Publishing Games in 2022
sometimes i make games
sometimes i make games
I make games as a hobby because I enjoy writing, and the creative process of making weird settings and characters, and I like making random tables, and dabbling in art and layout and design. It’s something that I’ve been doing for a couple years now, and I like it.
Once I “finish” a game, sometimes I publish it on itch.io to share it with the community.
In this post, I’m going write about making them, and how successful they are / are not.
I have three additional games that I started working on this year that aren’t complete yet. One is a surreal, absurdist game about collecting and competing horses like pokemon. The second is a holiday game about arson and violence. And the third one is an earnest old school rpg. Maybe you’ll see them in 2023!
I usually sell my games for a low cost because in some cases—such as with the forest game—I can easily spend months and months slowly working on these. Teasing them out and waiting for them to take shape. Putting them away when I’m not feeling creative, and picking them back up when inspiration strikes. And in those cases I feel it’s fair to ask for some recognition and appreciation for the time and energy that goes into making them.
On the other hand, I also always make everything I publish available for free through community copies, and/or I also publish the content for free on my website, and/or I make it known that you can always email me directly for a free copy. I do this because money is an imperfect and imprecise language with which to express recognition and appreciation. And it’s a shame that it is the default starting language for many of our conversations about such things. Some people are disadvantaged situationally or systemically such that they can’t afford to spend $3.00 on a game. Or they’re not, but they just don’t want to. Whatever the reason, I never want money to be an obstacle between anybody and a bit of fun fantasy roleplay escapism. Especially not any of my own making.
I don’t really advertise my games. I post a link on mastodon, share them with my friends, and post in a few discord servers, and that’s it. Consequently most of my purchases come from friends and other people I know. This is a complicated feeling because it makes me feel good that my friends support me, but it also makes me feel a little embarassed to accept money from my friends. Again, money is an imperfect and imprecise language.
Most traffic to my games comes from itch.io internal pages like ‘New Games’ or from a tag like #ttrpg.
Some of my games got some organic word of mouth traffic. One was posted to a small subreddit. One got shared around discord a little. That was neat!
In 2022, I published five games. Here they are in chronological order!
YOU CAN DRIVE OUT NATURE WITH A PITCHFORK BUT IT ALWAYS COMES ROARING BACK AGAIN
495 views, 40 downloads, 8 payments ($42.00 total)
My major accomplishment of 2022. My most viewed game and most purchased game, and highest revenue by a lot.
This game occupied a huge amount of mental real estate for me for the better part of a year before I finally published it. It started out as a submission for In Play Zine before it spiraled out of control into something much bigger. I crammed a lot in here: a small hex crawl, a secret mystery that unifies several different woodland races, a rivalry between busybody sprites and layabout fauns, terrible parasitic bees that pilot dead bears and make psychoactive honey, lots of body morphing, an ancient dead sea monster, and more.
The creatures in the bestiary all have a mien table a la Troika!. The hexcrawl procedures—getting lost, that is—are from Barbarian Prince, by Dwarfstar. The trinkets and atmosphere table I think was inspired by the Dungeons & Dragons 5e trinkets table. The use of protocols to organize the game and keep the reader from spoiling themself was inspired by Bears Fruit by Jojiro.
It features pretty much zero layout or design: the PDF is made from markdown via pandoc.
The whole thing is available online for free at http://tilde.town/~dozens/forest/.
And the source code is online at https://git.tilde.town/dozens/forest/.
397 views, 145 browser plays, 1 payment ($2.00 total)
Abenteuerspiel is a darling, delightful little game. And this is a character sheet and dice roller for it!
Not much else I can say about it. I make a lot of overly complex web applications as my day job. Sometimes it’s nice and refreshing to make something small and cute just for fun.
Shoes in the Dark
412 views, 60 downloads, 1 payment ($10.00 total)
This is my most downloaded and most rated game.
A Roll for Shoes + Blades in the Dark hack. I made it for Basement Quest, where it is currently being extensively playtested. I kind of love it.
My goals for making this game were:
Lightning fast character creation. My friends had expressed interest in playing a roleplaying game, and I wanted to get them started now before any enthusiasm had the chance to wane. No character classes, no stats, no hit points, no nothing.
Lightning fast resolution. I knew we were going to be playing via email. So there couldn’t be any kind of “Roll to hit. Okay, roll for damage…” sequences. Roll once to do anything.
I drew the stabby shoe guy in aseprite and then glitched it up with photomosh. I did the layout in scribus which is the best open source desktop publishing application in the world, and with which I have a pretty hot and heavy love / hate relationship.
98 views, 14 downloads, 0 payments
My least viewed, least purchased, least rated game. Which is okay. I didn’t really advertise this one much when I published it.
I wrote this system for a one-shot for my regular gaming group that we never got around to playing. They were going to play the mothers of their D&D campaign characters in this investigative mystery.
Anyway this is a Risus hack—mostly Risus Cookie by Emily Franklin with some extra stuff tacked on—meant to have exceptionally fast character creation (a la Risus’s cliche system), a unified dice mechanic, and an appendix of optional rules for modular crunch for my hopeless min-max munchkin player.
For having a “unified dice mechanic”, I feel like resolution is still kinda complicated due to differentiating challenges, contests, and conflicts. But also, it’s fine. This is inherited directly from Risus, which calls them Target Numbers, Single Action Contests, and Combat, and Ross refers to them as the unholy trinity of Risus.
It also boasts almost no design or layout: the whole thing is just a google doc exported as PDF.
Oh, I tried for a long time to create some AI art for “wicked grin”, imagining something like the creepy guy from Heretic by Tibbius, but was never able to create anything satisfactory. Eventually I just downloaded this raccoon which apparently has its own page on knowyourmeme.
100 views, 11 downloads, 1 payment ($2.00 total)
A game for Halloween spookiness. Heavily inspired by Plasma Torch. (Particularly the RESOLVE mechanic.) Sort of a spiritual successor to SQUISHY! in the sense that it is meant to be quickstart rules for survival horror, only with radically simplified mechanics and otherwise not really similar at all.
It has a FINGER JAB random table (patent pending). I’m pretty sure I was inspired to make it by the Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries books, which have a Random Number Table in the back. If you don’t have your own dice, you can close your eyes and drop the tip of a pencil on the table to simulate rolling 2d6.
There is also a little bit of Paper Girls—which I was watching at the time—in the Cliche and Gear tables.
The artwork I got from the Horror page on comicbooksplus and patched it together in gimp. The layout was actually done in Inkscape, which I’m not sure I really recommend doing. If you wanna learn more, I made a tutorial video for peertube. Mostly as a note for myself so I can remember how to do if I want to try it again some time.
So in 2022 I published 5 games, and made $58.
I guess I didn’t really have much to say after all about publishing, advertising, and making money from games.
But I hope you enjoyed reading about the background of some of these games, and what kinds of ideas went into them.