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Depths of Peril post-release interview
Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Sun 28 October 2007, 19:05:34Tags: Depths of Peril
1. First of all, how was Depths of Peril received by the media? Did the reaction meet your expectations or surprise you in some ways?
Overall I would say the media has treated us about how I expected. We are a small indie company, so I didn’t really expect to get too much attention at first. However, a few sites have surprised me by treating us very well. Those sites that have taken a look at the game though have liked it. So far our average review score is in the mid-80s, which is good whether you are a large AAA developer/publisher or a small indie company.
2. I don't recall seeing any previews/reviews from large mainstream sites. Did you try to contact them, offer them review copies? Do you think they would have treated your game differently if it had a well known publisher's name on it?
Well it depends on which sites are considered large mainstream sites. We have contacted as many review sites as possible and offered review copies. We have gotten a handful of reviews so far (which have all been good) and have more that are coming soon. We still welcome more reviews.
Of course sites treat games with big publishers differently. They pretty much have to, to survive. You can’t really ignore anything that comes from Microsoft, EA, or any other really large publisher since they can make it so you never get to do any interviews or previews of their games ever again. They can also stop any advertising they do with that site. Websites are in a tough position.
3. Speaking of publishers, did you get any offers? What happened?
We have gotten many query letters from publishers, but we purposely did not sign any contracts until the game was finished. Doing this allowed us to make the game that we wanted, not just another Diablo clone. However, now that the initial game is done, we are talking to multiple publishers and have received some offers. So we will see how this goes.
4. How did gamers respond to your game?
Based on feedback that we have received, gamers that have played Depths of Peril for a reasonable amount of time have really liked the game. They are finding that the game really is different and has some fun new gameplay. I have been told by numerous gamers that they’ve been looking for a game just like Depths of Peril that has some depth to it, where you feel like you have some impact in what happens in the world, and is a different experience each time because of the covenants and dynamic world.
We do get some responses of it’s just an indie game so they are automatically not interested or they don’t like the graphics and ignore the gameplay, but that’s not too surprising. I think these people are really missing out on a cool game though.
5. What would you have done differently, given a choice? Also, what are your best and worst DoP design decisions?
Looking back on the project, I would probably say something I would do differently is bringing in artists a bit earlier in the project. This turned out fine in the end, but finding artists and getting good progress on the artwork was pretty stressful for me during a lot of the project.
I think the best design decision of the project was including the covenant gameplay. Not only is this one of the biggest distinguishing features of Depths of Peril, but it is also the feature that led to other important unique things in the game like consequences to your actions and the very dynamic world. The covenants is one of those features that changes just about everything in the game. They adventure in the world, they can solve quests before you do, they start wars and raid other covenants including yours, they help out when the town is attacked, they can grab recruits before you do, guards, rumors, and crystals all are due to the covenant gameplay, they can destroy your covenant, and the list just goes on and on.
This is going to sound like a copout, but at the moment I really can’t think of a worst design decision. There are plenty of decisions that people are going to disagree with me about, but they all had really good reasons and I haven’t changed my mind about them yet. For example, Depths of Peril has lower poly counts than other recent games and doesn’t have top of line rendering technology like bump mapping, but if we had included this we couldn’t have town attacks and large covenant raids without having a ridiculously high minimum requirement. Although plenty of games do that last part. Another example is leaving multiplayer out. I originally had multiplayer in the game when the game was simpler, but I realized that releasing multiplayer at the same time, as it does with many games, would compromise the single player game. This wasn’t acceptable to me, so I decided to make Depths of Peril a single player game only, at least initially.
6. Valuable lessons learned?
One of the lessons that I learned is to start building a community earlier. Not only does a lot of our word of mouth come from our community, but the feedback from our gamers from the demo and the full game has been extremely helpful.
7. If you don't mind sharing this info with us, how many copies have you sold to-date? If you mind, just comment on sales vs your expectations.
I can’t really say how many copies we have sold exactly, but we are selling about how I expected. We are now picking up even more as good word of mouth spreads.
8. Any thoughts on the digital distribution thing? What was your overall experience?
Overall I really like digital distribution. I have direct contact with our gamers, which is great because this way I can make the game that actual gamers want. With a normal retail setup it looks more like this: developer -> publisher -> retailer -> gamer. In that situation, many times the developer is building a game to please the publisher and not the gamer, which is a shame. With our forums, I hear directly what the gamers themselves want, not what the publisher or retailer wants or thinks the gamers want. Of course, any game company can setup forums, but our forums are basically in the same place where you buy the game so it is much easier for our players to join in.
9. What are your plans now? What's the next step?
Well right now I’m expanding our distribution by getting added to some portals and looking to sign some retail deals. Other than that though, I would like to continue to work on Depths of Peril for a while. I would at least like to release a bunch of patches based off of user feedback to make the game even better. I would also like to do some expansions to expand the possibilities in the game even more.
10. Was it worth it? Making your own indie game vs spending this time in a large studio?
Overall, I would say it was definitely worth it. It was a great experience. I got to create one of the RPG games I wanted to with very little interference from outside parties. I also got to add something new in the RPG market and hopefully some of these elements will be used in future games to further expand the genre.
I’m going to add a little rant, because I think the industry as a whole is moving in a bad direction right now. The last couple months have shown once again great reasons to support indie companies. The mainstream retail industry keeps bringing out more and more clones with little to no innovation, terrible EULAs, in game advertising, monthly charges for very little extra content, and high prices. Gamers have more power than they think they do though. Every purchase they make is encouraging the industry to make more games exactly like the one they bought. However, if you don’t buy a copy of a particular game that you normally would have, it encourages the industry not to make more games like that. So where do you want the industry to head? Do you want more clones with better graphics or some actual innovation and fun new gameplay? Do you want EULAs to continue to get worse for you the customer? Do you want to put up with advertising that doesn’t benefit you in any way? You vote with your dollars, euros, etc. Don’t forget that.
We'd like to thank Steven for his time and wish him luck and more sales