Lots of folks liked the Q&A from a few weeks back. I had meant to post a second part, but got a little sidelined. Here it is!
Q: What have you been up to since the last Q&A?
A bunch of stuff:
- De-uglifying and polishing a lot of the in-game assets, animations, menu screens, and so on.
- Switching our server runtime environment from cpython to pypy for additional speed.
- Improving our build/deploy system.
- Finishing up the single player menu screens and the flow for clearing missions and unlocking new content.
- Completing our single-player cinematic cutscene system.
- Rebalancing units like Vivid Drone and Deadeye Operative.
Q: How is Lunarch’s cash flow? Do you guys need more money?
A: Nothing to worry about yet; we’re doing OK. We’ve been helped immensely by government programs like the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tech Credit. Prismata doesn’t generate nearly enough revenue to sustain itself yet, but that’s expected when we’re in pre-launch mode. None of Lunarch’s founders draw a salary from the company (the opposite is true: we all helped fund it), so Lunarch doesn’t burn a whole lot of cash, and consequently, we’ve still got plenty of time. It does mean that some of us haven’t seen a paycheque in a very long time, and obviously that isn’t sustainable forever, but we’ll have no trouble making it until launch.
Q: Do you have enough money for marketing?
A: Here’s where things get trickier. We had applied to receive an advance for Marketing and Promotion from the Canadian Media Fund (not free money, but a repayable loan), and we were denied the funds. Many fellow developers I spoke with were very convinced that we’d get the loan, but alas, the Marketing and Promotion funds are now only open to games whose development/production were funded by the Canadian Media Fund itself, as per a new rule added in 2016. We never applied for CMF development/production funding because we had raised sufficient funds ourselves, and CMF production/development funding requires developers to pay a massive royalty on profits, similar to that of a regular publisher. As of this year, that now makes us ineligible for CMF’s Marketing and Promotion advance as well (which is royalty-free).
Too bad. The application was a massive pain-in-the-ass too.
Nevertheless, marketing is king, and we feel we can manage an effective marketing campaign without CMF’s help (or any publisher, for that matter). We’ll have to be a bit more careful to spend our marketing dollars effectively, but assuming things go well during early access, we’ll be able to amp up the marketing spend as needed.
Q: What will you spend marketing efforts and funds on?
A: Lots of things:
- PR for sure. We’ll probably hire a PR firm, as we did during our Kickstarter. They helped us get a lot of helpful coverage, like a feature in PC Gamer.
- We’ll be heavily emphasizing youtube and streamers, and we will likely be focusing on smaller audiences (e.g. streamers that get 300-3000 concurrent views) and perhaps a few very targeted larger streamers.
- Very little on paid ads. Maybe some paid reddit ads. I don’t expect that things like facebook ads or google adsense will yield a very good return on investment, but we’ll try them to see!
- We’ll be probably be sponsoring some tourneys again. Details forthcoming.
Q: Can I help promote Prismata?
A: Yes! We’ve actually had a few community members demo the game at shows and conferences (thank you Apooche, Eiko, and Gameking), but those opportunities are pretty rare. In the past, the biggest help from community members came from people posting about Prismata on forums and other online communities; Celerity’s teamliquid post was a huge boon during our Kickstarter. The best time will be right when we launch on Steam Early Access.
Q: How will I be able to help with the Steam Early Access launch?
A: We’ll be emailing everyone when we’re close to launch with hype materials, free giveaway keys, and so on.
Q: Why don’t you blog more?
A: It takes a lot of time. That said, I’m often torn between not wanting to spend too much time blogging and not wanting to let down folks who want to read the blog!
Additionally, I usually blog about stuff that I’m working on, but a lot of it has not been that blogworthy lately. I guess I could talk about how our multi-node, multi-core server uses synchronized coroutines to preserve message ordering while allowing the server to yield when accessing the database, and how I modified it to detect situations where non-yielding instructions didn’t need to acquire locks, and it made certain parts of the code 10 times faster. I suppose there are probably a few of you who might find that interesting, but it’s just not worth the time right now!
I’m gonna show off some sound effects stuff on the blog soon, I promise!
Q: How come Prismata doesn’t have Feature X? When will you be adding it?
A: We get hundreds of feature requests (literally). We do add many of them, especially those that take only a few minutes to implement (e.g. adding a counter displaying the total number of replays in the “My Replays” menu). That said, some features would take hours or days of work, and they’re just too low on the priority list. Prismata needs to get released! That said, anything that the community has a major interest in will get added eventually, assuming Prismata is a long-term success. We intend to keep working on the game until it no longer makes sense to do so.
Q: Will you be streaming more? Will there be a regular streaming schedule anytime soon?
A: Once we’re on Steam, I’ll probably be streaming regularly, at least twice a week.
Q: What about the 20-mission puzzle pack you’ve been working on?
A: It’s done. We’re still deciding whether to release it now or later. I received a few recommendations to release it later to build up some more hype, but it’s looking like our Steam beta will focus heavily on selling founder packs and the 20-mission puzzle pack will be included as a reward. If so, it will need to be in place by then.
We’ve been watching closely as Ark: Survival Evolved received heavy criticism for releasing DLC while still in early access. Having a high rating on Steam is very important to us, so we wanna avoid that kind of reaction. Their case is a bit different than ours, though.
Q: Is a reward reset happening? When? How does it work?
A: Yes. Just before we go on Steam Early Access. All skins, emotes, and infusions will be removed from player inventories, and all Shards and other collectibles purchased with real money or unlocked with Reward Codes will be refunded. Additionally, players will receive a bonus quantity of Power Cores, Omnipower Cores, and Shards commensurate with the number of ladder and bot games played during the alpha.
Q: Will there be an option not to reset? I don’t want to have to open all those Power Cores again!
A: The reset will be mandatory, as there have been huge changes to Prismata’s cosmetic system during the alpha period (such as rarity changes, price drops, and so on). Some players could be advantaged over others if given an option to keep their existing rewards.
However, we’ve received a lot of requests from players who don’t wish to open all the cores again, so we’ll be temporarily adding a secret feature to trade in Power Cores for higher tier rewards like Omnipower Cores and Black Cards to speed up the process.
Q: Will ratings and the leaderboard also be reset?
A: We will not be resetting the ratings, but we might remove some really old names from the leaderboard.
Q: Got a date yet for the Steam Early Access Launch?
A: Nope, but we’re going to be giving out more Steam access keys soon for folks who want to try it before it’s open to the general public. Keep your eye on the blog!
Got another question? Ask me on reddit!
See you on the ladder!