The Anarchic Kingdom: Release, Publicity and Lessons Learned
Wednesday, 23rd June 2021
I released The Anarchic Kingdom on Saturday 22nd May. This was quite a bit of work, and required some preparation beforehand.
Firstly I had to do some last minute development tweaks. The beta time limit was removed. I also developed a version that never quits, but simply restarts, which is necessary for the game to be played in an embedded web page where you don't want to see the DOS prompt. These were simple and relatively painless. Then I needed to prepare the release post offline, ready to upload to the web site.
Early on release day, the game file and release post were uploaded to my web site. Then I uploaded the project to Itch, published a devlog there, and submitted the game to the jam. Following that I announced the game on my own Discord server and on the Discord for the jam. Finally I prepared this series of blog posts.
There is a bit more publicity work to do. The game needs to be submitted to DOS game sites like doshaven.eu. A few weeks of regular tweeting about the game will alert followers who missed the release post; I'm thinking of playing through a single game and posting a series of screenshots and commentary on it over a period of a couple of weeks (one day per turn). A post on Reddit and other forums might bring in the players.
There were a few lessons learned during the project. The first one is one I already know but keep having to relearn: don't fight the language. If you like to program in one way but the programming language you're using prefers another, don't fight the language.
Secondly was a confirmation of something I knew: if you want to get something done, especially something with a deadline, keep it as simple as possible. The overall initial complexity of Barren Planet and subsequent feature creep made it impossible to finish in time for the intended game jam. In The Anarchic Kingdom I started with an even simpler idea. And many of the gameplay improvements I thought of, or that were suggested to me, have been reserved for future games.
Third was that I need to tighten up my testing. Announcing test versions, and expecting that people will download them and give useful feed back, is not enough - not even when you are getting plenty of encouragement. People lack time and have other priorities, and I'm sure the release has surprised a few people who intended to help with the testing at some point. In my next project I'll be seeking out beta testers and maintaining communication with them on a one-to-one basis, to see what they've tried and what the results were. That way I'll be really sure that my game is getting a thorough testing, not just for bugs but usability and playability too.
So now it's time to move onto other projects. And that reminds me of another lesson that I learned from Barren Planet and confirmed with The Anarchic Kingdom. For my own sanity, I won't publicly let on that such a project exists until it's nearly complete. That removes pressure, and prevents embarrassment when a project announced turns out to be more difficult, or not as much fun, as you expected.