Steam Marines Development Overview

Crucible

It started as a game called Quad. Slated as a one year Chess type game it became a bare bones tech demo in early 2012. From there it morphed into a fantasy RPG then a steampunk roguelike and renamed to Steam Marines.

Public builds of Quad started in April of 2012. By the time Steam Marines went on sale on Desura on 4 September 2013 the game had been in open alpha for Windows and Mac for a year and a half.

 

Greenlight

After over a year Steam Marines was Greenlit on 16 October 2013. On 4 September 2013 it launched on Steam’s Early Access.

Two of the first posts created on the Steam discussion forums were the Roadmap which laid out the long term future of Steam Marines, and the FAQ which laid out the state of the game, such as controller support and platform support.

Steam Marines was still in alpha and this was clearly communicated. The main goal at this point was to get all major features and content in.

 

Sales

Steam Marines participated in the Steam Holiday Sale 2013 which started on 19 December. On 27 December it was voted as the Community’s Choice and went on sale for eight hours at 75% off.

By 2014 Steam Marines had, just four months after it had transitioned from open alpha to paid alpha, sold over 50,000 copies across all distribution platforms.

 

Recently

Steam Marines is fully released after spending over a year on Early Access. Nearly all features initially presented in the Roadmap were implemented. Some features, such as deck destruction which I considered a major feature, were cut in part due to Early Access players offering feedback that such a system was undesirable. Some features which were not promised also came to fruition such as a native Linux build, deeper marine customization, and modding capabilities.

The vast majority of known bugs have been squashed. The game is stable. It is feature and content complete. Word of mouth continues to be a significant driver of new players.

 

Retrospective

I’m quite proud of what I’ve accomplished since early 2012. The initial one year project scoped up to a two year roguelike, then was extended for more features once it hit Early Access which was largely successful.

I’m probably most proud of my engagement with the community. There are many valid criticisms one could level at me regarding my design decisions, UI/UX implementation, choice of art aesthetic, et cetera, but I don’t believe responding and engaging with the Steam Marines’ player base is one of them.

I learned about game development and design, met a lot of interesting people in the industry, saw more sides of the game/player community, and did well enough that I can continue making games.

That’s a win.

 

Thanks for reading,
Mister Bums

You can contact me at yjseow@worthlessbums.comTwitter, or leave a comment below.

Steam Sale – Community’s Choice

It’d be great to be a daily deal! Front page, on sale, and, and, and!

Steam Marines was on sale for 50% off on Steam during the Holiday sale. On December 27th it was picked as the Community’s Choice and went on sale for eight hours at 75% off for $2.49 USD.

The impact was enormous:

Communitys-Choice-Graph
Steam Marines traffic on Steam

The graph is for unique visitors to the Steam Marines Steam Store page. When Steam Marines first launched on Steam I did not have Google Analytics set up properly, so the first portion of the graph is missing data. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the spike on the right side, because you can barely tell where the launch and Autumn Sale dates are if I didn’t mark them.

 

Community’s Choice > Passing Go.

I don’t think you can plan on being selected for Community’s Choice. I don’t know how they picked the games I was put up against. I don’t know by how much I won the vote or how many people voted. But of course I voted for myself like the scumbag dev that I am:

Community's Choice Options
Community’s Choice Options

Aside: The developers of Kinetic Void (one of the other games in the Community’s Choice pool) were kind enough to post congratulations on the Steam Marines discussion forums. Very groovy of them (i.e. not scumbag devs.)

 

Getting on the front page in this manner also drove traffic to the official Steam Marines website:

Community-Choice-Steam-Marines-Website-Traffic
Steam Marines Official Website Traffic

 

Armchair Analysis

As you can imagine this also drove sales on non-Steam platforms, although the numbers were nowhere near as large as on Steam itself despite the fact that all purchases on non-Steam platforms also grant Steam keys. I probably could have made that fact more obvious, although I suspect it would not have made an enormous difference. I am certain that many of the sales were impulse buys.

When Steam Marines launched on Steam it did so at a price of $7.99 with a launch discount of 10% off. During the Autumn Sale it was listed at $7.99 and on sale for 50% off. During the Holiday sale it was listed at $9.99 and on sale for 50% off; also 75% off during the Community’s Choice eight hour period.

It may have helped that Steam Marines was the lowest cost game for that voting pool at $2.49 versus $5.00 and $6.80. Anecdotal observation of other Community’s Choice picks suggests that people go for low cost versus cost saved compared to base sale price, presumably in part due to Steam not readily providing that information on the voting panel. Of course even if I had the actual voting data it’d be difficult to draw that conclusion. Lots of other variables to consider!

 

Closing Comments

Being on Steam’s front page with a steep discount, if only for eight hours, was amazing. Lots of sales, lots of discussion, and an avalanche of bug reports I’m still wading through.

I apologize for not being able to hand out solid sales numbers. However the site traffic should give you a general idea of the relative power of sales and the Steam front page on the data point that is my game.

If you’d like a few more words on this general subject matter, I hope you take a look at my older blog post, Commercial Indie Games & Risk.

“I didn’t get to craft my Snowglobe thingy because the Steam servers were all wobbly whacked.” – Unknown Scumbag Dev

 

Thanks for reading,
Mister Bums

You can contact me at yjseow@worthlessbums.comTwitter, or leave a comment below!