Category Archives: The Real Laser Ball

Steam Curators, Anxiety, and Paid Reviews

Since The Real Laser Ball is my first game, and a pretty simple game at that, I didn’t do a full court marketing push. I am instead relying on Steam curators, user reviews, twitter, friends, and Reddit. I won’t be doing a full press release to gaming sites for this one(Though, if Rock Paper Shotgun covered my game in any way I think I would shit my pants) and will be saving that for the next game (already in the works, more updates to come). On Sunday night I sent the game out to around 65 curators that I thought would enjoy it, or that cover similar games.

It is a strange feeling to send out a copy of your game to a bunch of strangers for them to review it. It’s been two days of nervously refreshing the curator connect page to see who downloaded a copy and if anyone has left a review yet. I think the anxiety is much less about them liking it and more about it not breaking. My mother attributed it to “Hoping the other kids at school like your kid.” But I think of it more as “Hoping my kid doesn’t take a shit on the desk in home room.” However, much to my extreme relief, I did just get a recommendation that doesn’t say the game is a desk shitter:

“A unique propulsion-based movement mechanic makes Laser Ball a deviously simple arcade score-chaser with a diabolically addictive and challenging spin. A chill synthwave soundtrack just seals the deal” That actually sounds cooler than any of my marketing lines! I am super excited now to see what the other curators have to say.

On the other side of the marketing coin I have been getting some super shady e-mails from “Promoters” who I assume just constantly scan the Steam upcoming releases section and send e-mails to the the devs/publishers. Some of them are fine, and possibly even useful, but some of them have been selling paid reviews. Which pisses me off to no end.

Story time! When I used to live in Orlando a group of my friends and I decided to start an online nightlife magazine (Off The Bridge Orlando, now defunct). We did this because we kept seeing shit restaurants and bars PACKED to the brim due to the amazing reviews they were getting in the Orlando news papers and lifestyle magazines. We had spoken with a good friend who owned a a phenomenal pub and found out that these publications would essentially sell a positive review to anyone willing to pay for it. After speaking with many more owners it seemed that this was just how the system worked. This meant that solid, interesting, and well managed establishments were ghost towns while terrible places were swimming in customers because they were willing to shell out a few grand for a thumbs up. We started our site and exploded fast since we were upfront that our reviews were based on our opinions and the quality of the establishment and we in NO WAY charged or received money or perks from or for our reviews. People flocked to it because they could trust in that what we wrote wasn’t based on a cash grab. Mom and pop places that truly deserved customers started to get them and even though we eventually failed as a business (Some not too smart decisions when it came to one of our live events kinda sorta made two of us homeless and we shuttered the site) we felt great that we were able to be a part of a change in how people discovered which businesses deserved their patronage.

Circle back to now and I am getting shit like this:

This was the cheapest option.

That is not only super shady, but fairly fucked up when viewed through the lens of a consumer. I look at the list of games that this curator has recommended (quite a lot) and I gotta wonder if they are indeed any good? Or if they just look great because they shelled out the cash.

I want to make money off this endeavor. I want to keep creating digital toys and eventually stories. I want to not have to sit in a cubical again and still pay my bills. I think every indie dev feels the same way. But, once we start fucking the consumer by manipulating the system that allows them to find the games/developers that deserve their patronage we will be no better than the titans in the industry we all find so fun to hate. Maybe it’s because I am just new to how this whole system works, but this seems like an extremely dangerous path to go down if Indie Gaming is to thrive.

Submitted to Steam for review

The day has finally come (a whole lot later than I had originally planned) and I have submitted my Steam store page and most recent game build to Valve for review. Fingers crossed I can have The Real Laser Ball released within the next 3 weeks. Sooooooo cloooooooose. In celebration, below is some straight high level gameplay of The Real Laser Ball.

The trailer for the game should be coming out today or tomorrow and a release date will be announced soon!

Still working on The Real Laser Ball trailer

Coming from a background in film and computer animation, I figured making the trailer would be the easiest part of making this game. I WAS VERY VERY WRONG.

I have made about 12 versions of the trailer so far and I am not sure if I’m done yet. Turns out it is arduous to convey the feeling of playing your game into a video that’s under 2 minutes long. This is made especially challenging when your game has no story or acting in order to allow you to essentially mimic a film trailer. I am hoping to have this completed by end of day today so that I can post it tomorrow. It is the second to last item I need done before I can make The Real Laser Ball’s Steam page live.

Bug fixes, steam checks, and achievements oh my!

Today is a half day as I am prepping the house for my wife’s birthday. Had a few small items on the todo list, which is good because I only had a few hours of work.

Bugs

  • Only 1 major bug today, which was the fade screen. This is a UI black image with an attached canvas group that uses a coroutine to fade the alpha up to 1 and back down to 0 for scene transitions. If the player made a menu selection before the fade in, it would break the script. This is because I wrote this one super early on, and I did a very bad job with it. The new code is a little less clean but protects against player input breaking the script. Happy this one is done as it has been on the list for months. I goofed around for a bit with the idea of a proper “loading screen” but decided the fast fade to black was nice and clean and in matching with the aesthetic. If I am feeling adventurous I might look into doing a VHS static/tracking error transition.
  • Minor bug that was producing a non-game-breaking error. This was a colliding sphere on the shooting enemy death explosion that was left over from when I thought about have the background particles react to explosions (too resource intensive). The sphere’s code had the collider grow far too large for the game to handle. Disabling the sphere solved the issue.

Steam

  • Reset all achievements for testing purposes
  • added some checks to see if steam is running
    • if the app launches without steam, or a steam_appid.txt files it will close the game and attempt a launch through steam.
    • if the app detects a steam_appid.txt file it will try and delete the file.
    • If it cannot delete the file it will end the application.
    • If it can delete the file, and then run another steam check successfully, the game will continue.
    • If the Steamworks.net does not initialize properly, it will end the game.
    • These checks are not to protect against piracy, but to ensure my code works properly as it is far easier to say “The game cannot run without Steam (it can still run in offline mode)” than to plan for situations where the app is launched on its own. As far as DRM goes, this would be pretty damn easy to circumvent.

General clean-up

  • Got sick of the hundreds of debug lines I had put into the game constantly popping up, commented them all out (for the most part)
  • Started adding regions to the code for easy viewing later

On Monday I will continue to general clean-up of the code as well as start testing the steam build depots and cloud storage. Now I have to go pick up an 8ft inflatable unicorn (that sprays water out of its horn) from the post office for my wife’s birthday. She really wanted one… and so did I.

Trailer Work for The Real Laser Ball

Spent a good amount of yesterday building patio furniture, cleaning out the backyard, building poles for string lights and making the trailer for The Real Laser Ball

It’s been a long time since I have had to do any video editing so it was nice to drag those skills out of the small box in my closet and put them back to work.

Announcing The Real Laser Ball

The Real Laser Ball is a short, straightforward game meant to be played in brief intervals (10 to 30 minutes at a time), while also maintaining a sense of progression between each session. Blast your enemies, collect some coin, upgrade your ball, and chase your (and the leaderboard’s) high score… all while huffing that sweet 80’s nostalgia. Expect a difficult score chasing arcade game. The Real Laser Ball will release on July 31st on Steam. Expect more updates, screenshots, and gameplay videos over the rest of the month.