Tag Archives: Company News

Spellirium Minute Episode #10: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Puzzle

By the time we’d reached prototype 5 of Spellirium, i was pretty confident in the concept. We went ahead and prototyped around twenty different puzzles to put them out to players and to see which ones stuck, and which ones were Fit for the Pit.



As the video reveals, the most popular puzzle was “Picture”, so we put it in the current game such that players would be playing it again and again. But our implementation was a bear, and it turned out to be a level of work akin to fighting through a 100-level randomized dungeon in order to power up a single, consumable health potion in Disgaea. We’re going to be less heavy-handed with the Picture puzzle in future revisions of the alpha.

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Word.

How to Tell the Internet About Your New YouTube Video

One element of my effort to drive awareness of our Spellirium Pre-Order crowdfunding campaign is a series of video developer diaries called Spellirium Minute. i had always wanted to produce video diary content, but i worried about all the effort involved in shooting and editing the videos together. In this article, i hope to convey that creating the video is the easy part.

i Post This Video Every Day

Robby “the Doogs” Duguay has been a big supporter of the campaign so far. Last week, he sat down with me and we banged out eighteen Spellirium Minute developer diary videos. All of them are short, screencapped vids about two minutes apiece, in which i talk about different design processes during the five long years we’ve been building the game. The videos contain info about our prototype regimen, communication with artists, and the inspiration that led to the project. They make for interesting viewing, and of course i’d like to get them out to as many people as possible.

Hey, hippies! Wanna watch a video?

i have enough content to release one video every day for the duration of the campaign. What i didn’t realize was the enormous chunk of every morning that would be taken up promoting each video. This is the process i follow from the moment i hit that “Upload” button on YouTube:

Prepping the Video on YouTube

  1. Write a video description. Make sure to include a link to Spellirium off the top. If the video references a playable game prototype or a blog article, add a link to it at the bottom of the description.

  2. Write as many tags as my little mind can fathom. This improves searchability.

    (my little mind can’t actually fathom very many tags)

  3. Fix the auto-caption track to create an English closed caption track. i have no idea if this improves searchability, but i do it anyway. Even with only two minutes of video, it is an asspain.
  4. Create a custom thumbnail for the video and upload it.
  5. Add an annotation to the end of the video linking to the previous video.
  6. Add an annotation to the end of the previous video linking to this video.

  7. Write a little note to subscribers.
  8. Launch the sucker.
  9. Cue up the video and add it to the Spellirium Minute playlist.

Shouting From the Rooftops

From there, i have to pull a million different levers to get the link out to a bunch of different nooks and crannies:

  1. The Untold Entertainment blog. Every post must contain, at a minimum, a link to the Spellirium campaign, a link to the Spellirium Minute playlist, and a link to the Untold Entertainment YouTube channel with a call to action to subscribe, because subscriptions are a big deal on YouTube. They’re like your mailing list, and they’re how YouTube determines your worth as a content creator.

    This is what posting daily video content has done to my blog traffic this past week.

  2. Ensure that the Untold blog post uses the tag “Spellirium”, so that a plugin will automatically repost to the developer diary at Spellirium.com
  3. Tweet the blog article with embedded video out to both the @Untoldent and @Spellirium Twitter accounts
  4. Post the video link to Facebook under my personal Ryan Henson Creighton account, and on the Spellirium Facebook page. i haven’t been posting on the Untold Entertainment Facebook page, but i probably should.
  5. Post an Announcement on the Spellirium Steam Greenlight page.
  6. Post to the Spellirium backers-only message boards, and
  7. the Spellirium press kit page, and
  8. the Spellirium wiki (for posterity) and
  9. the Spellirium subreddit (which we had to create because Redditors kept deleting our links)
  10. Email the vid to the guys at Evolve PR, who are helping us out with the campaign.

TIGSource

There’s a Spellirium thread on the TIGSource forums that i update regularly. But TIGSource is a rare and precious snowflake that operates differently from many other sites. For example, the forum doesn’t let you embed YouTube videos (PLEASE let me know if i’m wrong about that), and it uses a phpBB/wiki-style markup. Here’s the painful process of posting there:

  1. Screencap the video.
  2. Upload the image to my server, since the TIGSource forums don’t let you upload images (again, if i’m wrong, please let me know.)
  3. Copy/paste the content of the Untold blog post in a new reply to the TIGSource thread
  4. Meticulously go through the post and rewrite the HTML markup as phpBB markup (if anyone knows a handy conversion tool that will do this for me, PLEASE let me know! It’s not quite painful enough to make me write my own convertor, but it’s getting there)
  5. Point to the uploaded image of the YouTube video
  6. Link it to the YouTube video
  7. Change the Reply title
  8. Change the Thread title

Finally, since Twitter is easily our largest referrer, i make sure to schedule or post repeated announcements throughout the day, since Twitter is only effective if people happen to see your link float by in their feed when they’re looking at Twitter.

Comb hair. Brush teeth. Promote video.

(who am i kidding? i don’t have time to comb my hair)

This is the routine i run through every morning, which actually begins the night before at midnight EST when i post the video to YouTube and Twitter only (partly for my Australian friends, and partly for fear that i’ll sleep in the next morning and completely miss my promotional window for the Eastern Standard Time breakfast crowd). Another key repost time is 11:30/12:00 PM EST, which is the double-whammy of lunchtime break for EST people and breakfast for PST people.

We’ve also created some “special” videos which took longer to shoot and required more effort, but they’re there to sort of break away from the sameness of the screencapped vids, and to hopefully enjoy some viral sharing. The last “special” video we posted showed me pointlessly demoing the 2D Spellirium game on the 3D Oculus Rift. Today’s special is a Spellirium-styled parody of the Pok√©mon Rap:



The punchline is that through all of this, my video strategy is not working. Just take a quick look at the abysmal double-digit views each video is pulling.

Over the past week, with one video going up every single day, and despite a big push from Kotaku that brought over 5000 people to the first vid, YouTube accounts for a whole 27 visits to the Spellirium campaign. However, that’s more eyeballs than articles on certain big press sites have brought us. Our conversion rate is high at 64%, and our lowest-priced and most popular tier is $15. If my i-flunked-high-school-math calculations are correct, the entire week-long YouTube effort has been worth roughly $275 to us so far. But maybe it’s a slow burn?

i’m Taking Requests

You’ll notice that despite all of this hustling, i’m still really only hitting a lot of insular locations. Where’s Google+? Where’s Dailymotion/Metacafe/Vimeo? There are so many more places on the Internatz. My blast radius is still quite close to home, and i haven’t yet discovered many great places to share these videos that draw a potential audience from far and wide. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Maybe then, i’ll have to spend the entire day promoting these videos, instead of “just” the entire morning.

Introducing the Spellirium Powerups System

The Powerups system in Spellirium is pretty cool, but it was hastily-built so you might not even know it’s there. Here’s how it works:

(click to read the fine print)

Powerups can add different types of letters to your grid (vowels, and high- and mid-scoring words), the can increase your energy, protect your energy from depleting, and change the colours of the tiles. They can cure poison tiles (currently, the Graelig at the end of Act II is the only poisonous creature), and they can soften stone tiles (stone tiles are implemented, but none of the creatures create them … yet). Powerups are super useful if you want to, say, 3-star the errgrd to earn the decorative gourd item for the incense quest in Act II.

The ergrrd: one tough little creature.

Improvements for Future Versions

All these interconnected systems are already kinda complicated to begin with, but in alpha v0.36 and below, there are some extra steps thrown in that make it needlessly difficult to craft one lousy powerup! Here are the changes we’re planning to make:

  1. Currently, Powerups can cost up to five items to craft! We’re reducing that number to three ingredients, max. Most Powerups will probably cost one item.
  2. At the moment, you have to solve a picture puzzle whenever you cast a Powerup. Some of those puzzles are so difficult, you need Powerups to help you solve them. Holy crap! This isn’t Disgaea, for Pete’s sake. :) We’re scrapping the picture puzzle requirement. Hopefully picture puzzles will show up somewhere else in the game.
  3. Cheeves unlock Spells, and Spells are templates for Powerups. You start the game with a blank Spellbook, but i think you should start off with at least one Spell, so that you a reason to want the Spells you see in the Cheeves area.
  4. Cheeves are represented by a carrot-on-a-stick. You unlock the feature by talking to the Mystic, but it’s currently part of an optional conversation tree that some players miss! We need to do more work to help players discover it … probably by making it mandatory.

    Look familiar? No? You’re not alone.

  5. The Cheeve requirements are all completely imbalanced. How many semordnilaps should you have to build to earn the blue Shield Powerup? Is 25 too many? i don’t know! That’s why we’re playtesting! (Note: a semordnilap is a word that makes a different, perfectly valid word when read backwards … like ROOM <-> MOOR)
  6. Right now, you don’t get any notifications that you’ve completed a Cheeve. What’s up with that? Needs fixing.
  7. Since a lot of the Cheeves are progress-based (“Build 100 5-letter words!”), i’d like to see a little carrot icon show up whenever you build a word that advances a Cheeve.
  8. Item prices in the Merchant’s store are WAY too expensive right now! In a future version, we’re going to SLASH PRICES! Everything must go!
  9. That’s the story, and our plan. If you have other suggestions and you’re a Spellirium backer, head over to the Spellirium Backers-Only Message Boards and leave your feedback in SEECRET!!

    Not yet a backer? Pre-order Spellirium and play the alpha today!

Spellirium Pre-Order Campaign: Day One

i’m not necessarily going to do a daily play-by-play of the entire Spellirium pre-order campaign, which we launched today to Seussian fanfare, because SNORE. But today was eventful enough that i wanted to record a few tidbits for posterity.

You’re Going Down

For startsies, my Internet service provider decided that this would be the Best Week to do nightly maintenance, and threatened complete shutdown every night at 1am. Picture me sitting at my living room table last night, double-fisting laptops and hopped up on Dr. Pepper, straining my neck muscles at the sloooowly-creeping upload bars on YouTube as the clock raced towards 1am. John from Rock Paper Shotgun had told me the schedule for their impending Spellirium alpha impressions article. It was slated to go live at something like 2 or 3am Normal Person Time (did you know the sun comes up at a different time in Britain? Talk about Bizarroland.), and so it was an actual race against the clock to get everything working before my service cut out completely.

It was a thrill-a-minute, let me tell you.

By 1:20am, the campaign video and the PC versions of the different reward tiers were launched and tested, but i still had this pesky Mac problem (did you know the buttons do different things on a Mac? Talk about Bizarroland.), and home Internet access did indeed go down.

And so it was that in the middle of the night, i packed my PC and Mac laptops into a suddenly achingly heavy backpack, and ventured out into the inky void to find a 24-hour Internet cafe. i launched the Spellirium pre-order campaign from behind a grody grease-covered desk that smelled of corn chips and despair. Bedtime last night was 4am.

Miracle Quip

When i awoke only four hours later, i launched the announcement post and started the Buzz Machine. By midday, former intern Mo had alerted Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, two adventure game mainstays, to the campaign on Twitter, but Tim couldn’t see the site for some reason. This all led to some groaners about a database-themed adventure game. Venerated adenture dev Noah Falstein chimed in. It was all very surreal:

Noah apparently didn’t get the memo about that joke, so Ron got a dig in:


Why was the site down, anyway? It likely had something to do with Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade (on whom i blame the entire concept of Spellirium to begin with because of his outlandish review of Bookworm Adventures so many years ago):


Ruh-roh, Raggy.

The site was brought to its knees. i had been there twice before, but i hadn’t learned.

i managed to restart the server a few times, before MySQL completely crashed, which i guess is the point at which the LucasArts vets tried to access the site.

Thanks For the Memory (?)

Folks on Twitter suggested that i house any and all images on Amazon S3 servers to alleviate the load. That was all well and good, but i couldn’t get into my site to make those changes, and i had never dealt with a database crash before. i called my hosting company and asked what was up. It was particularly stressful to make a support call when i knew that a bajillion of Tycho’s followers were trying to see what he was so enthusiastic about.

The guy on the support call restarted MySQL for me, and then suggested one little tip that would make everything run a bit more smoothly:

Him: Click on the admin page.

Me: Yep.

Him: Now click on the “server update” button. Tell me when it’s finished.

Me: Mmmm … okay. …. Now. It’s finished now.

Him: There. Now your server has 2x the memory.

Me: It … what?

Him: Do you have any more questions?

Me: …. uh …. yeah, actually.

Him: Shoot.

Me: If there was a way to double the server memory all this time, why did you wait for me to click that button? i probably would have been okay with YOU pushing that button. Without me. Like, a long time ago.

Him: Well, we just kinda wanted you to know about and appreciate the upgrade, i guess.

This was some full-grade ruby-slippers-return-you-immediately-to-Kansas bullshit right here.

A Swift Kick in the Ego

With double plus server memory, i was able to access the campaign site and offload most images to Amazon’s servers, except for the gigantor full-page background images, due to a WordPress weakness.

The last little surprise of the day was this conversation i had with a friend of mine on Facebook about Spellirium:

Only a few minutes later, i was watching the pre-order emails fly by, and i see one from “Kim Swift”. i thought “that couldn’t be the Kim Swift, could it? One of the original developers on Portal? What kind of an insane coincidence would THAT be? Talk about Bizarroland.”

Yep. It was that Kim Swift. And she was only one of a number of amazing devs i admire and respect who decided to give Spellirium a shot today.

In summary: Day One was a roller coaster of emotions, and now i need a powernap. Day Two of the Spellirium Pre-Order Campaign begins tomorrow.

The Spellirium Pre-Order Campaign Launches NOW!

Come mothers and fathers, come sons and come daughters,
come graduates sprung from your old alma maters
come lovers of words, come adorers of books,
come peer at these pages, come take a good look

For today at long last, you will finally play
the game we’ve been building for many a day
(i’m so proud to say it, it’s making me teary some)
this is the day that you’ll all play Spellirium!

While it’s not fully finished, it’s come well along
we’re ready to let you all play, you big throng
and with your support, it will end perfectly
and we’ll make it the game that we meant it to be.

So open your wallets! Un-mattress your cash!
Donate all your savings, and empty your stash!
Dig deep, and find money, and give it all here
And then yell to your friends so that they overhear

And THEY give us their money! And THEIR friends do, too!
and then when it’s all over … just what did we do?
We shut down the banks, and we took all the bucks
and every last dime in the world went to us

The people of Earth will all turn out their pockets
And hope, beyond hopes, that we’re gonna rock it
And rock it we will, for the price you did pay
Oh, the game that we’ll make. OH, THE GAME THAT YOU’ll PLAY!!


Word.