Above the Fold is in Alpha, Coming to Steam

Above the Fold is a video game where you play the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. Back in spring, I introduced this new project to the world and now the game has just entered alpha, which means that most of the basic gameplay features are in, or at least planned out.

The game lets you build a newspaper from the ground up, hiring reporters, assigning them stories, picking up advertisements and shaping your content to cater to specific demographics. Along the way you have to make decisions based on both random and historic events, your reporters will get their own ideas, accidents will happen. Mistakes are made. Fun is had by all (or at least the person playing the game, one would hope).

Build a profit, invest in upgrading everything from your access to sources, to setting up your own email server – but do so wisely. Each upgrade comes with its own advantage, but spend too much, too fast, and you might run into trouble come pay day.

While the game was still in pre-alpha, I made this little teaser …

There is of course a website associated with the game, as well as a Facebook page and a hashtag you can follow for more regular updates on the progress. I also want to mention the mailing list, which is only used for major announcements and for recruiting playtesters – so if you want to play the game early and give some feedback, that’s how you get a chance to do that. Sign up on the website or through this link.

The next call for playtesters goes out a week from the day of writing this. Just saying!

Still a work-in-progress, The Office is where you go between new issues to manage your newspaper.

Above the Fold is a Passion Project, as in I am making it for myself first and foremost. It’s a game idea I have had for years, and I am finally good enough at the craft of making games, that I can take on the challenge.

That was my main motivation when I started, but besides that, working on this game has also helped keep me both sane and focused while hunting for a job in real world. Having a somewhat ambitious project to work on has not only helped to keep me mentally stimulated, it has also worked as a way to maintain a schedule and task- and project-based mindset. Passion Projects are good that way.

Even though this game has been a solo project* up until this point, I am still using tools (trello, Jira, MS Office, Confluence) as if I had a team. Not only is it good practice, it’s also going to make life so much easier, if and when I do bring on other people to work on the game.

If you’re curious about the plans for the next few versions, take a look at the Development page on the website, which features a roadmap of the next several versions, and which features will be focused on when.

Above the Fold will be available on Steam eventually, likely in Early Access before final release, but there’s no date yet.

*I say solo project, but in reality about 8 people have already assisted with feedback, playtesting and ideation. I’ve done all the development, but their help has been/continues to be super valuable!

Your Indie Game Will Fail

The title of this post is true for most indie game developers out there, at least if you measure success in terms of profit. There are other ways an indie game can be a success but I’ll get to them in a bit.

In today’s video game marketplace competition is tough. It’s easier than ever to make, publish and distribute new games, but with that, it gets increasingly difficult to get noticed, attract an audience and make money. This is true for all games, but small indies typically invest their own money in everything from buying assets in the Unity marketplace to renting booth space at PAX, making them more vulnerable to the impact of financial failure.

If you’re making games as a hobby and income is just pocket money – read no further. Go make games, and have fun! But if you’re hoping to go full time, or build a small studio, be prepared to work your ass off, doing a lot of things that have nothing to do with designing features or levels for your title. There will be spreadsheets.

Research is crucial, of course. You’ve looked at similar titles on Steamspy, to get a feel for how they sold on Steam, right? You’ve tracked down any postmortems or shared sales numbers from teams and projects similar to yours, correct? If you want to take your indie games past hobby level, you can’t ignore the existing market.

As an initial reality check, answer these three questions to the best of your ability:

  1. What are the projected sales numbers in the first year?
  2. What’s the price point you have in mind?
  3. How much time (unpaid hours) and money will you put into making the game?

With this information, you can figure out whether your expectations are realistic. When you realize that they’re not, you can start to think of ways to tweak the numbers.

The Price and Profit Calculator

To help my fellow indies, I made a tool that lets you experiment with different projections. I call it the Indie Game Price and Profit Calculator.

Being realistic about your expectations helps you make informed business decisions about marketing, partnerships and thinking outside the box to boost your numbers (or lower your cost).

Don’t let competition and volume take the wind out of your sails. As mentioned, even if you fail to profit from your release, there are other ways an indie game can benefit you. For one, it’s a great way to learn more about all aspects making games, from audio design to publishing. It’s also a great way to network with other indies, many of whom are in the industry. Networking may lead to jobs or partnerships, and so on. Having finished and published something does open doors. Making an indie game is just as much an investment in the careers of everyone on the team, as an opportunity to make a profit. If not more so.

Regardless of your motivation for making games, I hope the calculator tool is useful, and best of luck with your project!

A Newspaper Simulation Game is Coming

It’s time to publicly announce my new work-in-progress, a video game about being the Editor in Chief of a small but highly ambitious newspaper. Start out as a small, failing rag, and build a media power house!

The gameplay is about growing a staff of great reporters (keeping them happy and matching them with the right stories), shaping the paper and growing those subscriber numbers, while working under a mysterious Owner and the whims of the Advertisers.

There are many elements to such a game, and it will take me a while to finish this – the very early screenshot shown with this post looks nothing like the final game, I can promise that much. There is no release date yet, however, I am sharing the journey so if you want to see what’s up, you can!

For sharing, I am using the blog and social media, as well as uploading devlog videos to YouTube.

Subscribe to the channel to get notified about new uploads. I’ve got a pretty good plan for where I want to go, treating the project as I would any project I’d work on in my day job.

This is a game idea I have been mulling over for years, even before I started Torgar’s Quest, and I am happy to now be working on it. Back then, I knew my skills were not ready to take on a challenge of this complexity, but now it feels like all my prototypes and experiments were warm-up for this. Always aim for bigger, better projects!