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Hey guys. Just wanted to let you know that I got the sales numbers recently, and sales have been low over the past two months. Do to a miscalculation, I didn't know how low they were over the month of September until a few days ago. It seems that the status quo - with me spending all my time creating weekly bug fixes and updates - isn't working. I think I need to spend more time doing marketing, or else I won't be able to continue working on the game. This will probably result in the slowdown of amount of coding I can do each week, but will hopefully result in more longevity for the game.

Any suggestions you have for bringing in new players would be helpful. Marketing isn't really my favorite thing, and it's not what I'm really good at. I'm still mulling over things I can do to promote the game to new players. And if you like the game, please tell a friend. You can also "Like" the Empires of Steel facebook page, and hopefully your friends will see it.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Empires-of-Steel/6745172658

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Last month I finally bought a game on Steam and have to agree. They do great marketing. If anybody can get your sales up they can. 50% of a lot is better than 100% of not much.

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My thoughts are that it is the die-hard old-school "empire" fans that is a market waiting to be tapped into.

There is a company online just simply selling a rehashed DOS empire deluxe, so there is clearly a market out there for a vastly superior remake. That's a little bit of why I made my empire deluxe ruleset.

How about setting up a wikipedia entry for the game and link it into the empire game entry? I know it isn't meant to be for marketing, but you might justify it as info on a remake. Google any combination of empire game or empire remake or empire deluxe remake or empire clone or whatever, and maybe post a message on sites near the top.

edit: oh I see someone has added empires of steel to the wiki site for classic empire! nice.

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.....There is a company online just simply selling a rehashed DOS empire deluxe.....

I think this rehash company is GOG (good old games). Not sure how you could tap in to their clientele.

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Steam might be a good route. I won't buy anything from them because of a previous experience I had with their copy protection / DRM system, but they do sell a lot of games including the newest CIV. I imagine that people buying from them know what they are getting themselves into, so it's no skin off your back. There are other sites I do buy from online, Direct2Drive is the best IMO so I'd look at them, too. I also have purchased games online directly from the publisher/developer. A lot of games are sold through multiple outlets online, so you should make sure you don't get into any exclusive distribution schemes. Try to broaden your outlet base. Even though Battlefront sells the best wargames they aren't the most widely known distributor. As far as getting the word out about EOS I have no experience in the advertising world. I know it's expensive though! Have you looked into Google or Yahoo sidebar type ads?

One other thing you might consider is getting some art and screen design types to "sex up' the looks of EOS. The game system and code are great, but it could use some more art/special effects work. I know this sounds shallow but looks do sell games. I'm a programmer, but I can't draw for crap and I admit it.

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The rehash company you all are talking about is KillerBee Software. The dev got the rights to Empire Deluxe and made a new one that works on modern machines. Then he made an Enhanced version. There is really not all that much similarity to EoS. It's like comparing an Escort with a two ton truck. They're both vehicles and that's about it. But those Empire games are very good as far as they go.

Several months ago I promoted EoS on the KBS forum (now shut down due to too much spam). And I promoted it on the Empire Deluxe Yahoo forum. People know me there since I made a major mod for the Enhanced version. Don't know how many bought as a result though.

I understand the reasons for this blitz but am disappointed because it will slow down and maybe, in the long run if it doesn't pan out, halt production on the AI and a few other major things and the game might never really get finished. Or maybe it will take a loooooong time. That kind of thing has happened before with other games. It's a niche within a niche game and probably will never sell well as long as it stays here only and keeps the DRM. I've always thought this game had a lot of potential and in the last month or so got hopeful that within a couple of months it might finally reach that potential.

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It's called STEAM.

http://store.steampowered.com/

STEAM STEAM STEAM STEEEEEEAAAAAAMMMMMMM STEAM STEAM STEAM.

I will spell t out for you:

S-T-E-A-M

We'll be checking into it. Although, some of the game-distribution companies aren't interested in carrying EOS. I don't know what Valve/Steam will say.

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Steam might be a good route. I won't buy anything from them because of a previous experience I had with their copy protection / DRM system, but they do sell a lot of games including the newest CIV. I imagine that people buying from them know what they are getting themselves into, so it's no skin off your back. There are other sites I do buy from online, Direct2Drive is the best IMO so I'd look at them, too.

Direct2Drive said they weren't interested in carrying EOS.

As far as getting the word out about EOS I have no experience in the advertising world. I know it's expensive though! Have you looked into Google or Yahoo sidebar type ads?

I did get $100 of free adwords money from Google. I tried it for a week, but didn't see any noticeable effect on sales. One of my friends suggested doing targeted advertising with Facebook (that's part of Facebook's advertising advantages, BTW - doing targeted advertising based on your profile). Although, I guess adwords are targeted advertising, too. Battlefront hasn't been too pleased with advertising experiments they've done. I suppose once you've got a low percentage of the population who wants "X", it's difficult to do effective advertising since you're paying for everyone who sees the ad, but only making money on people who buy it. I suppose it's slightly better when you're paying for targeted advertising and only for clicks.

One other thing you might consider is getting some art and screen design types to "sex up' the looks of EOS. The game system and code are great, but it could use some more art/special effects work. I know this sounds shallow but looks do sell games. I'm a programmer, but I can't draw for crap and I admit it.

Yeah, I know what you mean. I've been thinking back to the recent post on the forums about sexing up the units and animations. I think that's a useful suggestion. One of the other issues I'm thinking about is the fact that sales were highest for the first two months after release. 44% of all the domestic sales happened in the first two months. I think part of this is due to the media cycle - they want something to report in the news. New game releases get media attention. After that, the media leaves and it's hard to get attention again. If I had quite a bit more money, I could sex-up the graphics make some other changes and then release it as "Empires of Steel 2", which might get some more media attention since it's a new release.

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Steam might be a good route. I won't buy anything from them because of a previous experience I had with their copy protection / DRM system, but they do sell a lot of games including the newest CIV. I imagine that people buying from them know what they are getting themselves into, so it's no skin off your back. There are other sites I do buy from online, Direct2Drive is the best IMO so I'd look at them, too.

Direct2Drive said they weren't interested in carrying EOS.

As far as getting the word out about EOS I have no experience in the advertising world. I know it's expensive though! Have you looked into Google or Yahoo sidebar type ads?

I did get $100 of free adwords money from Google. I tried it for a week, but didn't see any noticeable effect on sales. One of my friends suggested doing targeted advertising with Facebook (that's part of Facebook's advertising advantages, BTW - doing targeted advertising based on your profile). Although, I guess adwords are targeted advertising, too. Battlefront hasn't been too pleased with advertising experiments they've done. (They spent a lot of money on Google Adwords, too, but didn't see the results to justify the money they spent.) I suppose once you've got a low percentage of the population who wants "X", it's difficult to do effective advertising since you're paying for everyone who sees the ad, but only making money on people who buy it. I suppose it's slightly better when you're paying for targeted advertising and only for clicks.

One other thing you might consider is getting some art and screen design types to "sex up' the looks of EOS. The game system and code are great, but it could use some more art/special effects work. I know this sounds shallow but looks do sell games. I'm a programmer, but I can't draw for crap and I admit it.

Yeah, I know what you mean. I've been thinking back to the recent post on the forums about sexing up the units and animations. I think that's a useful suggestion. One of the other issues I'm thinking about is the fact that sales were highest for the first two months after release. 44% of all the domestic sales happened in the first two months. This means that the last ten months has accounted for the other 56%. I think part of this is due to the media cycle - they want something to report in the news. New game releases get media attention. After that, the media leaves and it's hard to get attention again. If I had quite a bit more money, I could sex-up the graphics make some other changes and then release it as "Empires of Steel 2", which might get some more media attention since it's a new release.

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The rehash company you all are talking about is KillerBee Software. The dev got the rights to Empire Deluxe and made a new one that works on modern machines.

Yeah, we (KillerBee and I) were both talking to the original Empire guys at the same time. Mark Baldwin, who was one of the original Empire creators sometimes shows up at our local game developer meetings. It would've been interesting to get the Empire name, but he wanted too much money. If KillerBee paid what Mark Baldwin wanted for the name, I can't imagine he made his money back in sales.

(Admittedly, I could've used the "Empire" name but not "Empire 3" since it suggests a lineage. He probably couldn't have defended the "Empire" name in court since common descriptive names are difficult to defend in court. Plus, there's already another game called "Empire" which has no connection to the original games.)

Several months ago I promoted EoS on the KBS forum (now shut down due to too much spam). And I promoted it on the Empire Deluxe Yahoo forum. People know me there since I made a major mod for the Enhanced version. Don't know how many bought as a result though.

Thanks. Yeah, I was just out on the KillerBee website checking out how active they were. The Yahoo Groups seem rather deserted at this point, and it looks like KillerBee hasn't been doing any more work on the Empire game - the last update I saw was from a year and a half ago.

I understand the reasons for this blitz but am disappointed because it will slow down and maybe, in the long run if it doesn't pan out, halt production on the AI and a few other major things and the game might never really get finished. Or maybe it will take a loooooong time.

Yeah, I feel bummed about that, too.

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Direct2Drive said they weren't interested in carrying EOS....

Yeah, I know what you mean. I've been thinking back to the recent post on the forums about sexing up the units and animations. I think that's a useful suggestion. One of the other issues I'm thinking about is the fact that sales were highest for the first two months after release. 44% of all the domestic sales happened in the first two months. This means that the last ten months has accounted for the other 56%. I think part of this is due to the media cycle - they want something to report in the news. New game releases get media attention. After that, the media leaves and it's hard to get attention again. If I had quite a bit more money, I could sex-up the graphics make some other changes and then release it as "Empires of Steel 2", which might get some more media attention since it's a new release.

I'm surprised about Direct2Drive's response since they carry a ton of small/old titles many of which aren't nearly as good as EOS (including some really old DOS games.) You might try asking again maybe someone else will review your request and have a different opinion. On the art stuff, if you have a college or even a high school around where you are you might be able to get a graphic arts or animation artist intern for a term or two that can do the work for free. They need real work experience and you need low cost/free help. We used to do this at my old company and it is a good deal for both parties. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you have to be willing to teach and spend time with your intern. If you can't do that you're cheating yourself and your student. Don't expect a lot of production from a beginner, however, if you keep the assignments small in scope you might get some really good stuff to build on.

Have you considered using actual satellite/aerial imagery for your maps? It looks pretty darn cool. This seems like it would be an easy thing to do. Once you have a base set you can always cut and paste as necessary. Personally, the unit images mean little to me as long as I can tell what type of unit it is. I use NATO symbols on most games when I have a choice.

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Yeah, we (KillerBee and I) were both talking to the original Empire guys at the same time. Mark Baldwin, who was one of the original Empire creators sometimes shows up at our local game developer meetings. It would've been interesting to get the Empire name, but he wanted too much money. If KillerBee paid what Mark Baldwin wanted for the name, I can't imagine he made his money back in sales.

(Admittedly, I could've used the "Empire" name but not "Empire 3" since it suggests a lineage. He probably couldn't have defended the "Empire" name in court since common descriptive names are difficult to defend in court. Plus, there's already another game called "Empire" which has no connection to the original games.)

Thanks. Yeah, I was just out on the KillerBee website checking out how active they were. The Yahoo Groups seem rather deserted at this point, and it looks like KillerBee hasn't been doing any more work on the Empire game - the last update I saw was from a year and a half ago.

Yeah, I feel bummed about that, too.

Mark Kinkead is the guy who heads KBS. He has mentioned that sales haven't been stellar and has had to take a full time job that keeps him travelling so he really doesn't have time for anything. The game is pretty much done though, no real bugs that I know of and no new features that need to be added. But if you want to play solo against the computer you'd better get my mod. Out of the box the AI doesn't work.

Mark still answers posts and emails but essentially production stopped some time ago.

Even though there's not much going on in the Yahoo groups, I think there is still a core group of players just as there is for the Perfect General (KBS) which I also play from time to time.

I've played Empire more than any other game over the years. Simple concept and game play and just plain fun without having to frazzle your brain.

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Have you considered using actual satellite/aerial imagery for your maps? It looks pretty darn cool. This seems like it would be an easy thing to do. Once you have a base set you can always cut and paste as necessary.

The issue I had with satellite maps is that I wanted the map images to look good when matched with the unit images. I think I'd have to figure out how to send the image data, as well. The current maps don't send pixel-by-pixel map data, it uses larger blocks of terrain and along with the terrain type data, and the client machine actually builds the image. Also, players will need to know which areas are which terrain. You also wouldn't want (what the game sees as) water area to appear as land to the player, or vice versa.

Personally, the unit images mean little to me as long as I can tell what type of unit it is. I use NATO symbols on most games when I have a choice.

Yeah, although it can be a draw for players. Oftentimes, players judge the game by the sophistication of the graphics. In general, there is a correlation - in part because small indie projects have bad graphics and bad gameplay. So, I think there's a tendency to say, "This game has bad graphics or so-so graphics, it's probably not that good so it's not worth checking out". Nice graphics can be fun, too. On a similar note, I still remember how satisfying the sound of automatic weapons were in the original Fallout games - yet, they were completely superficial to the actual gameplay.

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Thinking about the fact that for any substantial new sales you are going to have a new release,.......and also considering that there are probably some like myself, who are putting off playing until the game is 'finished',......it might be a good idea to stop with new features for this game, finish up the AI, release a final patch (except for fixes) and start work on EoS 2 or a substantial expansion so you can get some media attention.

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Yeah, although it can be a draw for players. Oftentimes, players judge the game by the sophistication of the graphics. In general, there is a correlation - in part because small indie projects have bad graphics and bad gameplay. So, I think there's a tendency to say, "This game has bad graphics or so-so graphics, it's probably not that good so it's not worth checking out". Nice graphics can be fun, too. On a similar note, I still remember how satisfying the sound of automatic weapons were in the original Fallout games - yet, they were completely superficial to the actual gameplay.

I don't think EoS has bad graphics at all. They are pretty, nice and cartoony, all having a cohesive style. Nice work if you did them all yourself.

Have you thought about going 3D? I notice the sprites were constructed from 3D anyway, and the terrain is not that complex. I guess that's a lot of work to redesign the pixel based game system. Then you could relaunch as EOS 3D!

One game I really LOVE is battleship chess, and it is a good example of how simple 3D graphics can look really charming.

http://apezone.com/battleshipchess.php

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Thinking about the fact that for any substantial new sales you are going to have a new release,.......and also considering that there are probably some like myself, who are putting off playing until the game is 'finished',......it might be a good idea to stop with new features for this game, finish up the AI, release a final patch (except for fixes) and start work on EoS 2 or a substantial expansion so you can get some media attention.

I think Scott has a good point. Adding features is probably not worth the time right now. Personally, I'd pay for an expansion or new release with better graphics, a smarter AI, positional tactics, more terrain, and some new "official " units like helicopters, special forces, engineers, etc...One thing I'd really like to see is some battle animation that gives me some idea of why the battle was won or lost. What I don't want to do is micro-manage stuff. If I want that I'll play a different game. Like the fact that the computer handles most details but you still get a lot of strategy elements.

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Direct2Drive said they weren't interested in carrying EOS.

Odd. I've seen some pretty old, and even more complicated games put on D2D and other distribution sites.

I did get $100 of free adwords money from Google. I tried it for a week, but didn't see any noticeable effect on sales.

You only gave it a week. Nuff' said.

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For me there are three things to do and the game will be essentially finished. After that an expansion with some of the stuff mentioned by StellarRat plus maybe more maps and scenarios. Those three are:

1. Bugs squashed

2. AI. Basic expand, attack, etc plus don't do stupid stuff. Each unit does what it's supposed to do. Fix the see all ai. Nothing fancy is necessary for the basic game.

3. Open up the terrain. Allow for additional terrain features (mods).

In the meantime I'm like Scott, I'll play a little once in a while. And wait until it's done.

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Sorry to keep bringing this up, but there is a huge trend now toward tablets (Ipad, android, etc). I think EOS would sell really well on these. Why, well...

Most mainsteam PC games these days are big budget 3D action games. Turn based games in general don't get much press or attention. On the tablets & phones though, people buy a lot of simple games, board game ports, card games, puzzle games, etc. EOS would really stand out in that crowd.

A simplified version selling for like $4.99 would sell a lot of copies. Plus it gives you more potential people who might be interested in buying the full version on the PC.

People buying tablets now tend to buy a lot of apps, usually anything that has high review scores. I'm sure the EOS community can help you out in that regards.

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I don't think EoS has bad graphics at all. They are pretty, nice and cartoony, all having a cohesive style. Nice work if you did them all yourself.

Yeah, I created all the art.

Have you thought about going 3D? I notice the sprites were constructed from 3D anyway, and the terrain is not that complex. I guess that's a lot of work to redesign the pixel based game system. Then you could relaunch as EOS 3D!

One game I really LOVE is battleship chess, and it is a good example of how simple 3D graphics can look really charming.

http://apezone.com/battleshipchess.php

Using 3D wouldn't be that difficult. I actually use a 3D model for the ballistic missile. The one problem I have with doing 3D is that small things (like units) look bad. There's problems with jaggies, and the coloring isn't quite as sharp (because I sharpen the 2d image). Some of these issues can be solved as long players use antialiasing. I also put a slight black outline around the unit to make it stand out a little more against the background. I should probably put-up a rendered 2d sprite next to the same 3D model of the same size to illustrate what I mean, so here's a comparison. (The 3D model shown below doesn't use antialiasing, by the way.)

I think this is the reason a lot of games that transitioned from 2D to 3D use much larger unit sizes - because they look bad if they kept the units at the same size. (For example, when the Civilization series went to 3D in Civ 4, the units were much compared to the screen.)

post-28544-141867621861_thumb.png

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I agree. Porting to Android or iPhone would probably sell a lot of copies.

Since the UI (not including the actual map) is built using Microsoft technologies, I'm not sure how easy it would be to transition since there's a lot of code there. I was also a little worried about the AI running fast enough on tablets and Android/iPhones. But, I don't know enough to say for sure.

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