After the thrills, panics and elations of the Desktop Dungeons release on Steam, we’ve had a little time to sit down and think about all the stuff that’s happened. Here’s a few things that we’ve learned from the experience so far:
(1) If you have to release within a week of a major next-gen console, be prepared for a rough ride – and make sure reviewers get their play copies on time. If your game, like DD, is oriented around entirely engulfing a player’s mind, body and soul for several dozen hours before they even get past the first few dungeon tiers, you don’t want to be sliding the keys over to press just a few short days before the world expects them to spend weeks talking about PS4 Launch Title: The Launchening. Due to that humble little company called Sony somehow having more marketing clout than us, we lost a few important site reviews because they couldn’t possibly give us enough attention during the prime news window.
(2) Video streamers are gods among men. What we lost in conventional written reviews we made up for in some impressive video coverage. In particular, Desktop Dungeons benefitted from prominent casters spending entire days streaming our game, and even a video interview with Mike Rose from Gamasutra who, due to an incredibly distracting and engaging game experience, was unable to speak to us properly while tackling the Den of Danger. And that’s the good kind of communication problem to have.
(3) People will never stop asking about the mobile version. If the Earth burns up and becomes a barren husk, whatever survivors remain will stagger across the bleached landscape, forlornly checking their iPhones and Androids. To be honest, this makes us quite excited (about our potential players, not the doom of the Earth).
(4) Despite initial worries, people somehow find the game both ridiculously hard AND worthy of endless time and effort to overcome. We’ve been called the devil, we’ve been compared to Dark Souls in difficulty and a massive percentage of our buyers have sunk staggering amounts of time into the game, meaning that people who start playing Desktop Dungeons tend to keep playing it, regardless of whether or not it causes them to shed tears of blood. Releasing a hard game is always intimidating and we actually made some hotfixes after the release to tutorialise elements we saw people struggling with consistently (pick up those health packs when you first see ‘em, folks!), but the amount of positive feedback we’ve received about the game’s high challenge has been extremely gratifying and better than expectations.
(5) Handling player accounts and online / local save systems is far scarier than anything else we’ve ever done (ever EVER) and has been the source of more panic than the rest of the post-release bugs and hiccups combined. Still gonna be worth it in the long run, though.
(6) Marketing on the Internet, as always, is about consistent exposure, hard work, and the occasional developer-written impressions piece to drive user interest and let people know how you’re feeling. Bonus points if it ends off on a self-referential note.