Posted Mon, Apr 22, 2013 by Martuk
Forge shipped out to retail back in December, but as is often the case with many online game, things could have gone better. In an effort to make some massive improvements and re-launch the title, Dark Vale Games has been working on a massive revamp update that will overhaul the tutorial, add new game modes & classes, improve the UI, add new maps, classes, and more.
The devs recently put together a new blog about the changes and upcoming update and Dark Vale Games sent us a copy. The blog reflects on some of the mistakes made with Forge’s original launch, and what improvements players can look forward to in the days to come when the game re-launches later this month.
Read the full developer diary below and check out the April patch notes on the Forge website.
Friday, March 29th saw us putting down our pencils for the Forge Re-Launch, due end of April. With this patch we will have successfully completed the Forge we set out to make, but were just shy of back in December.
This latest development push had us reexamining all the things we did wrong (and right) in launching Forge. While there were so many things that made Forge what it is, including the development model - which we wrote about previously on Gamasutra - as well as talent, methodology, etc. we are limiting this list specifically to high level, core game stuff.
Right: We built a fun and balanced combat game
Forge is fun. Very much so. The core game is balanced and performs how we intended. We set out to make a grind-free experience that pit players against each other with nothing but a core set of skills and the player’s own talents. Each class has enough variety of skills that it keeps combat interesting and gives players a lot of room to define their own combat style. No other game allows players to fight with MMO-style skills in a twitchy, FPS-style battle. The overwhelming feedback from players is that it is a bridge that has been missing in PvP, and that we got it right.
Wrong: We launched too early
We know we launched an incomplete game. Being an indie studio we did not have the luxury of spending four more months developing Forge without seeing any revenue. While Forge is an indie, it’s not like we’re 4 guys in a garage living on Top Raman and KFC Bowls. We had 50 team members at one point during development, and a regular skeleton crew of 25. These are all talented and industry-experienced people with families to feed and bills to pay. We raised enough money to ensure we could recruit and maintain the team we wanted. Our funding was finite though, and we had no choice but to launch the core game on Steam in December. At that point, we believed we had enough of a game to get people hooked so that by the time they were fully vested in the game we would have updates ready for them. While we did get people hooked early on, we still felt some backlash from players who wanted a bigger game at launch. We don’t blame them. If we had our way, we would have waited to ship in April instead of December so everything after that could have been gravy, not biscuit. Gravy takes time, however, and money, and we needed to start seeing a return from sales or risk starving. We had to hold off on some of the biscuit and ship it with the gravy. We took our chances on an early launch and felt some of the pain from that. Thankfully it was relatively mild pain and our community is still just as behind us as they were when we launched the beta. We stand behind that choice, but it wasn’t ideal for sure.
Right: We built the community first
A game like Forge is only as good as its players. 6 months before launch we had amassed a very enthusiastic core fan base through our forums. We engaged with them daily, released screenshots and concept art and solicited feedback from them constantly. By the time Forge shipped we had 30,000 fans ready to start playing. We did this with no marketing dollars. None. Zip. Instead, we hung out with them online, talked about what we were planning, asked them what they wanted to see most, and showed them a whole lot of cool pictures as they came off the press. Building this community was one of the smartest things we ever did. We were able to tell early on that we had something good. The Forge concept obviously struck a chord with a lot of people who felt that it was a game that was missing and needed to be made. Enough to have a community who checked in with us daily and did their own leg work as well, helping spread the word. Likewise, they also gave us valuable feedback as to what we should focus on most and what we should avoid. We had the kind of focus group that big publishers spend a lot of money on and ours came to us of their own accord, out of pure enthusiasm for the concept. Free.
Right: Steam Greenlight
We also launched in the middle of Steam’s Greenlight transition and that actually worked out pretty well for us. We were the second wave to be approved for Steam and that got us a lot of exposure and helped us gain new fans before launch. We know not everyone had a good experience with Greenlight, but timing is everything and we were at the right place and the right time with a near-finished game.