Element4l Sales Roundup

Element4l is an alternative platform game, released the 24th of May 2013. It was a finalist at the Unity awards and won the “Best game” indium award at the international fantastic film festival in Strasbourg.

Since sales numbers published by other indie developers were a great help for me in the past, I figured I might share mine as well. This is not going to be a full post-mortem, but a quick review on how everything turned out for Element4l.

Element4l was developed in a timeframe of two years, mainly by me. Since I was working 80% for a non-profit organization, I programmed and designed it during my spare time, train rides, weekends and nights.
This means there was no real pressure in making a profitable product, I just wanted to make something that I would get a lot of fun of. In the last months of development, I was super lucky to be able to work together with two talented and awesome guys: Mitchell Nordine, who made the soundtrack, and Michélé De Feudis, who did the video-animations and some extra visuals. Both of them were in it to create something special, and had similar goal anticipations as me.

OK, so how are sale numbers influenced?

I believe that visibility (magazines, websites, stores,…) has the greatest impact on sales. But visibility itself is defined by a whole range of parameters. How original is the game? How well is the game received? What other games did the team create? What’s the budget for marketing? And so on…
Since I wanted to do everything myself, I focused my attention on a couple of websites and blogs. I figured: If Element4l gets on one of those, the rest will hopefully follow. Well, it seemed that, while the trailer was picked up very easily, getting reviewed was much more difficult…

Being a real person

Element4l was reviewed in almost every magazine and website in the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), but was only reviewed in a limited number of international magazines and websites. Why was that, I figured?
I had met many of the Benelux journalists at local game conferences while demoing Element4l. All of them are great people, driven by their passion for games. Just talking with them and sharing my honest passion for games resulted in a lot of reviews. I wish I had been able to travel abroad showing Element4l to larger audiences and more journalists, but honestly, I did not have the time or money.

Reviews

If you create something so personal, involving huge amounts of work, dedication and passion, it is easy to go mental on critique. A lot of good reviews raises the bar for happiness, and bad reviews stab you in the heart. 
It is far easier to distance yourself from these feelings if you’re just in it for the money or business. 
Once you have put your soul into a product, it becomes a very personal and fragile item. For those reasons, I totally understand what Davey Wreden (The Stanley Parable) went through.
Most people that have played Element4l soon find that it is a pretty hard game, and I must admit, before I invited beta-testers, it was much harder… Element4l has been eased out a lot since it was created, but still, the difficulty has been the pinnacle of Element4l’s critique.
Still, I was lucky there. Most of the reviews have 4/5 stars and a friend told me last week that 94% of the people that reviewed Element4l were recommending it. Pretty neat! (Enhanced Steam, check it out). The weeks after Element4l was launched, Mary Kish (Indieviddy) did a great job getting additional reviews.

The numbers!

stats

stats2 extra

Quick overview

  • Launch: You can see that our curve follows the same direction as almost any other game out there. It’s called exponential decay…

The sales numbers on the first day basically give you an impression on how well your game will sell over the next couple of months on a certain platform. If you don’t believe that, compare it to the sales numbers of Dustforce (thanks Hitbox!).
During launch, Element4l was featured on the main banner of Steam. Like I have already said, visibility means the world. You will notice this if you compare the Autumn & Winter sale.

  • First spikes: Those spikes you see during the launch were mostly caused by famous youtube personalities that talked about Element4l. I have so many wonderful people to thank for this! One thing is certain, social media has a direct effect on your sale numbers as you’ll see with the Markiplier video in a moment.
  • Summer Sale: Element4l did not receive extra promotion, but since it probably was on a lot of wish-lists, the Summer Sale discount on Steam (20%) was enough to convince a lot of people to try it out.
  • Markiplier video: Here is my point again, Youtubers have a direct effect on your sales… Out of nowhere, Markiplier posted a movie about Element4l, highly recommending it, which almost directly related to a spike in sales. So… if we can all stop harassing youtube personalities about the recent copyright issues now?
  • 50% off & humble tweet: To celebrate the first ten thousand sales, Element4l was 50% off for one week. The sales numbers were even higher than on launch day. Probably because the audience already heard about Element4l as well.
  • Huge Seal: Element4l was part of the hugeseal.com Indie-game sale presented by Frozenbyte.
  • Autumn sale: 50% off, minor visibility (No special announcement, one click away from the steam main page)
  • Christmas/new year sale: 50% off, no visibility

How Much?

As of this moment, Element4l has sold over 22.000 copies and achieved a total revenue of 140.000 $.
I had anticipated sales shy of 5000, which is nowhere near the success that the game is currently enjoying.

So what did my company receive in total?

140.000$
- VAT withholding taxes, platform shares and other fees
93.000$
- Corporate tax in Belgium: 32% (yeah, that much…)
= 70.455$

 

Now, some people are probably thinking… “But you worked two years on it! That’s less than what I get for my day job.” 

True, but this started out as a hobby… Most of them cost money. It’s not quite enough money to start a studio and hire talented co-workers, but sure enough to be motivated to create something new, and hopefully something even more awesome.

 

Cheers,

Dirk Van Welden – @QuarkCannon

Sale and Free DLC

Element4l turned out to be one hell of an awesome ride! Next to being too hard sometimes, the majority of all the reviews were super-positive. Next to that, lots of cool youtubers covered Element4l, we were a finalist in the Unity Awards, and we won the international Indium Game Contest. And now, after these past few months, some of you probably already know that element4l sold more than 10.000 copies, which is awesome for something that started out as a spare-time project, developed by one dude.

To celebrate this, Element4l will be on sale (50%!) for one week, starting today (Humble widget). If you feel like supporting us, please (re)tweet/share/blog this, it would mean a lot to us!

To thank everyone who has already supported us, we are releasing a free expansion this week. Not just an extra level, but 16(!) levels, build as loops. Each one will become available every time you have finished a level from the campaign.

Were you wondering how some are getting such fast laptimes? A developer ghost will be available for everyone, so you can check out his moves, try to copy them, and use them in further stages. For those who are not Element4l specialists, prepare yourself for a big fat “WTF?”.

Here are some screens to get you excited.

RACE2 RACE7 RACE10 RACE14

Thanks again everyone for the support.

Cheers,

Dirk


Element4l Launched!

Hey everyone,

Well, as you will probably know, I’ve been pretty busy releasing Element4l. It’s been doing OK on Steam. I’m keeping all the numbers so I can hopefully give you some interesting insights afterwards.

Feedback has been great so far. Once they’ve mastered the controls, everybody seems to have a very good time.

A lot of people are asking me the following question in interviews: “Why is it so hard?” Well, I made Element4l for myself in the first place, and I like games that are hard, yet super-rewarding when you’ve mastered them. I think one can only make a good game if you are really creating something that he/she wants to play. Element4l was that game for me. Although I’m getting my *ss kicked on the leaderboards. ;-)

Thanks to everyone who supported me already!

Dirk – @QuarkCannon

Don’t forget the beta-testers

In these past few months, Element4l has become a fun game instead of just a cool idea. One of the reasons for this are beta-testers. You don’t need loads of them, you just need a couple of very critical beta-testers that give you lots of feedback. You can feel someone is a great beta-tester by the first feedback he or she you; some bugs, some abnormal testing (f.e. checking input for weird characters) and maybe some personal input (f.e. I don’t like the way this looks/sounds). These testers are critical to make your game even better… especially if you are a small team. The key for keeping these testers is giving them a response asap, and  trying to have at least of couple of problems solved in the next beta. If they feel they are really making a difference, you will make good testers even better.

Even if some beta-testers use hard words to address bugs/problems, don’t forget that the opposite of loving your game isn’t hating your game, it’s being indifferent to your game. They hate it because they would like to love it, if it didn’t include these awful problems :-)

About Element4l: big news coming up, including a release date!

An idea for greenlight?

Following Gabe Newell’s talk about greenlight, and his quote: “a bad example of the election process”

We had a similar problem about 5 years ago… (I am ignoring the 100 dollar fee and fake entries btw)

Next to being an indie developer, I work part-time for a non-profit organization called Poppunt. Poppunt has been around for over 10 years in the the flemish part of Belgium, providing free support for musicians, producers and DJ’s alike. In those 10 years, we have learned a lot about how we can help bands to get on the radar, and more importantly, how NOT…

In an attempt to provide airplay for talented bands on one of our biggest radio-stations, Poppunt created a project called “demopoll”, where bands and musicians would send in their demo’s. Every week three tracks would get selected to be played on national radio. The audience would select the winner by vote, and that band got an interview and some extra airplay. Great promotion! And it was, but we missed something… While there was already some kind of ‘preselection’, it seemed that, in almost every case, the band with the most friends won. The problem is that this absolutely does not mean quality. If you had the best track, and 80% of the audience thought the same, it was far from sure that you would win the “demopoll”. Possible reason: there was always some high school band with a lot of friends getting more votes than you. ;-)

About 5 years ago, we wanted to change all of this… no more popularity contests, no more public voting -> no more spamming your friends on facebook to get extra votes.
A lot of brainstorming and meetings later, we came up with this idea:
Every week one person, an “expert” (meaningful in the music industry), would choose three songs from our platform and they all would get airtime on national radio.

What we saw, was incredible. The experts made it their mission to search for the coolest tracks on the platform. Sometimes pure gems were discovered, sometimes totally weird tracks were aired on national radio, and bands that had no marketing plan at all became popular, just because of their music. We noticed many bands getting a lot of attention that never stood a chance in our “demopoll”. Also, instead of being criticized, you would receive great comments/quotes from this expert. One important remark: the broadness of what gets selected fully depends on the variety of your experts, so it is still an important task to select the right experts, no doubt about that.

Now, I’m sure you noticed Gabe, but if you put “studio” or “gamedev” instead of “band/artist”, “game” instead of “track/music” and “steam” instead of “national radio”, you’ve got my humble suggestion…

Cheers,
Dirk

New element4l gameplay footage

We’ve been working hard these past few months. Below you can see an updated gameplay movie showing some new shaders, effects and camera movement. Expect a new trailer soon!

 

What does being featured on a major indie website means to your youtube stats

Well, because numbers are quite rare, here an example screenshot of youtube stats after 10 days of being featured on indiegames.com, and which websites picked it up as well. My first mail, just the gameplay teaser, went out about 10 days ago, to indiegames.com and rockpapershotgun.com. Indiegames.com picked it up on their website just one day after my mail was sent, and that pretty much started up the viewcount. Another (very good btw.) site called gameblog.fr picked it up as well (through indiegames.com I guess, because I did not send them an email), and that gave another push to the viewcount. You can see all the numbers dropping after one, what I call,”front-page”-peak.

After one week, I tried sending another mail with more information and a different gameplay movie to  a larger number of websites. Indie game magazine picked it up with an (btw. great) article and you can see the numbers growing again, but it unfortunately did not have the same impact as indiegames.com. These stats give you quite a good insight on how many people will watch your video if you are being featured on indiegames.com. The cool thing about that is that indiegames is being watched by a large amount of developers, and it’s always a good thing to have their support!

Hope this is interesting for some of you, let me know @quarkcannon (or info at i-illusions.com) if you have more questions.

Cheers,

Dirk

element4l : first info!

Well, after many months of work, I can finally tell you more about our newest project. We are coming to pc/mac (at first, other platforms tbc) with an experimental platform game.

After seeing it in action the first time, one might ask: “What’s so experimental about this, we’ve all seen platformers with physics in the last years.” Well, it’s really not about the physics (but they are nice though), but about the way you control the game. The only thing you can control in element4l is changing who you are. There are many ways of implementing this in a wide arrange of games, and I tried it with 4 elements (air, fire, ice (=water :-) , and stone).

My main concern with current platform games is that the controls almost always feel awkward on a touchscreen. Replacing them with just 4 “state-selectors” works great on touch-screens, and only feels weird the first few minutes on a normal keyboard.

“Ok… but how you move and control the character?”

To make it a little more interesting, I’ve added some extra abilities for every state. Air receives a minor upper inertia, fire -> right and stone -> down. If you combine this with standard physics (like ice: slides, air: light, …), you get a alternative but nice platforming experience. For example: if you want to go right, the best thing to do is: change your state to fire to have some inertia to the right. If you then quickly change to ice, you keep the speed and smoothly slide forward. Do this a couple of times, and you could go fast… very fast!

Tadaaa, the screens (alpha)!

Simple 2D Waving Plane for Grass/Trees in Unity

Waving grass or trees in 2D games can add a lot of atmosphere in a game environment.
A quick script to accomplish this is below. You only need to assign it to a very simple square plane mesh. (you can find one here)

I’ll update it (perfomance wise) in the future. It now calculates a sin every frame (expensive). It would be better to have a “manager” that does all the transforms. But this code can help.

using UnityEngine;
using System.Collections;

public class WavePlane : MonoBehaviour {

	private Vector3[] meshVertices;
	private Vector3[] origVerticesPos; 
	public int[] moveVertices; //for my mesh, I used 0 and 1 (upper two vertices)
	public float waveSpeed = 1;
	public float waveAmplitudeX = 0.001f;
	public float waveAmplitudeY = 0;
	private float xMove;
	private Mesh mesh;
	private float randomize;

	void Start () {

		MeshFilter myMF = this.GetComponent("MeshFilter") as MeshFilter;
		mesh = myMF.mesh;
		meshVertices = mesh.vertices;
		origVerticesPos = meshVertices;
		randomize = Random.Range(0,100);
	}

	void Update () {
		xMove = Mathf.Sin((Time.time*waveSpeed)+randomize);
		foreach (int i in moveVertices){
			meshVertices[i] = origVerticesPos[i]+new Vector3(xMove*waveAmplitudeX,xMove*waveAmplitudeY,0);
		}
		mesh.vertices = meshVertices;
		mesh.RecalculateNormals();
	}
}