overworldtheme: (programming)
Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 04:40 pm
[Cross-posted from the Vision Riders Blog.]


In case you haven't noticed, Another Star is part of the latest Indie Royale bundle. The Debut 20 Bundle, to be exact.

Bundles have become a really controversial issue among developers. When the concept of indie bundles as we know them began with the first Indie Humble Bundle back in 2010, it was really well received. But the first Humble Bundle was a novelty. Now bundles have become as commonplace as sliced bread, with dozens of sites and brands dedicated to selling them.

To many, bundles are a waste of time for developers (with the usual exception of the flagship Humble Bundles that sometimes manage to break the million dollar mark). Many of these bundles go for less than a single game by itself, which in turn must be further cut down and shared by all the companies involved. Thousands of sales are likely to result in only a few hundred dollars at most. The devs then have to provide support for hundreds of copies of a game from which they received less than a dollar each, and post-purchase support is one of the single most frustrating and time-consuming tasks in the entire development and lifetime of computer software.

When Indie Royale contacted me about putting Another Star in a bundle, I was hesitant. It was fairly short notice, I felt it was too early to put it in a bundle, I knew the returns would likely be small, and I knew it could bite me in the rear end with an onslaught of support emails I'd have to respond to.

But I also really needed the publicity. After thinking it over, I changed my mind and accepted.

As of yesterday, Another Star had only sold 64 confirmed copies. (It's actually sold at least one more copy than that, but FireFlower Games uses a monthly reporting format instead of a daily or realtime one. I haven't gotten the report for October yet, but someone noted they bought it during a recent sale.) As of writing this, that number has increased by eightfold. As already noted, this doesn't translate into much as far as dollar amounts go. I don't think I can discuss exact numbers, but I haven't made very much despite almost 500 copies of the game being sold so far today. But I knew that going in.

Now for the flip side. The bundle has been on sale for six hours now. In that time, I've gotten roughly a hundred up-votes on Greenlight. That's more than the past three months combined. The last time I broke one hundred up-votes in a single day was in the first week of the Greenlight campaign, and the day isn't even over yet. I seriously doubt a steady pace of 100 votes every 6 hours will keep up through the entire two weeks of the bundle deal, but if I can manage just 200 votes a day, that'll get me into the top 100 games on Greenlight, which puts Another Star that much closer to getting on Steam. Being on Steam is not some kind of magic bullet, especially these days with so many indie games available through the service, but the importance of being on that storefront cannot be understated.

It's too early to say whether participating in this bundle was a good idea or not, but I hope it was. If it nets me enough to finally earn a payout from Desura, I think I'll be content if nothing else.

Regardless, the game is in the hands of 500 more people today. I hope they enjoy it.
overworldtheme: (defeated)
Saturday, May 24th, 2014 02:35 pm
[Cross-posted from the Vision Riders Blog, with some minor additions at the end.]

Sorry for the lack of updates, but this has really been an all-around horrible week.

If you've been following me on Twitter, you probably already know that I've been having trouble with my desktop computer. Around Tuesday or so it randomly decided that it wasn't Direct3d compatible anymore. On a Windows machine, this of course spells major trouble. Not only does it render most games unplayable, it makes it virtually impossible to get any sort of work done. Even browsing the internet can be a chore because Windows is chugging along mostly on CPU-generated software graphics. OpenGL appears works just fine, and the display is going out correctly to both monitors, the computer just refuses to interface with or even recognize Direct3d.

I've tried everything. I've reseated the video card (multiple times), uninstalled and reinstalled the video card drivers (multiple times), installed older versions of the drivers, started up with all non-Microsoft services shut down, even messed around with the Windows registry and system BIOS. Nothing. The only thing I haven't tried is wiping the main hard drive and reinstalling Windows, but to give you an idea of just how long it's been since I've had a good system upgrade, the only Windows install disc I have is for XP service pack 1.

The entire reinstall process will take days in and of itself. I'll have to download install all the updates to bring XP up-to-date (well, as much as XP can be), find and reinstall all my work software, reconfigure all the settings back to how they were, troubleshoot all the new issues that inevitably pop up... I'm getting worn out just thinking about it. And, while this should fix the issue, if it's a hardware issue with the motherboard/CPU or the video card, I'll have done it all for naught.

This has been a long time coming. My computer's failure was inevitable, and I knew it. I've only had minor upgrades to my system over the past decade, mostly with hand-me-down-parts, and the last one was five or six years ago. I've had lots of issues with my computer over the past few years, becoming increasingly worse, and I knew it was only a matter of time before it finally gave out. It's part of why I put so much effort into getting Another Star finished before that happened. Sales from the game were supposed to help pay for a major overhaul of my system, but that didn't work out.

Thankfully, I still have a laptop, which despite some minor issues of its own is functional. It's not really designed for anything other than playing DVDs and surfing the internet, but it works at least. I suppose I'll have to be switching over to it for my main system. However, with the lack of storage space and processing power, I'm not sure how long it's going to hold up as a work machine, especially for a freelance artist.

Only time will tell.

I'd hoped to begin major work on my next game soon. The prototype was up and running, and I was almost ready to begin working on actual levels. It looked a lot better in screenshots, so I had hoped that it would get people interested in Another Star as a way to see the new game finished.

I'm not sure how well that's going to pan out now, though, without my desktop. Especially if I can't even accept freelance work because my laptop can't handle it. I have a lot to think about over the weekend as to what to do now and how to move forward. Maybe a future in art/design just wasn't meant to be. But if that's the case, what do I do with my life?
overworldtheme: (vision riders)
Thursday, May 1st, 2014 01:01 pm
[Cross-posted from the Vision Riders Blog]

Let's talk numbers!

In making Another Star, I didn't plan for it to make enough income to live off. I'm not that niave. There are a lot of indie games out there to compete with for attention—not to mention games and entertainment in general—and going into the game's development, I hadn't released a game in over ten years. The game was primarily meant to pad my portfolio and generate some freelance work so I could get back on track, both financially and in regards to my career.

To that end, I was hoping for about 1,000 sales in the first three months. I didn't necessarily expect to get that much, but it was a goal to shoot for. 1,000 sales would earn Vision Riders a little under $9,000 after fees, which I felt would be enough to proceed straight into another six month project.

However, the minimum number of sales I decided I would need was a mere 100 total in the first three months. That would give me enough to pay for a critically-needed upgrade to my aging computer, and maybe even have a little left over on the side for spending money. To reach that, I'd only need about one sale a day for three months straight. That should be easy enough, I thought.

Another Star first went on sale on 20 March, 2014. As of 30 April, it has sold only 24 copies across all retailers, and brought in approximately $217.92 (after initial fees). Here's the raw numbers:

Another Stars sales numbers chart for March and April 2014

The gaps, of course, mean that I'm not meeting my one-a-day minimum sales. In order to reach the meager 100 sales, the game really needs to be at about twice the sales numbers that it is right now. As it stands, the game has not yet reached the payout level for any of the three retailers it's on, which means the company doesn't even get that money yet.

It's certainly not the end of the world, but it is more than a little disappointing. It's also going to make it difficult to go on, unless I start getting some really well-paying freelance stuff in the near future. But that's another discussion for another day.

Meanwhile, here's how the game is faring on Steam Greenlight as I write this:

Steam Greenlight Numbers for 2014

As you can see, it's not doing too bad for only being on the service for a couple weeks now. However, it's still lagging significantly behind where the current top 100 were at this point in their lives. The percentage of "no" votes is also a bit discouraging. As you can see, I get a lot of no votes, which I suppose comes with the territory of the game's art style.

There's still plenty of time for improvement, though. I've been putting money into marketing where I can afford to, and friends are helping me push it through Greenlight as much as they can. Hopefully next month I'll have better news to report!
overworldtheme: (vision riders)
Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 11:54 am
(Just realized that I didn't crosspost this from the Vision Riders blog. By the way, please to be upvoting Another Star on the Greenlights. Thank you!)

I hate Steam Greenlight. I really do. I even wrote at length about why.

A lot of people are asking me if Another Star will ever be on Steam Greenlight. Back in August, I stated that I didn't know the answer to that question.

Truth be told, I’m not sure I care that Another Star has a tiny chance of getting through. I’m not sure I care that I’m losing sales by not putting the game there. Out of principle, I simply cannot stand the very idea of submitting it. I may yet give in, but the whole thing ticks me off and I’d rather just say “screw it”.


The problem is, principles don't pay the bills. They don't put food on the table. They don't fund future projects, or even help keep hardware and software up-to-date. Valve has a virtual monopoly on the PC games market with Steam. A large number of gamers will not even consider buying a game if it's not already on the service. It's a sad, sorry state of affairs, but it's the way things are, and despite Valve's continued, empty promises that they're going to overhaul the system it doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon.

That said, Greenlight has improved since I wrote both of those entries, even if only a little. At this point, I can say with certainty that Another Star will eventually be on Steam Greenlight. I'm still not comfortable with the service, but at least it's gotten to the point where I don't immediately gag at the thought of it. (It's more of a slow, delayed reaction now.)

The problem at the moment is cash. Steam's horrendous $100 gate is effectively shutting me out for the time being. Moreover, it's not a free ticket to success. The money I have right now is already set aside for things like bills and groceries, and my credit card is just about maxed out. I can't justify buying what amounts to a lottery ticket at this exact moment in time. Later in the month, however, I should have a bit more money to work with, and I'll try to get Another Star up on Greenlight then.

To be clear, I'm not asking for a handout. I'm just asking for patience. If you have $100 to pay for someone's Steam Greenlight fee, please find someone who needs and deserves it more than me. There are a lot of struggling developers out there who deserve a shot. I have more money on the way, but a lot of them don't.
overworldtheme: (vision riders)
Friday, March 21st, 2014 09:03 am
(Cross-posted from the Vision Riders Blog)

After a lot of waiting to get things processed, it looks like everything has finally come together. As of today, you can buy Another Star on the official site. The price is $10, but you can add an extra tip if you so choose by clicking on the "+" symbol on the Humble Store widget before choosing a payment method. It's entirely up to you, but I certainly won't stop you.

I really do hope that you enjoy the game. Let me know if you come across any problems by posting here, or contacting support@visionriders.com for technical support. (I might even stay up late tonight, just in case anyone has trouble getting the game to launch.)
overworldtheme: (programming)
Monday, December 23rd, 2013 09:13 am
(Cross posted from the Vision Riders Blog)

I've been hard at work trying to get Another Star ready for release. Part of that entails making sure the game looks its absolute best.

Comparison of Tachi's old and new sprites.

Tachi looks more like his promotional art now.

As discussed in my last post, I've been toying with the idea of abolishing the self-imposed 256 tile limit. I haven't decided for sure one way or the other, but I have been making new sprites to test out the waters.

Comparison of the original graphics and the possible updated graphics.

It's quite a difference!

What does everyone else think? Is the improvement enough to follow up on?
overworldtheme: (programming)
Thursday, December 19th, 2013 04:21 pm
(Crossposted from the Vision Riders blog.)

I noted last week that, unlike the rest of the game, Another Star's soundtrack had very little to do with the theme of "minimalism". The track count continues to grow, by the way, now standing at 34 tracks with more on the way as I go back over and polish everything. But as the soundtrack balloons, the graphics are quickly getting left behind. The more music that gets added to the game, the more the 256 tile limit sticks out like a sore thumb.

Now I'm wondering if I should just abolish the tile limit altogether. I don't really want to do this. I'm proud of the fact I fit so much—an entire game, with a sizable overworld and eleven dungeons, and all the enemies to fill them—into a mere 256 tiles! It's actually quite amazing the ways I came up with to manipulate tiles to create so many different and distinct locations.

But at the end of the day, does anybody really care if I managed to create a game in just 256 tiles? Does the tile limit actually add anything to the game? I'm highly suspicious that the answer to that question is a resounding "NO".

Now, I suppose I should clarify a few things. Supposing the tile limit does get dropped, the graphics would still adhere to the 8-bit limitations of systems past, but I'd be able to switch between tile sets (like on actual hardware). Furthermore, most of the major scripting on the game is done so I'm not going to completely rewrite the game. I'd probably add frames for NPCs to face directions other than straight down, but they'd still be rooted in position, and cut scenes would still be pretty static. The maps themselves would be a lot more pretty and nice to look at, though, and enemies would also be bigger and more diverse.

I think I'll sleep on it before I decide what to do. What are your thoughts?
overworldtheme: (art)
Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 04:45 pm

Another Star - The Cast by ~TheGrandHero on deviantART

Here's some new promotional artwork for Another Star that I just finished up. These are some of the characters that you will meet in your journey. I'm trying to emulate the style of Yoshitaka Amano, although I think my colors are far too saturated.

From left-to-right: Kyne, Eva, Tachi, Rygar, and Soel.

Might end up using this for the game's cover art, although it's not quite what I had in mind for that.

Done completely in Photoshop CS2. Time taken: ~4-6 hours.
overworldtheme: (vision riders)
Saturday, September 28th, 2013 06:02 pm
Cross posted from the Vision Riders Blog.

At last, Another Star is playable from beginning to end. The completion time for the very first run of the game was 20:24:22. That's twenty hours, by the way. A nice, solid total for an RPG, I think.

This means, ladies and gentlemen, that we are in beta.

In fact, you—yes, you—can be a beta tester! All you have to do is download the game from the link below, play it for as long as you want, and then either leave a reply here or send an email telling me what you thought about it. None of the dialog or text is finalized, so I don't care about typos, but please do tell me about bugs. And do let me know what exciting things you found while exploring, and what strategies you came up with to deal with enemies and bosses.

(Save files from the previous version may or may not work. It's best to start a new save.)


Unlike the "leaked" version, I very much doubt this will be left up for more than a week or two, so grab it while you can, and enjoy!
overworldtheme: (tales of veigue)
Sunday, September 15th, 2013 09:46 am
Cross-posted from the Vision Riders Blog.

Sophie Houlden is an indie developer, and was among the first batch of indies to put their game on the Ouya. However, she recently pulled her game Rose and Time from the console. She lists her reasoning in this blog post, which conveniently sums up why I have no plans to ever port Another Star to Ouya.
overworldtheme: (Default)
Thursday, September 12th, 2013 04:06 pm
Cross-posted from the Vision Riders Blog.


Today I learned that my sister's wedding is taking place this October, not next October the way I had originally understood. In fact, it's taking place the same week as Another Star's scheduled release date. Even though it's not like I'm planning the wedding or undertaking its execution, considering the stressful amount of post-release bug-hunting and publicity I expect to have to keep on top of, 21 October is just not going to work—especially if I'm on the road that particular day driving my grandparents up here!

This leaves me with two options.

1. Move the Release Date Back

While this gives me more time to polish and promote the game, it also presents all-new problems. It's looking like I'm going to be moving sometime before the end of the year, probably in November, and there's no way I'm going to do a move and a game release at the same time. Not to mention moving the release even closer to the end of the year puts it in conflict with year-end sales at places like Steam and GoG.com. I'm not sure how a low-profile release like mine would fare when people are busy saving their money for snagging titles bigger than mine at 80% off.

So, early next year then? That'd give me time to do additional cool stuff like a Nintendo Power style strategy guide in PDF format, akin to the kind they put out for Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior on the NES back in the day. But that's also really postponing a project I'm ready to be finished with. The fate of Another Star and what comes soon after—if anything—is seriously going to determine whether Vision Riders continues to exist in any form. I'd rather get that over with sooner than later.

Which leads me directly to the next option.

2. Move the Release Date Up

It's a possibility, but it's a slim one. I could move the release date forward by a week or two. I'm not particularly fond of this option. 21 October is already a close shave as it is. September is nearing its halfway point, and I still have the last dungeon, final boss, and ending to design and code. I would have precious little time left to refine the script, get playtesting feedback, fix bugs and typos, and do all the promotion a title like this needs to get noticed.

Still, it is a real possibility, and one I'm seriously considering. Once the fate of the game's release is known for sure, I'll post about it here. Until then, assume the game is coming out later rather than sooner.

I'm really sorry about this. If the game gets delayed, I'll try to find some way to make up for it.
overworldtheme: (video games)
Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 05:51 pm
One of the most common questions I get about Another Star now that it's getting noticed is whether or not I'm going to put it up on Steam Greenlight. The easy answer is: I don't know.

On one hand, it's all the more publicity for the game even if it doesn't get through.

On the other, Steam Greenlight sucks for all the reasons I've previously pointed out, and I hate it.

Actually, hate is a weak work.

I despise it.

I don't feel like coughing up $100 for "publicity" when I could put that money to better things like hosting and tools and computer parts, especially now that the bigger dogs are buying their Steam lottery tickets and grabbing that much more attention from the smaller guys.

I hate what Steam has done with the service, I hate how they treat indies while patting themselves on the back and thinking they've done a good job, I hate how opaque the service is after they played up how "transparent" it would be, and I hate how arbitrary their ideas are of who can and cannot use the service.

I also hate the fact that Valve--the supposed champion of indies--requires you to sign an NDA once you've been greenlit. The very idea of it irks me, in part because I hate the whole concept of an NDA for something as simple as a freak'n online storefront. Yes, I know they required an NDA prior to Greenlight, but it's not the transparency and openness they promised when they pitched this thing.

Truth be told, I'm not sure I care that Another Star has a tiny chance of getting through. I'm not sure I care that I'm losing sales by not putting the game there. Out of principle, I simply cannot stand the very idea of submitting it. I may yet give in, but the whole thing ticks me off and I'd rather just say "screw it".

Life would be a heck of a lot easier if I wasn't such a stupid idealist.

EDIT:
I may actually be making the right choice.

On that same note, can you believe it's come to the point where it's easier to get on to a Sony console than it is on to Steam? Wow. Way to go Valve.
overworldtheme: (vision riders)
Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 06:09 pm


A demonstration of the gameplay and world of Another Star, an 8-bit style RPG packed into a single 128x128 pixel tile sheet. In this video I demonstrate exploration, battles, visiting towns, and some basic party management.
overworldtheme: (video games)
Thursday, June 13th, 2013 08:54 pm
Here, have a thing:



You can visit the site at:
http://www.visionriders.com/anotherstar

I've also got the game listed on IndieDB now, so check it out:
http://www.indiedb.com/games/another-star
overworldtheme: (programming)
Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 08:34 pm
Named Project Minimalism "Another Star". Not completely happy with the name and hadn't fully committed to it, but then someone posted a blurb about it under that name so I decided I better stick with it.

It also has a website, which you can visit here. Progress on the game is really picking up now that all the major components are in place. At this point, I now think the switch to this from Junction was the best decision. Junction wouldn't have been done until August-ish at best, while I may have this ready to go by the end of the month. It'll be nice to have something done for a change.
overworldtheme: (tales of cress)
Saturday, April 20th, 2013 01:43 pm


Wherein I do a sketch of Medusa Gorgon, a character I know nothing about from Soul Eater. Maybe you can enlighten me.

This was a request done for a friend. Maybe if you leave a request in the comments a character you want to see will show up in a later week?