We've been Greenlit

So the latest batch of Greenlit games included Poker Kingdoms (huzzah!) it's lifted a lot of stress, and given me drive to really push forwards on features to push towards the next step Early Access.

Most visibly is the new selection widget - the old one was hacked in there, and was essentially a stretched image, I've improved this, now the selection widget has a static arrow head and tail, and the texture tiles to fit the length. The curve algorithm has been switched for one that allows for much tighter curves, and the middle of the arrow is transparent to help see what you're selecting.

B-Grade Bundles

In an effort to gain traction on Greenlight, I submitted Poker Kingdoms for an off-market bundle, one pitched largely at pre-greenlit titles. As is my wont, this meant a little patching of the current playable version, update the Unity backend, switch on some new features, add a link on the title screen back to the Greenlight page because I really have no idea how to generate traffic any other way. Unity has opened up a free analytics engine, so this was a great opportunity to push that out, and hopefully see some feedback.

Great - various documents signed, new build uploaded to itch.io and the provider (because apparently some people consider itch.io to not be a great place to download stuff from), time to sit an wait for the bundle to launch.

Sales were… less than expected, not that I was interested in actually selling the game, rather, driving people to Greenlight, and getting closer to that top 100 slot. This is where the interesting information started exposing itself - previously, I had only been able to see patterns of existing users, not pending customers. However, I could see how many bundles were sold with PK included, and then further, how many keys were redeemed, how many downloads, and how many people actually booted the game up.

Some of this may be a symptom of the bundle provider in question, as it allows you to trade games before you redeem them - and there are plenty of copies sitting in trade limbo - it also uses a “pre-order” period where you get a discount on the bundle. You can also select which of the available games you want packaged in your bundle, so in theory, anyone who bought a bundle with PK explicitly requested it.

The bundle ran for 15 days, and around 2/3 of the sales came on the initial day. It took around a week before anyone redeemed a key however, and another couple of days before someone took the time to boot the game up.

The numbers I feel are an insight to how people treat games now, from around 1200 copies sold, about 350 have redeemed the key, of that number, there have been 50 downloads (across 4 platforms), and 15 people actually starting the game (satisfyingly, and as a recurring theme, once people start the game, I get some basic retention).

On the Steam front, I’ve received a boost of around 200 ‘yes’ votes, and shifted from 25% to 30% ‘yes’ score, not a disaster, but sadly, not pushing me over the goal by a fair amount still. There seems to be a long-tail of votes, I suspect generated by the tradeable games being picked up.

There has been zero feedback about the game itself, outside of comments based on the screenshots.

An interesting experiment - but in this instance at least, it did not help me out in any significant way, the cash rewards were slim, as is to be expected with a bundle, but the lack of traffic generation was beyond disappointing, especially (as mentioned above) people selected the game explicitly.

Combat & Brains

I’ve been a bit silent lately - but I’ve been putting a lot of time into the game - I’ve revamped the game-play, and transitioned to a combat style, there’s far more room for things like Juice, and adding some real personality to the game. Having things like player health, means I can add depth with effects on cards, and the like.

This is knocked together with the assets I have floating around:

It’s already more interesting to look at - but it’s locked at that point whilst I wait for assets - so I’ve gone back to working on the AI.

I’ve had AI that can play the game for a while now, and I’ve transitioned to using it as one of my test tools - it’s already turned out a few bugs, because I can make it just play on its own for hours on end. Now it comes time to tuning.

In addition to favouring their own card, AI players will also have favourite hands. So looking at hands, it generates a number looking at what cards are in the hand, and rates that hand. This has been pretty much un-tested, the AI players tended to make good choices, so I left that as problem for the future.

To get a better idea of what was going on, I needed some feedback, watching the log file is pretty noisy, and only really offers a state update, not any cumulative information. The solution I’ve gone with (trying to do things the Unity Way) building my own inspectors - so I’ve made each player collect history, and be able to report on it - this is displayed with custom histograms, in theory without any influence, I should see flat lines on faces and suits, and a probability graph on various hands.

Nothing comes so easily.

One of the assumptions I’ve made from day one is that hands would appear as commonly in the Poker Kingdoms draw, as they would in a more traditional implementation of Poker, but this isn’t the case. Poker does not let you select your hand, you’re dealt 5 cards, Poker Kingdoms is essentially dealing you a set of cards, and letting you select which cards you like.

But I’ve got everything I need to work out what I should be doing surely. I’ve got an AI that can play against itself, and I’ve got statistics on each player. So now for a new game component - one that selects a set of modifiers for the heuristic engine, spins up a game, plays for a number of hands, and evaluates the end state, makes adjustments, and starts again.