And we have Greenlight!

(Or my game’s Greenlight Post-Mortem. I hear it’s what they’re called?)

Wow! Just wow! I still can’t believe that Idle Civilization got Greenlit. It’s such a great feeling to see that your work is shaping up, that it’s appreciated and maturing. Okay, so this doesn’t mean that the game is a best seller overnight or that it sold anything on Steam (since it just got Greenlit), but that doesn’t matter all that much at this point. It’s passed the scrutiny of the community and that means the world to me.


    So what is it like being on Greenlight?

Well, let’s talk about it.

First of all, it’s quite the unique experience and, you might’ve read this before, but the first thing in any such campaign is: be prepared.

Now this means more than just be prepared with marketing. It means be prepared emotionally. Like the super awesome Rami Ismail says (or rather, asks) in one of his talks: are you ready for your game to get negative feedback? Are you ready to read all sort of bad, negative comments, people telling you it sucks, your game has no potential, are you ready for bad reviews? You better be ready because not everyone will like your game, no matter what it is and especially if it’s your first project you should expect to get bad reviews. I’m not saying you will not get good reviews, you probably will, but you will almost certainly incur some sort of negative feedback, unconstructive criticism and the likes. And we human beings have this awful knack of dwelling on the bad things. So if you get 100 good reviews and 1 bad review, we tend to hang on the bad one more than the good one (it’s a well-documented psychological fact). So be prepared for that and don’t let it make you give up.

Second thing: Does anyone know of your game or is this the first time the public sees it?
If the answer is the latter, then you should delay until people have already had some contact with your game. That means you should have a good, working prototype of your game. I’m totally not against early access (I plan to use it too), but releasing a ultra-mega-pre-alpha on Greenlight is just a little more than trying to sell an idea and ideas without execution are worthless. So don’t. Have a working game (doesn’t have to be finished/polished, but ideally it is) and get it in front of people before putting it on Greenlight.

Now this bit is important: get it in front of your target audience. A lot of people rely on promoting their games in places where other developers hang out. Which is fine, but how interested are you usually in playing other devs games? I for one know I only play around 10-20% of the games I see promoted daily and I’m in a lot of dev groups. And, while a lot of fellow developers voted for my game on Greenlight, I don’t think the number represented more than 5% of votes – not to be scoffed at, but this shouldn’t be your main way of promoting.

No, what you need to do is get your game in front of potential gamers, in front of your target audience (if you have one). My game was/is published on a big gaming portal for free and it has been there for months while I was developing it (that also came with pluses and minuses as you can see in my previous article – Read here ) and I posted about it on reddit and kept an indiedb page. Looking at the analytics afterwards, I noticed that most of my traffic came from reddit.

So grab the attention of your followers while you’re developing – I had a rather well followed facebook page by my standards – close to 1000 likes – that’s not much by other developers’ standards, but it was for me, so I could always post updates there and get people involved. I did not have a strong Twitter presence. Actually, I’m still learning about Twitter so don’t be like me. Twitter is the place to be for game developers so be there, build yourself a presence and an audience and remember not to be one-sided: Don’t just talk about your game, talk about everything.

Third thing: Why is your audience so important? Because you only get THREE DAYS. Okay, that sounds more dramatic than it is. But you only get three days of free exposure while your game is in the recent submissions list. That’s when you’ll get the bulk of your organic traffic from Steam itself. After that, your game will fade into obscurity and you will have to drive traffic to the page yourself. So think about that and think how you’ll approach it. I didn’t post everywhere simultaneously from the first day really. I wrote about it on facebook and in a few groups in the first day, posted about it in reddit the following day, wrote a couple of articles the third day, so on and so forth. I’m not saying that’s the way to do it, I don’t know what the way to do it is, that is just how I did it. That way, while traffic dropped after the first three days, as is natural, I could still get a couple of hundred views on the page each day after that.

Fourth thing: This should have been a little higher up, but – how does your page look like? Well your page is your pitch really and your video is what’ll probably decide if people are interested or not. I’m not an expert with that, by far I’m not, so I just did my best with what I knew. I’m not an expert video maker and my game doesn’t have shiny cutscenes or flashy animations, so it was really important to me to highlight the core gameplay features without any bling. I recommend the same to all: make your main trailer short and to the point. Thirty seconds to one minute should be enough. If you want to add additional trailers that highlight other things, go right ahead, but its your main trailer that makes or breaks you. Most Steam users don’t even bother reading the description if the trailer didn’t grab their attention so that is by far the most important thing in your presentation.

Fifth thing: Be honest! Be honest in what you write in the game description. Be honest about what your game is and isn’t. If your game is LIKE another game in some idea and mechanics, be sure to mention if it’s NOT like that game in other crucial things. People project a lot, people get hyped and expect and over-expect. While it’s good to really make your game stand out, don’t over-state, don’t over-promise.

Sixth thing: Never give up!

Good luck and see you on the other side of Greenlight. Once Idle Civ is released I’ll be back to share with you further data about it.

What I learned building Idle Civilization

Heya guys and gals,

I always wanted to keep a development blog of Idle Civilization but I never got around to it and it’s too late now. So I’m going to skip a few things that a devblog has… mostly a lot of the development part and just get to the “polishing and what I learned” part (let’s face it, the last 10% of development takes 90% of the time). Anyway, here are a few stupid things I’ve done towards during the development of this game.

First of all, what do we have?

We have an Idle game called Idle Civilization which started out as not quite all that ambitious. Just a few features, cobbled together rather quickly, a few hastily drawn things and bam, published it straight online to get feedback from real players outside my circle of friends (which, let’s face it, can never be counted on for actual objective feedback).

Now here’s the first lesson (which is from the START of the dev cycle, not the end):
choose your test group carefully and remember there is a sacrifice if you don’t

In retrospect, I probably would’ve done a lot better if I had come here with a devlog, gotten feedback in closed, specialized circles, because putting a prototype out there on the actual page where you want players to play a finished game has quite the ups and downs.
The ups:
– brutal feedback
– honest opinions – love or hate
– if you listen to that feedback, you’ll build a loyal fanbase
The downs:
– a lot of players won’t accept/care that your game is in testing and will just damn it
– your rating will suffer heavily
– the initial exposure to a huge mass of players that won’t like the unfinished game means players you might not get back.

Ok, now here’s what the game looked like in the first ever release:


as compared to what it looks like now:


I’m not saying it looks WOW! no, because it doesn’t, I’m just saying it looks BETTER and it would have mattered if I had chosen my testing differently. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret for a single second that I published the game extremely early, it helped me shape it into what it is today and it got me some fans that really helped out both in motivation and in valuable feedback, tweaks, suggestions, etc.

But be very very careful and think about what you want to sacrifice in advance.


So things moved along and I added more and more things to it until I decided it’s time for Steam. The game is getting pretty big and has moved outside the scope of most idle games out there. It has RPG elements, management, warfare, quite a lot of things if I do say so myself and because the Unity webplayer is slowly becoming deprecated, it was time for a change (or, rather, upgrade). So, time to move it to Desktop!

Here’s what not to do when you do that:
Don’t ignore the people who are following your game while you work on it
Ok, so you got a fanbase! It’s not cool to vanish for a couple of months and stray away from the usual schedule I had imposed of updates and bugfixes while you do your thing (in this case, porting it). A lot of people will walk away. Certain markets and genres have a bigger or smaller “attention span” than others. For idle games, especially for people who saw the game “grow up” so-to-speak, it’s quite important to maintain a close relationship with often improvements.

We’re indies, we’re not yet that busy that we can’t take some time to chat to our followers…

Right, so working in parallel at both a PC model that saves on your hard-drive and on a web-version that saves online, I realized that my save system was very, very inefficient. Now, the rate at which I added features in the game was not anticipated at first. So the game didn’t exactly scale very well, a lot of stuff got piled on other stuff and the code became cumbersome, because I kept putting refactoring off…

So: Refactor early and think scaling!

Seriously, it’s going to save you a lot of trouble if you keep refactoring as your game grows or if you simply PLAN AHEAD a little better than me.
I wasted a lot of time when things became critical rewriting a lot of the code, cutting down on redundant things, refactoring and making things more efficient.

Now, I started from the saving thing. That caused me the most head-aches and some of the most player-pissing-off mistakes. With the final changes to the web-version, I prepared the content for the Steam Greenlight campaign and upgraded the save system to be more “efficient”.
But I failed to test it thoroughly…
So my “new and improved, lighter, faster” save system ended up making players unable to load their games, some of them lost all of their progress, some could not even start new games without a little magic…
And all because I forgot to change the type of the database field to the appropriate type and on very long save strings, it would simply run out of space and truncate the entry, therefore corrupting the save.

Now you can imagine the kind of effect that has on one’s campaign when you tell then: Hey, my game is on Greenlight and needs your support and…uh—right, you just lost all your progress and can’t play anymore…yeah…

This is probably how EA/Ubisoft feels like at every launch, except I don’t have their money and can’t sweep it all under the rug.
So, you’re not out of the woods until you’re out of the woods. Don’t rush at the end, don’t forget to test

Just because something worked last time you built the game, doesn’t mean it’ll work next time you build the game. My save error didn’t occur all the time, just when you had more features unlocked which resulted in more game that needed to be saved. So yeah, guess what: who got affected? My oldest and most advanced players… :'(

But, we get up, we dust ourselves off, we smack ourselves over the forehead and we move on, we never stop. Lesson(s) learned and I think I’m all the wiser and better for it.

Hope you all enjoyed this and I will keep you posted with more developments.

And here’s a bit of self-promotion at the end. If you actually want to learn more about the game and you enjoyed the little article I wrote, here’s the Greenlight campaign:
Idle Civilization on Steam

Thanks for reading and see you around! Looking forward to hearing some of your experiences!

Idle Civilization


Welcome my liege to your throne room, here is where you will lead us to glory from!

Start small with a couple of villagers and grow into a mighty kingdom. Build, research and upgrade, conquer and invoke the powers of the Gods and expand all over the world with powerful colonies!

Assign jobs to your villagers, gather resources and manage your civilization in the best way possible in order to lead it to greatness.

Meet Idle Civilization, the game that’s aspiring to be the best Idle game out there, focusing on civilization building and management.

The game is updated frequently and I answer all inquiries about the game!

Link to game: Idle Civilization
Link to Reddit discussion: Idle Civilization

The importance of your community

I started working on Idle Civilization in January of this year and had set a deadline for myself of 1 month to get it to a “working” state. Now we all know that in programming, that rarely happens, so six weeks later I had a working prototype which I decided to show to the world. It is now almost April and my game is still in Beta, but it is in a much more advanced state, both from the point of view of stability (bugs, mechanics) as well as content.

The important thing I want to underline is that I don’t think the game would’ve come so far along if I hadn’t published a beta version of it when I did. Community helps a lot and having people actually play your game and give you feedback is immensely important. From the point of view of the developer, everything is quite …well, obvious. It’s obvious why this works like that, it’s obvious where that button leads, what clicking that will do, what you’re supposed to do next. Even to me, when designing this idle builder, it was quite obvious that, oh, I’m supposed to get here in X hours, then I’m supposed to create a colony, pick this and that when I start over… and… NO!

NO, that’s not how it works. What is obvious to you is completely obscure to others. They won’t understand the game in the same way that you do. The only place where the roles are reversed is where bugs come into play. That is where things you would have never thought of turn out to be awful bugs.

So that is where a community is important. Without all the lovely people who played my game, Idle Civilization probably wouldn’t have shaped into something coherent. So let’s see what exactly I mean here:

1. Listen to feedback – It won’t be easy, a lot of players will just rip your work apart. So don’t get emotional, don’t get angry and lash out. LISTEN, listen, listen and try to understand why they said the game is not fun, or what is broken, or why they don’t understand what’s going on. Try to see it from their perspective and fix it…as much as possible.

2. While making your game should be fun, playing the game should be equally (or even more) fun. So if some concepts and mechanics look good on paper, they might not do so well in game. Don’t be afraid to change things around.

3. Prioritize community over revenue. Now this is the most important thing and while it should be evident, a lot of people just want a quick buck. Let’s take a quick example at my game: I could’ve waited a lot more until it was ready to be published, have a fully polished game and eye-catching stuff before I published it to Kongregate. And this would’ve been a bigger shot in the dark. On the one hand, if the game had been good from the get-go then yes, it probably would’ve received top ratings, made the front page, shot up real quick. Now I decided to get a lot of beta-testing first. Has this affected my rating? Most certainly. Have I lost a lot of potential players who got scared away by the buggy start? Most certainly. But as I’ve worked hard daily to address the things my players reported, I feel that I have also built a community of people who appreciate the game. Idle Civilization is now a lot better because of the direction everyone has pointed me in and because of all the feedback they gave me. Like I said many times before, the game would’ve have existed without my players.

4. Read, read and answer, answer. Answer to everyone, answer your comments, your bug reports after you fixed them, your personal messages, facebook messages, answer your trolls, your haters, everyone. This is immensely important, especially for a small dev like me who is just starting out. People really appreciate who makes them feel like their opinion matters, like their issues are addressed and their bugs fixed.

Thanks for reading and let me know about your own experiences!