Tagged: Overgrowth

Some time ago I’ve wrote about Wolfire Games and Unknown Worlds offering both of their in development games (Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2) for a single price of $40 .
This offer was limited to one week and the preorderes where successful behind their imagination.

“Originally, we had 1100 preorders of Overgrowth, since announcing preorders a little over a year ago. In one week, we sold 1658 packs. That represents almost exactly one year’s worth of preorder revenue, in a single week. “

From Wolfire Blog :

Organic Indie Preorder Pack Postmortem
By Jeff on January 25th, 2010

In addition to John dyeing his beard pink, we promised that we would write a postmortem report on our recent “Organic Indie Preorder Pack” promotion. Here it is!

To recap, a couple of weeks ago, we ran a promotion with fellow San Francisco developer, Unknown Worlds, bundling preorders of our two upcoming games together, Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2, for $39.95.
The promotion was notable because

Neither game is finished yet. This was a preorder pack, not your usual deep-discount bundle of older games. We are humbly funding our development directly with preorders from the community.

All current preorderers of Natural Selection 2 were given a free copy of Overgrowth, and vice versa. This represents several thousand free copies being exchanged and is a huge cross-over between two active communities.

There was no middle-man. Many distributors are well-known for offering “indie bundles” and crazy sales, but they take an NDA-protected cut of each sale. In the Organic Preorder Pack, 100% of the proceeds went to the developers: 50 / 50.

The corollary: there was no marketing team. We sent out some emails to the gaming blogs, but the overwhelming majority of the bundle was fueled by word of mouth and organic buzz on services like Twitter and Facebook.

The promotion greatly exceeded all of our expectations and blew up to be the biggest thing to ever happen to us. We sold more preorders in one week than we had sold in a year, previously.

Without further ado, let’s get to the data.
Sales Numbers :


The breakdown — note the pink beard marker.

There is a lot to cover here, so let’s begin with the relative magnitude of the sale.

Originally, we had 1100 preorders of Overgrowth, since announcing preorders a little over a year ago. In one week, we sold 1658 packs. That represents almost exactly one year’s worth of preorder revenue, in a single week.

We expected the promotion would probably have an explosion when it was first announced but would then quickly taper off. On the contrary, sales were surprisingly steady throughout the entire week. The largest sales burst was, predictably, in the last hours of the promotion (we had a neat countdown timer). In future promotions, it might be a good idea to somehow extend the promotion by an hour or so, because in the last hour, we were doing about one sale per minute. We had 3 sales in the last 30 seconds alone. There clearly were many people who were enticed by last minute chatter (literally). Since our data shows almost no deceleration, I have to wonder what would have happened if we extended it for a week.

Regular Preorders Increased
We expected that the promotion would cannibalize regular preorders for Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2. On the contrary, while the Organic Indie Preorder Pack was live, both Wolfire and Unknown Worlds noticed a significant increase in regular preorders.

To be clear — there was no reason to preorder Natural Selection 2 Special Edition during the promotion, since you could have gotten Overgrowth “for free” by ordering the pack. Certainly some people ordered it by accident, and we obviously refunded them. However, even after accounting for that, preorders were significantly up.

I attribute this to two reasons:

People compensating for cannibalization. We noticed quite a few NS2 preorderers who said “I had my eye on Overgrowth for quite a while, and I feel guilty about getting it for free”, and then preordered it. This was totally unexpected, but the donations were heartwarming.

People hearing about Overgrowth or Natural Selection 2 for the first time due to buzz about the pack, but deciding to preorder regularly. Maybe they liked aliens but not rabbits (or vice versa), or maybe they had money to burn and decided to support both teams fully.

We experienced this last year as well when we offered Lugaru for free temporarily. Even though it was free in the MacHeist Giving Tree promotion, regular Lugaru sales increased because people just wanted to support us.

Breakdown Across Payment Processors

We like to support as many different payment providers as we can. These are the services responsible for actually accepting payments (via credit card, bank account, etc.) We use them directly because they only charge pennies more than the raw credit card merchant fees (2.9% + 30 cents) while middle-man processing services will charge quite a high percentage for simply accepting a credit card payment.

Most people only support PayPal, but this graph shows that having Amazon and Google Checkout was appreciated by over 25% of our customers. I can’t tell you how much this increased the bottom line, because people who used Amazon and Google may also have been willing to use PayPal had the other services been absent. The data might also make PayPal look much more popular than it really is because we had PayPal as the default option, and surely some people simply didn’t care to change it.

Social Media
Like most sites, we have Google Analytics installed so we can see who is linking to us and so on. One really interesting metric we can track is the number of people who purchased the Preorder Pack sorted by their referral source. In other words, how many sales of the pack did a given site generate by linking to us?

I don’t really want to say how many sales one blog drove versus another blog, since that may be kind of personal to the blog owners and not terribly useful to anyone (you don’t have any legitimate control over what blog will cover you). However, one fascinating point is the social media sites.

We have long since been advocating social media, and this really drives the point home:

Facebook [420 shares] and Twitter [459 retweets] along with ModDB, Reddit, and YouTube generated maybe one third of our sales. Each source dwarfed even the largest gaming news sites that posted about us, which then dwarfed the long tail of small forums and personal blogs that mentioned the pack.

Granted, they all work together. For instance, someone might hear about the pack from TIGSource and then share it on Facebook, which would count as a Facebook referral. Google can’t provide this kind of data [yet].

It is hard to quantify, but we were hoping that people who received a free copy of the pack (by previously preordering Overgrowth or Natural Selection 2) would tell their friends, and I suspect that is where many of the Facebook shares and tweets came from.

The Digg Effect
Also of note, right in the middle of the promotion, one of our daily blog posts blew up. I wish we could take credit and say we masterminded a super viral blog post to spread around the internet and land people on the site, but sadly, it was pretty random. We did, however, put extra effort into writing quality blog posts in order to impress the new Natural Selection 2 community (it is hard to compete with the awesome Unknown Worlds team!) Little did we know that David’s OpenGL vs. DirectX piece would turn into the #1 Digg article of the day.

I want to write a blog post about that, because that was quite an event alone, however, I will summarize it here.

David posted his OpenGL blog post in the evening, as usual. When I went to bed, I noticed that it was receiving some attention on Reddit (not that unusual — RSS readers are on the ball!) When I woke up, it was the #1 story on at least three sub-reddits and had even hit the Digg front page. Long story short, we received about 200,000 visits from Digg, Slashdot, Reddit, Hacker News, StumbleUpon and many other sites.

Untargeted, burst traffic like this is famous for its short attention span — from what I’ve read, they will typically skim the article in question and then bounce. However, when looking at the analytics for this postmortem, I was surprised to find that I can attribute roughly 100 sales of the pack directly to Digg, Slashdot, Hacker News, and other links to David’s OpenGL article. Granted 100 is less than half of one percent of 200,000, but it is quite a large number as far as I am concerned, especially because the pack was not even part of the article in question.

Luckily we use Google App Engine as a host. This kind of traffic means nothing to App Engine (although Wolfire finally exceeded the free quota and Google did bill us 11 cents for the traffic).

What’s more important than what happened, is what didn’t happen. App Engine didn’t falter, and the site stayed as responsive as ever. One of my pet peeves is when sites go down during their big moment. Imagine if the Preorder Pack page died because an unrelated OpenGL manifesto was passed around the internet. That would be devastating and this postmortem would likely read as a tragedy not a triumph.

Thanks for the Support!
Finally, I’d just like to say thanks. This was a really important promotion and is a small taste of “you know, this just might actually work” which is really inspiring when you’ve been working non-stop on a project for 1.5 years. Morale is high, and we are already making plans on how we can use this new influx of cash to help with development (in addition to upgrading our Subway sandwiches to have extra cheese from time to time). More on this later!

I’d also like to thank everyone in the IRC channel and forums for helping all of the newcomers with Overgrowth and bearing much of the increased support burden. Because of the community help, John was able to manage our live chat service and maintain an empty inbox for almost all of the promotion! We got a lot of compliments on our fast support even though we are a miniscule indie game company.

Misc notes
Here’s some random trivia that I’d like to mention, but might not be worth its own subsection.

The Preorder Pack was conceived at a monthly San Francisco game developer meetup with Unknown Worlds called the Post Mortem. In the span of about 15 minutes, we decided “hey, it would be awesome to bundle our games together!” We took longer to flesh out the details at another meetup, but it was a breeze since we are independent. The site took maybe 4 days of serious work to create. Within a couple of days of the end of the promotion, we gave Unknown Worlds a check for their half plus official reports from PayPal, Amazon, and Google. This doesn’t sound too remarkable, but we sometimes have to wait several months for payments on Lugaru from professional distributors, and have to take their word for it that the amount is right.

Since it was such a low hanging fruit, I added a gift option to the Preorder Pack. About 5% of the packs were bought as gifts. It would be interesting to have run it through the holiday season and see how much this number would change.

We knew we could count on awesome sites like these to cover the pack. However, one idea we had to attract the giant gaming sites was to give them several gift copies of the pack so they could do a reader contest [we gave these to all sites]. Sadly, we still have yet to get a mention by the larger sites.

We decided to make the YouTube video announcing the Preorder Pack public about an hour before the planned launch so that blogs would have time to embed it. Within a few minutes of making the video public, some savvy YouTube subscribers purchased the pack.

We originally thought that 1000 sales of the pack was a pipe dream, hence the pink beard “incentive”. John manned up and delivered the promised video, though.

Preorderers seemed really excited to discover that their old purchase had spontaneously entitled them to an extra game. Special perks like this for preorders seem like a great way to combat the negative trend of “if I wait long enough, I can find the game for $0.25 in Walmart’s bargain bin”.

Conclusion
John said it in his talk at GDC Austin and you’ll hear him say it again at the main GDC in San Francisco next month: open development is key, especially when you are small. If we had been in stealth mode for 1.5 years, we simply would not have had the awesome community to have made this possible. The Wolfire experiment is far from over, but hopefully this humble promotion will lend a little more weight to John’s upcoming GDC talk.

While there is no way of telling (yet) how many of those preorders where done by GNU/Linux users, I’m sure that as always we had a much larger share then our estimated 1% desktop market share.

The indie game studios Wolfire Games and Unknown Worlds have just announced that their upcoming games Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2 are available for preorder with alpha access for both games at the price of one ! just for 40USD !
This offer is for a limited time of 6 days – so hurry up !

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwLQRW2YmU8&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

Overgrowth will definitely have a GNU/Linux client and although Natural Selection 2 GNU/Linux client hasn’t yet confirmed there is a high chance – and it will be much higher if you’ll preorder now.
In ANY case you will get the GNU/Linux, MacOS and Windows clients for both games (if NS2 will have one – that is…).
You can always post at NS2 forums and try to make them commit to a GNU/Linux client before preordering (if you do this quick, you only got 6 days) , there is also a huge NS2 GNU/Linux thread, so I would say that the chances are pretty high.

Overgrowth
Wolfire is an independent team of four guys, working non-stop to create the best ninja rabbit game possible: Overgrowth. Instead of licensing someone else’s engine, we’ve built our own from scratch, so that we can custom tailor every feature to support our innovative, combat-based gameplay. Please click on the screenshots to scope out how it looks so far. You can see more in-depth demonstrations of our technology on Wolfire’s YouTube channel.
Desert Fort
Overgrowth takes place in the savage world of Lugaru where rabbits, wolves and other animals are forced to use paws, claws and medieval weaponry to engage each other in battle. Overgrowth will be a seamless integration of brutal close quarters combat and fluid platforming. Powered by our brand new Phoenix Engine, Overgrowth will have cutting edge graphics, brutal physics, realistic AI and intuitive combat controls that will immerse players and tap into their primal survival instincts.
Editor UI
We’ve spent the past year building the core of the Phoenix Engine. We’ve added a lot of slick features like our off-the-grid optimized terrain with normal-mapped detail textures, direct lighting, ambient occlusion, realistic lens flares, volumetric haze, innovative plant shading and rendering techniques. We’ve also thrown in a complete editor suite to go with it. Our integrated map editor, decal editor, sky editor, rigging editor and animation editor make modding a breeze. Combat is coming soon.

Natural Selection 2
Natural Selection 2 is the follow-up to the most popular independent mod for Half-life which won Gamespy’s Mod of the Year. It is a multiplayer first-person shooter with unique real-time strategy elements and is being developed on its own custom engine called Spark.
The game features truly unique sides (Marines vs. Aliens), dynamic environments (including alien “infestation” that grows and deforms environments during the course of the game) and real-time strategy (some players can choose to play from the top-down as Commanders!).
Lighting in-editor
It will also be the most moddable game ever released and will include most of the game’s source code (in Lua script) along with all the programming and art tools we are using to build the game. We expect the mod scene to explode and offer unlimited variations, mods and entirely new games. We will also release many updates to keep the core game fresh with new maps, weapons and abilities.
Alpha environment
Unknown Worlds is a small company dedicated to bringing you the best games possible. We are known for working closely with our community and like to release our tools as soon as they are ready for feedback. We recently released our editor and environment art to all our pre-orderers and are looking forward to releasing our other tools and our alpha to you as well!
Your pre-order of Natural Selection 2 allows us to remain independent and able to release the best game possible. We would not be here today without you and your support so we offer our deeply-felt thanks!

Links
Preorder Pack
Wolfire Games
Overgrowth
Unknown Worlds
Natural Selection 2
NS2 GNU/Linux Thread
Thread about the pack on NS2 forums – post here about your wish to have a GNU/Linux client
Natural Selection 2 – Sci-Fi Online RTS/FPS
LGN interview with Wolfire Games

OG_logo3

John from Wolfire Games the developers of Lugaru and the upcoming Overgrowth agreed for an interview … and what a great interview it was…

Hey Maxim,
Here are the answers to your questions.  Thanks for your interest in Wolfire.
John

1. Hello John, please tell us about yourself and your team.


Wolfire Games is a motley crew devoted to the pursuit making awesome computer games.  Wolfire’s creator and lead programmer is David Rosen.  He has been making games since he was seven years old.  Because I went to school with him, I had the privilege of looking over his shoulder at recess as he made a choose your own adventure, stick figure war game, in a black and white flip book programming language called Hypercard.  David essentially created and animated brutal war scenarios where stick figures often ended up getting shot or blown to pieces.  David even added his own explosion and gunshot sound effects to the game by recording the distorted feedback you get from blowing on a microphone.  The game was so popular that it spread throughout school and had to be banned by the administration for being too violent.

From there David moved on to other games.  He made pong but realized it was boring so he threw in fireballs and razor blades that you could launch at your enemy to destroy his paddle.  By high school David was already hitting the 3D stuff like GLFighters and Black Shades and finally his first commercial title, a ninja rabbit fighting game called Lugaru.  David was then recruited by big companies like Crytek but turned them down to go to college.  He just graduated last year and decided he wanted to put together a full time team to make a sequel to Lugaru called Overgrowth.

Aubrey Serr is our lead artist.  Aubrey had already been working with David for a couple of years on various projects before Overgrowth including some initial concept work for a Lugaru sequel, then called Lugaru 2.  From 2D concepts to 3D assets Aubrey is an artistic genius.  He even managed to carve the company logo into a small pumpkin for Halloween (which Jeff, Phillip and I later set on fire with a propane torch).

Jeff Rosen is David’s twin brother and our web guru.  Because we are integrating webkit into our engine with Awesomium, in addition to making sweet web pages for Overgrowth Jeff has also been putting his skills to work designing all the Overgrowth’s graphical user interfaces.

Phillip Isola has been helping us build our editors for Overgrowth.  While David has been building all the hardcore engine features, Phillip has been creating friendly wrappers that allow users to interact with David’s core engine features to make custom maps and levels.

I’m trying to do everything possible to let the other guys just focus on coding.  My main roles are PR, marketing, business development and customer service.  However, I also help out with random tasks like narrating videos and being the man in the field for gaming conventions and developer meetups.

2. You are working on a new game named Overgrowth, is it like Lugaru with better graphics and more races ? please explain…

You’ve got it.  Overgrowth will inherit the core of Lugaru’s tried and true fighting system but since Lugaru’s release,  Wolfire’s Phoenix Engine has been completely overhauled twice.  So Overgrowth is going to be Lugaru on steroids with better graphics, better physics, more species (rabbits, wolves, rats, cats and dogs), more moves, more weapons, huge mod support (fans have already been making cities in our engine) and some coop multiplay.
DogFight

3. Tell us more about the races of Overgrowth, what are the differences between the races ? will you able to play any race outside the campaign mode (like in multi player for example) ?

As I mentioned earlier Aubrey and David have been thinking about the Overgrowth universe for some time.  Therefore, they have created fairly sophisticated cultures for each species.  Granted characters won’t unanimously fall into these cookie cutter shapes but here are the general ideas:

Wolves are barbaric creatures that love to fight lesser beasts.  They prefer not to use weapons or tools because they feel that such devices are an admission of natural inferiority which will make a species grow weak.  Their teeth and claws serve them well enough.

Dogs have a similar affinity for combat as wolves but are a little more orderly about it.  They tend to live in semi-feudalistic societies where rank and prestige is determined by challenging other canines to combat.  Dogs have no qualms about using weapons and are known for building durable, functional tools and weaponry.  You can see hints of the culture in the Overgrowth Web Comic.

Cats tend to be better organizers and bureaucrats than the other species and can be very manipulative.  They prefer flowery and ostentatious weapons, tools and clothes as they would rather impress and intimidate potential rivals than actually get their hands dirty in combat.  They prefer light but sharp weaponry that is easy to carry but still extremely lethal if wielded skillfully.

Rabbits are the best jumpers in the game.  They tend to be fairly peaceful and happy-go-lucky in general.  When forced into combat situations, rabbits like to keep their distance and use predominantly leg attacks.  They don’t have the upper body strength to wield heavy weaponry but have been rumored to put blades on their feet.

Rats are generally the weakest of the creatures and tend to fair poorly in face to face confrontations.  As such they have become very crafty at defending themselves through unconventional means.  They are very good at sneaking about and enjoy experimenting with the environment around them.  As rats tend to be very secretive even towards their own kind, it’s often very hard to tell what they’re up to.

Overgrowth will be a rabbit-centric game.  We will probably have the player play the role of Turner, the protagonist rabbit from Lugaru.  In multiplayer, since all the species are probably going to have unequal stats (wolves will probably be the best characters in the game stat wise), we might want to keep the playing field level by having  all players play as one species.  No matter what though we hope to include a lot of character customization options and who knows what will happen with player-made mods.

4. Lugaru wasn’t built to support mods, yet the community created many excellent modifications and new campaigns for it.
Overgrowth is being developed with much better support and modding tools/editors.
Can you tell us in more detail about those tools ? will they are going to be released with the game ?

We were amazed that despite the fact that David offered no real mod support for Lugaru, beautiful fan-made mods kept showing up.  Many of them rival the quality of David’s original campaign.  We figured if so much could be done with such little support, why not get the fans some awesome tools for Overgrowth.

That is why the editors we use to build the game, will be included in the game.  Mod support has been our focus from day one and we not only want to make modding easy, we plan to have an integrated mod browser that allows for easy sharing of user-created campaigns, levels and structures.  You can see demonstrations of our tools in our YouTube videos.

5. Part of Overgrowth development funding comes from Lugaru sells.
I wonder how are the Lugaru sells went per platform percentage wise ? is there a market for GNU/Linux ?

David was born and raised on Macs and had to suffer through an era where most of the good computer games were pc only.  We don’t want anyone to have to suffer that way to so Wolfire is committed to the prospect of cross-platform development.  That’s part of the reason why we use OpenGL instead of DirectX.

In terms of the benefits of supporting Mac and Linux as platforms Jeff took a look at the numbers in what to date has been our hottest blog post, concluded that supporting Mac and Linux together is at least as beneficial to small developers as supporting PC if not more so.  The Linux gaming market is relatively small but there’s something to be said for being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.  Sometimes smaller communities are the noisiest and are very happy when you make the effort to reach out to them.  We’re very thankful for all the support the Linux community has given us so far.
NewConcept_Blacksmith

6. Lugaru had very few fighting moves, I understand that Overgrowth will add a “grab” button how would it effect the combat ? what “tricks” can we expect to be able to do ?

For a game with one attack button Lugaru actually had a surprising number of moves: the roundhouse kick, the sweep kick, the gut punch, the double punch, the tackle, the rabbit kick, death from above, the spine crusher and the wall kick  plus when you add in reversals, counter reversals and weapons-based attacks those are quite a few combat maneuvers

We’ve brainstormed a few fighting design documents so far and we’re still fleshing out some of the details of the combat system.  We’ve been toying with the idea of making left click an offensive, explosive striking button while right click is more of a defensive Aikido/grapple button.  I can’t reveal many of the specific moves at this time but we probably want to include some species unique moves.  The rabbit kick will definitely return.

7. In terms of weapons and physics, what kind of weapons will there be at Overgrowth ?
Will you able to slice your opponents to pieces if you have the appropriate weapon ? for example, could you cut your opponents leg leaving him jumping on the other one, “Die By The Sword” style ? will weapons have different attacks and bonuses ?

We’ve already revealed a series of weapon concepts.  There will definitely be a few weapons classes each with their own characteristics. There will also be blood.  I’ve heard a few people say that this initial blood technology already makes them a little sick to their stomach.  We’re not sure about dismemberment yet, that would really make people sick.

BunnyArmor

8. From what I understand you are developing Overgrowth on Mac, what software do you use for it’s development ?
You are also building a new game engine named Phoenix, can you tell us more about this engine and your future plans regarding it ?


That’s right we are developing the Phoenix Engine, which powers Overgrowth, simultaneously on Mac and PC.  A Linux build should be in the works fairly soon.  OpenGL makes cross-platform development fairly manageable.  The reason we are putting so much effort into our tools, is that we’ll be able to reuse them for future games.

9. You offer weekly builds for those who preorder Overgrowth.
I really like your open development process, I think it’s revolutionary in the closed source software world.
How successful was it so far ? how the testers influence your development ? can they change/add things to the game ?
And when Overgrowth weekly builds would finally compile on GNU/Linux ? ;)


Thanks, we’re definitely trying to be as open about the process as we can.  That’s why we’ve been doing daily blog posts on the Wolfire Blog, we have a live chat widget on our site, host a public IRC channel and offer weekly alphas to those who preorder.

We’ve been surprised by the activity we’ve seen using our tools this early in the process and getting early feedback is very useful for designing intuitive editing tools.


10. When would Overgrowth finally be released ?

We don’t have an official release date yet because we want to be able to take enough time to get the game done right.  Anyone who’s interested in our progress though should check out our blog and YouTube channel to keep up with our latest development progress.  Thanks very much for the interview.
And thank you for a great Interview !