the Blue Bottle Games website. The site isn't necessarily broken nor out of date, but there are some things I could do to reduce friction. Some changes I am considering include:
- Moving a NEO Scavenger teaser to the homepage, so first time visitors see it right away. Currently, they are presented with news, and have to click "Games" to see any NEO Scavenger images or links.
- Changing the pricing info for NEO Scavenger to be shown when users are not logged in. Currently, one must be a registered user to see the NEO Scavenger pricing.
- Adding Desura links. True, a link to Desura takes some money out of my pocket (Desura takes a cut of each sale). However, some customers are already established with Desura, and/or are more comfortable ordering through Desura than an unknown indie developer. At worst, I expect this to be a wash compared to not having the link. At best, this should create additional sales.
- Removing the lipstick promo. It was a humorous promotion, but I'm getting tired of signing postcards with a lipstick kiss. Time to retire the silly promo and go with a more traditional "signed postcard" approach.
Once the above steps are done, the process of contacting press and promoting the relaunch begins. I already have a list of writers and editors who have asked to be informed of updates, plus a list of publications I'd like to contact for the first time. There are also some forums out there that I plan to revisit with the news. I think that with a little elbow grease, I can get NEO Scavenger featured in several places, and rekindle gamers' interests.