Tales From The Dev Side - You May Want To Read This. Like Right Now.
Of Mice & Men
There have been some threads and posts about the pricing of the PC version of the game, among other things. So after much thought, I have decided to pen this piece so that we all know where we stand.
Normally, this is something that I would just smirk at and move on. Why? Because it is my game. I put a team together to develop it. I managed it. I produced it. I funded it. I own it. My call. 100%.
If I price my game outside of some people who think it should be cheaper, vote with your dollars and don't buy it.
You are in fact allowed to voice your opinions; for whatever you think they are worth to you. However don't be fooled into thinking that you have carte blanche to do and say what you want here. You don't. There is no Freedom Of Speech here; only Valve's Rules and Guidelines for Steam Community Discussions
What you cannot do is come here and insult us, post all manner of harassment and abuse, then foolishly assume that you can get away with it. Newsflash! You cannot. You will be banned. Your posts will be deleted. And we'll never see you or hear from you again in this group.
Either way, if you're not interested in, are not going to buy, let alone play our game, there is nothing here for you.
I am Derek Smart. I don't take too kindly to people harassing or abusing me online. Constructive criticism is one thing. That I can handle. Abuse, harassment and wanton acts of disrespect are completely off-limits.
If you have been living off-world these past twenty years and don't know who I am, then maybe you should spend that time reading up, rather than insulting my team and I over a piece of entertainment that you likely do not own. You could start with Russ Pitts 2012 piece over at Polygon.
With that out of the way, let me move on to my next point.
The Historical Accounting
Line Of Defense Tactics was originally conceived as a companion app to my upcoming Line Of Defense MMO game. You can read this interview for an in-depth insight to how this came about.
In order to develop the game for different targets (PC, OSX, iOS, Android), I looked at various game engines, weighed the risks and rewards of each, then settled on Unity3D. Since a) I didn't already have an in-house team with Unity3D experience and b) I needed Unity3D experts
So in 2012, I interviewed several teams and people, then I later put together a team to help me develop the game since I have no experience with Unity3D and have no desire to learn. I have spent a lifetime developing game engines from scratch, have a lot of experience with other third-party engines and tools, so learning another one was not something that I thought was a good way to spend my time.
At the time of it's first release on mobile back on Feb 4th, 2014, the game, from concept to that first release, took a little over a year. Not counting the months preceding that during which I was thinking up what sort of game I wanted to do, how I was going to do it, what engine was going to power it etc. In fact, I almost didn't do it due to my apprehension about the crowded social/mobile gaming space. You can see that video interview from GDC2012 over here on GameTrailers.
This wasn't some $5K hack job that I came up with overnight, then had it put together in 90 days. The game cost well over $250K+ to make. And it wasn't crowd funded. And that's not even taking into account or reconciling all the things which you can't put time (e.g. that's not taking into account my time or the budget would be well over $1m considering what I make per hour, just for falling out of bed) or price tag on. At a publisher, this is easily a $500K+ (minimum) game project. Especially in the now crowded mobile space.
This was a game that I put together because after a lifetime of making highly complex PC games, I wanted a chance to do something different and to test the limits of my own sanity (only a fool would fund and develop a game they normally wouldn't be playing) because these sort of games are not my thing. They never were.
Though I have an extensive game collection, my gaming passion is in high-end complex games. Since I enjoy those games, know how to design and develop them etc they are the games that I get to make. Which is why I put together a separate team to help bring my vision to light and in so doing I was able to learn a lot more about this particular space - and indeed about Unity3D.
Unity3D allows devs to build games for different targets but it doesn't mean that you just get to flip a switch and it just works. It's not like that at all.
Each target (iOS, Android, OSX, PC, Linux, XBox360, PS3 etc) has a specific amount of work associated with it and in some cases, working on a specific build target (e.g. PC) is just like working on a whole new game, due to how many things have to be specific. Whether it is the assets (e.g. 3D models, character animations etc) that need revisions to work on a device (e.g. PC vs tablet vs phone) or the map that needs extensive revisions to fit into the device memory, there is a LOT of work that goes into developing a multi-platform game.
The PC version is not some port we hacked together in an hour and called it a day. In fact, it took even people from the main MMO team (a.k.a. LOD Actual) to assist the LOD Tactics Unity3D team on this project.
For one thing, the game uses the IP, mythos and assets from the MMO parent. Given the high quality of those assets, you already know that, as-is, there is no way in hell they'd load on any device.
To see just how massively complex the MMO game is, read my most recent In Pursuit Of Awesomeness and The World Of Line Of Defense dev blogs.
So, each targeted platform, has a specific amount of work associated with it. In fact, while I was penning this piece, I went and checked my Jira and Confluence logs and noted that had we not bothered to do a PC or OSX build, this game could very well have been released since Oct (!) last year because that additional time would have been spent testing and debugging the iOS and Android versions; they being the lowest common denominators in the dev cycle.
Right now, we don't even have a Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 Marketplace build in a decent release condition because, well, Microsoft. Half the stuff we worked on, including most of the Unity3D third-party plugins and indeed the engine itself, do not run, compile or work on those platforms properly. To make them work correctly is going to take even more time and resources. And lots - and lots - of testing.
So guess what? That's right, I am currently evaluating further options on whether or not it is even worth the hassle of putting up with Microsoft's crap on those two platforms.
Why do we even need a Windows Phone 8 version? We don't. It is something that I wanted to do because a) Unity3D, for the most part, makes it easier b) I never underestimate the earning potential of derivative versions when considering the Long Tail
Why do we even need a Windows 8 Marketplace version? We don't. See above reasons. Also consider that the game currently works on Windows 7 as well as on both touch and non-touch Windows 8 devices. You just won't find it in the Windows 8 store because, like OSX, it requires a specific build path. Which means more work.
So guess what? That's right, finishing either of those versions is costing more money, but we're not going to adjust the price just because of that. Not when we already have established pricing models.
And right there is exactly why, aside from the fact that I love my life and what hair I have left on my head, I didn't even consider doing a Linux version. And never will.
And if/when we do a XBOne or PS4 version, it will be priced according to the platform and the amount of work that went into it. That's how it works you see.
The Price Of Rice In China
To the ludicrousness of the outcry over the price of the PC version compared to that of the mobile counterparts and knowing fully well that I didn't have to explain the pricing strategy to anyone, I made this tongue-in-cheek post, hoping that anyone with a sense of humor, would recognize it as such: humor. I was wrong to assume this.
And it wasn't even sarcasm. That never ends well, plus it would be considered condescending and rude.
No, that's not true at all.
Base game campaign on mobile: $4.99
Skirmish NightBridge mode: $1.99
1000 CEP: $3.99
Advanced Weapons Pack: $4.99
All the above bundled into the Steam release: $15.96
+ PC forums (like this) pain and suffering rider: $4.99
+ because it's PC and we don't care about Linux: $2.00
+ just because we can (due to the inevitable Gold rush): $2.04
Grand Total (without tax): $24.99
And, get this, for a limited time only, you get it for 25% off!!! So what on Earth are you complaining about?
I was wrong in assuming that people would see the post for what it was and probably because I have too much faith in the human race. Either that or I'm stupid. I know - for a fact - that I'm not that.
You wouldn't believe some of the crap that was spawned from that. In fact, several people have been outright banned (they readily created troll bait profiles - subsequently banned as well), posts deleted, people shoved off cliffs etc. It wasn't pretty. One guy even chewed off his pinky in protest. Everyone just LOLed and moved on to the next thread. It wasn't pretty.
Here's the thing...
When I priced the game, it was based on lots of research and recommendations. I didn't want to throw up a $19.99 game on the mobile marketplace on my first outing. And I certainly didn't want to buck the trend. Especially since it was already a paid app to begin with. That, in and of itself, is already a barrier of entry.
So I decided to price it right. Rather than make it free with ads - something we did consider but which I quickly discarded - I decided to do a hybrid pricing model which was made public months ago.
This allowed parties on both sides of the fence to first try the game and decide if they wanted it or not.
And given the number of mobile gaming devices, I decided not to even bother with a PC or OSX demo because with the gameplay videos and the fact that missions 1-3 (of 16 in the campaign) were free, anyone buying the game before trying it, only have themselves to blame if they didn't like it. But I was - and remain - confident that, some control issues (we are looking into them for an update) aside, it is a damn fine game that stands well above all the tripe that you lot are paying $39+ for and not objecting to.
This is not about entitlement (those, we devs just ignore). It's about pointless rhetoric and the proliferation of nonsensical diatribes that have absolutely no basis in reality.
Due to the extra amount of work involved with the PC version, not to mention the hybrid pricing of the mobile counterparts (note that the OSX version is $19.99 and nobody is complaining about that; probably because OSX gamers are all grown up, mature and just thankful that there are devs actually making OSX games. It could be Linux), I priced it out as two separate SKUs as seen in the previously linked price list.
The PC version has absolutely no micro-transactions. And unlike the other versions, it has additional weapons and items, CEP and the Skirmish mode.
The $19.99 SKU, Line Of Defense Tactics, is the same base version as OSX version.
The $24.99 SKU, Line Of Defense Tactical Advantage, was a to be a Steam exclusive SKU which I came up with because I didn't want to add micro-transactions to any PC version since that was not the norm; nor is it something that I would do.
A week ago, Valve and I nixed the standard SKU. And for very good reason. That being it would - according to Valve - only add confusion if someone, somehow (yes - it can happen apparently), bought both versions of the game. During that phone call (yes, contrary to popular belief, there are humans working at Valve!), they explained their concern which we discussed. I still had the option to roll both versions, but I decided to roll with their recommendation because, well, Valve.
And since I didn't want or have time to mess with Steam's handling of DLC, as that is what I would have had to do if I wanted the $19.99 SKU along with the extra $5 bits available for purchase, I decided to roll only one version of the game which had those bits built-in.
And aside from the development of the PC version itself, adding those bits as part of the game - and not extra DLC - did also cost time and money to do.
In doing this SKU, I couldn't very well have it on Steam, then blindside my other partners (GameFly, GamersGate, Amazon et al) who, like Valve, I have had excellent relationships with over the years.
So I killed the standard SKU across the board and only offered a single SKU at the price point that I feel is comparable to the game within.
Thus the game released became Line Of Defense Tactics - Tactical Advantage at the $24.99 price point but with a limited time 25% discount.
The Art Of War
I've been doing this for a very - very - long time. Some of you don't even know who I am. And that's understandable when you consider that most of the people I started out with are either no longer in business, are off working for "The Man" or trying to get their next game crowd funded.
So when I make a decision such as this, it is not because I threw pebbles into a jar, shook it, then went with the prettiest one retrieved from said jar. There was a lot that went into the decision. It's called experience.
So quit wasting time trying to convince yourself and others that because the game is priced lower on mobile that it should be priced accordingly on the PC. It just doesn't work that way.
I hope that this singular post has addressed these concerns. As such, I don't expect to see any more threads or posts about it.
Thanks for reading. Now go buy the game and have fun playing it; you'll be pleasantly surprised.
As you were.
Last edited by dsmart; Feb 12, 2014 @ 5:51am