10 indie theses that led to success

    About 10 years ago, when I was just starting my career in the gaming industry, no one had spoken the word indie, and gaming corporations in the post-Soviet space seemed like a mythical fairy tale. In those wonderful times, when the first Russian browsers were only blossoming in the gaming market, my friend and I started to do our own project. We did not consider ourselves entrepreneurs or startups. Not. Yesterday's students, regular players who are fans of Warcraft, Heroes and other classic games. Today I want to share with you the personal experience gained during the indie development of a browser game from scratch. Novice developers, this article is for you.

    So, two young students with basic programming skills, inspired by cool games, decided to create their own project. We conceived a game of colossal proportions. A kind of World of Warcraft in the browser.

    Experience number 1. Soberly evaluate your strength.

    We not only enthusiastically took up work that we can never master, but we were absolutely confident in its success and our capabilities! 100,500 affiliates, 1,000 features, and of course an over 9,000 heroes - this is what the indie project doesn't need the most. Unaware of the scale and never having heard of the word “planning”, we set to work. Being experienced players, we were sure that this was enough to make our game. Dima, my development partner, at that time already heard such words as an alpha test and had a clear methodology in his head - let's launch alpha, and saw content, then beta and money. Doom to success.

    Experience No. 2. The importance of methodology cannot be underestimated.

    Having read the articles, I already knew that game design begins with dzdokov. By the end of the first year of development, we had them.
    We worked hard and hard. And a month later they got a playable prototype: moving around the location map, a text lock on the menus and a turn-based combat without graphics. Everything was done on my knees and in general it was justified. Now I understand that this is how prototypes need to be written. Just then they are thrown away so as not to drag crutches and bicycles into the main code. The moment of adoption of the prototype will mark the beginning of the stage, which is now called Vertical Slice. By the way, very soon on March 2 I will tell you in detail about the documentation and methodology in an open lecture. Read more about this in another article on Habr.

    Experience No. 3. Do not be afraid to send the prototype to the basket.

    Well, many years ago, instead of saying: “Great! We came up with a cool game, ”- throw out the prototype and start development, we continued to work on it, turning it into a combat version.
    Work continued for many months: graphics, content, the client part in HTML / JS and the server part in PHP. And finally, on January 7, 2008, the long-awaited alpha test was launched. We sent out invitations to all our friends, posted information about the launch to the forums we knew, and waited for the influx of players. By evening, the MAU of the project reached 30.

    Experience No. 4. Prepare traffic for Soft Launch.

    Quickly realizing the mistakes of our path, we began to do a PR project and work with the community. Social networks were not yet so tightly integrated into our lives, and potential players were more sitting on the forums. After some time, we learned about ad networks and started purchasing traffic from Google AdWords. By that time, the first content manager and professional artist joined our team. What was our surprise when 80% of registrations did not turn into anything! People left the game without even paying money. We started thinking about tutorial and monetization.

    Experience No. 5. Monetization mechanisms should be embedded in core gameplay.

    After analyzing competitors, including the well-known BC and a couple of similar scrapbooks, we identified a number of key revenue items and realized that we wanted to sell in our game.
    We constantly talked with our players in the forum and in the project chat, receiving feedback from them and quickly finalizing the project based on their prompts. But there was no more money, like online players. At this moment, we thought about analytics.

    Experience No. 6. The system for collecting and analyzing statistics should be ready for Soft Launch.

    We learned to count retention, understood what conversions are and analyzed where our players are falling off. We started working with traffic and the fight for low CPA.
    Obvious jambs were closed, and the game was lined with metrics. The lifetime of an active player exceeded many months. The percentage of payers sometimes reached 20. Online was stable at 100. But the more we introduced new features, the more recipes, talents and quacks appeared in the game, the more complaints appeared on the forum. At a certain point, the volume of new content and its correlation with the old one became higher than what we could analyze. The new quest was not added by the fan, but by increasing dissatisfaction. The second artist, whom we hired to increase project revenues, could not save the situation.

    Experience No. 7. Do not neglect quality control.

    It took many weeks to create a system for properly updating updates instead of manually copying them to the server. There are test cases and checklists of updates. Patches no longer rolled onto production without testing for PTR (Public Test Realm). All players were notified in advance about upcoming updates and took part in their discussions. The project has an encyclopedia, testers and community. We created an institute of moderators from among the players. Technical support was reborn from the forum topic always filled with pain to a separate convenient page on the site.
    We have gathered our community - devoted and madly in love with our project. But further growth in audience and revenue went very slowly. The project had a beautiful landing, had good ARPPU- 1800 rubles. But conversions remained low. Only a year after the launch of alpha, two people with a technical mindset understood why.

    Experience No. 8. The product should be beautifully packaged with interfaces from the very beginning.

    Retribution interfaces were terrible. To us, they seemed comfortable and perfectly acceptable. But only fairly hardcore users were ready to deal with our HTML tables. We hired an interface designer, and I took up usability. The realization that one really convenient cool interface is done in a month, and in the game there are a hundred of them, made us discouraged. What should have been developed from the very beginning, a year before the launch, appeared only in MBT. By the way, we have not changed all the game interfaces to new ones and in some places remained “artifacts” of ancient times.
    Our artists have pumped. There was a simple and fascinating tutorial. The game began to accumulate an audience. We have large clans, and the number of registrations has exceeded 100,000. Monetization has become the bottleneck for expansion. We looked at competitors and introduced artifacts.

    Experience No. 9. Direct sale of power negatively affects the game.

    The percentage of payers jumped to 37! Monthly revenue amounted to hundreds of thousands of rubles. And everything seemed to be going just fine. But having purchased premium accounts, powerful clothes and boosts, our beloved loyal players began to absorb content with great speed. What we planned for six months, she mastered in a month. At the beginning, we accelerated the release of content, but the realization of the dead end of this path came to us very quickly.
    Then there was a painful nerf. The impact on the project’s revenue was not strong, and the balance slightly improved. However, most players have already purchased everything they wanted. And all the same, we were doomed to introduce new content: factions, territories, bosses, dungeons, resources, battlefields, recipes ... We threw all our energy into producing the content. But the game was slowly declining.

    Experience No. 10. Content without new mechanics is not enough to support the project.

    Strong competitors burned in the market: “Legend: Legacy of the Dragons”, “Three Kingdoms”, “Territory”, “Technomagy” and other well-known browser games. One warm August day, we suspended further support for the project.

    Many years later. During this time I took part in the development of several more browsers, action-rpg Panzar, the mobile game “Evolution: Heroes of Utopia” and other mobile and social projects. He became the director of game design for a large Russian gaming company. He taught game logic at RealTime school for 5 years, and two years ago he launched with his colleagues the first public education in Russia in the field of the gaming industry based on the Higher School of Economics. All this time, work in game devs has been and continues to be an interesting life activity for me.

    In conclusion, I want to say that the gaming industry is a place that opens up for people with burning eyes the prospect of a work that brings pleasure. And when you do what you love, then money and success eventually come. They come through mistakes, through their own "rake" and lack of sleep. But if your eyes burn, then all this is surmountable!

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