TLDR; You can play English Warrior now, marketing is hard, being independent is hard.
“Releasing” English Warrior
Anyone is free to download English Warrior now. It’s free, as it should be. I think the game is pretty complete, but it could use some more playtesting to make sure it’s actually problem-free. The Japanese is a little off in parts I’m sure, and I’d like to add voice overs to the English challenges, but the basic game is playable and beatable. Those two features will come in future updates.
The game’s premise actually changed quite a bit from the first draft. Originally, you left your hometown as a preset hero, ready to take on the world when a dragon prevents your return home. But when people played it, they wondered why the dragon actually needed to be fought. Didn’t the hero want to adventure? Why was he so keen on getting home? Was the dragon actually hurting anyone?
So, I changed it. It went through a few iterations. Now, the player can choose which adventurer they want to be. It doesn’t change the dialogue, but it does change the appearance, abilities, and stats. Additionally, a king actually gives you a mission to find and kill the dragon because he’s terrorizing the countryside. Now people could understand the need to fight. It’s also a bit of a throwback to the original Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior in the US). No princess this time, however.
Feel free to give it a play! The game can be speedrun in about 30 minutes (or shorter, if you’re a BAMF) and played normally in about an hour or so. If you’re learning Japanese, here’s a chance to understand some of the basics as well. Sorry about all the Kanji though.
Marketing English Warrior
I look at this “released” game and I wonder if I can actually make it in the indie development world. The actual game-making wasn’t too difficult, especially since I used a lot of basic, readily available assets. But it’s the non-game work, the work that a beginner doesn’t consider, that’s difficult.
I haven’t made a trailer for the game. I don’t even have many screenshots readily available. The latter can be done soon. But they won’t be anything more than screenshots. I need to add text. Make it look good. But the former—an important act in cementing the legitimacy of a game—isn’t here. I have no trailer.
Nor a dedicated site for it. Nor a facebook page. Nor any kind of ad space. Nor publicity, like short article on Polygon or Game Informer or even something much smaller. Do I need these things? The question becomes one of how serious I am at making this game succeed.
One aspect that strikes me as immediately important is writing a description for the game in Japanese. Since the target audience is Japanese students of English, a Japanese introduction is invaluable. Necessary. Without it, the target audience would have no idea it exists, which is essentially failure.
These games have been made in the past for my students, which is perhaps why I can be so nonchalant about it. My original target audience is already playing. They’re enjoying.
So, in my mind, I don’t need to do more work. But while this works for a game like English Warrior, it can’t work for a game that has no immediate audience.
I work in a public school in Japan, about 40 hours a week. I have a generous amount of free time with which I can spend learning Japanese, playing video games, and making video games. I also have enough money to cover all my basic needs and more. Making video games is purely recreational, and whether or not they succeed has no bearing on my life.
Where problems arise is when I think about the future. My job can last for a maximum of five years, and I’ve signed on to fulfill at least three of those five. Sometime in the next year to three years, I need to move on. My next job could be teaching English for another company, but I’m not feeling excited for it. While my job in China a few years back was remembered fondly, the recent experiences I’ve had here make me doubt those memories. Did I really like teaching so much? Or was it just a nice break?
Now when people ask me what I’d like to do, I’m not as enthusiastic about the teaching. On the flipside, I’ve been passionate about games and their creation since I was young. Similarly to teaching, I feel like I lack a lot of the necessary skills, which makes it fun in its own way. The constant improvement and bettering of myself is a wonderful feeling, especially when it’s so obvious. Moreover, the game-making industry seems to have an even greater range than teaching. There’s always more to learn and do.
Take art, for instance. Though my skills as an artist are rather poor, it is an interesting area to try to improve. Working on pixel art is interesting and rewarding, as I can use the new sprites I’ve created almost instantly. Bettering my art is definitely an area I’d like to improve, and an area where improvement has tangible results.
In this field however, lay some beasts I’d rather not tackle. Marketing. Publicity. Worrying about money. Incidentally, teaching in my past jobs hasn’t required skills in any of these areas.
The “obvious” answer is to make sure I work on a team. Hire someone to do the marketing. Get someone to help you secure interviews and go to press events. Even on the more game-side of things, someone to help with sprite-making / modeling / building areas would be an immense help. Working on a team right now, making a separate game, has been wonderful in this respect. Though the dreaded marketing is not in our current workload, it has been nice to see other aspects come together, like solid coding and amazing artwork / design.
If I’ve learned anything in the year and a half making games and delving deeper into the gaming industry, I’m seeing that it’s very difficult to make games. Even more difficult to make good games. Even more difficult to make them on solo.
Which is why I have a lot of respect for those who do. Even more than I did in the past. Pseudolonewolf, a solo developer who made Mardek, is one such talent. The Awakening developer Rock Lou, a young 20 year old from Sweden, is similarly amazing.
With people like Pseudolonewolf, I used to constantly think “c’mon, come out with your next game already!” Now I look back and shake my head. He’s doing amazing work, and as someone who isn’t asking for any money (though I’d certainly give it), I can’t help but feel like he should be able to take all the time he needs.
To all those other indie developers out there, I salute you. Even the ones that make bad games. Because at least you’re creating.
Unless you’re just cloning games. Then you’re a jerk. :p