Indies going all in with self-publishing: an Ethan: Meteor Hunter post mortem

Mercredi 4 décembre 2013

It’s been more than a month since the release of our first game, Ethan: Meteor Hunter, on PC and PlayStation 3. And, well, we’ve been a bit quiet right? Even the tumblr stopped! This past month has been a bit hard for us, as, spoiler alert, sales didn’t quite meet our expectations. But let’s get back a bit, shall we?

Who are we and what are we talking about?

Seaven Studio is a newborn from some ashes of Hydravision, which closed down in September 2012. Since that day, seven former employees decided to go all in and put all of their time (no holidays at all), money (living on unemployment benefits, no salary) and energy (that’s coffee) into a new 100% independent video game studio, self publishing and self funding its games: Seaven Studio.

Ethan: Meteor Hunter is a project we bought back from Hydravision with our savings as we started working on it there. Main design was almost done, we changed things here and there to make it more enjoyable from what was decided over at Hydravision by our former bosses.

What went right

    • We started a company AND finished a game from what we got from Hydravision AND released it simultaneously on PC & PlayStation 3 (gotcha TRCs) in SCEE AND SCEA, 100% self published and self funded
    • We haven’t killed one each other (yet).
    • Game is enjoyable
    • Press likes it: average note is 7/10, some gave us 8/10 and only one 4/10 and two 6/10, way better than the 5/10 we were used to at Hydravision
      • Sometimes described as “Super Meat Boy meets Braid” which is very nice
  • Gamers love it (or they’re all very polite):
    • 98% Greenlight comments are positive or very positive
    • Gamers at show were sticking around to finish the demo
    • At one livestream made with French Team Mortal Gaming, a fan even wrote on her shirt about the game, which is super cool!
  • Press coverage:
    • 360+ mentions of Ethan since early May 2013
    • Including Alpha Demo appreciated by RockPaperShotgun & a great article from Joystiq, mentions from Polygon (1, 2, 3).
    • Lot of nice/excellent previews
    • 30+ reviews of Ethan, only missing the very big website (Kotaku, RPS, Joystiq, etc…)
    • Youtubers side is good too, contacted 200+ of them but same as press, most famous/big ones didn’t reply back

We’re happy on that side from what we would have expected from Hydravision era and also considering we were basically unknown at all.

Publishing

  • 5 different public shows attended: Rezzed, Develop (indie showcase finalist), Gamescom, Eurogamer Expo & Paris Games Week
  • Great great way of meeting players: chatting about what’s good or not about the game. We have changed our tutorial after each show in order to improve it. We added for example the side buttons for better & less frustrating objects positioning.
  • Met a lot of very friendly indie guys (Red Solstice, Hammer Labs hiding from security before Sony Party, shared a room with SwingSwingSubmarine rrrr, Mi-Clos, RunningWithScissors, Nyamyam, etc..)
  • Side note: global publishing budget is 50k€ (18 languages translation, Q&A for PlayStation 3, Age rating, Launch trailer, attending shows with travel and accommodation costs)
  • Couple of articles on PlayStation Blog US & Europe
  • Front of different stores & website for launch (PS Store SCEA, PS Store SCEE, GoG, Eurogamer.fr & GameSideStory)

Getting the word out and beeing present at most shows is pretty satisfying; we’ve really done the maximum we could, considering we’re 9 people. Only regret is not been present at PAX, too late to book!

Overall we feel like we have a good game gamers enjoy it and we couldn’t have done more to get the word out about the game as a new born studio. Good game with good marketing is what it needs, right?

What went wrong

  • Sales

Well, let’s talk about actual sales numbers. Within a month, we have sold on PC:

127 units

Missing a few 0s, right?

When we saw Flippfly post on Race the Sun and its 771 sales we were a bit astonished and were thinking that with all of the shows we’ve been to, all of the communication we done the past months etc.. we should be fine. How naïve we were… Unfortunately we are not allowed to say anything about PlayStation 3 sales, but we are not happy with them at all either, so it doesn’t seem to be a platform problem… Just missing Steam, obviously? With all of games released now on Steam, it doesn’t seem to be as important as it was. Still, can’t be worse than 127 units!

  • Building a community & Steam Greenlight

When we started our communication about Ethan, we planned to have Steam Greenlight in the center of it. We wanted it to be our central hub for communication with the community, rather than setting up our own forum which would have need gamers to set up another account etc… to be where most of our targeted gamers are and already have a Steam account.

I don’t know about other devs but it didn’t work out at all for us. It seems like people spend 30s on each page, vote and then move on. Some stay a bit and leave a comment but we rarely had great chat with gamers over there. We released an Alpha Demo when we announced the game in order to get feedbacks from the community. To this day, demo was downloaded about 2500 times for a 26 000 unique visitors, giving a 9% rate, which is not so bad I’d guess but only a couple of actual feedbacks from it! We definitely need to improve things on this side.

We are still not greenlit and now about 85% way to the top 100… Our major concern about Greenlight is that, imagine gamers who voted “No” back in May and then tried our game at Gamescom in August and loved it? They can’t change their vote unfortunately. You can, my bad.

Oddly enough, we didn’t see any spike on Steam Greenlight when we were at showcases (and God knows how much we asked people to upvote us!), let’s have a look:

greenlight

First July spike? One of my friends forwarded our page to the whole Just Dance team in Paris! Thanks guys! Second mid-august spike? A french youtuber did a video on our Alpha Demo (here). The very small bump right before September 1st is the Rock Paper Shotgun article, enjoying the Alpha demo. The last two spikes around October 1st are a live stream we did with the french team and a tweet asking to upvote us! Hard to tell when was Rezzed, Gamescom or even release of the game hu?

  • Translation on 19 languages

Our core value is gamers proximity, making them part of the development of the game (thus the Alpha Demo). It just made sense then to translate the game to as many languages as possible in order to be closer to as many gamers as possible. Turns out, I’m not sure we had more coverage from these countries and sales are definitely not encouraging us to do the same (Russia aside) if we’re lacking out of money. Not to mention all of the many funny characters to support  : )

  • Good value and focus on Gameplay are not appealing

We put the game at 10$ = 7,5€ which feels for us super fair with 3 worlds and 50 levels and strong replay value with time attacks, leaderboards and secret cheeses unlocking secret levels! That means between 7 to 10 hours of pretty good fun. Bref, we knew it wasn’t the perfect game so we wanted gamers to feel like they didn’t waste their money by having a great value. Did not really worked out. Maybe we should have had it at 13$ and always -20% off ?

Also, having a strong gameplay feature and good variations throughout the game was essential for us.. We strongly believed these two would drive sales but having a good experience (graphics/sounds) seems to be more important even if the length of the game is 2 or 3 hours. Most reviews pointed the lack of “soul” in the game: we should have spent some time on that instead of adding more levels.

Our ideas on why it didn’t sell (at all):

  • Release window

Releasing a puzzle platformer a month after GTA V and a month before next gen consoles is not the greatest idea. Story of the release date is totally linked to GTA V by the way: when we started the company, we wanted to release mid September and  before next gen as our engine was already compatible PlayStation 3 and self publishing has always been allowed there. So it just made sense. Then, obviously, GTA V got delayed to mid September, and we aimed end of August. Just like all of the other games and especially Rayman Legends, a direct competitor. At some point we were considering releasing PC version beginning of August and PS3 in October but we figured it was more powerful to release both versions at the same time. Turned out early August was pretty strong in terms of indie release too.

  • Art / Experience

Finally, the art style was “okay” and clean for us but we didn’t think it would hurt. It would appear the art and the mouse (which is supposed to be a rat, erm) don’t appeal and are not connected with our brutal gameplay. We were pretty satisfied too considering the progress made since the Hydravision prototype:

Conclusion

Are we in this indie bubble where one-good-but-normal-game (= not Stanley Parable) can only sell with sales and bundles, not full price? Not to mention not being on Steam… Or are we just feeling this console transition too where sales always slow down?

So our question is simple: why didn’t you buy the game? Let us know so we don’t do the same mistake(s) next time, if we manage to have a next time.

More about the game over here and upvote us on Greenlight over there.

174 commentaires sur “Indies going all in with self-publishing: an Ethan: Meteor Hunter post mortem

  1. coli_coli

    Hi !

    Thanks for this post ! Your story is really interesting for the indie community !

    I discover your project several month ago.

    I didn’t have a special interested in your game for two reasons:
    - The concept didn’t caught my attention.
    Why buy this game rather than an other ?

    - The Art direction.
    We seems this kind of art style many times and in better way.

    You story tell us that to launch an indie game we need to create a promise among gamers, beyond the game it self.
    This is a question about universe, art direction, community management and of course of marketing.
    In a time where there is so many games on console, steam and mobile indie game need more soul and more balls than ever to survive. Indie dev need to be more demanding with themselves when they start a project.

    I thing it’s almost the same situation in the movie industry since several years.
    But there is pre-financing in Cinema… and that ‘s why there is still an independant movie industry.

    Be brave !

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    1. Peter

      Hey, I saw your game on PS3 and skipped it because I typically play those kind of games on the Vita. I’d probably pick it up for $10 on the Vita. I remember reading somewhere when checking your game out that there was something ensuring that it is safe for children. That would make me assume that it wouldn’t be very sophisticated.

  2. Gatlink

    La raison pour laquelle je n’ai pas acheté le jeu tient en deux points, complètement corrélés.

    Premièrement, je possède plus de 200 jeux sur Steam, et bien que je mette un point d’honneur à finir un maximum d’entre eux, je n’ai aujourd’hui terminé que 60% des jeux de ma liste. l’impulsion d’achat est donc fortement réduite.

    Deuxièmement, je pense que j’ai vu trop de puzzle-platformer pour encore un moment. Depuis Braid, ce type de jeu est très populaire chez les indés, et je commence à ressentir une certaine fatigue pour le genre.

    Néanmoins, vous avez toute ma sympathie, en plus de mon vote sur Greenlight.

    PS: désolé pour le français, j’ai commencé sans réfléchir et j’ai pas eu le courage de tout réécrire.

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  3. Le Yéti

    First of all, thank you so much for this post-mortem, which is really important not only for you, but for every indie dev out there.

    I really think that many people (including our studio Monkey Moon), thought that going indie is easy as long as you know how to developer or write code. Being an indie dev right now means that you have to be an excellent marketing person. You have to know how to get the attention of the press. It is a real job, it’s really hard, and you need connexions, contacts.

    I upvoted you on Greenlight, I asked my friends and my followers to do the same. Ethan is not a game for me anyway, I’m not a huge fan of platformers.

    As I said earlier, please tell me if you need anything from me, I’ll gladly give you a hand if I can.

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    1. Beans

      I have to agree. In a market with big names like Deadlight, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Limbo (all years old at this point), and then litterally hundreds of others not-so well known – but good puzzle platformers, something needs to stick out. This is were something like a unique art style or game mechanic would have helped Ethan out. But unfortunately, the game just ended up looking a little generic for it’s time.

    2. gsilver

      I also have to agree. There are so many puzzle platformers that one needs to release a particularly special game to be noticed, and truth be told, I haven’t even heard of this game until today.

      I’m a working adult, and a game that is « 7-10 hours » in length can take me the better part of a month to get through. I finally got around to playing Bulletstorm last month, and it makes up the majority of my gaming time (with the rest split between Rayman Origins, an admittedly high-profile puzzle platformer, and Neon XZS, an indie game in the 6-DOF genre, which we are still experiencing a dire lack of games in).

      This is even before we start looking at the sheer volume of bundle games, and unless a game specifically draws my attention (like Neon XSZ) I’m not likely to ever play it.

      Now, games like Rayman and Bulletstorm, while both are big publisher games, I didn’t seriously consider playing either of them until seeing a « WTF is? » video. IMO, good first impressions videos like that are a good way to raise awareness of games, and while the available number of gameplay hours vs hours of my free time is probably at a 1000:1 ratio, even of things that I picked up from nearly nothing in bundles, an interesting video is a good way for a game to stick out.

  4. Quentin DB

    Merci beaucoup pour ce post mortem!

    Je pense que les raisons évoquées sont valides:
    -Mauvaise fenêtre de launch
    -DA pas suffisament attractive.

    Pour mes raisons persos:
    En effet la DA a jouée sérieusement en contre. Le plot est cucul et enfantin.
    Une petite souris :/ de la cryptonite :/ des environnements des plus génériques :/
    Visuellement c’est pas dégueu, mais au niveau de la « vision » c’est pas très séduisant.

    Genre Portal, outre son super gameplay, possède une vision et une esthétique géniales, qui sont devenu presque une « mystique » (Glados, le principe de salles de test, les tourelles qui bavassent, the cake is a lie, le générique de fin…). Avec exactement le meme gameplay, Narbaular Drop n’aurait jamais fait le 10e des ventes de Portal.

    Aussi, le prix. Vous allez trouver ça dur mais je l’ai trouvé un peu élevé.
    La valeur d’un jeu ça se compte pas en heures, mais en « préciosité ». Un petit jeu indé à compte d’auteurs inconnus, ça vaut ptete plutot 5-7 EUR/USD.

    Et enfin, je suis pas étonné que les salons ne soient pas si rentable en terme de viralité. Combien sont là pour voir le booth du jeu qu’ils attendent depuis des mois, et combien sont vraiment là pour découvrir des petits jeux inconnus?

    Voilà, en tout cas je serais interessé par en parler plus en détail avec toi Olivier, vu que l’an prochain je serai un peu dans la même posture avec Narcosis ;)

    Bravo quand même pour avoir mener ça à bout! Tellement ont échoué et échoueront encore.

    QDB

    PS: les demos jouable ça sert à rien

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  5. Bobby Brown

    Hi guys,

    First, good job. I mean it. You’ve done everything you could, and that’s awesome. Should the occasion present itself again, don’t change a thing (I’m talking about giving all your energy, loving your fans, etc.).

    Why I didn’t buy :
    - I read about your game, so it wasn’t a matter of communication.
    - The art direction was not appealing to me, although I like the fact that you went for something other than pixel art. Communication is not only about making people know about your game, it’s also about making them want to play it. And it’s all about the looks :/
    Wrong universe : The « nice little rat » look is too casual compared to the violence of the gameplay. It doesn’t mean you have to play it safe and choose something seen before, but developing a more « adult » universe (I first thought your game was destined for children when I saw the rat & the title) would have maybe served you better.
    Better graphics : that means – to me – less fancy shaders, no glowy effects, a reduced color palette, and a lower saturation. All of this gives kind of a « cheap indie » look to the game. You don’t want us to feel you’re an indie studio who’s tried and copied everything they could from bigger studios ; you want us to feel you’re an indie studio with a real personality, a special eye, a new way of designing experience, building immersive and original universes. We don’t care if there are no shaders, no fancy effects. And less color means it’s easier for us to focus, and for you to design something clear and gameplay-centered. Also, avoid the grungy materials. They’re too rich for the eye, they don’t bring anything, and they have a strong tendency in conflicting with each other. Plus, they look kind of old.
    - The gameplay looks great, but it’s not really my type. I think you did a good job there though, as it’s original enough, and seems to be deep enough to attract hard gamers as well as more casual ones.
    - I also have too many games in my steam collection that I haven’t played. I’ve become more picky about which new games I buy. One thing though : I am more and more inclined to buying games outside of steam, so that’s not a real problem if the game’s good enough for me.

    Good job again though, I wish you everything, you obviously deserve more attention than what you got.

    I just voted yes for Ethan on greenlight.

    Good luck !

    P.S. : Je viens de me rendre compte que vous étiez français ! Désolé pour le post en anglais.

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  6. Yo82

    Merci pour ce postmortem.
    La question serait plutot, pourquoi est ce que je devrais acheter votre jeu plutot qu’un autre?

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  7. Foulk

    Pourquoi je n’ai pas acheté le jeu ? Pour plusieurs raisons.

    J’ai découvert votre jeu via les news de 101% sur Nolife, et malgré la DA qui me laissait de marbre, je me disais que ça valait quand même le coup d’œil.
    Suite à la diffusion de la critique (toujours sur Nolife), je me suis dit que j’allais attendre qu’il soit greenlighté, et voir le prix avant de l’acheter. Le temps passe…

    Puis j’arrive ici, et je constate qu’il n’est toujours pas greenlighté. Comment le système fonctionne-t-il ? Il vous faut un certain nombre de votes en un certain temps ? Quoi qu’il en soit, je viens de voter sur greenlight.

    Alors oui, même si la DA me rebute un peu (ainsi que l’apparente absence d’un vrai scénario), la critique sur Nolife et la vidéo de TheSadPanda (que je ne connaissais pas encore à l’époque, je viens de la regarder) me donne envie d’y jouer. C’est pas l’engouement foufou non plus, hein, mais j’estime, de ce que j’en ai vu et entendu, que c’est un bon jeu. Je l’achèterai dès qu’il sera présent sur Steam, et si je trouve le prix un peu cher, j’attendrai une réduction.

    on courage à vous, en espérant que les ventes décollent suffisamment pour vous permettre de créer d’autres jeux.

    PS : Non, Quentin DB, les démos ça ne sert pas à rien. Si j’en avais eu vent, j’y aurai joué, et je l’aurais faite tourner.

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  8. Florent

    Hey

    The fact that you are not on Steam (yet) and that the big press/youtubers didn’t talk about you means that you have a HUGE potential.
    Maybe try to contact the press again with your story (press likes stories) ?

    Keep up !

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  9. Tavrox

    Why I didn’t bought the game :
    - The trailer didn’t convinced me.
    - I’ve only « heard » about his existence once, then I haven’t heard or read about him in the press / twitter feed.
    - I feel like it has no history.
    - I pay much attention about « who builds the game », and I didn’t read about a creator’s vision of this game in the press/devblog. (but maybe there’s been articles in your devblog, didn’t check out :/)

    IMHO, the main issues are, only judging by the cover of your marketing, the data and informations you give here :
    - The trailers isn’t good enough.
    - The marketing is a little strange. On one point the trailers says « brutal plateformer » and on the other, you can feel a « child oriented » game, it’s not opposed in reality but it is for a consumer’s point of view.
    - Indies can’t success on the first game they made as a team or person. Many knewn people had « less known game » before, to build a fanbase (Derek Yu (3+) , Edmund (10+), etc.)
    - 50k for publishing ?! That’s way to much for a game that hadn’t a big fanbase :/
    - Translating at the beginning doesn’t feel like a good rule to me, because it costs much. Maybe you should have waited to see if the game works in English and French ?
    - The genre is crowded.

    Finally, I’m kind of convinced that you can’t do a 10 months project (you didn’t say how much it last design included, i guess it’s around this length) and find in the end that few people buy the game. I prefer some a triple 3 months project and think has more value to start as an indie.
    This is the same that has happened for Walter (by people from Lyon) : a middle size game that costs too much and end in the closure of a studio because what leads an indie game are the players.
    Also, communication nowadays is made of « Who made what ». There is a need for someone creative, with charisma, who shows himself there and there, while building the game. Someone that people would say « He’s interesting, his games might be too ! ».

    My point of view is very oriented and I haven’t all info. Maybe the early tests showed that players really wanted the game, and I respect how you did, it’s always really sad to see people failing :(.

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  10. nico

    Si vous vous demandez pourquoi les gens n’achètent pas votre jeu, c’est que vous marchez un peu sur la tête. Vous devriez plutôt chercher à savoir pourquoi les gens achèteraient votre jeu. C’est un puzzle-platformer comme il en existe des tonnes. Pourquoi celui-ci alors qu’on peut en avoir par paquet de 10 pour 1$ ?

    Vous dites vous-même dans ce postmortem que votre jeu n’est pas génial (il est juste « bon et normal »). Si vous voulez vous faire du blé et, qu’à un moment du développement, vous vous rendez comptez compte que votre jeu est simplement banal, ce n’est même pas la peine de continuer.

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    1. Pedrof

      Je suis d’accord avec Nico. Personnellement je n’ai pas de raison d’acheter ce jeu étant donné que la DA me rebute vraiment (je trouve qu’elle n’exprime rien), que du peu que j’en ai lu ce n’est pas du tout un jeu à histoire et qu’il faudrait sans ces deux points vraiment un système de jeu réputé dingue pour attirer mon attention. Sans tout cela l’achat est juste hors de question, même à un euro.

      J’ai acheté Thet Bleed Pixels, qui pourtant n’est a priori pas mon style, parce que la musique du trailer tuait, la DA et l’univers avaient de la gueule et donnaient du crédit au peu de scénario, et enfin le jeu « pur » avait l’air marrant. Mais j’ai dépensé combien dans ce jeu, trois euros ? Et lors de soldes Steam.

  11. random indie

    Why didn’t I buy the game?

    a) Never heard of it.

    b) There are a LOT of platformers out this year. A LOT of them. So many that it’s impossible for any of them to catch my interest unless they have a really cool hook. From what I’m seeing of your game? It may be fun, but there’s nothing about it that gets my attention and says I have to play this. There’s nothing compelling to me about being a rat named Ethan running over glowing things. (Why are we a rat? Why are we hunting meteors? Your game description says nothing about the game theme, only that it has lots of levels and puzzles.)

    c) I like my platformers strictly 2d. I hate 2.5d. I really, really do. I’m putting this further down the list because it’s obviously personal preference, but it also means that you’d have to hand me a free copy and bully me to make me play it at all.

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  12. Max

    Hi!

    Good luck with reading the whole post!

    So, I first played the demo from the website in June, after reading an article about French Indie Games at Rezzed (if I remember correctly).
    I liked the demo and it showed promises in term of gameplay.
    Graphics didn’t put me off, but it was average.

    I did buy the game when it was released on PC and played it, but haven’t finished the game yet.
    I’ve only finished the first world and overcome the first boss encounter, so I’m sorry if what I say isn’t representative of the full game, but maybe it also means those elements should have been at least teased in the early part.

    Some of my critics might be harsh, and you probably know about most of those, so it won’t be a pleasant reading, sorry.
    Note that I do understand making a good game is really difficult and every added little detail take time you might not have when you are on a budget with a small team.

    My intent is not to undermine your work, because finishing and releasing such a game in itself, is quite an achievement you can be very proud of.
    This post is mostly to help you overcome your disappointment, learn from this past experience and look forward.

    Here some possible reasons why I didn’t finish the game:

    - Even though I enjoy the challenge, “Gold” score often seems out of my league.
    Maybe I’m missing sthg obvious, but even on the first level, I can’t get it.

    - I felt there might be some slight « latency » with jumping in some occasions, making the game not as responsive as it could be?
    Its vague, sorry, but I played a month ago, so maybe I’m wrong, and I’m just not very good :P
    (I’m playing with an xbox 360 gamepad by the way)

    - The universe/story/characters aren’t engaging/charismatic enough.
    I actually had to watch some playthrough video on the internet to remember what was the intro cinematic/story about, and I’m still not entirely sure why the main character is chasing after the “bad guy” and collecting meteor crystals. It’s even more confusing as to why we go through those specific environments.
    To be noticed and loved, you definitely need to do more than just a platformer I think. Even though the story is just an excuse, you still really need to tell a story to « justify » as much elements as possible from the game universe. Everything needs to make sense in a way, either being shown or suggested. Also, you probably want to give the player a stronger purpose.

    - The game might lack some occasional « basic » enemies and/or intermediate boss encounters as a tease for the more badass fights at the end of each world, with some more « mise en scene ».
    Puzzles are good, but maybe populating the game with more NPCs would help, possibly in very short « non platformer » sequences. It could help with varying the pace of the game and “fueling” the player’s purpose with new story elements being unveiled.

    I really think even when you want to make a game focused on gameplay, you need to build a meaningful universe around it that makes the player want to explore more of it. You need to have a backstory suggesting there could be more to the game, both as a player but also as a game maker.

    It might be stupid, but I really believe you should build a universe in which you’d like to build more than just one game (and not simply a sequel, but possibly a different kind of game, maybe about some NPC you encounter in the game or else), and convey this sense to the player through the setting/story/characters.

    As to why it didn’t sell well, pretty much all has been said:

    - Art direction not “catchy” enough.
    With so many games available, you probably have less than 5 seconds to convince someone browsing the internet just to watch a trailer, so game titlescreen and trailer cover are REALLY important. Both character design (for cover/titlescreen) and environment design (for in game footage) need to stand out.
    You should think of it as developing a brand, and asking around if it’s good enough that I would want a T-Shirt, a mug, a plush, an animated movie …
    I think the various environments/worlds should have a stronger visual differentiation. I might be exaggerating, but looking quickly through the trailer, it feels like there is only one environment, but sometimes slightly yellow/green, other times orange/brown, …etc

    - PC players have way too many games they haven’t played in the their steam/gog library.
    The only way to convince them to pay full price for your “unknown” indie game is to be really, REALLY good. Also creating some internet buzz (somehow???) will help. And even then, they might still wait for a future sale (I’ve only just bought Spelunky, even though I really enjoyed it while visiting a friend and playing it on Xbox360… a year ago :-/).

    - The release date probably didn’t help.
    But to be honest, with more and more good games being released all year long, it will always be really difficult to compete if you didn’t manage to build a strong community of supporters ahead of release.

    - You did significant press/events coverage about the game, but maybe not enough about the team behind it?
    Knowing about the story behind the making of a game, helps people connect with a game, and possibly have a better understanding of what the team is trying to accomplish with the game?
    That way, players might accept a less polish game, because just knowing about the game maker intent/vision is good enough.
    If they like the vision behind a game, they might support the team by buying the game, hoping that the next one will fulfil those promises.
    Also, the press might be keen on having a story to tell than simply speaking about a game.

    Finally, I also want to point out that you shouldn’t be expecting to sell much on your first few games, especially in only a month time. This is the norm, and there are very few success stories, critically and/or commercially for indie developers.
    Each game is an opportunity to build up even more the community of players that support your studio. If you manage to convey the same creative vision/philosophy through each game, even if the games are different, as long as you don’t abuse the players (in term of monetization or repetitive gameplay for example), people will keep following you, and hopefully one day you will earn enough money to live doing it.
    In the mean time, until reaching that safe heaven, it’s a hell of a ride.

    I don’t really know if it helps, but for your next game, you could consider including a community aspect into your game: Multiplayer? Level editor? Challenges? Clans? Character customization? …

    Best of luck to Seaven Studio and all indie game developers out there!

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  13. Seaven Auteur de l’article

    THANK YOU SO MUCH everybody for taking the time to read and answer us – answers may seem harsh but that’s what we need, brutal truth. Building on what went right and learning/improving on the reasons you didn’t buy the game. Thanks again, much appreciated!

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  14. Shawn

    For me this kind of game directly competes with the Humble Bundle. If I can buy Crysis 2, Mirror’s Edge, Battlefield 3, Deadspace 3, and Medal of Honor for $4.55 it makes it really really hard to spend $10 on an indie game.

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    1. Roly

      That’s exactly what i though while reading the post mortem and replies here.
      Now, with the bundles, we can have plenty of obscure game for a dollar or so. I haven’t heard of your game, and even if i had heard it, i would not had buy it since i have a backlog of more than 200 games, some of them being so much better than yours.
      Besides, even now really famous indi game (like Fez) i waited until it was in an HumbleBundle before buying.
      The indi scene is now overcrowded with too many games. I just wait somes bundles and buy them for my backlog.

  15. demonixis

    Hi guys !

    I followed you game for a long time but actually there are too much 2D or 2.5D platformers. The character design doesn’t help me to gets the game. However if the game was a 3D platformer I would have bought immediately because there are almost no games in this category.

    For me it’s really the 2D concept that has stopped me not the price.

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  16. Mister T

    Hello,

    I’ve come accross your site / game though Facebook. And I wanted to add my comments about what could expmain what happened to your game :

    - Wrong plateforms:
    Two platforms are missing for your list and should have been there: Android / iPhone.

    - Wrong prices:
    Prices must net exceed 4.99€ for a regular non-licensed game. Players are now aware that prices can cost 0.99€ on their mobile. Why buy 10 times this price for a desktop game?
    Freemium business model should have been considered as well

    Additional comments not about the game itself:

    - translation:
    for such a game, English and French are more than enough. Save the price of translation for something else.

    - Games shows:
    general public shows are only useful for the players wanting to get goodies of their AAA games. They don’t care about small indie games. here again, save the money for something else!

    -

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  17. A N D

    why didn’t you buy the game?

    Short answer: I don’t like the look of the game, artstyle, colour shemes – at all. It just doesn’t look good to me. I would hardly accept it as for mobile. I feel like I’m looking at mid nighties prerendered 3D in high resolution.

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  18. Noitidrep

    Comme tout le monde, je dirais tout d’abord que je n’ai pas acheté car c’est probablement un bon jeu mais il n’a pas ce petit plus qui me ferait l’acheter.
    La plupart des jeux indés d’aujourd’hui ont une DA qui attire et me séduit et cela compte beaucoup dans mon achat.
    J’avais vu une vidéo du youtubeur Atomium faisant une démo du jeu et il est vrai que je le trouvais sympathique mais il y’a beaucoup de jeux qui sont très bons.
    Et à moins d’avoir un gameplay totalement novateur, une musique géniale, une DA qui séduit ou encore une histoire à couper le souffle; eh ben le jeu est dispensable.
    L’offre aujourd’hui au niveau des séries/films/livres et jeux-vidéo est telle qu’il est difficile de se contenter d’un bon jeu quand il y’a partout de très bons jeux.
    Un bon jeu se doit d’avoir un petit truc en plus aujourd’hui et je ne l’ai pas vu dans ce jeu.

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  19. Aurélien Defossez

    Bonjour,

    Je me présente brièvement, Aurélien Defossez, co-créateur du studio lyonnais Tabemasu Games. Donc je suis comme vous, un indépendant qui crée des jeux et espère pouvoir en vendre assez pour en faire d’autres. Je suis tombé sur votre post-mortem, qui est malheureusement assez triste. je voulais surtout répondre à votre question « why didn’t you buy the game? ».

    J’avais entendu plusieurs fois parler de votre jeu sur Nolife entre autres, et en effet, je n’ai pas ressenti le besoin d’acheter le jeu. Mais pourquoi ? Je vais peut-être me répéter avec d’autres, n’ayant pas lu tous les commentaires.

    Je pense qu’il y a plusieurs raisons à cela :
    - La direction artistique est assez bateau et j’ai l’impression qu’il n’y a qu’un seul décor pour tout le jeu
    - Je me suis lassé des platformers puzzle, après la nuée qu’il y a eu ces derniers temps (Braid, Blocks that matter, PB Winterbottom, Stealth bastard…)
    - J’ai peur des jeux jouant beaucoup sur la gravité (e.g. Trine) et de la frustration que peut procurer un mauvais placement d’une pièce dans un puzzle
    - Cerise sur le gateau, le personnage a l’air un peu rigide (selon la critique de Nolife). Ce n’est pas du tout le critère qui m’a rebuté, mais c’est disons celui de trop.

    Maintenant, après avoir lu ce post-mortem, je pense que je vais tout de même essayer le jeu, pour savoir vraiment s’il est bien ou non. Et je vais aussi faire une petite bifurcation sur Greenlight pour donner un petit coup de pouce !

    Courage !

    Aurélien Defossez,
    Tabemasu Games

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  20. David

    Bonjour,

    je suis allé voter pour vous sur steam.

    Perso, je trouve pas les graphismes dégeux. C’est du déjà vu dans la veine de crash bandicoot, ratchet and clank ou plus récemment explosion man mais pour moi ça n’a pas d’importance. Ce qui compte c’est principalement le gameplay, il suffit de voir les jeux indés qui ont cartonné pour s’en rendre compte ; super meat boy, binding of isaac, fez, braid, minecraft, etc.

    Et, visiblement il y en a du gameplay. Ce qui me rebute un peu c’est le fait que l’action soit sans cesse coupé par les phases de réflexions ou le temps se fige pour déplacer les blocs. Je suis plus intéressé par les jeux à la super mario world, crash bandicoot où l’on court sans cesse un peu comme un neuneu :)

    Concernant le prix, pour moi ce n’est pas un frein à l’achat mais visiblement ça l’est pour d’autres.

    J’espère en tout cas que votre billet poussera un peu tout le petit monde du jeu vidéo à vous donner un coup de main même si je le trouve très défaitiste. J’ai envie de vous dire de pas lâcher l’affaire et de défendre votre bébé. Courage :)

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  21. Motoki

    I didn’t buy the game because it wasn’t on Steam and has not been in and indie bundles or otherwise any cheap promotions with Desura keys.

    I did see Ethan when it was posted to Greenlight, thought it was cute and was interested, voted for it, then waited and wait for it to show up in an indie bundle but it didn’t when most other indie games these days seem to. Or at least if it did I was not aware of it.

    For me I just don’t have the funds to buy lots and lots of indie games which are unknowns at $10 or $20 etc but with the indie bundles the price and the risk is low. With Steam, and Desura as a backup for not yet on Steam games, I can have everything in one place organized and updates and try out all sorts of games. Some I will like and some I won’t but at that price point it’s okay.

    I know some games have demos but it’s just easier for me to wait for games to go in a bundle, then redeem the keys and have them in the account there when I want them.

    Greenlight is about votes. The reality is you’ll maybe get some attention for the first week when you post there but even then some games won’t appeal to the Greenlight regulars so you need to try to do whatever it takes to get people to go there and vote. Having games in bundles makes people want to vote. Once they own it in a bundle they will want a Steam key. Other developers I have seen take out paid advertising at certain sites where the crowd their game appeals to hang out. Some developers have even done promotions giving away their game for votes. It’s buying votes but it’s not against the rules and it seems to work.

    It seems shocking to do this but remember the Greenlight votes are only a subset. Once a game actually gets on Steam it gets exposed to many, many more people. While it may seem like losing money to give a game away cheap or free in the long term if it gets you the attention and votes, gets people playing the game and talking about it, and that gets you on Steam and gets you the much wider exposure then you’re gaining income not losing it.

    Of course even getting on Steam is not a guarantee of big success these days. The amount of games Greenlit has ramped up and people are going to start getting choosier, but still if you can get on Steam’s front page as a new release I can guarantee you will get more than 127 sales :-P

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    1. Seaven Auteur de l’article

      96% on our way to top 100, getting closer and closer so hopefully yes!

  22. bob

    I didn’t buy your game because I’ve never heard of it before. It looks like a really nice game, and I’ll give it a try. I don’t know what to say about *why* your game didn’t get to me, I do try to keep a lookout for these things. Anyway, just some info.

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  23. amok

    Firstly, thank you for a very good post-mortem.

    I must admit I did not buy the game (yet). It is a bit sad, though, because I like puzzle platformers in general, and the art style in this one do look nice. I have also been following the game for some time before release also.

    What turned me off, is my playstyle. I am a (older…) slow player, and my play style tends to have a very slow, careful methodological approach. I like games that favor thinking over reflexes and twitch, and introducing any timed elements is the first thing that turns me off a game (I got to the level in Thomas Was Alone where the 2 where chased, and could not get past it :)). Sorry, but in the end, this looks like a game that I would in the end be more frustrated with, then one I would be able to enjoy.

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  24. TheEchoInside

    Just saw this link on twitter, and since you want feedback…

    I’m an artist, and even if you’d hit every other note for me (genre, platform, price, etc), your art direction would turn me off completely. I really hate to give any critique without providing positives, but I’m honestly struggling to find much in the two videos above which allows me to do that. Except perhaps, that it’s decently rendered? I can see there’s some alright underlying ideas prescent, but the execution is actually frustrating for me to look at.

    I can’t really see anything that works well. It’s like you’ve got multiple competing themes, cute versus brutal, colourful versus dull, abstract versus detailed, etc. Nothing is cohesive. The character design is weak and difficult to read quickly (which you desperately need for platforming games), especially when effects are active during pickups/etc. And his movement seems incredibly static. There’s no character relation (in personality or to player) that I can see, either.

    The background and foreground elements are constantly competing with each other and further weakening the read as well. No consistency in detail or shape language, and everything seems to be randomly placed/designed. Visual focal points and indicators/lines are also all over the place. The screen right after « 3 Beautiful Worlds » exhibits all of these issues, as well as being visually dull. And internally there’s no cohesion or presence/personality in the environments themselves.

    Honestly, everything just seems completely random, to the point I wonder if you bought premade assets to mix in, or had different people working on different elements with no overall direction, or just had no pre-vis/concepting phase during development.

    It’s pretty obvious with the post/analysis you’ve done here, that you’re a hardworking team and look to consider your actions, so I find the issues present in the art just really confusing. Games are a visual medium, so that’s always going to be what draws your audience in first, and it just doesn’t seem like yours would.

    Sorry if that was too harsh or such, don’t mean it as something to put any of you/your team down, it’s just a critique. Hope you manage to have a next time, good luck!

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  25. iippo

    Howdy,

    Very interesting, if sad article to read.

    I must admit that Ethan Meteor Hunter is/was vaguely familiar to me as a name – cannot put a finger on from which context though. Probably saw the name on GOG or Steam greenlight, i dont remember it being mentioned on TotalBiscuits channel – and these three are pretty much the regular « official gaming news » for me. This article i found via GOG forum thread.

    About the publishing medium – I use GOG and Steam only. GOG i use for buying childhood memories and Steam for pretty much the rest. Having family, daily work and the usual everyday crap – i am just dont have the time or nerve to have my games spread around more than two services.

    I dont really see myself buying selfreleases. I know i would eventually lose the installation file + whatever account might be associated to this one particular game. So yes i will wait until gog / steam release and even then i will (at this time) favor steam because of its greater easy of use. Then again, i do double buy some very good games on both of them. (Cypher, where is your GOG / Steam release?!)

    Ethan is on GOG, so why i have not bought it?

    Firstly, like i mentioned before i was not really aware of this game. Secondly even if i had seen ads before release, they had not caught my eye and i had forgotten it.

    => Taking a quick look at the game it unfortunately looks decently pretty and i wouldnt complain about graphics or animation…but the gameplay itself does not really catch my attention in any special way. If it really IS mix between Braid and Meatboy as mentioned in the article – you should maybe consider redoing the trailers to reflect the content better.

    I hate to say it, but atm the picture i have to this game is pretty very average – and in these bundle days i doubt i am the only one with huge backlog of games already…what is the point of adding one more « average looking and generic seeming platformer »?

    I am not certain if there was demo of this game – but once again, unless the trailer or some article really ignites some interest on the game, why would i download it?

    Things are really different these days than decade+ ago, when there were no bundle and especially no great F2P games to spend your time on. Demos used to be something that pretty much every games tried at time or other, heck they were given with the gaming magazines and we used to gleefully try each and every one of them.

    …However it seems that these days there is just so many games to play, that you really need to capture the attention or you wont sell any games – i seriously doubt the price is even really issue. I mean whether the game cost 5€ or 15e – if its not REALLY making me interested, i just dont see myself adding it to my backlog.

    Ofcourse there are bunch of people who wait for everything to appear in one bundle or other and theres not much that can be done about that. Exclusive content is tricky and DLC-hell games are keeping me away from buy that sort of releases until i finally see some GOTY with everything.

    Hopefully i am not sounding too harsh – that is not my meaning by any mean. I know its damn hard to run small indie business and i hope youll get things running eventually!

    ->iippo

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  26. Take Shelter

    Je sais pas si je dois répondre en français ou en anglais, mais vu que mon anglais est à peine meilleur que le votre je crois que je vais m’abstenir.

    Par où commencer alors…je vais être franc. Je connaissais pas votre jeu (enfin si, de vue, sur X sites, jamais vu sur greenlight), et ce qui me marque dans ce post mortem (que j’ai lu sur les conseils d’un ami qui vous trouvez bien naifs) c’est votre suffisance farouche.

    Oui, je prends pas de gants, on va mettre de côté le « on est de pauvres développeurs on mange pas etc… ». Je sais que votre situation est difficile, comme toute personne avec ce genre de boulot, mais il se trouve que vous faites plutôt partie des privilégiés. Votre jeu est out, des gens peuvent y jouer, vous êtes dans la partie haute des dévs qui galèrent.

    Donc je reprends, votre suffisance. Pourquoi?
    1) Ca vous rend vraiment fières qu’on vous compare à SMB et Braid? Non parce que ce sont quand même les deux indés dont inspirent 90% des indés moyens. C’est applicable pour la grande majorité des indés, c’est interchangeable. Ce sont vraiment vos inspirations? Copier vaguement les maîtres incontestés qui ont changés à eux seuls la face de l’industrie ou presque? Ouais ben bonne chance.

    2)Votre but, c’est vraiment de faire un jeu normal? Non parce qu’un jour j’ai vu un autiste dire que « la normalité n’est pas le summum de ce qu’on peut atteindre », c’est assez révélateur ce qui m’amène à :

    3) « Not The Stanley Parable ».
    Pourquoi pas the stanley parable? Vous avez l’air conscient de ce qu’est un jeu qui mérite de l’attention, et donc des ventes, un jeu original, couillu.
    Pourquoi n’avez vous pas essayé d’être stanley parable? Pourquoi ne pas se donner la peine sachant que vous savez la réalité du marché, de l’industrie?
    Tous les dévs devraient vouloir être le prochain stanley, pas un indie de plus dans la masse sans RIEN qui le fasse ressortir. Votre but devrait pas (ce que vous semblez reconnaitre) faire un jeu lambda +, ça devrait être un jeu tellement inventif, avec une parti de risque, ce que je ne décèle pas chez vous.

    Si vous n’êtes pas le prochain stanley, c’est votre faute.
    Est-ce vraiment une questions de moyens? J’en doute franchement, je pense pas que stanley coûte très cher en sa qualité de simple mod, et le narrateur, s’il est connu, est largement remplaçable.

    Je ne doute pas de votre talent, j’aimerai juste une preuve, pour votre prochain jeu (c’est ce que je vous souhaite) que vous avez envie. Envie d’être les nouveaux Mc millen, Blow, Stanley.

    Arrêtez de vous cacher derrière les quelques salons que vous avez faits. Ca ne fait pas vendre, ce qui fait vendre, c’est soit un budget marketing de porc, soit être une série « soupe » comme Assassin’s creed, soit la créativité.

    Le succès de Fez, Fish le doit pas à sa présence à X salons.

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  27. Genseric

    Why didn’t I buy your game?

    1) I’ve never heard of it. And I was playing a large amount of games on Greenlight in June/July. Back then, and even to some extent now, Greenlight is where games go to die. There’s too many (crap) games on there for anyone to keep track of them. I think it was a mistake to make Greenlight the focus of your marketing. Of course, being on Greenlight is the only way to get on Steam, which is where you would be getting much more money, but it is terrible for building an audience. IMO.

    Why won’t I be buying your game?

    I’ve just played your demo. Here’s some feedback:

    1) It’s too generic. Seriously, in your trailer and in your marketing, there is no « hook ». Your gameplay is nowehere near as innovative as you make it out to be. There’s nothing that distinguishes you in the already oversaturated puzzle platformer market, as another commenter above said. In fact, Ethan looks and to some extent plays like Bad Rats, a notoriously bad Steam game.

    2) Ethan looks to me like an Android/iOS game. Indeed, with some tweaks I think it would work fairly well on the mobile platform. But then I would pay no more than, say, $3 for it.

    3) Despite releasing on PS3 and PC, the controls in the demo are for the XBOX! Seriously!? You put a major annoyance barrier in the path of your audience.

    4) The demo crashed and I had to restart my PC. That does not make me want to like it. I don’t want to play it any more.

    That’s my honest opinion. I wish it could be more positive.

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  28. Wishbone

    You didn’t sell a lot of copies, because you made a generic, extremely difficult puzzle platformer, just like the 587 other indie studios to release such a game this year. If you want success as a studio, you need to make your game stand out from the crowd. The best way to do that is to start by not doing the same kind of game everybody else is doing.

    Also, as others have mentioned, make sure your art direction appeals to your target audience. Unless you are making a game specifically targeted at young children, making it look like a game for young children is a hell of a gamble, one that is likely to make people automatically dismiss your game from their minds as soon as they see the cover/title screen.

    For a bit of insight into the mindset of your potential customer base, try reading the release thread for your game on the GOG.com forum: http://www.gog.com/forum/general/release_ethan_meteor_hunter/page1

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  29. AK

    Here are my two cents.

    1) With every game being on sale sooner or later, I need a very compelling reason to buy a game for full price. I very rarely buy anything that isn’t on a 70% discount or more; there are exceptions, such as Divinity: Dragon Commander, which I bought on a 40% (I think) discount because the concept is so outrageously freestyle that I applaud Larian for having the sheer balls to make it. This was the first time since early 2011 that I have paid more than 20 euros for a game, so you can probably see how a $9.99 game can be a tough sell for full price. I’ve got over a hundred titles on my GOG collection alone, so it’s not like I haven’t got anything to play while I wait for price drops and sales.

    2) You probably figured this out already, but puzzle-platformers are pretty ubiquitous these days. The competition is stiff, so it takes that special something to make a game appeal: for instance, I was instantly more interested in Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams when I heard that Machinae Supremacy had done some of the music. VVVVVV sold itself to me with its retro graphics, retro music and simple but challenging gameplay. Ethan seems to have nothing going for it on this front, I’m afraid.

    3) I hadn’t heard of the game, really. I noticed it on the GOG frontpage, probably checked the game out, then forgot about it until it cropped up again here.

    4) I just checked out the screenshots on GOG and found them uninteresting as well. It’s hard to say why. I suppose the colours are one factor: each screen (and the scenes on the trailer video, by the way) is dominated by a single colour, as if I was looking at the game through a tinted filter. Now look at the Giana Sisters screenshots: granted, a few suffer from colour-dominance, but, overall, the games seems less bland to me, and at least the characters stand out even when nothing else does.

    5) Speaking of the trailer, the rat seems incredibly static. You know how car manufacturers try to design their cars to look like they’re moving even when they’re standing still? With Ethan, the opposite has occurred. It’s not a deal breaker, but a bit of a turn-off for sure.

    6) I think this is the big one for me: who is Ethan and why should we care? His name is on the title, obviously, and the trailer encourages me to join him on his adventure… but you tell me nothing about him, and as a result I don’t care. I think you may have tried to establish a character so you could stick his name on future games (possibly of different genres, I don’t know), but really, that’s not going to sell the game to me.

    As a side note, sales generate sales: my praises and gameplay demonstrations managed to convince at least one friend to purchase Dragon Commander as well, and I’m pretty sure that a few have earmarked it for discounts, and I’ve purchased a few extra copies of Hotline Miami to give to my friends as birthday presents. If you can’t shift the game at all, you lose the microlevel snowball effect as well, and that’s too bad.

    So there we go. Of course it is unfortunate that the game is selling poorly, and I do sincerely wish you all the best in the future, but I’m going to skip Meteor Hunter, I’m afraid.

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  30. Daniele Giardini

    Hi,

    first of all, Ethan looks pretty cool. Those sales numbers are very sad.

    About my personal reasons, I didn’t buy it because:
    - I didn’t know it existed until now :B
    - Even if I had heard of it, I’m not much into puzzle platformers

    On a more tech note instead. I just come from making a bleeding trailer for my new game (Goscurry), and while it’s definitely not perfect, an important thing I learned is that the first part of a trailer needs to show the game mechanics without losing too much time. In your case, until 00:33 in the trailer Ethan just seems a simple platformer, and the cool « manipulate the world » part arrives too late to be seen by most viewers, who will have interrupted the trailer earlier thinking they already saw what it had to offer.

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  31. TheEchoInside

    Having trouble sleeping so did a really quick and messy adjustment of a screenshot from the trailer (the specific frame I mentioned) with mouse and laptop.

    Not anything pretty, but just to give you a better idea of what I meant: http://i.imgur.com/bMZn0t1h.jpg

    Things done:
    Created dark border gradient to allow eye to more easily focus on action area
    Shifted counters to screen edges for less interference/claustraphobia
    Changed character form to be more easily read with exaggerated anatomy/colours
    More dynamic pose for jumping, for personality and read
    Removed distracting foreground element
    Adjusted foreground flow to better/less intrusive composition
    Changed hue of foreground to be more vibrant
    Gave slight uniform hue to interactive elements (character, wood, cylinder), as a subtle visual cue that tied in to electric area, as well
    Saturated/dodged collectables to be more appealing/visually important
    Changed levels of background to make it distinct from foreground/more like a background element
    Adjusted hue/saturation and added slight blur to background, to give appearance of atmospheric perspective/distance
    Overall tone is now more in-line with a darker/more brutal game

    That doesn’t cover everything I mentioned (and it really is massively slapped together), since that would take a lot longer than the few minutes I took after grabbing some food But, yes, maybe useful.

    Again, good luck and be well.

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  32. Psyringe

    I read the article (thanks for writing it!), and think that you be missing the point (a bit), or perhaps my own perspective of the game is simply different from that of other customers. But instead of speculating whether GTA5 might have any noticeable effect on a release of a completely different game in a completely different genre, it might be more worthwhile to look at the game and its presentation itself. (Regarding GTA5: Think about this way – There are lots of customers who _won’t_ buy GTA5 and who aren’t even remotely interested in it. If lots of developers move their games away from GTA5′s release date, the that’s giving _your_ game a bigger slice of those customers’ attention.)

    Anyway, why didn’t I buy « Ethan »?

    When I looked at the game on GOG, I quite literally thought « Why is GOG releasing another run-of-the-mill platformer with generic artwork and no interesting features that would stand out? » The only thing that seemed to set it apart from the numerous (and often cheaper) competition was that it was supposed to be brutally hard. And that was actually the thing that made me lose interest completely. I don’t mind playing hard games, and I even enjoy the challenge (I completed Giana Sisters), but I want it to be _my_ decision on which level of difficulty I play. Games that are specifically advertised as « Hard » typically do not give me that choice and force a level of difficulty on me that I may or may not enjoy for that particular game. I felt reminded of games like « Project Black Sun » or « Bunny Must Die », where I consider even the 1-2$ (that I spent on them) wasted because I can’t progress beyond the first boss, and more than 80% of the game is simply closed off from me.

    Advertising the game specifically as « hard » also meant that the large number of levels had no meaning for me. What good are 50 levels if a game might be getting too hard for me after the first three? Gambling 10$ on what might turn into an hour of frustration before I give up just doesn’t sound like a great idea.

    It’s not just « market saturation » or « bundle bubble », imho. Those are factors, but their influence on my purchase decision was only indirect. The existence of bundles means that I might think « I’ll get that game in a bundle eventually » instead of « I’ll get that game in a few years from a bargain bin or simply not at all », which was my approach before digital downloads and the Indie movement took off. But even without bundles and without competition, I simply wouldn’t have bought « Ethan ». Or, to put it another way: Even with only a handful of competing products around, I probably would have picked those over « Ethan », provided that they had at least one interesting stand-out feature, and didn’t threaten to close 90% of the game off from players who aren’t good enough.

    I do buy lots of games, and I don’t only rely on bundles or sales. Just this week I gambled a fiver (full price) on « Paper Sorcerer » because of its original idea and unique art style. I also nearly bought « Contrast » for 12$ for similar reasons, and might still do so, but decided to wait a bit longer for opinions from people who played it. But, as harsh at it sounds, I didn’t feel the slightest bit of inclination to gamble 10$ on a generic platformer that might end up being just frustrating.

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  33. Nicole

    Sorry to hear this sad news! Contrary to what you are asking for, I actually want to buy your game. The graphics are so much more richly appealing than other plaformers. And I’ve got it wishlisted. Except it’s not very high up my « want » list, because platformers in general aren’t my huge favorites.

    Perhaps I will put buying your game up at my next game buying round, as you sound like good people who care about your customers (I hope).

    Try also to include it for the indie royale and humble bundles. People seem to happily buy those. And seasonal sales may help. (Winter, Summer..etc), although this has propably already been mentioned upthread.

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  34. WC

    I didn’t buy it because I’d never heard of it before.

    After watching the video, I’m still not buying it because it looks more like an avoid-the-death simulator than a thought-provoking puzzle platformer. In the short clip I watched (the last video on the page) I saw at least 2 instances where I’d have died because I couldn’t see the hazards coming in advance. I’ve no interest in games like that. I’ll go play « I wanna be the guy » if I start feeling masochistic.

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  36. Alex Naoumovitch

    > why didn’t you buy the game?

    The main reason I didn’t buy the game is because I haven’t heard of the game before until today’s reddit thread.

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  37. Fenrakk101

    With the size of the indie market, I think you hit the mark when saying that a longer game is not always the best decision. With so many games coming out, most people would rather play a shorter game with a greater depth and satisfaction, than a game with less appeal and stretched over a longer time. Plus, though it’s sad to say, most people never play most games to the end.

    You can’t run on the kind of budget or asset power that games like Skyrim and Assasin’s Creed have; make a smaller, shorter game, and focus on making it memorable. Games like Journey are widely loved because they left the player with strong, fond memories of the game.

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  38. James

    I have to agree that the main reason I have not purchased this game is because I had not heard of it prior to today. Reddit was a good place to put this. Suggest that your team do an AMA, and fire your marketing staff :) I will take a look at this on Steam and pick it up. Looks like a REALLY fun game!

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  39. Alyssa

    I first heard of the game when I went to Eurogamer. I’ll be completely honest. :)

    When I first saw the banner at your booth and took a look at some gameplay, I was thinking hmm one of those sidescroller platformers puzzle indie game. I’m not a massive fan of these kind of games and for me to buy such a game, it has to have something that really attracts me. Either the art, the concept, the game mode whatever. To name a few rather famous titles, Limbo: I LOVE the artwork, and the mysteriousness of it; Fez: I LOVE the concept of 3D-ness and the artwork is cute. Ethan however, doesn’t really have many things that stood out, the artwork nor the concept of the game was attracting me. I did give the game a try in the end at Eurogamer, but it was exactly the same as what I expected, nothing surprising. I never thought about the game anymore afterwards.

    I agree with some other comments here that you gotta have a good community, teasing the community with developments and progresses, but it’s also about the concept of the games. There are just sooooo many indie titles nowadays, you really have to stand out to sell better in the end.

    Well yeah that’s it, I’m sorry for the sales number, but I do really hope you guys can learn stuff and do better next time! We don’t succeed all the time, it’s all about trying and experimenting. :) Good luck!

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  40. Darren

    Hey great write up guys and honestly you have my sympathy!

    The reason I didn’t buy your game is quite simple, I had never heard of it, I tend to use a few places as buying guides (primarily totalbiscuit on youtube) and thats where I find out about most the smaller games.

    Your game looks interesting and I will check it out, you came across very well in this post and I wish you the best of luck in the future

    oh and re green light etc im the sort of person who normally would like a game, hit the button and move on, I always assumed devs never really bother much about comment sections

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  41. Security

    « Why didn’t you buy the game? »

    I simply hadn’t heard about it until TotalBiscuit Tweeted about it just now.
    I still won’t buy it tho as it simply isn’t the type of game I like so I wasn’t ever part of the target audience.

    Best of luck, there should be many more people that should like this game and hopefully they find there way here.

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  42. Peter

    I don’t really buy new games, unless they are super cheap. And they have to be kind of unique or at leasty pretty hyped. I’ve never heard of this game. :/ Maybe I’d pick it up in a bundle or if it was on super sale, but I’m not really your target launch customer.

    (hope this is useful anyway somehow.)

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  43. Nico

    1. this is the first time I hear about this game (reddit), even though I follow RPS
    2. I don’t play puzzle platformers
    3. even if I did, the art style seems too bland and generic, the game doesn’t seem to have a strong personality (based upon the trailer)

    I don’t know what your target demographic is, but as a 33 year old with a busy life, I prefer to play games that stick out (i don’t play AAA games anymore, only indie). For example atm I’m playing Papers, Please.

    As a fellow developer though (not a games developer), I salute you on finishing the product and wish you succes with it.

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  44. Matthew

    I did not buy the game because I did not know about it! I found out on Reddit and I am purchasing it, will also go Greenlight it.

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  45. mrkhfloppy

    First of all until the post on reddit, that directs me to this site, I didn’t even know this game. I searched my prefered gaming magazin and there wasn’t a review or something else. Only one news about the release. Now I watched some videos and read some stuff and the game feels really okay. But regarding the huge amount of other puzzle-platformers, okay isn’t enough so here is my theory:

    Maybe the WiiU could have provided a better platform instead of the PS3. I know this sounds crazy, because of the little install base, but there are three main benefits:

    #1 There is a lack of competition on the Wii U. The eShop isn’t full of games and only a few new ones arrive with the weekly update. Every game gets a basic amount of attention because there are no alternatives.
    #2 Because there are not enough titles, even the « normal » ones will be bought by someone or in other words: In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king.
    #3 Look at the controls! This screems after the WiiU gamepad. Dragging things with a cursor is made for touch control. Rayman did the same thing and the WiiU version benefits so much from this controller and the according features. It is a fun and intuitive way to do things in this kind of manner.

    Personal conclusion: Bring it to the eShop and I will buy this game.

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  46. Aulbath

    Very interesting article, sad to hear it didn’t work out for you.
    Here is the reason why I did not buy your game (wall of text incoming):

    I only ever saw it on Steam Greenlight. AND I am one of the « 30seconds » people – if your trailer doesn’t get it on right away or your screenshots are appealing (I mostly go straight for screenshots), I am gone. Since you provided numbers, I will tell you some as well; out of almost 2000 games on Steam Greenlight I only ever voted « YES » for about 450 of them, favourites among them are about 100 titles.

    I am actually checking your game’s Greenlight page again as I am typing this (I came here via TotalBiscuit’s twitter). Too bad it doesn’t say when I voted « No », but I did and I can immediatley see why (and would do so again, sorry). The design is just 101% unappealing to me. The trailer starts of slow with a rather crappy looking CG-cutscene and the following ingame scenes just look mediocre. Considering you got a anthro-hero, why are the visuals so boring? The color-palette looks like an ego-shooter, and I am tired of « realistic » textures. It all doesn’t seem very imaginative. The game lacks style and character. Same goes for the hero, he needs attitude – compare your hero to, say, Sonic the Hedgehog – Ethan has no character and no particular « feature » or « gimmick ». He collects Meteorshards – what for? What is his mission? Instead of showing one long, moody scene of your hero looking pissed and wasting precious seconds in your trailer to tell me what’s going on with Ethan – there is nothing.

    So, I am not invested in the mainhero – how about the game itself? Well, as stated above – puzzle platformers are actually an instant « No » – but I will elaborate that point, why do puzzle platformers suck? Well, for the most part I think that puzzling and platforming are the exact opposites of each other. I cannot think about a puzzle platformer that kept me entertained for more than half an hour to hour – they get stale fast, and as puzzles become more complex I drop them because the moment I get stuck the whole flow of a game breaks down. Puzzling gets in the way of platforming and vice versa. I personally would LOVE more involved classic platforming – bring on some Mario-quality goodness with pure platforming, likeable characters, good learning curve and decent art direction!

    And keep it simple! I see you have physics in Ethan – DROP THAT! I hate physics, ESPECIALLY in 2D sidescrolling titles – they always produce random « WTFLOL » moments that maybe fun to watch, but get old quite quickly when you are actually playing. Same goes for the interface, that actually looks quite clunky – why stop the platforming to juggle stuff around? That may be fun once or twice – but as a constant mechanic? Nah, not my cup of tea.

    The parts of levels you are showing look kinda boring too, some parts look like slower-paced versions of Super Meat Boy-situations but without the style and attitude, other remind me of « Bad Rats » (please, look it up if you are not familiar with it). Both leaving me asking myself – why would I want this? And by the way, 50 levels sounds more like a chore than something good to me. Can you keep the gameplay fresh for 50 stages, really? I am all for short games – I’d rather pay 10 bucks for content without « filler »-material even if that means content is only 2-3 hrs long – but quality over quantity! Make stuff episodic! Do a couple of great levels, add a compelling narrative sell ‘em as one self-contained package and leave room for future episodes.

    It all boils down to this: just by checking the image-slider on the Steam Greenlight pages I know that I DO NOT want to play Ethan, like, at all. Not even on sale. It’s just not convincing, fighting an uphill-battle because it had to be REALLY interesting looking (preferably both in gameplay and art-direction) to overcome my initial general negativity towards puzzle-platformers. In the past I have actually given puzzle-platformers the benefit of doubt, if they convinced me somehow. Games like « The Swapper » (it’s gorgeous and has a very distinct, unique look to it) or « Thomas was alone » (great characters, despite them being colored blocks! It’s quite the achievement they managed to pull that off) pulled that off (as a matter of fact: I haven’t finished neither). But Ethan just fails in that department – passing on it wasn’t really a hard decision.

    And for the record: I am neither into GTA V or any of the nextgen consoles (with the exception of Killer Instinct and maybe Resogun, both systems have NO interesting games for me at the moment which might hint at my preferences regarding games).

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  47. Kenny

    I’m really sorry to hear all the troubles you guys had with the game. I’m certainly no expert, but if there’s one point I’d like to make, it’s that the trailer you guys made takes a little too long to get interesting. In my opinion, the most sell-able aspect of your game is the world manipulation, which doesn’t appear until around 40 seconds into the trailer. I only give a video 15 secs before I decide whether to keep watching.

    I think it’s important to never underestimate the value of a trailer, because it’s the sole thing that will give people a complete picture of what your game is about. Screenshots and text descriptions simply can’t do that.

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  48. Chris

    2 reasons for me:

    1) I never heard of this game prior to this article.

    2) I guess I don’t really look at platformers as being interesting anymore. Perhaps I am not in the demographic? 25 y/o, white male, usa. I enjoyed them a lot as a kid, and I think perhaps that is your target audience, 9-15 year old males.

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  49. Elliptic

    A few reasons:

    1) I don’t find platformers terribly fun overall.
    2) The mouse, as you said, does not appeal.
    3) It’s not on Steam, which is where I buy most of my games. It’s really the only place I buy indie games. I do use Amazon sometimes but not for smaller games like this.
    4) When you can get games like Bioshock Infinite, Dark Souls, Skyrim and so on for 10-15 dollars during a Steam/Amazon sale the value, in my mind, is just not there. Hell, there was a Bioshock package that included all of them for $15 on Amazon.

    It doesn’t look like a bad game but these are the reasons I, personally, would not purchase it.

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  50. Jauques

    I honestly had no idea this game existed–I suppose more advertising would work, even if it’s just a bunch of wacky youtube videos. Shame the sales (so far) have been so low–it looks like a lot of effort and polish was put into it.

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  51. Kastoli

    It was mainly the art style that turned me away, and partly the fact that it’s VERY hard to sell a platformer (not to mention the huge influx of indie platformers entering the market recently). It gave off a ‘spyro’ feel, like a game for 8-12 year old kids from the art style, and what I saw of the gameplay in the videos only reinforced that, collecting crystals… falling platforms… it’s all very much ‘same old, same old’.

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  52. E

    A few reasons;

    1) I had never heard of it. I asked around with a few gamer friends and they’d also never heard of it. We all enjoy indie games and occasionally check out gaming articles and related Youtube videos.

    2) Now that I’ve heard of it, I can’t see anything that distinguishes it from other similar games. It looks like a good game – just the similar to many others in the same genre, some of which have multiplayer and my friends are more likely to have to play with.

    3) Price – $10 isn’t much but I and many other gamers either don’t have much money or prefer to be frugal. I just picked up Payday 2 for $10 and Far Cry 3 for $7.50. They’re both 2013-release, AAA games. Most of my puzzle platformers, I’ve picked up for $3 or less.

    4) It’s not on Steam. I use Steam/Origin/UPlay. I prefer not to buy DRM-Free only games, as I may lose the files then it’s a hassle to go digging through e-mails to find the download link again. There’s also the chance of the website going down, etc.

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    1. Jared

      @E

      Please stop talking nonsense about DRM-Free. GOG sells the game DRM-Free and hosts the files for every game you purchase in your account, exactly the way Steam does.

      And you think Steam will be up forever and not go down one day? Steam/Origin/Uplay, using their DRM can block you from playing their games tommorrow, if they feel like it, and there is nothing you can do about it.

  53. Anon

    I’ll tell you why I won’t buy this. It’s another platformer and they just don’t appeal to me unless they do something truly different and super appealing. Jumping and solving puzzles has been done a million times. What makes this different?

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  54. Void

    Indie games are not rare any more, there are tons of them, and most of them are mediocre. I don’t have the money or time to waste buying various random games, so your game needs to do something to speak to me, to tell me that there has been some real effort put into it. That comes primarily from graphics, animation, and overall art direction, since that is what I am going to see first and foremost.

    I’m not trying to be mean here, it’s just that I understand the importance of a post mortem and the honesty it requires: I am truly surprised to see that you’ve put so much effort into this game. I thought it was shovelware, like something you cranked out to make a quick buck.

    The character animation isn’t very good, it’s very stiff, especially during jumps. You did a huge disservice to yourself by having a main character with a tail, especially such a huge one, because tails are hard to animate. I mean to begin with, the tail looks a bit out of proportion and weird. The idle state of a tight, vertical squiggle looks stiff and cheap. A huge tail like that should not be on such a sharp upwards trajectory, it should be much more like the letter S with an initial dip. The tail also doesn’t respond properly to jumps, it looks mostly unaffected by gravity and inertia, which once again points to cheap, low-budget graphics. This is your main character, the focal point of the game! If your main character looks cheap, it makes me feel like the rest of the game is too.

    Also, there’s no soul to any of the art. Again, it looks decent on the whole, as if the person who made it was competent, but it seems like the person/people who made it just didn’t really care about what they were doing. It’s like when you see a movie with an actor you like and who you know is pretty good, but they are ‘phoning it in’, they’re showing up to work and getting it over with as quickly as possible, and the performance is just plain bad. You even seem to admit it yourselves: « Finally, the art style was “okay” and clean for us but we didn’t think it would hurt. » You don’t seem to care at all about what your game looks like. It was good enough as far as you were concerned, no need to bother with anything more.

    What reason do I have to think the rest of the game is any different? Because you say so? Everyone says their game is the best. Because you have fans? You can find people to like anything, that doesn’t mean it’s good.

    That is the number one reason your sales are so low. You took the most visible part of your game, the only thing people can see and don’t need to just take your word on, the thing that communicates to me how much effort you put into your game, and it seems like you just shrugged your shoulders and said « whatever ».

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  55. Dann

    Simply put, I’ve heard of your game until today! It looks interesting, but I cannot buy what I haven’t heard of. It was only because someone posted about it on Reddit that I even saw this! I’m going to pick it up on Steam later, I’ll let you know what I think.

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  56. Pangoria Fallstar

    1) I had never heard of this game before.
    2) Not on Steam.
    3) Platform games are hard to be good, so they are harder to sell.
    4) Looks very boring and generic.
    5) Videos do not sell the brutality of the game.

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  57. OneBk

    Why didn’t I buy your game?

    Well i have never heard of the game, never seen it. I only heard of the game today through Totalbiscuits tweets.
    Maybe i havent seen it becouse its not on steam? And idont go to the greenlight part of steam and browse after cool games to upvote becouse there is so many bad games that trys to get on steam. The only time i personly greenlight is after i backed a kickstarter so i can have it on steam.

    So now when i know of it and i have watched the trailer, will i buy the game?

    No.

    Reasons:

    A.) Art style, graphics and other visuals just has zero appeal. Its truely looks and feel like low quality, like a flash game.

    B.) The gameplay and mechanics dont look fun.

    C.) The jumping, animations dont feel like they have a real « impact » or power to it.

    D.) The world, story, lore: You put a mouse in some kind of maze, jump around and solve puzzles that is so creati… boring. And then you dont play around with it. Like you could have presented it with a innocent mouse and then made the game to a grimm « lets-kill-the-mouse-In-the-most-creativ-way-possible » with mutilation, gore and blood everywhere when you fail one of the jumps or get in a trap. But you went with a very boring childish appeal that is realy hard? and that transition to my next point.

    E.) Who are you selling this to? i can see a young kid play this like 4-12 or something like that right visualy but its rock hard idont think the realy young people would enjoy that. Will they even find it if they would on the internet? And if they do would they like to pay for it, 10-15$ is not mutch when you can put 150$ on games in a month without careing. But for someone that doesnt have a lot of money it is becomes a problem. No offense but this could be a game on a site like armor games. Overall idont think you know who you are targeting with this game.

    Look at other indie games and like fez or trine, electronic super joy and tell me how you hold up. You made a plattformer without a clear edge in a very crowded genre. You dont bring in something new and intressting to the table and its not shiney.

    Ihope you take in all the feedback you get, and learn the hardway. best of luck in the future.

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  58. Temo

    1) First time hearing about the game
    2) I have had my fair share of side scroller games. I am a bit tierd currently of playing side scroller

    WAY TO MANY INDI SIDE SCROLLERS that are just flooding the market. Look at minecraft, the game is ugly looking but no other indie game had that kind game play. You can’t call it a first person shooter… just a first person creativity thingy..

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  59. Ian C

    First off, excellent write-up, and my condolences for your low game sales. Developing a game is a huge undertaking and it always sucks when something you put so much effort into underperforms.

    After checking out a few of your trailers, here are my two cents as to why I wouldn’t buy the game. I’m sorry if they seem harsh, they aren’t meant to offend.
    -The game looks very generic. It is well-rendered and good looking, especially for an indie-made 3D, but the obstacles are just sawblades, lava pools, etc. There isn’t a lot of character in there to stand out or get excited about, it’s just standard platformer tropes.
    -It took your launch trailer 30+ seconds to get to the point and show me what made your game unique, aka the ability to move around physics objects to solve puzzles. Before that it just looked like a completely standard platformer (despite the trailer insisting there were puzzles) and it’s hard to get too excited about that.
    -The actual moving around of physics objects also looks very stiff and slow, like you have to control the cursor with WASD or something instead of the mouse. When you did finally show off the mechanic, you sped up the video and it made it seem like you were trying to hide or gloss over this. I could be totally wrong since I haven’t played it, but the impression it left was that it would be very slow and clunky.

    Good luck in the future, and who knows, given time perhaps the game will get Greenlit and make a million bucks!

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  60. Jade

    I heard about Ethan: Meteor Hunter somewhere not too long ago and thought, « Oh? Meteor Hunter sounds intere-no, wait, it’s a puzzle platformer, blech. » I really just don’t like puzzle platforms, especially brutal ones.

    I see complaints about the price, but I think it’s fair. I wouldn’t want to pay more than five or six dollars for something really short and easy, but a decent length title with challenge enough to keep people at it for a while should be worth around $10 – $12. Something deep and lengthy I can play over and over like Starbound, I’ll pay $15 – $25 for, but the bonus material you offer for the deluxe version doesn’t seem worth it to me. Then again, I do pay extra to get exceptional OSTs. Price itself isn’t really much of an issue, I don’t think; I’ll pay full price for something I’m excited about, but wait for a sale on something I’m not thrilled with and I’m prolly even in the lower 25% income bracket for indie gamers. From what I understand of PC game marketplaces, Steam is also good for moving units during deep discount sales, but other places will give you more reliable day to day numbers. Personally, I tend to only buy a game on Steam if it’s ridiculously cheap and buy from another site if I’m paying full price. Don’t ignore those other platforms and their audiences for Steam.

    The game honestly looks gorgeous. I wish more indie games looked that polished and pretty, but for beauty to work on the indie gamescape, it needs to be more stylish and artful. Even successful ‘crappy-looking’ indie games have a lot of personality and style in their presentation. The visuals here remind me a lot of Trine which I consider to be sort of a fluke as far as indie visuals go.

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  61. Ted

    If I see « puzzle platformer » in an indie description these days or « procedurally generated » or « pixel art » I immediately stop reading and move on. The unfolding indie bust is a result of a complete lack of imagination. Everyone is copying everyone else thinking it’s going to result in some mythical Steam payday. Try something original.

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  62. Jade

    Also, if you can’t find a Youtuber to play the game for you, get someone from the staff to do it yourself, give some commentary, goof off, have funpost it on youtube, link i on the blog, Twitter, facebook, greenlight page, wherever. These days, that really sells me on a game better than a trailer or demo footage.

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  63. Steve

    The game looks retarded. That’s why I didn’t buy it. Having a mouse as a main character is gay, what am I, 5? It doesn’t look fun. Seriously how do you expect anyone to really want to play this? Yes it has features, and functions as a game, but there’s nothing special about it that hasn’t been done before.

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  64. Mister Mittens

    Frankly, when I watched your trailer I immediately become biased towards your game. The generic platforming combined with a relatively slow-paced actions soured me once I got to the good part of the trailer that showcased the unique aspects of the game.

    Others have mentioned it and I’ll agree that the presentation of the game also clashed with the theme. The kiddy character art is a huge turn off and it feels very silly when contrasted with the manly claims of brutality and awesomeness.

    I’ve since watched a Let’s Play of your game though and the actual gameplay looks fantastically fun. It looks like this game has been really tightly designed and watching the LPer go through your tutorial really impressed and excited me. I’ll be voting for you guys on greenlight and I hope you guys do better in the future. If your game is reasonably priced on Steam you can be sure I’ll buy a copy.

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  65. Captain British

    This was a really interesting read, so thanks for that. Honestly though, I hadn’t heard about this game at all despite my daily perusal of a fair few gaming news sites. I love me some Puzzle Platformers so this should be right down my alley, but there is just nothing about this game that strikes me as unique.

    It sucks, it really does, because I can tell there’s a lot of hard work in this. But in such an over-saturated market that just doesn’t cut it. I watched through all of your Youtube videos before writing this but even then my feeling towards the game was just an overwheming « Eh, I’ve done this many times before and a long time ago. » Maybe that was just the bits you picked out to show, maybe the game does have some punch outside of that… But that certainly wasn’t on show in your marketing.

    The art style is especially unappealing, the visuals themselves aren’t badly done by any stretch but every inch of the game feels generic, like what you would expect from your average Flash game.

    Speaking as a general consumer, I don’t have the sort of money I can throw around willy-nilly at the « generic » games. I can only afford to buy a game that I know for sure will be good and that will have staying power. Steam and it’s ilk are absolutely flooded with low-level Indie titles, most of which don’t stand out in the slightest and just get lost in the sea of titles.

    Just being an « okay » game is not good enough to earn my purchase, you need more than that. You need something about your game that defines it and makes it stand out. There is simply nothing in this game that hasn’t been done before and better in the past.

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  66. Lewis

    I think your main issue has been one of *presentation*. I had no idea about your game until this very moment and, on watching the trailer, the one thing that made me go ||HOLY SHIT – WHAT WAS THAT?!|| was the moment when everything paused and stuff was moved around like you were motherfucking GODS among MEN.

    That was exciting! That made me think it wasn’t a standard platformer I was watching and actually something exciting was happening in front of my eyes. It’s the same with what you’ve written here – I mean no offence to your writing skills at all, but if you want people want to jump on board with your idea it takes a very precise and careful approach.

    What you should have done is assign some budget to PROPER marketing – but that’s in the past. What you need to do NOW is tell everyone why your game has been (incorrectly) overlooked. Why is it special? Why should anyone give a shit? Why should people look at this over, say, Starbound? I’ll tell you why – because the puzzles are solved by FREEZING TIME and FEELING LIKE A MOTHERFUCKING LIVING GOD. That’s important. And hopefully it’s important enough to make your work on this project worthwhile.

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  67. Jon

    I like platformers and have more than 30 in my steam library. For me I didn’t buy the game because I’ve never heard of it. Like not even a little. Most of the games I hear about are through friends, Steam, advertizments, or Reddit (where I found this article).

    I don’t follow conventions; I don’t read gaming only sites like Kotaku, GiantBomb or Polygon; and I don’t follow LPers on YouTube or anywhere else. I either wait for some one to tell me about a game. Or wait for them to show up on the Steam ‘new releases’ or advertizment somewhere. I’m exposed to dozens of different games every week doing nothing but that. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on games I haven’t gotten around to playing. I’m not in a situation where I need to go out and explore what’s out there to see what I might be interested in.

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  68. Dar

    Why I didn’t buy it?
    Never heard of it before. First I’ve heard of the game was a reddit post.
    Didn’t like the genre. Played tons of platformers and seen a few with timestop type mechanics. And puzzles tend to get dull unless it has jaw dropping art style or great story to back it up. If you’ve only got low budget sound and graphics then going for a rpg type game would get more of a reward.

    What I think went wrong?
    Poor advertisement. Been a steam member for a while and regularly visit game sites but never saw an ad, never saw it featured, and no steam friends either played it or talked about it (huge!).

    Poor choice of platform. Going for pc was good. Not going through an established community like steam intially was a big mistake. Going for Ps3 was a really bad idea. I’ve never played an indie game on my ps3 and probably never will. Why not tablet/mobile market? Much much better fit, with a wider audience. A much smaller game would net way more cash if it was something people could play on their ipad or android smart phone.

    Poor pricing scheme. People love deals. People love free stuff. Even giving it away to get people talking about it. Pricing it higher, then marking it down slightly most of the time and massively during holidays would be a way better strat.

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  69. Ponder

    Alright, so, here’s what I think went wrong with your game:

    First, I’ve never even heard of your game. The only reason I know about it now is because I am subscribed to /r/games on Reddit. Coming here, I figure, I’ll take a look at the game and buy it if it is worth it.

    That’s where it went wrong:
    First, for every person that HAS heard of your game, 1000 others have not. You cannot expect to go to conferences and expos and think, « These people saw my game. Everyone will know. » That was the first mistake. Keep in mind that expos do not have all gamers. Many cannot afford to attend, and you can’t rely on the attendees to freely market your game FOR you. You have to do it yourself. You have to reach out to those that couldn’t attend and see previews.

    Next, the game itself is problematic. « Oh look, another physics platformer. » Your selling point on the game isn’t any unique gameplay mechanic, and personally, I feel that the art style is actually pretty ugly. The selling point is « We have 50 levels. » That’s all I took out from your trailer. I saw 3 seconds of gameplay and already knew the game wouldn’t be enjoyable for me. I even went back and watched the entire thing and came back to that same conclusion.

    Finally, you’re trying to sell a game on the PS3 and the PC that looks nothing more than a $3 Android buy. There’s even free Android games out in the wild that give you exactly what your game offers. What do you have that would make people prefer it? The title of Indie dev? Indie doesn’t mean anything anymore.

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  70. jay

    I’m sorry this game hasn’t been a success for you. The price point was not an issue for me, I will happily spend $20 on an indie base-builder, space exploration game, sim, rpg or strategy game. The reason I won’t buy this game is that I have very little interest in puzzle platformers and from watching the trailer, nothing about your game stood out to me.

    Indie developers are generating a lot of interest and sales by targeting under-represented genres and I’m hopeful this encourages more indie devs to concentrate on niche genres.

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  71. Jeff

    Based on the video and good reviews, I would probably snap this up in an instant at $5 and certainly at $2.

    I’m sure it was tremendous hard work, and even $10 feels cheap to you, but I buy slightly older, 3D, blockbuster games for $10 – $20 in Steam, Amazon, or GreenMan sales.

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  72. BN

    I’ll be honest with you guys:

    >why didn’t you buy the game?
    1) Never heard of it
    2) It doesn’t seem particularly interesting or fun. Both my backlog and wishlist are pretty long already as to even play the demo after watching the trailer.
    3) The art direction is… lackluster. Good art can « save » an uninteresting game sometimes.
    4) Not on steam

    I’m sure you guys put a lot of effort on this, but at the end of the game you have to remember that videogames are products. If the product has no audience and the marketing is scarce, the sales are bad.
    I advise getting the most foul vocal and corrosive internet community you can find and have them playtest any prototypes you make, and if those guys want to buy the game, you’re set, otherwise start over. But like seriously buy it, make a webpage and have people sign up for a newsletter and such, or even pay for a preorder if you’re sure you are going to finish the game, make a kickstarter, etc etc.

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  73. salaX

    This is a great post-mortem. You’ve gotten lots of great constructive criticism too. I hope you take it to heart on the next version or updates to the current game.

    1. Story. Story. Story. What? Why? Where?

    2. Confused demographic. Is this mickey mouse or rat fink?

    Best

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  74. Martín

    I’m sorry to hear that. Hope you can do better this next months.

    My thought is that the genre is extreamly oversaturated. Every week steam has 1 or 2 new puzzle plattformers.
    I really don’t like puzzle plattformers so i’m not one to speak of why this game didn’t succed. The only thing that it attracts me is the relation with super meat boy because it is the only game i know of this type that i like. But it is special because of its brutality and its speed. It seems i like that combination in a plattformer. But i don’t like puzzles, so…

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  75. Troy

    This was a wonerfully insightful read. As a guy learning everything he can to get into the industry, I look for this stuff all the time.

    When watching your trailer, I don’t really get hyped about the game. I do like that there is gameplay, but you need to point out what’s happening and what the character’s motivations are with some nice narration or other voice acting. I think your biggest problem is marketting and presentation. You need to be excited for your product for the audience to be excited. (I work in advertising and graphics and this is the biggest problem I see from my clients’ brands and ad campaigns.)

    Also, unlike some of the other comments, I don’t think the game needs to be gory or violent for an adult to enjoy it and its difficulty. Don’t fall into that trap. The character is just not personal enough. I don’t care about him.

    I think in the end if you guys were to redesign the character a bit and add story, narration, and overall hype to the trailer, and re-launch, I’m sure this game would actually sell since the gameplay looks pretty unique at points.

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  76. Nicolas Beuvin

    Salut les gars (et desole pour le qwerty),

    Nous avons un peu le meme probleme que vous pour notre premier jeu.

    On a meme eu un award au niveau national, mais on ne vend pas grand chose.

    Ce que je me dis : Notre industrie est simplement folle, les gens les plus creatifs de la planete travaillent comme des fous, et la qualite des jeux est incroyable. Il y a 20 ans, il y avait 1 bon jeu par mois, 5 jeux moyen, et 10 bouzes (serieux, ressortez vos anciens Joypad) Aujourd’hui, il y a 1 bon jeu par jour, 20 jeux moyens, et 100 bouzes (40 jeux par jour sur Itunes les mecs)

    Donc, pour les independant, ce que je pense, c’est qu’il faut vraiment sortir des tueries pour attirer l’attention des joueurs.

    Je crois que pour notre prochain jeu, on va se focaliser sur faire quelque chose de tres petit, mais de tres bon. Et ne pas refaire ce qu’on vient de faire : un RPG de 8 heures moyen.

    Bonne continuation.

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  77. Taco

    Count me in the ‘never heard of it’ camp.

    If asked for possible reasons: if I go on the trailer, I have to say: looks nice (but in the ‘no mans land’ between indie and AAA — maybe that’s an issue too) but nothing makes me think: « I want this ». And it seemed no one else did either. Perhaps test the concept with users and make sure you have an audience that really LOVES what you’re doing.

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  78. Jared

    Dear developer, I advise you to ignore the rubbish about Steam. Eventually, you will sell it there (and should), which is a good thing to get your game out. But there are many people who appreciate that you provide a DRM-Free option by selling your games on other portals like GOG.

    Also, not every game is a runaway hit on Steam. Some people say, they will surely buy it if it’s on Steam, except they never buy it when the time comes, only exception if it’s on sale in their faces, then they may change their minds.

    I know a game developer who sells a different genre of games, and hasn’t been able to get on Steam or even GOG, for the matter, but he sells his games just fine, although to be fair, he isn’t super-rich from it, just makes profit to live reasonably and work at this full-time. People at Steam spent more time critizing his game on greenlight, pretending to be « experts » at how games should be good, yet he makes a living off Steam.

    His genre of games are VN formatted, RPGs and Sims with some strategy elements and romances, which like bioware, includes all sort of romances, and aimed valiently at women a lot as well as men.

    I also think, platformers may be a bit oversaturated. You’ve got a good thing going with your appealing visual style and nice art design. Maybe another genre, would serve it better?

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  79. DromundKaas

    It seems to me that the mix of puzzle and plattforming is a pretty bad one. Consider who plays puzzle games, and consider how they are played. Relaxed, on a couch or comfy chair, you let your brain do the playing, and your dopamine comes from solving the puzzle itself. Now platformers, they need precise controlling, timing, and the success comes from pulling timing and precision off. I like puzzle games, but I have become too old for platformers, I can’t pull these off anymore. So I am turned away from a puzzle game that forces me to make split-second precise jumping decisions, when all I wanted was some brain teasing.

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  80. SirMeowsALot

    Just saw this post on Twitter from « Endzeitkind » and I really need to say, I like the concept I would have buyed the game. I just don’t read stuff like « Rock Paper Shotgun » etc. I just look into the Steam Store and see what I can find. I hope you guys get greenlit! Already voted for you. And then you got alteast 1 guy that buys your game. :3

    Greetings from Austria

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    1. Seaven Studio Auteur de l’article

      Thanks a lot! We’re now #86 on Greenlight so you should see us soon on Steam :)

  81. Zak

    Hi guys,
    I am sorry to hear your hard work has gone unnoticed. I would like to produce a game soon but things like this make me think twice about commitment to such a project.

    For me i would not buy this game. It looks very childish in presentation, and platforms are quite a overcrowded genre. The only ones i’ve played in the last year are Limbo, Mercenary Kings, and Deadlight.

    I think going for a more mature theme with a more interesting game-play mechanic might have produced sales.

    Also i think if you want big sales these days, you need invested interest in your game, through Beta or crowd sourcing etc.

    Finally.. Multiplayer! a game has a bigger chance of success with multiplayer capabilities

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  82. Tom

    You should released it on PS Vita
    Also, the art style is meh, you should either make it realistic OR stylized.
    Right now you guys have stylized simplified models, which is okay, but painted with « realistic » noisy, cloudy textures.

    This works very bad and gives bad impression overall.

    If you hop in polycount.com and check the latest recap, you can already find good examples of what I’m talking about. The game would be much appealing if it looked clean, similar to these:

    http://fc06.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2013/334/9/0/durakcomingsoon_by_labyrinth101-d6w76nk.jpg

    http://www.polycount.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/12613_STRIKER.png

    http://www.polycount.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/12613_Baj-Singh.jpg

    http://imageshack.com/a/img703/3152/12j4.jpg

    -Tom

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  83. Andreas

    Here’s my 2 cents, although it’s a lot like what other people have already stated here. I admire what you’ve done, and it looks like a solid product. If you could remedy these problems, I think your next title will be killer.

    Puzzle Platformer: This is an issue! There’s just too many of these games out there. Combined with the next issue, I think I know why it didn’t sell…

    The art style: It’s incredibly bland and uninteresting. It looks good, but the character doesn’t resonate with me on any level. None of the screenshots or trailers sell me on the world you have created, because it seems to act as filler for jumping on platforms. If you’d created something more interesting, I’d be all for buying your puzzle platformer.

    And this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the game, which is weird considering all the marketing you’ve done. Or perhaps I have heard of it on several occasions, but the visual design has just instantly turned me off and made me forget it. Make something cool, gritty or unique next time :)

    I seriously hope sales pick up!

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  84. cap'n

    I didn’t buy this game because I’ve never heard of it. I’m a pretty active gamer and I love indie games, and the only reason I’m commenting is because this article front-paged on Reddit.

    You don’t get money just for making a game. You have to actively market it. People on Reddit are mentioning how you guys have the entirely wrong explanations for why your games didn’t sell. You’re not competing with GTA V. It’s not the art style.

    Your game doesn’t exist as far as most people are concerned. Personally, I’d start with a better title. And a better studio name. And more activity in online communities. This article is a good start.

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    1. Seaven Studio Auteur de l’article

      What would you reckon for a platformer dev in online communities? Do you usually stick to reddit or do you also go on Twitch etc ?

  85. Nico

    To be honest this is the first I even heard about the game, the reason I won’t buy it is because it looks like too much work. I want my platformers to be something I just pop in and play for a while, also the visuals looks like its a dated game, so much brown and nothing seems to pop. Its obvious to see that there’s put a lot of love into the game and it looks challenging but for some reason nothing in the video made me want to commit a lot of time into it.

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  86. Ati

    Why I didn’t buy your game is simple – I never heard of it.
    Now that I’ve heard of it, I probably still won’t buy it, because I don’t like the genre at all. I gave you my vote on greenlight, though.

    But I think it might be more useful to tell you why I bought some other indie games:
    One ended up in my steam library because I saw the dev team’s story (with pictures!) on reddit, checked the steam forums and while there were some complaints about bugs/lag, the devs were there and acknowledged the issues and simply seemed like hardworking, caring people.
    I bought another because the devs amused me by releasing a « pirated » version of the game on a well known torrent site, and if you tried that version, your game would be ruined by pirates.
    I’ve also bought *many* indie games because I’ve seen some big streamer (big enough to end up on the frontpage of twitch when I’m bored) play it and it seemed like fun.
    And of course I’ve bought far too many indie games because they were in some steam sale and seemed mildly interesting for a low, low price.
    Usually I always check the forum first though, and if I can’t find a single « I hate this game » thread, I get worried the dev’s are actively removing them (seen plenty of those stories lately) and I really don’t want to support that kind of people. Of course, if the forum is nothing but those threads, then I probably won’t buy it either…

    TL;DR: For me to buy an indie game, it needs to have gameplay to my taste and a big personality streaming it on twitch, or the devs need to be awesome people and show it… or steam sale.

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  87. Allan

    I didn’t hear about your game. The only convention I go to is pax, and you weren’t there.

    What I’ve noticed recently is that people don’t care if they’re actually getting a good deal, they care if they feel like they’re getting a good deal.

    If you had released at $20 and had a launch sale of 50% off for a week or something, it would drive sales more because people would feel an urgency to buy it. If you release it at $10 and it’s not something I feel like I have to have right now because it’s so groundbreaking and original, there’s no reason for me to buy it now when I can wait 6 months and probably pick it up for $2.50 or $5.00 if I still am interested.

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  88. Nicklas

    I’ll be honest: I did not buy this game because of the price, as well as the lack of Steam. Most good indie games end up in bundles sooner or later, and I really can’t justify spending $10 on a single indie game when I can get 10+ for the same price with bundles. I might have picked it up for $2-$4 or something along these lines, but $10 is a little to steep in my opinion.

    Yes, I’m cheap, and I sound like an asshole for saying this, but I hope this is useful feedback to you.

    Good luck in the future! I saw this blog post at Reddit, so I suspect the sales have incresed a whole lot in the last few hours ;)

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    1. Seaven Auteur de l’article

      Don’t feel bad for being cheap, that’s what the reality is today: we all have bunch of great indie games we bought on Steam Sales for 2$ and we see a new one we thiink « Meh, I already have bunch of games, it will be on sale again anyway so ».

      We had a small bump in sales but a fantastic one on Greenlight votes!

  89. vaen

    why I have not bought this game:

    first off, I have this weird feeling I saw this game pass by on the ‘new releases’ window on steam. obviously it did not but my point is that the market for your genre of game is, to me, very much over satiated . there are -so many- indy developers that make some damn good quality platform games! have you had a look at what’s for sale on steam? I’ve bought giana sisters on a whim because I liked the musc. I’ve bought REZ but never even booted it up. I bought super meat boy and played that for a while before I forgot all about it. I might own braid because of it’s reputation? I’m not even sure.

    what I’m trying to say is that the genre was a big part of my life when I was 15 and played more on my SNES than can be considered healthy, but right now I can play so many different kinds of games ranging from skyrim to endless space that is feels as though platformers, no matter how gimicky and well designed, feel a little too… simple. on a scale of farmville to distant worlds, meteor hunter falls at a 3/10 so to me I don’t feel part of the target demographic.

    the question the becomes who is the target demographic to a game like this? honestly, I just don’t know. lots of people play various games on facebook or on their smartphone but those wouldn’t likely install steam and play PC games in general. maybe you could release the game on android and it might do better.

    I know I’m saying these things right at the moment when Starbound is doing damned well on steam, even though it’s technically a platformer. but there’s the thing, right? out of all the platformers that one is definitely rather special, and very different in concept and appeal than your game.

    TLDR; the ‘new releases’ tab in steam lists dozens of ‘pretty decent’ platformers that can probably compete decently in quality with your game, but I don’t think those would be doing =any= better than yours is doing right now.

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  90. Ekaros

    I’m not really the target audience, but a few comments which has already been said.

    1. Haven’t hear about it.

    2. The screenshots look utterly generic. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing special, or something not seen before. Dulled gray just doesn’t work in 3d in my mind for these types of games. Either go totaly over with it like « Trine », do something really simple like « VVVVV », « Closure » has unique black/white style or then good 2d like « Braid » or « Super Meat Boy ». All of these have much more unique character than what I have seen.

    3. The genre is very saturated these days. I believe effort is better spend in other directions, like « The Stanley Parable ».

    4. Also there is nothing wrong with price point, but even if the game is good. It’s not enough in today’s enviroment. There is just some much out there that you need to be really special to get the initial crowd. Being competent, if you don’t have something different or completly new in your sleeve just doesn’t cut it.

    5. And to reiterate. Your game just isn’t catching on the first sight. I don’t look at trailers, I check the screenshots and they don’t really stand out compared to other games.

    Your game is likely a very well done title. Not in the genre I’m hugely in. I hope this blog post gives some extra attention to the game. And really this is what you need in future. Visibility to the game from different sources.

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  91. MorpheousXO

    Why didn’t I buy the game? Honestly, until TB linked this article I hadn’t even heard of the game. $10 sounds like a steal, tho. I do agree that the art style isn’t the greatest, tho, and I am for some reason not a fan of how the main character looks. Not sure what it is about his design that I don’t like, but there ya go. I will be checking this out now, maybe I’ll buy it!

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    1. Seaven Studio Auteur de l’article

      What channels do you usually follow for game-related infos? Gaming websites or Youtubers/Twitter?

  92. banksharoo

    I will not write much to this but I will drop a few cents because I really care about Indiegames.
    The reason I did not buy your game was that I don’t like the direction in went. In generally, many Indie-games
    seem to be childish. I am sorry but that is just the case. In the trailer you even announce it not to be childs play
    but why the childish artstyle then? Some may call it retro but thats also overused and boring now. But that is
    just my personal reason. I just think Indiegames should grow up. The average gamer is over 30 years old and should be treated as such.

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  93. Andy

    What a heartbreaking story. Its clear you guys put a lot into this and I’m very sorry that its been such a bust for you. As to ‘why didn’t you buy this game’?

    1. I honestly had never heard of it until a coworker sent this article around. The way I play PC games is through Steam almost without exception, so I probably wouldn’t have come across it. Also, because I find the store interface of the PS3 unfriendly, I generally only go there when I’m looking for a specific game.
    2. Again, it looks like a lot of work went into this, so I don’t mean to be harsh, but the launch trailer doesn’t grab my attention. The look of the game, the lack of a distinctive ‘style’ and the generic descriptors in the trailer (perhaps wrongly) make the game come off as bland and targeted towards children?

    I hope you’re able to turn things around and have better luck in the future.

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  94. Aaron

    Well, I just now heard about your game. And, I mean quite literally, just now.

    I check tech news and video game sites/blogs daily. I have an embarrassingly massive steam library and several PS3 game that are still shrink wrapped. I often buy indie games simply to support the developers even if the game doesn’t interest me.

    And I just now glanced a reddit post that lead me here, which prompted me to look up your history/identity/critical reception. Until a few seconds ago, I hadn’t even heard the title. I still don’t know much about the game, as that browser tab is waiting on me to finish this comment.

    So, I think the game lacks some exposure. For me, it wasn’t that I saw it, questioned the value or quality, and turned it down. It was that I never got the opportunity to buy or not buy–from simply not being aware of its existance. That being said, a lack of Steam distribution is definitely hurting you.

    Good luck guys. I’m going to go check out this new game I just heard about a meteor hunter.

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  95. Scott

    You might have problems with the price, with the art, with gameplay, but none of those would have been problems for me because I’ve never heard of your game.

    The site I linked is a reddit page about this article and your game, give it a read.

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  96. Hev

    Why I didn’t buy:

    - Never heard about it before, only saw a reddit post today
    - Can’t buy because of lack of creditcard, which is my problem. Solution would be to go on Steam.

    I’m interested in it though, and I will keep my eye out for it!

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  97. Hellmark

    To be honest, I had never heard of the game, and I do try to keep up on indie gaming anymore. The last few months have been pretty crazy game wise, so you have had lots of competition. The game does seem quite cool.

    To me, it almost seems a bit as if you expected the greenlight process to carry you. From what I can see, you’re not greenlit. I just went to steam, and checked, because it does seem like the sort of game that I would like, but wasn’t in store. Checked the greenlight page, and it was there, buried, and not greenlit. I do imagine if it does get green lit, that you will have sales pick up. I’d say that’s a large part of why you have slow sales right now. I know for me, I pretty much don’t buy games, unless it is able to be unlocked on steam, since that makes it so much easier to keep track of things. I know there are others in the same boat as me.

    I did vote for you, and would like to buy the game once it is on steam.

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  98. Pedro Mateus

    Interesting…

    I’m the PR manager for Linux Gamecast (linked) and I had never even heard of the game until just now. You probably did a lot of PR in social events, which from reading the post seems to be the case. But the internet as whole never really heard of it. That could have stemmed from a number of reasons: Not good PR, at least not enough to get people talking; You didn’t target the niche you’re selling too, there wasn’t even a post in any Linux gaming website about your game until just now. Even the Linux_Gaming subreddit only just got this post linked there.

    We at LGC love indie devs who release their games on Linux, we have the technology to record, stream, edit and publish game videos/podcasts yet we never got an e-mail from you. Neither did any of our 20’000-ish recurring listeners ever mention it. Something went clearly wrong there, that limited your PR scope.

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  99. Brandon

    Saw your post mortem linked through the GOG.com community. I appreciate the post mortem and sorry to hear it hasn’t been encouraging for you.

    The game looks interesting enough for me, I kind of like the art style, didn’t know much about the story initially and still don’t, but I like the puzzle aspect of the game that was presented in the trailer and the info pages – so far so good. What doesn’t appeal to me and why I passed on the game is simple when I saw « brutal platformer » I immediately thought « another one? why set myself up for failing on another game. I just don’t want to spend the time to replay any game enough times to master it when I have other games I’d rather be playing than replaying the same one. » I don’t even like Super Meat Boy, Bit Trip Runner or other similar games of which there seem to be legion these days. If it were stronger on the puzzle aspect and not timing and endless retrys then I probably would have decided the other way and picked up your game.

    Even so I figured there are enough other gamers who do like this style of gameplay that it’d probably do well, sorry to hear that hasn’t been the case and good luck on success of this title and any other future endeavors.

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  100. Daav

    I thought I’d leave my comments here, even if by now I fear getting drowned out by the massively overwhelming success in feedback.

    - I only heard about it because I’m an editor actively seeking out indie games all the time. I only saw a blip of it once. I can imagine that’s not enough.

    - The game itself never struck me as anything I hadn’t played several times before. Functional as it is, physics-based puzzle platform games that include time manipulation and challenges have evolved to higher states than purely just that. I think of Snapshot, for instance, that alters it with its odd photo capture or Thomas Was Alone, which condensed it to its absolute core, letting that speak for itself.

    - To the latter: The game, much like many products these days, required a « hook » to capture people at a glance and neither the name, the art style or the core mechanisms of its design were up to par, but in no case exceptional. Yes, it’s a decent title, but people need something remarkable at the surface to get attached. For instance, Dead Island used an age-old zombie brawler, but put in one stellar, evocative trailer. It can be a dozen amount of things, just if it catches the attention. You can go with it from there. Ethan did a straight shooter approach and that’s fine, but only for its distinct target audience.

    - The game not being on Steam… It’s sort of a double-edged sword for me. I understand how no one wants to deal with that. Personally, I don’t believe that’s a healthy mentality to enable, given it breeds a monopoly, but as it stands it does hold off many fair weather clients and if you want optimal profits, it’s something to pursue. Overcoming it requires a giant dose of the two aforementioned posts.

    Regardless, I enjoyed covering the demo for what it was, when I previewed the game. I don’t think many will dislike it either. It’s just hard to stand out when you ride the same wavelength as hundreds of other indie games, I suppose. At least, getting picked up by both Reddit and the likes of Totalbuscuit should massively help towards the Steam campaign. I put my vote in ages ago, but I still wish you the best in that regard.

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  101. Axe99

    Totally feeling for you guys. I’m afraid I didn’t grab a copy of it, but mainly because while I like 2D platformers, I’m not into ‘hard as nails’ games, per se – I enjoy a bit of a challenge, but if the game is pushing me all the time, then some of the fun goes out for me. I don’t play the ‘Souls’ games either ;). That said, I was also saving for the PS4 launch, so hadn’t been spending much on gaming at all beyond paying off the PS4 and a game or two. Deffo wish you guys luck, and that when it hits Steam proper it has a good deal more sales.

    I’m just a gamer, rather than an industry person, but some thoughts from this angle:
    - there’s nothing wrong with targeting the « I want it as hard-as-nails » crowd, but this crowd are louder more than they are large. If you had a quality 2D platformer with clear messaging about a « hard as nails » difficulty option it may broaden the audience? That said, the ‘hard as nails’ crowd can be a bit snobby, so this can turn them off as well.
    - there are a lot of 2D platformers out there, and even a good number of ‘hard as nails’ 2D platformers – to stand out may need another ‘hook’ to drive differentiation.
    - I thought the name was interesting – I read a few articles and watched a trailer or two – I’d say it did the job well :). Trailers were good as well. If it was my style of game it would have been on my ‘buy’ list, although with the PS4 launch it probably wouldn’t have happened until sometime next year.
    - Gaming on pretty much any platform is a very saturated market at the moment. Once markets hit a certain level of saturation, there’s a degree of risk involved. There are games with much better marketing that are still quality that fail, simply because of how much content there is out there. I’m not saying this to discourage, just to manage expectations.

    Best of luck to you, and here’s hoping that it’s got a long and fat tail even if it didn’t launch as good as it could have. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or not, but getting in Steam/PS3 sales may be a way to shift more units?

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  102. Haggard

    « So our question is simple: why didn’t you buy the game? »

    I can’t speak for all gamers, but I personally am a bit « puzzled out. » Any platformers I pay attention to these days are going need to focus on the genre’s arcadey/action-based roots. Ultimately, that’s more satisifying to me than playing around with what are potentially simplistic puzzles that have less replayability to them than a more intense, action-based design might have had (not a knock on your game, as I obviously haven’t played it, just a comment on the genre as a whole). Once you solve a puzzle, it’s no longer fun, and people anticipate that when considering a purchase of a game which seems to incorporate a lot of puzzles.

    Secondly, the aesthetics of your game aren’t something that really grabbed me. The game’s not ugly by any means, but it blends in with everything else on the market. It’s a very inoffensive, plain graphical style that doesn’t make much use of color. That, and I’m generally turned off by anthropomorphic animal characters unless they’re very interesting or unique, like Ash from Hell Yeah.

    Lastly, I didn’t/don’t understand the game’s title. When I heard, « Ethan: Meteor Hunter, » I didn’t think about a brutal platformer. I thought of some kind of laid-back casual game. Titling the game after a new, unestablished main character was a mistake, if you ask me. These are no longer the days of Mario or Sonic. I don’t know who Ethan is, nor do I have any reason to care about him, so titling the game after the main character just turned me off as opposed to getting me interested. « Meteor Hunter » would have been a much simpler, sharper title.

    So, I guess to sum it up, I like action-based platformers (Mega Man as opposed to Trine), I greatly appreciate it when a game has its own unique (and sound) and doesn’t appear to be « playing it safe » or « following a trend, » and there are certain conventions for the title of a video game that can very easily turn me off and keep me from ever even clicking on the link to the game’s store page on Steam (ones that are either overly complicated like « Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death » or overly simple and non-descriptive like « MURI » or « Gomo »).

    This may all sound like unimportant stuff, but you have to « sell » someone on your game before they can play it and judge it on a purely qualitative level. You have to look at poor sales as being entirely different from a negative reaction from critics/players. Not buying the game is not at all the same thing as playing the game and not liking it, and making statements like, « good value and focus on gameplay are not appealing, » is placing the blame on people who are innocent in this scenario (the people who didn’t buy/play the game).

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  103. Derrick

    I saw the post on Joystiq. This is the first I’m hearing about your game, as far as I can recall. Watched the Launch Trailer, everything seemed competently put together but it’s generally lacking any hooks to get me truly interested in trying (let alone buying) the game. You need something special to draw people in. If I could tell you what that special thing is, I’d be in the business of making games. But I can say that generally things that get me interested are: clever/funny writing, a setting that appeals to me personally, unique art style, things like that. Your trailer is very gameplay focused, and honestly games are about way more than how they are played and always have been.

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  104. Darkwalker

    Why I didn’t purchase it, and likely won’t purchase it for a while at least:

    - While I saw something about the game – I was mostly guaranteed to, given that I take a look at the game page for every single new game added to GOG – it didn’t manage to catch my attention.

    - Competition. There’s a lot of great games that I can purchase for $10 or less, and even though I spend between $100 and $200 in games per month, there’s far more being released in that price range (or more expensive games being discounted to that price range) than I can purchase.

    - Genre. Not really a fan of platform puzzlers, even though I love pure platform games and I don’t have anything against puzzlers. Guess the genre mix doesn’t sit really well with me.

    - Modding support. I saw no mention of it when I looked at the game. A game having comprehensive modding support makes me way more willing to actually purchase it at full price.

    - Backlog + Price. I actually pay $5 or less in most games I purchase nowadays, and I can wait for the games to be sold at a steep discount because I tend to keep a large backlog. For me to purchase a more expensive game it needs to feel like either some really great value (such as when I recently purchased the whole Tomb Raider collection, including the latest game with all DLCs, for about $15), or be something that I really want to play immediately and won’t go through my game queue (the most recent example being StarBound, but that is a game in a genre I love and with crazy modability).

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  105. Robert Colburn

    I just heard about your game (sales problems) today via joystiq. First I will say I havent been a 2d platformer type person since the Nes days so I would have been a hard sale to begin with.

    -My first impression was watching the trailer… no clue even what type of game it was or what it was about, from the trailer id guess its a power point presentation on a mouse dropping wood on another mouse.

    - After finding a game play trailer I found out its a side scrolling platformer. What I didnt see are power ups , unique skills or anything else, is the whole game me just running through some random maze type world ? a few of the parts seemed like you were just jumping to a off screen target hoping there was a place to land when the screen got there, hate those jumps in platformers.

    - No bullet points during trailers explaining cool features or anything about the game. I see from your blog post how many worlds and levels I would get if i bought it but not in the trailer.

    Like i said, im not a 2d platform scroller type guy, unless I saw someone compare it to mario world 3 im probably not gonna buy it, but understand your entire window of opportunity to people like me is the trailer. If you dont convince me in those 30 seconds your worth checking out , I’ll be moving on to the next game trailer. I thought at first maybe the price was too high , most indie games i buy are below 5 dollars now-a-days (though i get most through humble bundles), but on a whim I checked the popular piratebay torrent site and they only have 85 seeds of your game so im guessing price wasnt a factor in the low sales.

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  106. JC

    I voted for this on Greenlight, fits neatly into the kind of games I like playing. But I had no idea the finished game had been released. It’s an unfortunate truth that those of us with Steam tend to check out new releases on there first, and I do miss stuff released elsewhere. I’m not tied to Steam, but I’d certainly buy it if it appeared on there. In the meantime now that I know it’s out elsewhere, I’ll certainly consider it, but we have such a glut of games right now that it’s hard to buy and play them all.

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  107. nanenj

    I was not aware of your game before today, and as is, it doesn’t typically match what I expect in value for a 10$ game. It’s on the cusp of something I’d feel like I’m getting my money’s worth with your 6.99 sale and I’m heavily debating the purchase. At 4.99 I’d say it was priced about right. This is from the few videos I’ve seen of the game, I have no scope for the length of the game or variations in content. The little I’ve seen points me to believing it’s a standard fare 2d platformer with little/no innovation in the genre. So, if those things are there, you need to make them more prominent in the easy to find videos.

    If your game was NOT on Steam, it would have no chance of being purchased by me. I have purchased nearly 1,000 titles (plus DLC) on steam, having my library segregated across multiple services no longer makes sense and the convenience of Steam trumps even good quality gaming considering the investment I’ve made in the Steam platform.

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  108. Ovoon

    I’m going to be harsh here. I saw this game first show up on GoG.com, and I remember, every time I visited the home page, I was pissed off to see the main characters face. The marketing of this game angered me.

    « Ethan Meteor Hunter? Who’s Ethan? Fuck him. Meteor Hunter? Woooo »

    I felt angry for no reason at the character design and name of the game. I looked at the gameplay, and that part looked fine. However the thing that is supposed to reel me in, backfired.

    It takes too much of a childish approach, when platformers need to focus on appealing to everyone, rather than children specifically.

    I appload your openness about all this, and think that, with a bit of tweaking of the marketing aspect and visual style, you can have a solid game.

    I look forward to hearing about what you try next.

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  109. Haddock

    I’ll be very frank here with no sugarcoating, since it’s evident your game sold very poorly
    1:
    The art direction sucks, it’s utterly unappealing.
    You know why games that are as unappealing sell better? Because they got marketing.
    2:
    The gameplay is uninteresting. Everybody and their mom hates puzzle platformers. The only reason some of them sell is again marketing. They are simply boring.
    3:
    There is no vision or soul to it.
    Is this really the game you guys wanted to make all your life? No attempt at a top down adventure like zelda, no attempt at a monkey island, contra, castlevania, secret of mana, dune 2, rocket knight, ghouls and ghosts or some other classic franchise in a genre that needs revival? This was your vision? The game you always wanted to make?
    Just some boring puzzle platformer with some crappy sonic ripoff as the hero?

    You need someone with vision to lead your projects or else you are going to fail with everything you do.

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  110. Mentalepsy

    I don’t really like puzzle platformers, so I’m not part of your target audience. I do have a few thoughts that might be helpful regardless, though.

    If I were into puzzle platformers, $10-$15 would not be too much to ask for a good one. I bought Volgarr the Viking on release day because that’s exactly the kind of platformer I want to play. If you price the game too low, people will think you have no confidence in the product, or that it’s an empty game they can beat in half an hour. The production values look pretty good for an indie platformer, so don’t make it look too good to be true. Competition is fierce nowadays, but don’t sell yourself short.

    If I were into puzzle platformers, would I have also bought Ethan on release day? Well, I’m not sure, because there seem to be a lot more puzzle platformers than hardcore action platformers nowadays. I will say that I only knew of the game from its release on GOG, and the GOG release blurb made absolute no effort to distinguish it from all the other puzzle platformers they release on a near-weekly basis.

    I didn’t even know the game was supposed to be « brutally difficult » until I read your article. High difficulty is actually a selling point for me, but is it your puzzles that are brutally difficult, or the platforming? These are two very different kinds of difficulty. The trailer doesn’t do much to show why the game is supposedly so hard. The trailer for Volgarr shows you exactly the kind of punishment you’re in for. The trailer for Ethan quotes a reviewer calling it « brutal, » but the actual video doesn’t back that up. Plus, your web site insists that it’s a child-friendly game that any gamer can pick up and play. I know many of us were playing Ghosts n’ Goblins and Megaman when we were kids, but the gamescape is very different nowadays.

    I’ve noticed a lot of people saying that they were turned off by the mere mention of a high difficulty level, but I don’t think just mentioning it is going to attract many challenge-seekers. Most probably won’t just take your word for it, especially with such a cuddly title and main character. If you really want to appeal to that crowd, you need to show off some tougher gameplay in the trailer. If the truly difficult sections are optional, maybe make that more clear, to avoid turning off people who dismiss the game as being a ridiculous punishment platformer.

    One last thing: there absolutely is a demand for games that focus on gameplay over fluff. The demand may be smaller than the demand for fluff, but the demand is there, and those gamers are both hungry and cynical. As a gameplay fundamentalist, I originally pegged your game as being just another ball of fluff, mostly based on GOG’s bland release blurb and the cute mascot. I never even watched the trailer until I saw this article. The trailer actually does showcase a clear emphasis on mechanics – it’s just that I never got that far. That’s probably GOG’s fault. Like I said before, even if I were into puzzle platformers, GOG said so little of substance when they released Ethan that I might not have bothered watching the trailer anyway.

    I haven’t played the game, but I don’t get the sense from watching the trailer that the game doesn’t have enough personality, and the graphics are more than adequate. I’m working on a game myself, and I’d kill to be able to afford graphics like that. A telekinetic space rat being chased by spikes and buzzsaws seems to be more than enough setup for a platformer, but maybe that’s just me. You don’t need hundreds of pages of backstory for a game like this. Don’t try to be all things to all people.

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  111. Mentalepsy

    Small addendum, since a lot of folks have mentioned the art: while the fidelity of your graphics is more than fine, the art direction isn’t the best. I don’t really have a problem with it for the most part, except for two things: the main character sort of annoys me to look at, and more importantly, the levels don’t have a lot of color. There’s a lot of brown and grey, both for platforms and for active objects like springs and saws, which produces a somewhat dingy, low-contrast look. The industrial zone in particular is just a field of brown. I don’t really have a major problem with this, but it is a bit hard on the eyes, so I can see how some folks would.

    I personally don’t care if you have an attention-grabbing super-unique visual style; in fact, it might just turn me off (see: Paper Sorcerer, which to me is an absolute eyesore). It does help a game stand out from the crowd, though, for better or worse. I do think a little more color would go a long way.

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  112. Jeff

    I had never heard of your game until this article went up. Unlike a lot of people here I actually enjoy puzzle platformers and have an affection for the era of mascot platformers. I’m certainly a person you could sell a game like this to, but I probably wouldn’t buy this one if I happened across it for a few reasons.

    -Comparisons to SUper Meat Boy and use of words like « brutal » in the marketing. I’m not looking for a cakewalk, but an unproven indie studio touting the difficulty of its game sets off alarm bells for me. There are countless indie games out there that are only difficult due to poor level design, poor control, or misguided adherance to « old school » design elements that the big studios have abandoned for a reason.

    -As others have mentioned, there’s no soul to the design here. From what you’ve shown in the trailer I see nothing that makes Ethan an appealing character, and your levels are completely devoid of personality. Go back and study the geography and enemy of design of the classic platformers and ask yourselves what they do that you don’t.

    -Price. $10 doesn’t sound like much, but you’re an unproven studio and you’ve already pretty much lost me for the other reasons mentioned. I’d onlt pay $10 if you had blown me away with a previous effort. I game on both platforms you released on, but between steam sales and PS+ I have a lot of great options available to me that I perceive as better values. I’d advise you contact Sony and see if they can offer a heavy discount just so you can move some units and hopefully find an audience. If I saw this game had a PS+ sale for $2.99 I’d probably go ahead and grab it.

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  113. Michael

    I watched two trailers and dismissed the game immediately. The first didn’t include gameplay, which made me angry enough to want to hate the game no matter what followed, and the second was a series of player deaths that showed off a reasonably polished but mechanically tired platformer with nothing to offer (and terrible music). First impression: completely disinterested and slightly annoyed.

    I eventually saw a more complete trailer showing the physics-based puzzles. That lent the game some cool-factor, but these days, I would avoid it. Plain puzzlers don’t offer any sort of lasting fulfillment…. the reward just seems hollow. Give me C:SOTN’s advancement or Terraria’s world building for some sense of accomplishment and progress. For puzzles, I’ll just play Sudoku for a few mins and move on, or engage in a richly rewarding title like Portal where puzzles are combined with a deep world that seems alive beyond the puzzle room, complete with back story and humor and atmosphere and a strong sense of immersion and connection with the in-game avatar.

    In the 2D puzzle genre, Braid was a great example of something actually playable. Braid could almost have been boring were it not for a) extremely well executed and thematic art direction, and b) time manipulation being relatively uncommon. The latter is in big contrast to 2D physics-engines, which are a dime a dozen these days.

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  114. ItBurn

    Hi,

    Thanks for sharing all this info. I was also an indie dev and had a failure.

    - The community, gamers and reviewers are too nice. You absolutely can’t tell how well a game will sell by comments about it.

    - I didn’t buy the game because it looked like « just another platformer » and also I wasn’t a fan of the kiddie look. Most indie gamers are older. You should market to your public.

    - My #1 tip to you is that you should cater better to your public and also you shouldn’t be afraid to scrap everything and start over. You really have to get an idea that generates instant interest just by itself. I guess, do prototypes and see people’s reaction…

    - I have no idea how to do all of this and/or if it’s really the way to do it :p If I would, I would still be an indie dev…

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  115. Mashiki

    The biggest problem is recognition. Why didn’t it sell? No one knew about it, greenlight is great–but to be honest, not everyone looks at it. I don’t, my sister doesn’t, my best friends don’t, and neither does my father. And that’s the real problem, I frequent small but well known gaming sites, they know about it–in a general way, such as « game is shipping » but things that drive sales on sites like that are the site owners doing reviews, and word of mouth. And really there was nothing on the sites that I frequent to make the game standout, or pop.

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    1. Sensou

      While I wish you folks the best of luck (and I must say, your trailer seems very well-made)…

      1. As other people have said: I did not hear about your game until now.
      2. I have very minimal interest in the genre.

  116. Brian Woods

    Two reasons I didn’t buy:

    First, using words like « brutal » and « punishing » remind me of broken controllers and uninstalling/abandoning games. I like to be challenged, but not punished, brutalized or tortured.

    Second, it was timing. I read about the game on the Ps blog, but your release was in my run up to getting a PS4. Announcing a « crossbuy » with Vita and/or PS4 would have gotten my money.

    My unsolicited advice would be to work on your media plan. You need a firm strategy with dates to help build interest. You need something happening to pique people’s interest. You could hang the main part of this on any of your distribution platforms. If GoG was giving more attention, then make them your main channel. Partner with distributors who will help promote. Give coupon codes to people who share on social sites. Those people who helped with feedback and the gamecons? Why weren’t they given freebies help promote the release? Engage the audience before release the way you are now.

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  117. J

    Simple response: Starbound. $1,000,000 pre-sales in May 2013, now topping Ze Goddess knows how many.

    If you want a free but completely accurate break-down of why your game failed: you listened to the wrong voices (the « pros » who are paid to fake interest at fucking promo shows) and were mining something that simple wasn’t « zeitgeist ». And no, I’ve never heard of your project either, and I get paid to pick out the pre-Green Steamlight etc gems.

    Hint: you mention a demo in your list of woes. Your main page (http://www.ethan-game.com) has no demo.

    Some quick and dirty (and obvious) hints:
    #1 GTA V and/or AAA titles are not your competition. Tellingly you’re oblivious to the actual Indie titles that launched in that window
    #2 You’re not good at noticing the trends for Indie titles this quarter. Hint: Procedural Rogue-lights / Management games, with a focus on Space and Dungeon Delving. They’re hot.
    #3 Platformers never sell amazingly well, unless you’re lucky (*cough* Sonic *cough*). Braid gets a lot of hype: sold like shit, barring Humble Bundles.
    #4 A Google of « Ethan Meteor Hunter » today gives ~ 5 hits for your own website, 2 for joystiq and 1 youtube on the front page. If you don’t know why 5 hits for the same site on the first page is bad then, well.
    #5 Platformers with physics were ‘hot’ early this year: notably Rochard, The Swapper, Vessel and so on, and from your video these are your ACTUAL competition. All didn’t sell that well, with The Swapper (by far the most interesting) coming to Steam late and not selling well ~ if you weren’t aware of these as your direct competition then you need to take whoever advised you to spend $50k on promo shows and introduce them to a swimming pool and concrete shoes.

    And so on ~ quite frankly: you’re dinosaurs.

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  118. Xatolos

    I figure I’ll put in my two cents as to why I didn’t buy this game.

    To start with, I’ve never heard of it. This is always going to be the hardest part, and the other reasons might be why word of mouth didn’t help spread news of it like some other games.

    Your trailer video, name and art style made your game feel like it’s designed for a young children’s audience I think. If I didn’t read this article, I would have never known it wasn’t for young children. It’s very cutesy looking, something from a Saturday morning cartoon, something that as an adult I have no interest in. Not to mention, since I already feel this is a children’s game, I’m assuming your « Mind bending puzzle-platform adventure » will be a cake wake for anyone over the age of 14 (even if it isn’t).

    I think your trailer video really hurt you. You have, give or take, 5-10 seconds to sell me or I’m closing your video, this is how most people are going to think I feel. By 10 seconds, I’m watching (again) what looks like a cartoon. That opening video of the meteor dropping at his feet, in a very friendly/basic way, only helps the childhood feel. And I didn’t really have much interest in watching any further (I did though).

    Maybe in your video, you can show what makes your game stand out. Super Meat Boy shows it’s a fast paced game which is quite refreshing and different (in todays market), and showed things like an army of meat boys all moving as one which really helps show that this isn’t your normal game. Braid was quick to show it was about controlling time, even from death which was new and unique. Fez shows that the « 2D » world rotates, adding a unique twist. And all of these showed these kinds of differences in 10 seconds or less. Your video is a minute and a half long, and looks like so many other games of this genre. Your video also makes your game looks like your a clone of Little Big Planet with big buzz quotes of who said something about your game. That doesn’t grab my attention at any point.

    Maybe next time, drop the animal character. It’s very rare an adult game uses animals, it’s more found in children’s games. The character doesn’t need to be human, just not an animal. Think games like Oddworld and Super Meat Boy. This might have helped.

    Good luck with your future games.

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  119. Henry Dorsett

    Why didn’t I buy? For the same two very common reasons:

    1) Too many games like this out there.
    2) I never heard of it.

    Also, I don’t play this kind of game, but I do recommend a lot of games to friends and TwitchTV streamers, if I think they’ll like it.

    My advice: Use TwitchTV. Use it heavily. Generate buzz, get people broadcasting themselves playing your game, and talk to the streamers and chat while they’re playing. That’s done wonders for a number of games.

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  120. yon

    Sorry to hear that things aren’t working out for you at the moment. Congratulations on finishing the game. I imagine it must have been tremendously difficult.
    I read about your game on rps. It looked like a very difficult jump-and-run game and I don’t like those very much. I’ve also become a bit wary about how well jump-and-run and puzzle elements fit together. I quite liked Braid but I didn’t enjoy Vessel at all.
    I will vote for you on Greenlight, however.

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  121. Cantisque

    There are a few reasons I didn’t/wouldn’t buy it.

    1) Never heard of it.

    2) Visual design is fit for purpose, but does not look especially appealing.

    3) The price is just too high for something I don’t especially have any interest in.

    4) I have more platformer games on PC than I will ever likely be able to complete. Asking for my time and money against the existing competition is asking a lot, and the game doesn’t appear at first glance to be worth either.

    5) No Steam release, which I am fully aware cannot be helped since it needs to go through the Greenlight gauntlet.

    Other reasons that it probably isn’t selling well is:

    1) The lackluster website (might be a fault with my browser but I couldn’t see any in-game screenshots on the appropriate page, or a demo).

    2) Tough competition in the « INDIE SPACE ». Why you even bothered mentioning GTA5 as an influencing factor is beyond me!

    3) Introduction of a new IP from a studio with no track record in an oversaturated market. This is a risky proposal at the best of times, and isn’t helped by the fact that yours is so generic and stock.

    Just seems to me like a case of lack of advertising, lack of understanding of the market and lack of a compelling product.

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  122. agof

    still not on steam. checked greenlight and it seems i already upvoted it long time ago

    also try contacting GOG.com – more platforms isn’t less platforms

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  123. Scott Harper

    First, I never knew about this game until today when I saw this postmortem on Joystiq. You say that Joystiq wrote about it earlier this year, so maybe I saw that one and forgot about it? I never saw this game on PC, and never saw it on PSN. So there was no way I COULD have purchased it. Maybe Sony didn’t put it front-and-center or long enough to show up when I look at PSN every week or two?

    That said, having seen the preview trailer I still don’t think that I would purchase this game, and the reason is (and I hate that I’m about to say this) that your game looks too generic to grab my attention. It looks like fun, clever gameplay, but for me (and I imagine some number of other people) there needs to be a hook beyond just really awesome gameplay. Most of the new games coming out for the new consoles don’t interest me. Call of Duty: Ghosts, Dead Rising 3, Killzone, generic racing game (one each for PS4 and XB1)… nothing grabs me and says, « This is a game with style and attitude, that you really need to play. »

    Your game may well have all of that, but the advertising doesn’t show it.

    Also, Steam. Steam is where I look to answer the question, « What games are out that I could purchase? » This is just me, but the only games I purchase on PC are either on Steam or GOG; and the GOG games are really only the classics that I can’t GET on Steam. Spreading out where I have to go to access something in my library just doesn’t work for me.

    I am very sorry that I have no idea how you could have done things better on Greenlight, but fwiw I’m going to go upvote your game now, even if I wouldn’t buy it myself just yet. I hope that publishing this article helps raise some awareness of your game to more people like me, who didn’t even know it WAS a game until today.

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  124. Chris

    You made a 2D Platformer, there are hundreds of them already and without some very unique features people simply aren’t chomping at the bit to play them. If you want your game to stand out more then you need to either put money into marketing or look at making games in less crowded genres.

    I’m all for great games from great developers but I am so bored with the typical « indie 2D platformer » schtick that they all sort of flow into the same pastiche.

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  125. Ivan

    I’m super interested and I LOVE puzzle platformers and I do believe they are rare. If I heard about your game I would’ve considered it buying, BUT after seeing launch trailer there’s one thing that instantly put me off: timed puzzles or something about battling time. I love braid, I consider it one of the best of them all. And for one reason: it doesn’t pressure me on solving puzzles in certain time period. I like to take my time and relax solving it. I don’t need some counter or something like that. That is your design, I get it, but why do puzzles have to be timed? Let people enjoy them on their own pacing, don’t pressure the player with tickers. I love exploring and going steadily. I would’ve bought your game right now if it weren’t for the time trials.

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  126. Jack.OP

    First off, congratuations on all the stuff that went right. That’s not what this post is about, though. So without further ado, I am not interested in this game for the following reasons:

    1. It seems like most everyone in the comments is just taking the « punishing » and « we’re bastards » declarations at face value. I am enthralled by games like Super Meat Boy, IWBTG, and N, but when I went through a number of Let’s Plays, no given moment looked any more « punishing » than Super Mario World or something similar. Simply allowing your player to die is not punishing; it’s a shame that developers now think that they are « bastards » by engineering such a situation. So, by hanging the game’s success on a false notion of how much your players will be punished, you turn off 100 percent of the audience: the people who don’t play games in order to be frustrated, and the people who know that they will not get the thorough thrashing that they are looking for.

    2. The « pause the game to move and rotate a block » mechanic looked thoroughly tedious. The « puzzle » platforming seemed to be presenting the player with a movable block, and place that is out of jumping reach. They are solved in your mind’s eye in a fraction of a second. The actual action of pausing the game, flicking around a little cursor, and carefully situating a block seemed like a huge albatross around the neck of the gameplay; something that just grinds the action to a cumbersome halt.
    I feel like I’m beating a dead horse whenever I have to pull out the adage that everything about a game should be fun: moving in itself should be fun, jumping on its own should feel fun. Compare to the example of Askiisoft’s Pause Ahead which has a thematically-but-not-otherwise-similar thing. The action is « paused » while you work towards completing the level, but every second of it is riveting.
    (The parts that were strictly puzzles suffer from the same tedium, but now with the added notion of it having no resonance with the surrounding game. It makes me wonder why I’m playing a platformer that is interrupted by instances of Rush Hour, or vice versa. But then again, I didn’t like having to play Pipe Dream in order to get items in BioShock, so what do I know about that…)

    3. The art direction. I won’t go into it any more than anyone else has. It’s obviously technically proficient, but so too are the logo designs for the Olympics. It doesn’t prevent it from being repellant.

    But with 127 purchases vs. 156 comments and an exploding Reddit thread, it seems you know exactly how to get people to tell you what they didn’t like: just petulantly name-drop a bunch of better games :D

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  127. Kirill Kudryavtsev

    Really, guys.. PS Vita is the best platform for Ethan. There is a shortage of this type of games on Vita, I think.
    I hope you will get better result on Steam. Good luck.

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  128. Jason

    I think the 2 main problems are characters/story and art direction.

    Your game just feels and looks too generic. I’m not emotionally invested in your main character. He’s just boring to me. As shallow as it may seem, I think visual charm and appeal is actually more important now than gameplay. Visuals don’t necessarily need to be pretty (Minecraft and VVVVVV sure ain’t) but they need to be different in some way. I think there’s just an oversaturation of games now churning out the same things and I think completely unique gameplay is tough to come by. Yes, people spend only 30 seconds looking through each game because there are literally hundreds of titles out there and I can’t devote all of my time for each of them to see if I’m interested. Thirty seconds is all you got to catch my eye. Besides gameplay, you need something else to get me interested and catch my attention. That’s just my 2 cents though.

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  129. Sgt Psycho

    I am a Greenlight ‘power user’, have been very active in the forums since day 1, run my queue to zero regularly, and try to provide useful feedback to submitters in the form of constructive criticism and feedback, including reviews and alpha testing.

    For this submission (I just reviewed it) I would have voted ‘no’ as I’m not in your target market; I hate platformers. It seems okay, presentation is good, but Greenlight is swamped with platformers. You would need to be truly outstanding to get any headway there. As you’ve said, it’s very easy to dismiss a game within seconds if it does not show instant appeal.

    I agree that the per-submission community is not strong. The vast majority of visitors are simply there to register their vote, and leave a snarky/peppy message, if that. Few have a thriving community. The more successful ones seem to use Greenlight to springboard interest to their own forums/website where they collaborate with users while doing alpha/beta development up to release.

    On the other point of losing touch with voters, you should encourage people to subscribe by ‘following’ or ‘favouriting’ your submission. That way, when you add new content or news, they are notified through Steam.

    Greenlight users can change their vote at any time (unless it is accepted or removed) by simply return to the Greenlight page and changing their vote. Quite often, I will vote ‘no’ to something which is unfinished, but shows promise, but then Follow it. If no real changes have been made in six months (or more!) I unfollow it and forget it.

    On price, I feel that $10 is too much in market crammed with competition. That sucks, and I appreciate it’s hurtful to you, but that’s the reality of hundreds, if not thousands of products flooding the market. It’s very hard to stand out from the crowd when it’s that large. I feel this would get much better traction at $5-7.

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  130. Jean-Marc Giffin

    This article is so great and helpful, I feel genuinely obliged to respond to it.

    I was introduced to Ethan: Meteor Hunter via a « This Week on GOG.com » video. When I saw it, it immediately appealed to me for a few reasons:

    1. It was a puzzle platfomer. I love both puzzle games and platform games, so naturally the combined genre appeals to me.

    2. It had a cool time freeze mechanic.

    3. It starred a non-human character. I usually like it when games do that.

    However, here are the reasons I haven’t bought it yet:

    1. I already have a ton of puzzle-platformers in my backlog. They are mostly indie games. No sense in buying another when I’ve already bought some I haven’t gotten to yet.

    2. After reading some reviews, the thing that stood out to me was that it was extremely difficult and (in some people’s words) frustrating. I’m all for a challenging game, but there’s a difference between challenging (well-designed and fair but hard) and frustrating (poorly designed with cheap deaths). I didn’t know which type Ethan:MH was, but it made me wary.

    3. There was no demo to try out, so I had no way of checking out point #2 for myself.

    4. Because of the points above, I am not willing to pay $10 for it at this time.

    Perhaps once I have played some of my other puzzle platform games, or if I play a demo and really enjoy it, I would reconsider buying Ethan. It doesn’t matter to me that it’s not on Steam and not part of a bundle.

    Hope that helps!

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  131. Jam

    I am really sorry for you. While I did not and probably will not buy Ethan MH, it seems like a really solid effort that deserves success.

    Why I did not buy:
    1. Tough competition – There are a lot of high quality puzzle platformers on the market right now, so the ones I chose to invest time and money into have to feel somewhat unique in terms of game mechanics and…

    2. …Art direction – the game looks nice, but a little too generic, especially the hero. The puzzle platformers I bought or intend to buy all have a very distinct look: The Swapper, Closure, Teslagrad, Aaru’s Awakening, Full Bore (the latter has a rather traditional retro look, but has superbly animated boars as hero-characters, which you do not see that often in games).

    Hope I could help, wish you the best!

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    1. Jam

      Well, you guys really got me thinking. And actually it is not just the art that I find so appealing about the games I mentioned, but rather the setting, the atmosphere (which includes sound design, too). I do not necessarily need an expansive story to be immersed, but a cohesive, original and fascinating world is always a big plus for me.

      I have watched some more Ethan MH trailers and one of them was done in Flash-style showing Ethan, another rat and a meteor-crash (the intro of the game?). As someone who has worked a little in video-editing and animation, I have to say that, while I do appreciate that you did it nonverbally, neither animation (sometimes plain stills might even be the better option) nor pacing (let it « breathe » a little more) were ideal. And the story seemed rather superficial. If you have a story to tell, make sure it has some amount of emotional impact (even if that means being genuinly funny, which is not so easy actually). Even if there is no real story: let the enviroment be your narrator, show progression through seamless change of the surroundings, make it as organic and plausible as the games setting allows and maybe carefully integrate vague hints, mysterious and memorable elements, which stimulate the players imagination.
      Of course your game might have some of those elements, but the videos I have seen did not give me the impression that it did.
      I am looking forward to see what you make of all these comments (fortunately most of them seem to be quite constructive)!

  132. Jam

    And having a DEMO for people to download and try themselves always helps. Their respective demos convinced me of Aaru’s Awakening and Teslagrad for example.
    Your trailer looks interesting in terms of gameplay, but does not fully convey how the controls work – a demo can achieve just that.

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    1. Seaven Studio Auteur de l’article

      Yep, now the game is out and finished, we took the time to work on a cool demo. Keep in touch, it’ll be out soon :)

  133. A

    The ‘manipulate the world’ mechanic is neat… The stuff around it looks too boring and crappy though. I really liked The Incredible Machine when I was growing up. An Incredible Machine platformer without talking mice or whatever would be cool.

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  134. Matt P

    I just purchased your game on PC and I really like it so far. In fact I liked it so much that I bought the PS3 version as well to help support your company.

    I think the game is good, and has a lot of positive things going for it, but making games in this day and age is different than it was 5 years ago. Gaming is everywhere now, and it’s very easy for a game to get lost in the shuffle. For someone like me who keeps up to date on the latest gaming news, it’s easy for me to find a lesser known game like Ethan and do what it takes to obtain it.

    However, reaching the masses with your game takes a lot of hard work and marketing. The options that gamers have these days are limitless, and sometimes putting all of your blood, sweat, and tears, into pushing your product just isn’t enough for smaller companies. Awareness of a product is critical, and I’ll be honest, of all the gamers I know, I’m the only person that has any idea what this game is.

    I’m really glad I found it, and I’m enjoying it. I wish your company all the best in the future, and I look forward to your future products.

    On a positive note, the amount of honesty and openness with your fans is a VERY good thing. communicating with customers and potential customers is worth all the time invested. It’s easy to forget about a game company that just cranks out a high profile game and rakes in the money, but the way that you interact with your fans is very uplifting, and it makes me glad that I took the time to find out about your game, and support a gaming company that is out to please the fans, fix what they did wrong, and try to improve their future products for the players.

    Thank you, your efforts have not gone un-appreciated.

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  135. A B

    I don’t know if you’re still checking the comments here, but I’ll leave my two cents here, anyway.

    To answer your main question, i did buy the game. But I bought it through the Groupees bundle.

    The bad news is that your share of what I paid for the bundle is obviously just a fraction of what you get from a full price, direct sale. But the good news is that I actually picked your game among the ones offered by Groupees, even though a Steam key was not available (Greenlight and all, I know). This is not my usual behaviour, so it means your game actually got my interest and triggered a (very small, sure) investment on my part.

    More bad news: I actually found out about the game through Groupees, despite following the indie scene half-regularly.

    Additional thoughts (based on the trailer, I can’t play the game for now):

    - The game looks well done, but the art style is a bit bland and… « brown », especially the metals. Sorry I can’t find better words to express this point.

    - The dissonance between cuteness and brutality is hard to get right, it’s acceptable to get some criticism about that.

    - You mention with pride the progress you achieved from the prototype to the final game: this is a very internal parameter. Maybe you lacked some external input and feedback?

    - You need to be on Steam (but you’ll be in 3 days so no need to talk more about this).

    - The price can be objectively considered fair, but many factors are at play here, some of which cultural or psychological and not at all objective. It seems to me, frankly, that the game did not achieve an universal acclaim, nor a critical darling/trendy status, nor a cult following. I’m not saying it’s necessary and I’m not saying it wouldn’t deserve it: I’m saying you should accept the situation and lower your expectations in some ways. In any case, I’m strongly convinced that 254 sales at 5$ are much better than 127 at 10$.
    Also consider these are the days of bundles and quick price drops/sales. Batman Arhkam Origins was released 3 months ago and I could buy it today for 17$. Again, the message here is not « AAA rules » or « your game is lame », it’s a message about perspective and the perceived value of money and games.
    Consider a price drop!

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  136. Sébastien

    Bonjour! Comme je constate que des compatriotes français on répondu dans la langue de Molière, je ferais de même.

    Je ne répéterais pas ce qui a déjà été dit très largement, à savoir la direction artistique un peu fade ou pas assez attirante au premier regard. Je ne pense très sincèrement pas que le fait qu’elle ait un rapport ou pas avec le sujet du jeu ait une quelconque importance pour la plupart des gens. Il suffit que le jeu ait une gueule à lui, pour que cela plaise que ça soit en rapport ou pas avec ce qui est raconté.

    En revanche, je vais être un peu brutal, le jeu a l’air tout simplement trop commun. Ça ne se joue pas seulement sur la direction artistique, ça vient aussi du principe du jeu qui n’a rien de révolutionnaire en apparence et qui n’a pas une feature qui sort de l’ordinaire. Quand on s’aventure à faire un jeu dans un domaine déjà très encombré par des titres célèbres (en l’occurrence on pensera à Braid, Fez, Trine, Limbo etc…) il faut soit un élément de gameplay pas vu ailleurs, soit une direction artistique qui sort le jeu du marasme.

    Pour moi Ethan n’a ni l’un ni l’autre. Trine est plus beau et plus aguicheur en terme de gameplay, quand bien même il joue sur des codes éculés jusqu’à plus soif de l’héroïc-fantasy. Braid a une mécanique de jeu unique et des graphismes bien à lui, Limbo aussi joue sur une atmosphère lourde, Fez a cette idée de jouer en 3D mais dans une visualisation 2D et avec un très beau pixel art.

    Je pense que le choix de faire un plateformer/puzzle était une erreur si vous n’aviez pas de quoi en faire autre chose qu’un jeu correct sans plus, encore une fois EN APPARENCE. Les apparences sont peut-être trompeuses, peut-être que le titre est véritablement génial, mais ni visuellement, ni dans la vidéo de gameplay, je n’ai eu l’envie une seule seconde de me le procurer.

    En somme, mon point de vue (qui reste le mien bien entendu) c’est que ce qui marche est soit lié à une mode (en ce moment c’est le survival et le rogue-like) soit à un caractère unique qui démarque le jeu de la concurrence ou semble le rendre particulièrement soigné et peaufiné, ce qui n’a pas été le cas avec Ethan.

    J’espère n’avoir pas semblé trop dur et je vous souhaite malgré tout beaucoup de chance à l’avenir et que vous nous clouerez le bec si vous décidez de refaire un jeu. Je respecte mille fois plus n’importe quel dev indépendant qui parie sa chemise sur un jeu qu’une énorme boîte qui nous sort un Triple A reskiné de l’année passée en le vendant comme l’ultime jeu. Et pourtant j’aime aussi les AAA.

    Bonne continuation donc.

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  137. Ogami3D

    Shortly I think the main problem is the idea of the game mechanics. Platform game meets point and click elements? Two different world.
    I just saw the gameplay video and that was my first thought. The puzzle parts just stops the game mechanic / flow. e.g. It will be much better if the player can move the cubes with directly.
    Sorry because I’m too straight.
    I know how hard it is. I’m in the indie world too.

    I hope the best

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  138. Mark "Happy-Ferret" Bauermeister

    I am a bit late to the party, sorry.

    The reason I didn’t buy the game right away (I now own it as part of a bundle offer) was the lack of OS support.
    I seldom use Windows, at all. Most of my time is spent developing and gaming on my GNU/Linux laptop and my Mac Pro running Mac OS X Mavericks.

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