Thursday, October 23, 2014

Idamu Caverns: Lessons Learned

I'm winding Idamu Caverns down for a bit.  Overall, I just can't justify the amount of time I've been spending on it, and if I don't get some other projects rolling, I'm going to end up with a money problem soon.  I'm not saying I'm abandoning development of the game, but there will certainly be a pause for the remainder of 2014.  Given the low level of interest, I doubt if anyone will notice, but touch base with me if you're interested in seeing development continue.

The more interesting part of the project (to me anyway) is lessons learned.  I think the easiest way to describe these various lessons is to examine the goals of the project, and discuss whether or not each goal was achieved.

Goal 1: Familiarize myself with the Android platform

I think IC was most successful in fulfilling this goal.  While I'm not a "Google Recognized Expert Developer", I find that I'm able to write Android code quickly and effectively now, without getting bogged down in problems like how to write an app that doesn't lock up, etc.  There were a lot of points during the early development of IC where I tried to use a desktop programming paradigm that just didn't work right, and I feel like I'll be able to avoid those mistakes with my next projects.

Goal 2: Familiarize myself with the Android market

I feel like this was also successfully achieved.  I know my way around the play store, I have a good feel for what is necessary to launch an app, and I feel like I can put the required pieces in place without a lot of flailing for future app launches.

With both goals 1 and 2, I feel like releasing IC as a free app was extremely helpful.  It allowed me to make mistakes (which I did, for sure) without having upset paying customers, requests for refunds, or anything else nasty come through the Play Store.  It set the expectation with the consumers and I feel like it also established goodwill -- I don't know of anyone who feels cheated by Idamu Caverns, to put it plainly.

Goal 3: Build a community around a work in progress

Utter failure, without a doubt.  My attempts at social media, as well as paid advertising, just haven't resulted in the kind of response that's needed to actually build a community.  It's tough to know why things never took off, but I have two guesses: Possibly the Rougelike genre just isn't popular enough to bring in a large community, or possibly there just aren't many people out there who want to be part of a work in progress.

A number of people commented on this when I first started, and I admit that this was one of the big conceits of the project: the idea that people would jump in and contribute.  Many people told me that it wouldn't work, in may different ways, everything from "people don't know what they want" to "you can't give people a blank slate and expect them to be interested."  I didn't feel like IC was ever a blank slate, but apparently, in some way, it was too blank for people to be inspired by.

In general, I didn't get anywhere near the level of interest I expected at all.  Even ignoring the game input, the number of people who downloaded the game was frighteningly small.  I did (what I felt was) a fair amount of paid marketing, as well as doing my rounds on the social networks.  I have to believe that it's the lack of allure of the game and not the marketing, otherwise it's difficult to believe that anyone would ever succeed at marketing any game at all.

Goal 4: Turn Idamu Caverns into a profitable venture

This goal was, without a doubt, failed.  It's failure is the primary reason I'm putting the project on the back burner.  The plan had always been "pay what you want" for the app (using Patreon).  It seems to me that this failing is a chain reaction of the failure to build a community, since I've only got about 100 persistent players (and only 200 people who've tried the game, total) I can't expect to make much money from that small of an audience.  In general, I'd planned at this point for the game to be making at least a few $100 per month.  My most profitable month to date earned me $4.

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