Friday Facts #74: Great Expectations
Last patch we wrapped up our effort for the Tourism Update, and the results are encouraging. Engagement is high and the reception has been overall positive. But upon reflection, something we could have done better going into this coordinated effort would be to set expectations.
As a small indie game development team, we’re not exactly operating on a traditional business timeline. We plan ahead, sure, but organization is something we strive to be better at. The trailer, for example, did have much thought and effort put through it because we knew the base concept was going to be well received. We were right; however, if we had some hard metric to aim for, I feel as though it might have improved the quality of the work.
So much of business is based on speculation and expectation, especially in the games industry. In a creative-driven tech field, risk mitigation makes a big difference between the studios that move onto create great works and those that have the ability to, but fail to deliver.
Lone Pine Games is fortunate to have the success we’ve seen and continue to see so far. I think a lot of that has to do with the down-to-earth approach we’ve taken since the beginning of the project. We strive to be transparent in our decisions and interactive with the community, and we’ve seen great benefits from that. NewCity is, and always will be, a product of passion. Players have latched onto that in many different ways, most of them positive!
That being said, setting expectations gets a lot of people into trouble. Perhaps the largest example of this would be Cyberpunk 2077, a project that was marketed for the better half of a decade on blowing their previous work out of the water(GOTY Witcher 3) in terms of quality. Expectations were gargantuan, and the failure to meet them could have been catastrophic, if not for the sheer size of the playerbase. Our humble studio will hopefully never see a situation like that.
On some level, it is a feat to have a player base that big to disappoint! Our game has a lot of heart, and I can’t help but think that building hype is both necessary and dangerous.
I don’t think anyone plans to fail. No one expects to fall short of the goal—whatever their goal may be. But in the wild and wonderful world of game development, there are a lot of different, competing goals floating around. Both among the community and even within a given development team.
Take the game of chess, for example. I’ve started playing chess in lieu of Hearthstone to unwind at the end of the day. And while I’ve known how to play chess for years, I’m discovering that I have absolutely no idea how to play chess.
In chess, your pieces on the board are often referred to as “material.” There’s competing schools of thought here: some might cite an unwritten rule that you should never willingly give up material, while on the other side of the spectrum skilled players bait opponents with trades to create a more advantageous position quite frequently. It seems to be one of those rules you need to learn and internalize so you can feel out when to break it as you improve.
Goals can change on a moment by moment basis. Within a given match you may have a series of goals, all leading up to the ultimate goal of checkmating the opponent’s king. “Trade a knight to get their bishop,” “lure their queen out of position” — without consciously thinking about it, your goals are constantly shifting as the board state changes.
There are a lot of parallels here with game development. Our ultimate goal isn’t to fail, but to fulfill our vision of a modernized classical citybuilder. There’s a series of subgoals in there, shifting and changing like the tides, that we’re using to inch our way toward the finish line. Some of the subgoals might seem like a step back — a “trade of material,” if you will — as we try to position ourselves for victory. Some goals take a while to set up properly. But to the best of our strategic ability, all the goals are meant to keep us moving forward, evolving the game state toward the conclusion.
Game development is a marathon. Filled with expectations met and unmet on both sides of the process. But rest assured we’re grinding our way toward v1.0 with every step, and we’re so thankful to have the support of our community along the way.
Questions? Comments? Feedback on the game? Sound off on our Discord.
As always, we’re incredibly thankful for our great community across the web. We love seeing the hard work and attention to detail you pour into your cities, and it inspires us every day to keep building. Thank you again for your support.
If you want to play the game and haven’t got it yet, head over to our Steam page. We’re also on Reddit and Twitter. Give us a follow if you haven’t, and we’ll keep you up to date on what’s new with NewCity!