We’re entering our last six months of development on Dragon Commander, meaning that things are getting serious now. Pretty soon we’ll have to prove that our adventures and experiments in the wonderful land of independence and self-publishing were fruitful, and show that we’re capable of launching a game worldwide on our own, both digitally and via retail and preferably with a certain degree of success.
That success is far from certain, and there are plenty of cracks in the floor that we’ll need to hop over to break even on this game. This post is about a few very specific issues we’re dealing with, and I wanted to check if there’s anybody here reading this blog who has a couple of bright ideas that might help us forward. Your help will be most appreciated!
One of our bigger issues is that the gameplay of Dragon Commander changed drastically over the course of development. It started out as a game that was also going to appear on console and contained quite a lot of action, but ended up as a game for the more thoughtful yet skilled player, featuring quite a lot of strategy. While I personally think Dragon Commander is now vastly more fun that it used to be, the big problem this caused is that all the communication so far was more or less beside the point. And we did communicate quite a lot about it…
A week or so ago, one of our retail distributors asked us for a sales sheet – a small doc featuring bullet point features – which they needed to sell the game to the retail buyers. The stuff we wrote there was quite different from what we were showing even back at GamesCom 2012, and while we ourselves know this is for the better, it’s clear that we’re going to be dealing with some confusion when next we show the game to the world.
We realized that it’s going to be important that we can capture the essence of the game in only a few lines, and the better those lines are, the higher the chance that players will be able to figure out if this is a game for them or not. The lines should be strong enough that they clear up whatever confusion we’ll have caused by our gameplay shift, and they should also be memorable enough so that one player talking to another player can refer to them to explain what the game is all about.
I’m going to list here what we have for the moment in the hopes that somebody reading this might come up with a couple of suggestions to improve the text and clarify the message.
Dragon Commander – Become the dragon, command the empire
The lands of Rivellon are overrun by the forces of chaos. You are one of the last dragon knights. Do you have what it takes to unite the races and build an army formidable enough to defeat the biggest threat ever ?
- Become the Dragon – Take control of the dragon in you and join your troops in combat, assisting them with a host of powerful magic skills
- Full 3D massive real time strategy – Engage in land, air and sea warfare, commanding unique fantasy units with various upgrades and tactical abilities
- Dynamic story driven campaign – After each battle, you make choices that affect the lives of everybody in the empire and from your strategy map, decide which countries to attack
- Cooperative and competitive multiplayer – Play with or against your friends. In cooperative mode, one player can command the armies while the other blasts away at the enemy in dragon form
Feel free to rip it apart but please do give feedback – if you find this text appalling, please let us know, because otherwise you risk being appalled even more when next you find it back in all kinds of languages in all kinds of ads and on all kinds of boxes in say about six months 😉 Likewise, if you find it appealing, let us know too. And obviously, if something is unclear, please ask so I can clarify. Not being clear is the thing I’m the most afraid of.
One other issue we’ve been dealing with and for which we could use some ideas is how we’ve been handling our online presence. Up to now there wasn’t a clear plan other than everybody bitching that we could do better, but now that we’re trying to do better, we’re finding that it’s not that easy – go figure 🙂
The way we’ve been going about this for the moment is that last month we set up a group of 6 guys at Larian who meet every Monday to discuss what we’re going to be doing through our online channels for the remainder of the week, resulting in fun stuff on our Facebook and Youtube channels. This seems to please the people who are already there (we think) but it hasn’t caused real earth-shattering growth in terms of people reached. We still have plenty of time, so we’re not panicking yet, but it’s fair to say that there was some hope that we were going to be increase our reach faster than that.
I think it’s pretty clear that we have little experience with this, so if anybody has any good feedback or ideas on how we can increase our online promotional reach, we’d be more than happy to hear them. Feel free to treat us as noobs, because that’s what we are when it comes to Facebook, Twitter & co 😉
I thank you in advance for helping us out with this!
I’m really glad I did this post. Thanks to your contributions, I think the text became a lot stronger and you also gave us a good idea of what are the key points for you in Dragon Commander. It’s easy for us to forget them because we see this game every day.
The list of things to-do to promote online also contained a couple of things we were not thinking of, so I’m grateful for you pointing them out. I listed them here so they could also be of use to other devs reading the article.
Here’s the text, modified with comments I found here and on our forums. Thank you once again everybody!
Dragon Commander – Become the dragon, command the empire
Rivellon, the heroic land of the Divinity series, is overrun by the forces of chaos. You are one of the last Dragon Knights and your people need a leader. Do you have what it takes to unite the six races and build an army legendary enough to turn the tides of an all-consuming war ?
- Full 3D massive real time strategy – Command your land, air and sea troops. Research various technological and magical upgrades and discover plenty of new tactical opportunities.
- Empower the Dragon within you– As a dragon, you can join your troops in combat. And if your fire breathing powers aren’t enough, boost your dragon with demonic technology. Equipping a jetpack is but one example!
- Dynamic story – On board of your battleship, discuss with your crew, friends and counselors how to proceed. Each game is different and you’ll find that a Dragon Commander needs to make really tough decisions!
- Complete strategic control– War unfolds as you choose what countries to attack from your strategy map. But beware, victory and defeat are never far apart. And the enemy has plenty of tricks up its sleeve…
- Cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes –Play skirmishes or full campaigns online with up to 4 friends. In cooperative mode, one player can command the armies while the other blasts away at the enemy in dragon form.
- Use beta-keys to spread the word
- Get youtube stars to feature the game
- Amplify the message through press
- More & better gameplay videos (non-flash)
- Use countdowns for important stuff
- Tell fans to subscribe if they want to receive notifications / newsletter
- Fanpack to allow fans to promote the game if they feel like it
- Streaming video developer chats
- Fishing commander / Pimp your dragon & co
- AMA reddit
- Advertise to ensure presence on larger sites
- Non-flash/mobile versions of websites
- Keep on talking to people
- Link to your website everywhere
- Make sure your sites load up fast in your target markets / use CDN’s
- Localize where possible
- Don’t be generic in describing a non-generic game
- Ask your community to help you improve how you pitch your game