As always, here's a link to the ∞ Android version of Taming Dreams ∞
, since attention to it went down a lot when I didn't include one! Speaking of which, the game's not been a huge success so far. I know that's because I've yet to actively promote it, but - while most of the feedback has been positive, some very positive - some statistics and negative feedback makes me wonder about where I should actually go from here...
First, some hard stats. So far, I've earned about $300 from sales of episode 3. This isn't a lot. It's certainly a far cry from the instant millions I'd naively hoped for.
This is the data for people who saw the game in the app store, those who downloaded it, and those who bought episode 3, for December 2015:
I uploaded the game to the app store on the 20-somethingth, so that represents a week or two.
This mostly represents the 'hardcore fans' who've been following me for a while. Though many at least had a look at the game in the app store, few were actually interested enough to download it, and only a fraction of those both got to the end of episode 2 and wanted to (and were able to) buy episode 3...
Here's the stats for January so far:
Somehow (app store searches?), more people have seen it (the number isn't cumulative; that is, this doesn't include the amount from December), but an even smaller percentage of those have actually wanted to download it, and only a tiny fraction wanted to pay money for it.
This makes me sigh. I understand that long-time MARDEK fans would be willing to pay for the game, but what about the uninitiated masses? Those who've never heard of me, who aren't necessarily drawn to games like this? Would I ever find a niche?
I wish I'd not tried to design the game as a reboot of MARDEK. I wrote the story as it is because I was trying to stick to the format of MARDEK's story, but now it feels as if I'm stuck with a shaky foundation... Like trying to add meat to malformed bones; no matter how beautiful that meat might be, the overall result will still appear disfigured, unattractive.
The beginning in particular bothers me. I don't feel it's very gripping at all. A dungeon romp, a lot of hard-to-understand talking, two probably-unattractive guys talking about gameplay mechanics... and it drags on. I've shown the game to people I know in person, and their attention wasn't held beyond the Evil God because, well, the game just didn't seem very interesting to them. It doesn't matter how good the rest of the story is; it's that beginning that'll make or break it for most people. I hate how I'm stuck with this now.
And how I'm stuck with having to make tons of episodes, too. I've been cutting down the story a lot over the past few days, to 18 rather than 40-odd episodes as I said the other day, but even that seems a bit too much work. It'll take years to make all those. There are too many characters, too many intertwined threads in the plot, too much baffling complexity. Reviews have commented on the poor pacing; I feel that's true too, and very likely off-putting.
I've been thinking a lot about whether I could just start the game anew... sort of. Or rather, start another game with the same engine but a much more streamlined plot, cast, that kind of thing. Six episodes rather than eighteen. A small cast of adults, rather than children. Clearer dialogue, themes, etc; more relatable and immediately gripping. I have a lot of ideas I'd like to explore, and I've already written a sketch of a full six-episode plot that I could use for this.
But then I know the outrage it'd cause amongst those who've already supported Taming Dreams... The terrible things it'd say about my reputation, my reliability.
So I feel trapped on a path that might not even work out... Though I understand that the few people who've paid for episode 3 are interested in seeing what happens next, that interest - and the fear of disappointing them - sadly won't be able to justify the months of effort I'll need to pour into episodes if all I'm going to be getting in return is a few hundred dollars.
In the past I've always worked for the joy of it... I loved to create. But recently I've been reflecting on how I've basically wasted my life doing this. I've never had a proper job. I don't know what future awaits me with my qualifications (or rather, lack thereof). It's bleak, or rather I fear I'll have to get a career in this line of work which only causes me frustration these days.
It's particularly draining knowing that people have been complaining about the amount I'm daring to charge for Taming Dreams, about my apparently foolish business decisions. I understand that it's important to tackle these things sensibly, but I've never been a businessman, and having to think about it all just leaves me feeling dead inside, unable to create. There's a reason the 'starving artist' archetype exists; loads of creative types are terrible with the business side of things because they don't really care about it, they just want to make things.
I'm at a point now where I'm not sure what to do next. I know that I need to release the iOS version of Taming Dreams and promote it, but I know that once I do, I'll be locked into a promise to provide 15 more episodes to continue a story that might not even be of much interest to many people at all, and which might not be profitable to me, not worth the time and effort.
Alternatively, I could postpone (but not necessarily cancel) Taming Dreams and use its engine and assets to (relatively quickly) build a new game with a hopefully more engaging and definitely less epic story; one I might have a hope of finishing in less than a year. The freshness of it might reinspire me creatively, leading to quick development. Having a finished story relatively quickly would allow me to package all six episodes together into one, which I could release as a single product on things like Steam (if possible).
I'd love to go down that path. But I know that people will hate it if I do, so I'm stuck. It's probably a bad decision anyway, irrational.
I'm just not really sure what to do. I used to spend all day every day working on my games... Now the draw of spending time with actual friends and doing my academic work are far stronger, and I come home and think "I don't want to work on that stupid game today, I'll do it tomorrow". My feelings would be immensely different if the money had been pouring in, but I know I need to promote it before there's any chance of that happening, and, well.
I know I'm not handling this very Professionally, and I know that probably bothers a lot of people who just want me to be a games-making machine... But sadly the same mind that brought this work into being isn't well-suited to business or promotion! Moody artists and businessmen tend not to occupy the same cognitive niches in the world.
Anyway, I suppose I'll have to spend some more time dwelling on it. I might start work on that alternate idea anyway, even if it doesn't go anywhere, just to rekindle my interest in Taming Dreams if nothing else (which is what happened when I tried working on that 'Wavelengths' thing about a year ago; making that reminded me of why I was working on Taming Dreams (then MARDEK 4) and so I returned eagerly to that before long). I wish I were more reliable about this, I really do, but it's hard to even get out of bed these days, and not due to laziness. I'm doing the best I can, but with a black beast within you, energy and enthusiasm become very limited.