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Steam Strategy - the Curious Case of EnsenaSoft

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by HonoraryBob, Jan 27, 2017.

  1. HonoraryBob

    HonoraryBob

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    I came across a curious pattern for one of the sellers on Steam: Steamspy shows that EnsenaSoft has released a lot of casual games extremely rapidly, and most of them have sales numbers that are almost the same (and in some cases exactly the same down to the last digit) - generally in the range of 30,000 - 40,000 in just a few months (which is itself unusual for simple games like this on Steam). The number is usually based closely on the passage of time since the release date, implying that the same people are buying up almost everything from this particular developer, which might also explain the identical numbers for some of these games. I'm wondering whether this is due to people buying cheap games to get Steam trading cards? Or what's going on in this case? It's especially curious because simple casual games usually don't do very well on Steam, and the reviews for most of EnsenaSoft's games are something like 70% negative.

    Whatever they're doing to get so many sales so rapidly, I'd like to follow suit. :) They've made millions of dollars in about a year from relatively simple games, some of which are clearly reskins or close variations of the same software.

    Here's Steamspy's breakdown for this developer's sales: http://steamspy.com/dev/EnsenaSoft
     
  2. AndreasU

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  3. Ostwind

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  4. Aiursrage2k

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    Check to see if they have bundles that also sell trading cards that's something digital honicide did before they had the meltdown
     
  5. HonoraryBob

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    What would be the point of handing out 40,000 free keys for each game, or selling it for only a penny?
     
  6. Ostwind

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    Maybe same thing that made you partly create the thread? create some sort of illusion of the games being popular with the high ownership numbers and make people curious about the games.

    There are a very small amount of reviews compared to owners and play time stats. It's popular for people to buy Steam games with bundles or 90% off sales and bot Steam trading cards or just rank up as collectors (products owned).

    Pennies are still money compared to zero sales.
     
  7. GarBenjamin

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    It could also just be this is someone serious about running a game dev business. They might either be trying to zero in an audience OR they've found something that "hit" with a target audience and now are doing exactly what they should be doing... making new games to feed that market as much as they can before the window closes (i.e. before people have had enough and want something else).

    Consider Quiet River.

    Zup!


    Zup! 2


    Zup! 3


    And they also have a few other games very different from Zup! Two of those (platformers) seem to be using the same engine (although likely updated for one of the games).

    Truly I think this is what a Indie should be doing. At first sure maybe make different games but when one performs considerably better than all of the others then get to work on a sequel as fast as you can and make some improvements to it based on the feedback on the first. Ride that wave as long as you can constantly improving the game over a series of sequels.

    Basically it is what we hate about AAA but we also know AAA is doing that for a reason. They are a business.

    This makes far more business sense to me than all of these Indies who made a great very popular game and then for some reason decided to abandon that market and do something very different for their next game (and the next game and the next game if they are still around) and probably explains why extremely few have been able to duplicate their success. Hmm... you know I never considered that until now.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
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  8. HonoraryBob

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    The Zup games have a normal pattern (steady increase in sales over time, lots of good reviews that match the sales records). Based on the reviews and Youtube videos, people seem to buy these three games largely for the huge number of Steam Achievements they can get from them (rapid levels and lots of them)? Although many people also say the games are a lot of fun (blowing things up).
     
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  9. GarBenjamin

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    Yeah and they should make Zup! 4, 5, 6, 7 make them until it is no longer profitable to do so. You may have noticed the release schedule indicates these are pretty fast development cycles.

    Zup 1 October 4th
    Zup 2 December 5th
    Zup 3 January 12th

    The first one of course would take the longest (one would expect anyway). But now they should be able to knock them out quickly with incremental improvement in each sequel. That's maximizing ROI.

    And really when you think about it this is also a good thing in other ways. Through continual creation of sequels a dev can perfect things. They can improve them slightly each time. Add a tiny bit more each time. Taking the game closer and closer to their original vision (or a much better vision they now have). So the process does benefit the gamers and the dev.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
  10. HonoraryBob

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    Have no fear, Zup 4 is now making its way through Greenlight as we speak: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=846877706
     
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  11. Aiursrage2k

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    Why not if people like it
     
  12. GarBenjamin

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    That's great! So now people can get even more achievements. And of course the people who actually enjoy the games themselves get another one as well.

    This is what a big part of Steam business is achievements & trading cards. Instead of devs complaining about it ("that's not fair! It is supposed to be about the game!!!!!" use your best whiny voice to read that) makes more sense to play the game (ha yeah pun) of adding numerous achievements and trading cards. If you're running an Indie business. Because really it is about giving the customers what they want. And if they are buying games for achievements & trading cards then clearly that is what they want.
     
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  13. frosted

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    if you sort their games by date - one of the recent ones only has like 350 owners. If you want to know what they're doing, this is the datapoint to look at. You can compare this to any of the others and see whats different.

    The last announcement was that they added cards/achievements (September) but that didn't help sales. Has gotta be inclusion in bundles. Maybe they have some kind of deal with a bundle provider and just constantly work with the same one.
     
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  14. Aiursrage2k

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    Dont work harder work smarter.
     
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  15. HonoraryBob

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    How about a "Cookie Clicker" type game that awards a Steam Achievement every time it produces the commodity (so long as you leave the game running, of course - no need to actually interact with it beyond a certain point). So players can rack up millions of Steam Achievements.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
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  16. GarBenjamin

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    On Steam there is definitely some focus on the achievements for the ZUP! games.

    Some comments on the ZUP! 4 Greenlight are:

    "How many achievments will this have?"
    "Maybe it will have 10000 achievements"
    "watch there be 10000 achievements this time"

    But there are also many comments about how they loved the first 3 games or loved one of the first 3 that they tried so are looking forward to #4.

    I am not saying people are only buying these games for the achievements. Someone above mentioned achievements and when I posted I guess I mixed it all in together too much.

    I am just saying that on Steam the Achievements & Trading Cards are very important to many people. So it just seems like an easy way to make your game more valuable. For those people who are buying games just for achievements & trading cards... make them happy.

    What does a dev have to lose by doing that? So you add in 20 achievements and now there is another reason (and maybe the only reason in some cases) for gamers to buy your game.
     
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  17. Aiursrage2k

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    You spend 2+ years working on your game and it sells less then 1000 units, whereas some guy is pumping out at 99 cent trading steam card trading game every month and hes making bank.
     
  18. GarBenjamin

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    Ha ha! Seems like at some point Steam will change it if they feel it is being abused. But who knows really. Maybe not. They get a cut of each sale so perhaps they would just view it as finally someone gets it. We made this beautiful system... a game within a game.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
  19. HonoraryBob

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    The reviews for "Zup 3" show that there's already a backlash from players themselves. One called it "The brainless achievements popup machine". So maybe that scraps my ingenious plan to make a "Cookie Clicker" style Achievements factory. Back to the drawing board.... although on the other hand, "Zup 3" has sold 34,000 units in only two weeks, so....
     
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  20. GhulamJewel

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    Hmm interesting perhaps all of us should pump out minimal games every other weekend rather than spending years making a super game :);)
     
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  21. GarBenjamin

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    Yeah well that's because they are going insane. Adding achievements is a great idea. But 1,700 of them in the game and more importantly they are not actual distinct achievements but dupes.

    One of the reviewers said...

    He setup some multiplicator for each single achievement to 14x and for levels 7x

    and another said

    Over 1700 achievements... Why?

    I think clearly this is just taking it way too far. BUT I feel I must point out there will always be some person griping about a game for one reason or another. And the majority of the reviews are very positive. 1,629 reviews in the past 2 weeks and Very Positive rating.

    For every person griping about the achievements you can find probably 50 people who are ecstatic about it. Like this...

    Achievement Hunter Starter Pack

    Achievement simulator. You just click on one box and you get showered with achievements. That's the game. But getting achievements is fun, so the game is fun.

    1.3 hours 1700 achievements. Game is simple explode puzzles and get achievements!


    If anything I think this proves how important achievements are on Steam. I wouldn't personally take it this ridiculously far. But absolutely if the day comes when I put a game on Steam it will have at least some achievements in it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
  22. GarBenjamin

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    I think it is best really if everyone just focuses on epic games. Strive to hit near AAA scope and presentation quality.

    We've all read it many times here (and elsewhere I am sure). Nobody likes these stupid tiny games. Nobody likes pixel art games. Nobody likes platformers anymore. Nobody likes... well anyway... make the games BIG and max out the presentation quality. Gears of War 4, Dark Souls 3 and Uncharted 4 are some examples of what to strive for.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
  23. Carve_Online

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    The whole Steam Achievement system makes it almost like a game itself, so these ´devs´ are making levels for the Steam Achievement game

    But in this case, I think it is all bundles. They are probably selling the game for a penny to bundles
     
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  24. GarBenjamin

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    Maybe these achievements appeal a lot to the younger folks... kind of like the participation trophies. I've never cared about the achievements. I remember seeing them pop up in the corner of the screen when I was playing PS3 games trophies or whatever it was. But couldn't have cared any less about them.

    Yet I do hear younger people teens talking about the achievements a lot. So it might be something that will become more and more important as time passes to make everyone feel like a winner. Maybe?

    And there is the whole collecting thing. Collecting in general is pretty popular as a hobby so it makes sense there are gamers who want to collect all achievements and all trading cards or certainly the hardest achievements and rarest cards.
     
  25. Murgilod

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    I keep reading the name of the company as "Enemasoft."

    That's all. Carry on.
     
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  26. HonoraryBob

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    Does that show up in Steamspy's data? Sometimes their graphs show a drastic (90%) drop in price, which I assume might be cases in which the game is included in bundles? Or is that just a drop in that single game's price?
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
  27. theANMATOR2b

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    I agree with maximizing your talents and knowledge on developing the next game, especially if the first one can be considered a success depending entirely upon the individuals term for success, however making, 4,5,6,7, and 8 as fast as they can - can also have a negative effect of saturating your own niche market. Just ask Ubisoft about Assassins Creed. If they don't think - this is what they did - in addition to releasing buggy games, which is also a result of rushed development, I gotta mule to sell. ;)
    Naw - I'd rather work on something I enjoy playing and working on. Don't get me wrong, I'd be a sequel machine if I found a pleasant small game that my target audience liked, but mvp's like these have to be a complete drag to develop after about 10-20 levels.
     
  28. Aiursrage2k

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    They dont have to be bad games, make like 1 mission thats polished and sell it for $1 or so.
    http://store.steampowered.com/app/395500

    You can beat the whole game in 1/2 hour. Less filler more killer apps
     
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  29. GarBenjamin

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    Yeah I'm not saying just rush them out.... just that if people like your game it seems crazy to not make another like it. Plus making sequels gives the dev a chance to improve and add more... iterating toward what may have been their original glorious vision but was just too much to take on all at one time.
     
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  30. theANMATOR2b

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    This is a good concept I hope becomes more popular - (especially after I start doing it ;)) 1/2 to 1 hour short games could even give validation to pursue larger experiences. But I like the idea of short dev times in the vein of the game you showed.
     
  31. HonoraryBob

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    "Rot Gut" apparently did well because it's a pixel art game with a deliberately unusual style, which Steamers seem to be willing to support regardless of how short or simple it is. The main character isn't even animated to any extent. But if that same game had been done a bit differently (such as in color, or - even worse - in 3D) it would have never passed Greenlight.
     
  32. Aiursrage2k

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    I feel like making smaller (in terms of less content) games until you can build up your audience seems like a good idea, they would still have to be quality games and by targeting the same genre, art/style you can do that.
     
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  33. EternalAmbiguity

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    Maybe they're psychological tests.
     
  34. Blacklight

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    From the reviews I've been reading, it seems it did well because it's a fun game at a fair price.
    I have no doubt that this would have made it though. Have you seen some of the rubbish that gets on?
     
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  35. HonoraryBob

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    Sure, but I've also seen some of the decent games that are adamantly opposed by the group of (seemingly) professional Greenlighters who are always there to post caustic criticisms of any game that either: A) uses free 3D assets, which means most 3D indie games; B) is a 3D horror game in the dark with a flashlight, which means most 3D indie horror games; C) anything that bears a resemblance to a mobile or Flash game (I'm surprised "Cook, Serve, Delicious" made it despite the resemblance to cooking games); D) almost any 3D survival game unless it's dramatically different than previous ones; E) almost any retro 3D game (retro 2D games are usually accepted, but retro 3D games are routinely trashed for "bad graphics" even if it's deliberately done in that style for nostalgic purposes); F) most 3D FPS games that don't have AAA graphics; G) almost anything that they've seen before.

    Yes, sometimes questionable stuff gets through (probably because the dev has a large social following whom he can summon to upvote his stuff), but many of the reviewers are extremely picky and extremely nasty.
     
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  36. fire7side

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    I have a couple Ensenasoft games I play quite a bit. One is Mahjong Deluxe 3, and one is Chess Knight 2. I Got them in a bundle deal for probably 50 cents or something. Their quality is decent. The chess game is one of the only ones I've played where it's not like playing a chess idiot or a chess genius. I have a couple open source ones like that. I either win every game or get massacred. They also do some decent hidden object games.
    I think the idea is basically right. Do a variation of a game you can do in a certain amount of time and have decent art quality and programming. You can't do a direct copy, but a simple variation is normally enough. Casual is often overlooked, but there are a lot of casual gamers.
     
  37. HonoraryBob

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    But is there any reasonable way to sell these types of games at full price (1 - 5 dollars) individually, or do people usually buy them only in bundles for a fraction of the price? If they can primarily be sold only in bundles for 50 cents, then it's probably not worth developing.
     
  38. HeadClot88

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    Steam Spy data can be way off at times. Do not risk your company name on this. Not only that it damages the <Insert Engine here> brand. I do not want to get into the specific cases of this.

     
  39. fire7side

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    The Ensenasoft games I got bundled were quite old. There are all types of games in those bundles, so don't think it's because of that. Every genre ends up in those bundles. If you do decent quality and a fair price, and do some type of variation that makes it feel different, you will probably find a market. I think in some areas, there is less competition so probably a better chance of making money on a small indie game.
     
  40. MV10

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  41. HonoraryBob

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  42. Aiursrage2k

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    Ive been watching the youtuber model where its always the hardest to hit the first 1000 subscribers but once thats happens they start taking off. If your putting all your time into 1 game without any following its going to be somewhat of a crapshoot getting everyone's attention.
     
  43. GarBenjamin

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  44. HonoraryBob

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    How about the original Duke Nukem (back when it was still a cartoon with balloons that Duke would pop to spell out the letters in his name?)
     
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  45. GarBenjamin

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    Yes I enjoyed those games and still appreciate them for their gameplay and ideas. There was quite a difference between Duke Nukem and Dukem 2. The first one I think in many ways they were just so excited about being able to make scrolling platformer games on the PC they really loaded it with all kinds of things. Just running along and when cross a certain spot chests spawn and drop from above and so forth. It was just like an almost constant barrage of secrets so much so that it didn't even feel like finding secrets. lol But it was fun. It was very lively seemed to always be something going on. Elevator columns to ride up and down and so forth. it was all kind of rough but it worked.

    The second still had that kind of stuff but in a much more controlled manner. It was just more polished all around. That's the one where you collected letters to spell out NUKEM.

    See I think it would be cool for Indies making all of these platformer games to go a little crazy like that. I think maybe that is what I miss about such games and why I still enjoy them. The platformer games today for example often seem sterile in comparison. Like they are trying too hard to make something pro / proper and not just lost in the craziness of fun. The Duke Nukem games looked like the devs themselves just had a blast and every crazy idea they got they stuck it in them. Apogee was very good at what they did. I always enjoyed their Raptor: Call of the Shadows shmup as well.

    I actually never played these games until the late 90s and early 2000s. I was on the Amiga computer until 1998 when I got my first Windoze computer.

    I'll have to make a Duke Nukem inspired platformer sometime and just load it with all kinds of stuff going on. And if you know of any modern Indie platformer games along those lines where the devs just went a little crazy in their games with interaction, secrets and just wacky stuff in general let me know because I'd love to check those games out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
  46. Ryiah

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    Just noticed that Crystal Caves was only slightly after Duke Nukem. I wonder if it was the same engine or not.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_Caves
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Nukem_(video_game)

    Regardless Secret Agent was definitely the same engine as Crystal Caves.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Agent_(video_game)
     
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  47. GarBenjamin

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    If it was always the same company / team I'd say almost certainly it was the same engine. Just always updating it as needed. It's just smart, right? Make a game. Make another game of the same kind yet different. Another game of the same kind yet different. When you have basically a dedicated game engine created other than updating it as needed to support any new play mechanics in the latest game you can focus all of your time on content creation and the new story (which generally seem like napkin ideas anyway).

    That is exactly the point where I have wanted to get to for the past few years. First I wanted to find a dev tool I really connected with and then start building. Tried Unity. Left and tried a few others including Monkey X and HaxeFlixel. Returned to Unity. Left again burnt out and thinking about just retiring the game dev thing. Then stumbled upon AGK and discovered it was what I had been looking for all of that time. Wish I had tried it 3 years ago.

    Anyway, I have Duke Nukem, Duke Nukem 2, Crystal Caves, Secret Agent and many more in my Steam library. There used to be a pack with 30 of these games called 3D Realms Anthology but it doesn't seem to be on Steam anymore.

    Also have ID's Commander Keen Complete Pack.

    You can get some of Apogee's (now 3D Realms) games for free on their website and buy most of the others. Not sure why they discontinued the 3D Realms Anthology. It is unavailable on their site as well. But it at least it shows up still.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
  48. GarBenjamin

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    Are you sure it didn't do well because it seems quite interesting, well made and has easy achievements? And perhaps even had some tiny bit of marketing behind it?

    The main character is animated. The cigarette is smoking. The bottom of his trench coat and and his feet/legs have 2 frames of animation when moving. I think it looks excellent in a minimalist way. Just a hint of animation... just enough and no more. It works.

    It seems like a cool little game based on the video. Will have to grab this and try it out. I've been thinking I probably should have done a shooting platformer instead of my melee combat based platformer because with firing guns you don't need any animation at all. And this game illustrates that well.

    Ah well I will keep on with my rectangles anyway. Maybe try a shooter next time.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
  49. MV10

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    Gar you almost have me convinced to go back to my gaming roots and start writing platformers. My wife is going to be baffled if I try to convince her to draw low-res sprites. "TOO MUCH DETAIL! LESS!"
     
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  50. Aiursrage2k

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    Its a nice little game that you can beat in 30 minutes or less. Has funny little cut scenes in between levels the only problem is from a gameplay perspective you can just platform over most of the enemies, they needed to have locked doors (that can only open when you kill all the enemies etc) and spikes etc, as it was too easy.
     
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