23 Oct 14

Steam curation: One month in

It’s been a month since Steam’s game discovery systems got a major overhaul, this is the impact that it’s had on Desktop Dungeons. Please note that this is only a single source of data.

Our daily revenue doubled

Desktop Dungeons sales graph

Desktop Dungeons sales graph

What you’re looking at there is an otherwise reasonably flat and stable long tail from a game that’s nearly a year old. Desktop Dungeons was earning an average of $200 a day before, since the 23rd it’s been earning double that. And no, we haven’t run any promotions or had incredible new press that might explain the hike – traffic on our site hasn’t seen a similar rise, so this is all Steam.

Those sales are the result of increased visibility. Desktop Dungeons is being shown to more people on Steam than it was before. It’s also being shown to people that are more likely to be interested in the game. When Desktop Dungeons launched, 1,015,643 people saw it featured on the front page, 4,196 of them clicked on the image and ended up on the game’s individual page, we can calculate a click-through percentage from that at 0.41% – that’s actually not bad, a web advertising campaign with a rate like that would be good.

This last month Desktop Dungeons’ capsule graphics have been seen by 1,730,564 people resulting in 120,455 visits to the game’s page. That’s an astonishing 6.96% of viewers clicking through to read more about the game! It’s 17 times better than our launch interest, which is when games typically command the most attention. I don’t think I can really state how huge that difference is, and we didn’t have to do anything to get it.

Taking your turn at the firehose

The Steam front page is still the major source of traffic. It supplied just over 700 000 impressions since the 23rd (41% of our total impressions).  52 000 of those people visited the game’s page (43% of our total views) which puts the click-through rate around 7.4%. Part of the changes to Steam mean that more games are getting front page time, but they’re getting that time in front of less people who are more likely to be interested in the games they’re seeing. It seems to be working.

There’s honestly no way that Desktop Dungeons would be on the front page for anyone right now without these changes. It’s also much more selectively targeted than it used to be, I think the game’s tags combined with our good review scores (93% positive reviews out of 530+) mean that Steam’s algorithms have a good handle on the game. While that in itself doesn’t mean the game’s matching its launch sales, it’s doing a lot better than it did last month.

Desktop Dungeons impressions - views of the game's capsule graphic

Desktop Dungeons impressions – views of the game’s capsule graphic

More like this queue please

Interestingly enough, our next largest source of visits are other game pages, although this took some figuring out: 30% of our total visits come from just 3.1% of our total views at a whopping 65.6% click-through rate. That turned out to be a little too good: The incredible views (33,000 of them) come from the Discovery Queue, which doesn’t seem to track impressions in the data. The only source of impressions comes from the More Like This entry, so it could be that there’s either a set of impressions missing (probably because the queue doesn’t display a capsule graphic), or the queue’s impressions are rolled into More Like This. Either way, it’s not like those views are going to evaporate if the data gets better.

The Discovery Queue also seems to be at the root of another thing we noticed after Steam went blue: More people have Desktop Dungeons on their wishlists now. The Discovery Queue makes it super easy to click through to a new game and wishlist it so that you can keep discovering new stuff.

Desktop Dungeons game page views

Desktop Dungeons game page views

Recommendation beats curation

Curator recommendations supply 84,000 views and 2,600 visits. Their 3.17% click-through rate is better than our launch rate, but the front page and game recommendations are simply better. Desktop Dungeons is in a few respected curated lists, the largest being Rock-Paper-Shotgun and the comments are universally positive, so the game is definitely curated. We might see an increase in traffic from lists in the future, but I suspect that recommendation algorithms filtering lists might be the thing that makes that happen. “Recommended for you from this list” should at least be a viewing option there.

Curators probably affect your sales more directly when featured on your game’s page with good blurbs, or when players recognize a curator that they feel carries weight for them. Disabling all the curated lists on a game’s page would be an interesting experiment to run.

A particularly confusing Desktop Dungeons screenshot, because you expect me not to?

A particularly confusing Desktop Dungeons screenshot, because you expect me not to?

So what about new games?

I’m not sure how newly released games are going to benefit from recommendation systems while their reviews and tags are being populated by users. Desktop Dungeons had the benefit of being pretty well “understood” by Steam when the discoverability update happened. We definitely got an initial boost in visibility from being on a set of early curated lists. People have pointed out that the changes mean that external press is even more important for your game’s success, I would argue that it’s always been incredibly important (and that if you were just relying on launch featuring to get people to pay attention to a game on Steam you’re being incredibly naïve) but it seems to be how you get your game curated and how people might care enough to review your game. Growing your recommendations is going to need user investment, that makes community really important – especially communities of players you’ve already established on Steam.

Goat persons are people too

Goat persons are people too

Where to from here?

New traffic heading to your game page is useless if your page isn’t turning those (presumably) new players into buyers. The discoverability data gives devs a great way to play around with what they put on those pages, from screenshots and videos to feature copy and maybe even price points. I’m curious to see where this ends up going over the next six months. Best case scenario would be that the recommendation systems allow quality games to keep growing their audiences, that way everybody wins. I’m certainly happy as a developer: Desktop Dungeons is doing better than it was last month and we didn’t have to devote any time to marketing to make that happen, so we’re able to focus our time on updating the game and porting it to tablets.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some ideas on how to make our Steam page sell the game a little better.

31 Jul 14

Desktop Dungeons goes to Gamescom!

Desktop Dungeons will be part of the first Indie MEGABOOTH at Gamescom this year! So if you’re in the area, come say: “Hi!” or “This game is the best game ever!” (really loudly in front of member of the press please) or “I hate you guys and this game’s too hard!” (also loudly in front of press, pretty please) or any one of a number of phrases you might come up with yourself. We’re really excited to be exhibiting the game in Europe for a change so that we can practice our German.

We promise not to bring any goats… Not even our favorite travel-sized portable defense-billy.

09 Jun 14

Net Prophet 2014

Last month Marc and I spoke at the Net Prophet conference here in Cape Town. It’s a very different audience compared to the people we usually talk to (Net Prophet is far more focused on tech entrepreneurship and the growing venture capital scene in SA) so we focused more on what’s going on in the local game development industry and trying to torpedo the common misconceptions that people tend to share. We covered some interesting numbers and tried to highlight each concept with a specific local game, watch below:

As an added bonus, here’s Nick Hall – the chairman of MGSA – talking about what the organisation is all about:

We were really keen to talk at Net Prophet, not only does this give us and the MGSA exposure right when we’re trying to grow the local industry in some very interesting ways. But QCF was also one of the startups in the Net Prophet Accelerator program back in 2011, so this was a chance for us to stand up in front of many of the potential investors and advisers that didn’t quite grok game development then and give them a window into how we and others are making it work for us.

30 May 14

So you want to make a linux build with Unity

So maybe you’re like me, you’ve used Linux before, but it just wasn’t for you. That’s fine, everyone has their own tastes. But now you’ve got a game made in Unity, and some portion of your community is asking you to “Please port to Linux! It’s easy! Unity will do it for you!”

Well … yes and no. Getting Unity to output 32 and 64-bit executables for Linux is easy enough, but there’s a fair amount of work you’re going to have to do to get things running for your Linux users.

Now, to those very knowledgeable Linux humans reading this, please don’t take offense. This is the view of a Windows user trying to make the life of other game devs easier AND help put more games on the OS you love. If any of the info I present is wrong, feel free to correct me, but please make sure you do it in a way that is useful to someone who is not used to working in Linux.

13 May 14

Desktop Dungeons + Linux = <3


That’s right, Desktop Dungeons is now available for Linux! Tell your friends that don’t have the game yet that their excuses are rapidly dwindling… Especially because Desktop Dungeons is part of Midweek Madness on Steam right now for 50% off!

Like goats, Linux comes in many flavors. Also like goats, sometimes Linux can be recalcitrant and kill you in one hit… If you have any problems with the game, let us know and we’ll fix it ASAP. And finally, if anyone’s got a Steam box, we’d love to know how it plays!

08 Apr 14

QCF Design Vidblog, Episode 2

Uhhh, better late than never, perhaps? A few weeks ago we produced another discussion video for the QCF Design YouTube channel, this time discussing the trials and tribulations involved in resolution and interface design over the various iterations of Desktop Dungeons. Then we failed to repost it here.

This episode features a deeper and more substantial discussion than Ep1, as well as a slight increase in quality and overall user comfort. Plus extra minutes. Give it a lesson and let us know what you wanna see improved for Ep3!

07 Mar 14

QCF Design Vidblog, Episode 1

Hey everyone!

Trying something new this week. Instead of doing a text writeup about the topic of the day, members of the QCF Design crew sat down to share their feelings about Free To Play. It was deep, it was meaningful and it was enough to move a stone golem to tears.

We slapped the results into a real-life motion picture, which we now present to you as our tentative scout into the world of video blogging. Enjoy and leave feedback forever.

28 Feb 14

Female Representation in Desktop Dungeons


The broader debate of women in videogames needs no introduction, regardless of one’s stance on the matter. Everyone with an Internet connection and at least some investment in videogame culture has heard stories of the industry’s gender bias (which we’ll go ahead and assert is very readily apparent).

Now, Desktop Dungeons itself isn’t some haven of progressive social ideas and forward thinking. We didn’t start the game with an overarching agenda in that area – but during the course of development, we were heavily informed by the dialogues, rants and documentaries around the topic of female portrayal and how some games screw that up so badly. More…

21 Feb 14

Coders: 5 Things Your Indie Artist Would Like You To Know About Graphics

In this post, we’re dedicating some time to the flipside of last week’s writeup for illustrators wanting to break into game art. For reasons explained last time, this isn’t just gonna be a straight reversal of the previous advice – a few core asymmetries exist between the work that artists and programmers do, and it’s not about the creative vs logical approach or however else the issue gets generalised. It’s about high-constraint versus low-constraint environments, and the reality that artists are often forced to adapt to a coder’s constraints rather than the other way around.

More importantly, unlike larger studios (where formalised roles of designers and project managers become more clear and compartmentalised), indie projects tend to be dominated by a programmer, simply because there’s no other way for that project to exist short of an artist engaging with some cross-discipline learning. Either way, an artist-driven project would have its own set of problems separate from the ones described here and it’s not the sort of environment that we have enough experience to comment on.

So, let’s assume you’re a coder-boss-type person on a project where you’re telling somebody who’s way better than you at visual design to draw things in exactly the way you want them to. Here’s a few ways to make the artists you work with a lot less miserable about that: More…

12 Feb 14

Illustrators: Four Things Your Indie Coder Wants You To Know About Game Art

Over the years, I’ve learned a bit about the diversity of the drawy-artstuffs field. I speak from the outside, of course – the closest I’ve come to being an artist myself is a one year communication design course (read: layout and colour theory) and the occasional desperate move with game prototypes where I simply couldn’t find anybody to draw things for me.

However, while I cannot tell anybody how to “do” art, I am sympathetic to some of the difficulties that visual creatives have when they’re forced to operate in the weird and wondrous framework of a programmer’s code base. None more so than classically-trained artists, who usually operate in environments which have loose constraints (or none at all) in areas that happen to be of absolutely vital importance to the average programmer.

Sometimes a situation emerges where talented artists in the wrong category hop onto an indie project: the devs are hoping for a particular style, perhaps, or the project exists in a territory where game development is still getting its legs and the required specialists are rare. Or maybe some friends just wanna work together on something regardless of the hurdles.

This can be pretty cool in the long run – particularly if said illustrator is excited and enthused about learning a new form – but there’s a few growing pains that need to be worked past. In my experience, practically all classic artists will need to learn the following: More…

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