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Flufftopia Postmortem: An Itch.io game by the numbers

by Daniel da Silva on 04/05/18 10:21:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

This is a Postmortem for Flufftopia, a small, free game we released about a month ago and got very lucky with. First off: there’s a ton of spoilers ahead, so we recommend playing it for yourself before reading this. Don’t worry, it’s rather short (20-30 minutes per playthrough). It’s the second game by our German indie studio SmokeSomeFrogs.

History

Our previous programmer hasn’t been part of the team since January (we started working together in 2016 and managed to make one game) and the rest of the team, consisting of me, Daniel (@Moaning_Clock), and Angela (@MadameYavi), decided to continue developing games because we simply enjoy it. The problem was that neither Angela nor I had any substantial experience in programming. A “Hello World” was the best we could produce on our own. In January we made two different games: Angela worked on a really weird clicker/idle/incremental game and I decided to make sort of a 2D walking simulator for a game jam. She worked in Unity, I used GameMaker 1.4. After that we decided that she should focus on the programming side because she learns a lot faster than me. Towards the end of January we began to work on a clicker game called Fluffyclicker which was the working title for Flufftopia at the time. Originally, we wanted to release a game called Devastated in the first quarter of this year (we started working on it in September last year) but since we were left without a programmer, we wanted to gain a little bit more experience before further development.

 

The Game

Flufftopia is a game about expectations. It’s a very cute game which changes its tone to something weird/not so cute in the end. You buy new buildings for the Fluffs (the residents of the town you manage) to earn your Flufftown the title of Flufftopia. These buildings (and the workers you put into) are producing Fluffcoins and with Fluffcoins you buy new buildings etc. In the middle of the game your host “Happy” asks you to help him out. Now it’s up to you: You can either accept or decide not to help. If you decline he will ask you again but if your response remains the same he will disappear. He will be replaced by a new host and you’re free to play until you get a happy end.

But, once you decide to help, he will ask you to hire a particular number of Fluffs to a particular set of buildings. After that, the tone changes. You dive deep into the system and see some unsettling details about the world of Flufftopia. The Fluffs aren’t as free and happy as you would think they are. In the end you’re able to free Happy after completing two puzzles.

We were a bit concerned because we didn't know if players would response nice to this shift in the tone but in the end almost everyone liked it.

 

Working

Angela has two main tasks, Art and Programming, and she does most of the website stuff. In some cases that would be enough for an indie studio but there’s a whole lot of tasks left, which I’m responsible for. I’m writing and planning, making most of the music/sounds and gamedesign/concepts and I focus on PR and marketing. My main responsibility is to make decisions. I also write the devlogs even though Angela writes the scripts for the videos on YouTube were we have weekly DevDiary series.

It’s a lot to do for a two person team but also very nice: everything is going really fast especially because we are living together. For us, a normal workday doesn’t start at 9 and ends at 5. It fluctuates. Sometimes we work as much as 12 hours a day. A lot of the time, Angela works more than I do, while I’m gathering data and ideas from the internet, writing and doing stuff that Angela does not want to do and help to plan her day and working schedule. I make a lot of coffee too.

 

At first, working on Flufftopia seemed like a smooth experience. We wanted to release the game in the end of February because a friend of us came to visit and we wanted to make a game with him (but that’s a whole other story). In the end we decided to release it in the beginning of March because we underestimated the workload, having to work up to 16 hours in the end. Don’t get me wrong - forced crunch is real problem in the industry but we decide to do that in order to learn a lot in a short period of time. There’s not really an external factor because we don’t make a significant amount of money from our games. Also, there’s no real shortage of time at the moment since Angela is learning from home to get a higher education and I’m a student and currently on vacation. In any other situation this would not have been possible.

 

Shortly before launch and the launch itself

In the end, it was all a bit too much – we were still working on the game on the day of the release (March 6th), which is obviously a bad sign. Our trailer was made in about 30 minutes as well as all of our other material for the launch. We are both German creepypasta narrators on YouTube and posted a announcement on our channels and made an entry to our devlog. At first we also wanted to release a Linux version but we decided against that, instead focussing on Windows. We conducted a small testing phase and made a lot of adjustments during the last days before release (cut the second game mode since it produced a lot of bugs, prepared two separate builds for English and German and cut the save system (also a lot of bugs)) but in the end everything went well more or less. We had around 60 downloads on Itch.io after the first day and even if this isn’t great for our standards (in regards to our last game which had around 70 downloads after the first day) it wasn’t bad either. Even though we were hoping to get more things right because it’s about a year since we released our first game. We didn’t write to any press people for the release because it’s an incremental game and PR for incremental games is an absolute nightmare.

We were just happy to have it finally be released and I made a little post on a subreddit. Angela went on a vacation for three days and visited her mom. One night she made a vital decision and posted in another subreddit (r/incremental_games) and after our second day (also with around 60 downloads) we had a day with over 200 downloads which was absolutely amazing for us and around that time our popularity rank was 11 (so close!). We were also especially lucky because Leafo (the person behind Itch.io) had put us in the Fresh Releases section on the front page!

 

Decisions

We decided to update the game soon after the release, first of all because the Windows version was a 64 bit build (we simply didn’t think about compatibility) and we wanted to push out a Linux build. Angela arrived on Friday the 9th of March, three days after the launch on Tuesday, and we worked on the ports and also on a small content update that same night. We also fixed some typos and stuff like that. On March 10th our first update, the 1.1 version, was released, (with a new trailer fortunately) and we posted about the game on r/linux_gaming. The Linux community seems to be very welcoming and thankful for ports and we want to continue supporting Linux in the future. The post blew up a bit and we had over 300 upvotes but still, the post in incremental games was more effective in the end. We finally wrote to some press people which resulted in a little Let’s Play by Jupiter Hadley (thank you!). At this point there were already some nice Let’s Plays by others and it was cool to see that. One day after that we also published a webversion on Kongregate which did not last long because it seems that most of the players didn’t read the host’s texts and were very confused/had a bad time when it did come to the end part although some people really loved it. We asked Kongregate to put the game down and will maybe upload a new build with the second game mode included in the future.

 

Everything changes over night

Then something incredible happened. A Brazilian Let’s Player, Felps, made a Let’s Play of Flufftopia on March 26th. It’s “only” one video and at the moment it has over 250.000 Views. It resulted in about 1500 downloads in about two days. We were absolutely overwhelmed at this point and extremely thankful for it. This also lead to two other YouTubers making a Let’s Play about Flufftopia, for which we are, of course, also very grateful for. We had one download the day before and it seemed that we would soon have headed into the phase where you don’t talk about daily downloads anymore. 850 downloads was our count before this event and this was already an incredible response because that was more than half of the overall downloads for Intra-System: Trust Issues (our first game) and everything seemed to be going nicely but this was really unexpected.

 

After that

We updated our weekly DevDiary on YouTube and started working on our next game Devastated: Andrew’s Dictaphone. We are also working on a little side project with the friend we mentioned before. A couple of days prior to this post we also made a new update, the 1.1.1, where we fixed some minor things and found a workaround for a bug on Linux which only seems to happen on Ubuntu.

 

Effects on our previous game

Intra-System: Trust Issues also gained some downloads and this helped to get it over the 1500 download mark on Itch.io before it becoming one year old on April 26th. Although we can not be sure. Yes, there is a little spike here and there and it seems logical that it comes from Flufftopia but it’s still in the margin of error and could be a coincidence.

 

The future of Flufftopia

We definitely want to update Flufftopia with the second game mode but we don’t know when we should do it. There are other projects to be done and if we update the game we want to do it right. We think we will be able to release the 1.2 during the year but don’t know when that’ll be exactly.

 

By the numbers

As of April 3rd, we have 2727 downloads. 2686 on Itch.io which we focused on, 27 on IndieDB and 14 on Gamejolt. 2426 were English and 301 German (due to our German followers). 269 were Linux and 2458 Windows. The 1.0 totalled 478 downloads, 1.1. totalled 2222 downloads, the 1.1.1 27 downloads up until now (it’s been two days since the release). We do, however, have a relatively high percentage (over 10%) on Linux compared to the market share on Steam. This could be a result of our marketing efforts and maybe Itch.io is a particularly often used platform for Linux – we simply don’t know that.

But! There was no Linux build included in the 1.0 so it’s possible that it would have been even more and we didn't submit our German build to IndieDB (we still need to figure out how this website works). We also want to port our next games to Linux (maybe not for the launch but some time in the future) even though we aren’t used to it although I write this Postmortem on a recently bought Raspberry Pi with Raspbian installed on it to save energy.

What went right

- Fast decision making when we needed to
- Rigorous cutting of unnecessary features
- Fast learning
- Luck
- Reddit
- Artstyle
- Downloads

 

What went wrong

- Web version
- Idle Mode
- Horrible launch

 

What we get out of that

- A lot of experience
- Learning about Unity
- Learning about Itch.io
- A small number of donations which are very nice (we could buy a second Pi :D)
- Some Itch.io followers and some followers to our mailing list

In the end: Itch.io is great, Let’s Plays are great, you are great, thank you and have fun with our games :D

And thanks to @TheElKjaro for correcting this post and everyone who helped us with Flufftopia :)


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