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We’re going to Disneyland!

We’re totally chuffed and humbled to announce that Mini Metro has been selected as a finalist in this year’s IndieCade. Check out the full list of games in the festival—amazing to see our little game in such great company!

We’ll be packing our bags and flying across the Pacific to demo Mini Metro at Culver City, California in early October. If you’re going to IndieCade, or are in the area, please stop by and say hello! Entry to see and play the finalists is free* on the weekend of the 11th and 12th of October. We hope to have the game playable on a couple of iPads as well as desktop.

* At least, I’m fairly certain it’s free. Don’t quote me on that.

golden-haired-mystery asked:

Where do you plan to go from Mini Metro?

Ha, we have to finish it first! We hope to get Mini Metro to v1.0 and on mobile by the end of the year, but no doubt we’ll slip and there are enough additional features and ideas to take us well in to 2015 if it continues to be viable to work on. I don’t know what we’ll do after that to be honest—independent game development is what I want to be doing, but it’s freakin’ hard and exhausting and I don’t see as much of my family as I’d like.

Mini Metro’s first month on Steam

Mini Metro was launched on Steam Early Access at 10AM PDT on the 11th of August. As we’re now at the end of our first calendar month on Steam and sales appear to be calming down, I thought I’d recap how it’s been for us so far.

Why?

I thought I’d just explain why we’re making posts like this one (and why we gave out our pre-order numbers). There’s a remarkable lack of concrete sales figures floating around for videogames (indie and AAA—the latter is almost non-existent). It’s very useful information to have for current developers and people who are considering indie game development. Without firm figures as a guide, any income expectations can only be based on conjecture and rumours. It’s crucial to know that not every game sells like Minecraft, but also that you don’t need a smash hit to pay the mortgage. The few articles I found last year with sales figures I found to be very illuminating, and I promised to myself that we’d be open with our own figures when we got the chance.

I’d be lying if I didn’t also note that writing posts that others might find useful will hopefully drive traffic to the devlog and raise the profile of Mini Metro. :)

Run-up

In the week before launch we were getting a steady stream of inquiries from games press and Youtubers, mostly after Steam keys and information about the game. The only mention of Mini Metro was on Steam’s ‘Upcoming Releases’ panel; as when Mini Metro was first up on Greenlight, we were finding out just how many eyeballs are on Steam!

We’d also got back in touch with most of the people who’d written about Mini Metro back in March and April, with information about the release and press keys. We probably should have done this earlier. PR is something that’s too easy to put off when you have a team of just developers. :)

Launch day

The first couple of hours of launch were a bit of a debacle; there was a technical hiccup which prevented the Steam keys from being unlocked for everyone who’d pre-ordered, so we had the classic case of early adopters getting a raw deal. However all that was quickly sorted out and we had no other major bugs or issues. Well, other than Hebrew being rendered backwards.

What took us by surprise was the lack of Steam promotion for Early Access titles. All new titles get 1 million impressions on the Steam front page (generally just on the little ‘Recent Releases’ bar, not the huge scroller at the top), so we were a little disappointed when Mini Metro never showed up there. Eventually we learned that Early Access titles do not receive these impressions when they launch initially, only when they leave Early Access.

Sales

As far as I know we had no major articles on release day, or for the next few days afterwards. Despite the lack of exposure sales went relatively well. As I’ve said, the lack of figures to compare it to makes it difficult to judge what’s good. We didn’t immediately despair, anyway—maybe that’s the best you can hope for!

Here is the sales graph from the 11th until today (the 31st).

image

You can see we had a large drop-off on the second day. I assume there was a large number of people who saw us on the list of new Early Access releases, had us on their Steam wishlists, were following the Greenlight page, or were interested in the game but didn’t want to commit to a pre-order.

There are two obvious spikes occurring after the launch spike, which were caused by … press? Nope—

Youtubers

We’d heard about the rise of the Youtuber, but didn’t quite grasp the magnitude to which they’d taken over the role of guiding purchasing decisions from the traditional gaming press until we saw the spikes.

The first occurs at roughly 6am PDT on the 14th. Northernlion released his Mini Metro Let’s Play the day before. This was a pretty big deal for us. I’d emailed him a couple of press keys before launch in the vain hope he’d cover us, but he never got back to me until launch day—when he emailed me asking for keys. Ha. I’m not surprised, he must get a LOT of email.

His impressions were positive, and have been seen by over 50k people so far. As you can see it drove sales up to roughly half of launch day, then started dropping off fairly quickly again.

The second spike is on the 22nd, at around 8AM PDT. That was thanks to Nerd³ and his Let’s Play of Mini Metro, also positive. He tweeted about the game a few days before, so I emailed him in response with some keys. No idea if he even read the email or not, but he played it and liked it and made the video, so we’re not fussed!

As you can see from the graph, the impact on our sales was massive. That day we sold more than launch day, and the drop-off was much smaller than from previous spikes. Sales today are still higher than the day immediately before the release of Nerd³’s video. We have had some traditional press coverage since then so it’s impossible to say where the sales are coming from of course.

Press

We’ve had a great write-up on Rock Paper Shotgun, and a bit of an odd mention on Kotaku. Those are the only mentions of Mini Metro’s Early Access release by the major gaming press that we know of. You can just see the effect of the RPS article in the sales graph; it comes about four days in from the right, where there’s a slight rise from the previous day.

Reception

So far the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Releasing a game is so much more exhausting than I thought it would be, mostly due to worry about the reception. I think of this as the George McFly Syndrome. When the first Steam user reviews started to come in we were so, so relieved. Well, mostly relieved … I was then worried about when they were going to sour. I’m a bit like that.

Numbers

We’ve so far sold 12,697 copies on Steam. Another 1913 copies have gone through the Humble Store. We were on Humble’s product matrix for roughly one week, during which time we moved around 100-180 copies a day. The was a spike due to Nerd³'s video, but it wasn't as significant as the one on Steam (185 sales compared to 130 the day before). Humble Store sales are now around 30 - 50 a day. The widget sales shot up on launch day, but have since dropped down to about 50 a day.

So all up we’re doing well after the first month. Once the storefronts take their cut, the IRS gets 5% and the moneymen take whatever they want out to convert it to NZD, we’re left with a fair chunk. I have no clue what sales will be like next month—unless we get any further significant mentions in the press I’m expecting a significant decline, to 30% - 50% of the August total.

We do have some very exciting news to announce in the next week or two though!

Zen mode

Rob’s been noodling away on the next map (São Paulo) and zen mode this past week. We hope to have them both, along with some other fixes and changes, up in beta4 later this week.

As we were discussing the design of zen mode, it became apparent that there are a number of directions we could take it. A lot of the ideas that he and I had, and ideas from the community, didn’t fit together as well as I’d expected. Eventually we decided to split the features into two distinct modes: zen and sandbox.

Zen mode will be much like the traditional scored game, but with the absence of a loss condition. Passengers will stop spawning as stations fill up and (very patiently) wait for your trains to ferry them around. The map will still zoom out, stations will open as normal, and you will earn upgrades each week. We’re still nailing down the scoring metric, which will likely be some sort of efficiency rating.

The vision we have for sandbox mode is more of a construction kit. You’ll have unlimited assets. You’ll control where the stations open, and what type they are. The size of the map will be up to you as well. I’m getting ahead of myself here, but if we do get the chance to create a theme and map editor, it would be part of sandbox mode as well.

The sandbox mode is on the to-do list for now however; we have a ton of content still to put in the normal game first!

Mini Metro on Steam

The Steam page for Mini Metro is finally up, including the cool new trailer that Jamie Churchman (@gromange) and Disasterpeace have put together.

Disasterpeace will be scoring the game as well, which we’re super stoked about. The beta won’t initially have any audio as he’s still playing around with concepts, but it’ll be similar to what you can hear in the trailer.

The Early Access beta will be out on the 11th of August on Steam, and DRM-free through the Humble Library to everyone who’s pre-ordered. We’ve sent Humble a whole pile of Steam keys which they’ll be distributing before the 11th. We hope to be up on the Humble Store as well.

Exciting!

Mini Metro pre-order numbers

The Early Access beta for Mini Metro is getting very close, which we’re getting pretty excited about. All you lovely people who pre-ordered will get to play with what we’ve been working on since alpha13 (thank you for your patience!), and Mini Metro will finally be up on Steam.

This afternoon I wanted to take a break from bug-fixing and hurried feature implementation to go through how the pre-orders have been doing, and briefly cover how the revenue has affected development.

Pictures!

Here is the graph of daily pre-orders from Humble from when we started accepting orders (9th of April) until today (22nd of July).

image

This shows the number of pre-orders, not revenue, so it doesn’t take tips into account. With only a few exceptions tips have been fairly even day-to-day.

We really had no idea what to expect when we put the widget up. Sales proved to be good for the first couple of days (165 and 146 sales), and didn’t slump off as quickly as we’d imagined. We had done nothing to promote the pre-order—we just added the widget on to the website.

The huge spike on the 20th of April was the launch of alpha9 and the revamped website. We were hoping for a surge in interest. Alpha9 was a big, much-anticipated change after the divisive alpha8, and we also took the opportunity to showcase a different map (New York City instead of London). We added a plug for the pre-order into the game-over dialog. Needless to say the figures for the next few days blew us away!

The spike on the 11th of May was directly related to this tweet:

Turns out the lead developer of Minecraft firing off a tweet about your game is worth roughly USD200. Thanks Jens!

Sales have predictably dropped off to the infamous long tail. We’re still seeing anywhere from five to 25 sales a day. It all adds up!

Numbers!

We’ve had a grand total of 4,608 pre-orders to date, at an average price of USD4.19 (giving us an average tip of USD0.2). The total gross is currently USD18,219.66. Once Amazon and PayPal take their cut, and a (surprisingly small!) chunk goes to Humble, that leaves a sum that’s enabled me to stay working near full-time on Mini Metro.

But what does it all mean?

We’ve been able to splash out on a number of nice-to-haves. Jamie Churchman (@gromange) came on-board as our graphic designer. He’s completely transformed the look of the game for the beta. We secured a top-notch audio designer who’s busy concepting the soundscape for the game. We coughed up the $1.5k for Unity Pro without worrying too much about how we were going to cover it.

But more importantly, it’s bought us time!

Right when the press started going nuts about Mini Metro in early March, my wife Mary and I had both been at home since December looking after our son Thomas (now two and a bit) and our newborn Elizabeth (born mid-January). We were just deciding on who was going to go back to work; I actually went to job interview the very day Mini Metro went up on Greenlight.

When the first article from the Verge went up and it became clear that Mini Metro was actually going to not only clear Greenlight and pay for itself, but potentially (and up until then, unthinkably) earn money, we decided that Mary would remain full-time stay-at-home Mum while I finished off Mini Metro. I also had to turn down a very promising, very exciting job opportunity.

As you probably know, ‘finishing off’ took a lot longer than anticipated! Originally we thought end of April, then May, then optimistically June, etc. As we’ve both been out of paid employment since December it’s taken a toll on our finances. Without the pre-orders I would have had to drop back to working on Mini Metro part-time (at best).

So a huge thank you to everyone who’s pre-ordered, or told somebody about the game, talked about it online, spread the word. We’re not a well-known developer with a long pedigree, so giving us your money is a risk and we appreciate that trust.

Future

Ideally, the next game from Dinosaur Polo Club will be entirely self-funded. I’m one of nature’s worriers, and I’d feel much more comfortable with the typical delays of game development if people hadn’t already paid us for a product we had yet to deliver. I hate disappointing people.

One of the things I worry about is there will be people out there who have pre-ordered the game but aren’t happy with the final product; perhaps they pre-ordered based on alpha8, which is quite different to the game now.

Anyway … the rest of the dev team is going to flip when they see I’ve spent forty-five minutes writing all this when the beta’s due soon, so I’d better get back to coding!

experimex asked:

Will there be a save game function? Or is there a way to load a previous game already?

We’re undecided on this. Right now we’re leaning towards no for scored games, possibly yes for zen games. The scored games have always meant to be short, do-or-die affairs with an emphasis on replaying from a different seed. The beta features accelerated starts which makes starting a new game much less painful for experienced players.

Mini Metro development schedule

It’s become apparent that the first beta build won’t be released in Q2. We really hoped we’d be able to get the final game released in Q2, so we’re disappointed we’ve slipped so far from our estimate. You’d think we’d be used to it by now, or at least be improving at making estimates. :)

Rather than keep everyone in the dark and just keep saying “We’re working on it!”, we’ve decided to open our development up a tad more. We’ve created a Trello board with all the tasks we have to do before release.

Please check it out if you’re interested, and let us know if you’d like to see more in this vein. Trello has options for public comments and voting which could be useful to prioritise features during the beta, and also post-launch.

Mini Metro alpha13

A belated announcement and changelog for Mini Metro alpha13. This is another minor revision.

The full changelog is:

  • Instead of using hardware anti-aliasing, we’ve implemented our own solution for smoothing the edges of the geometry. It still has a few kinks to work out.
  • The game over countdown for an overcrowding station has been increased from 20 seconds to 40 seconds.
  • Passenger spawning is now manipulated a little to make the end-game a little more hectic.

indiecade:

IndieCade #screenshotsaturday Showcase May 17

Each week we feature 10 screenshots offered by developers currently working on games for submission to the IndieCade Festival. Here are this week’s selections (in alphabetical order).

If you want to get involved, check out the rules here!

The regular submission period for IndieCade 2014 has closed but late submissions are open until June 15! You can submit your game here.

Crooked Dice by Pseudonym Games

Fall of Jupiter by Spacetreasure

FRACT OSC by Phosfiend Systems

Lost Echo by KickBack

Mark of the Old Ones by Hit the Sticks

Mini Metro by Dinosaur Polo Club

Paperbound by Dissident Logic

Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails by Dakko Dakko Ltd

Subnautica by Unknown Worlds

The Chance by Frame Matt

Thank you, as always, to everyone for sharing your ongoing work with us. Keep sending us your screenshots and we hope to see you at the festival!

Mini Metro was featured in this week’s IndieCade #screenshotsaturday Showcase, alongside a whole bunch of great-looking games. So cool!

The Dinosaur Polo Club tumblr theme is based on Fluid Neue by Pixel Union