So A House of Many Doors launched one week ago. I’m still reeling.
I’d hoped for a break after releasing the game, but instead I’ve found myself working just as hard as before.
Once the hubbub dies down I’d like to collate my thoughts on HOMD into a longer, polished blog post that I might put up on GamaSutra or somewhere. This isn’t that. This isn’t an official postmortem – you can’t reflect on an event when it’s still ongoing. These are rougher notes, crumpled and hasty and ill-considered, scrawled from a foxhole as more bug-reports explode overhead.
- Art, music, writing, atmosphere, setting and characters: Everyone loves all of these. I knew the first two would be successes, because Catherine and Zach are living gods, but I’m glad my writing has also received a lot of enthusiasm. This is good news – it’s much easier to patch out bugs than it would be to improve on any of these!
- The game has a ‘Very Positive’ rating on Steam, which I’m chuffed about. People warned me that the Steam forums were a strange and hostile place, but my experience has been the opposite – the vast majority of people there have been lovely. Thanks are due to all of ’em.
- I’ve had a flood of hugely affectionate tweets and emails from people who love the game’s story. I’ve had fanart of a dancing kinetopede, tweets from people saying the game was the first to make them cry, snippets of my writing have been cut out and pasted around with delight… After months of lonely toil, it’s been a real treat to see people engage like that.
- It was fantastic to work in Failbetter’s offices and get to know them so well. They’re lovely, lovely people and I learned a huge amount – much more than I would have on my own. Friends!
- It was a buggy launch. In retrospect I really wish I’d opted for 1-2 weeks of Steam’s Early Access program . HOMD is a massive game – it has more characters, locations and quest branches in it than the vast majority of AAA RPGs. That’s not me bragging, it’s just numbers. There’s a reason developers like Obsidian have a reputation for both massively intricate reactive storylines and lots of bugs: One often comes with the other. And those are AAA developers, with a fleet of dedicated QA testers! Given all the different possibilities in HOMD, as a solo dev I was never going to be able to test all branches of every quest without delaying the game for another six months, which I couldn’t afford to do. I cut lots of content from the game, but I suspect the best thing would have been to cut more. Another lesson learned.
- BUT: I’ve released 14 patches since the game launched this time last week. That’s 2 a day! The bugs that were present on launch day are gone. If you’ve been holding off from buying the game or playing it until the bugs were ironed out, now’s your time.
- Finally: Lack of media attention. Apart from the always-great Rock Paper Shotgun, who posted a Wot I Think, the press has mostly ignored HOMD. I think that’s a shame, and it’s not for lack of marketing on my part – I had a specific marketing plan and worked hard on it for the last 4 months. But there’s not much I can do at this point. If you’re following this blog or you backed me on Kickstarter, I need you to help spread the word that HOMD exists. If you happen to be on Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, Steam, any other forums, or your local street corner, and the mood strikes you: Why not post a HOMD screenshot, or open up a discussion, or hold a sign over your head and scream at passers-by?
- I have no idea. More bugfixing and marketing, for a while. Maybe a content update or two, further down the road – there are still many stories to be told in HOMD’s weird parasitic world. Much F5ing as I watch sales trickle in. And of course, I still need to work on the making-of PDF for backers.
- I’d like to do a new project eventually – my brain’s so crammed with ideas it makes the inside of my skull ache – but that heavily depends on how successful HOMD proves to be, and right now I’m a little burned-out and need some time to recover from the 100-hour weeks I spent on this mad behemoth of a game. I’d also like to join a larger team and do some collaborative work – if anyone out there is hiring writers/designers, get in touch.
It’s a weird feeling, to be finished. If you enjoyed the game, if you posted fanart, if you come up with any fan-theories – let me know. It feeds me, like carrion feeds the Lord of Crows. Now if you excuse me I’m going to go lie my exhausted body before His Many-Beaked Magnificence and beg for a soothing oblivion.