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It's been a crazy month. I'm still being pulled in a million directions at once by all of the stuff on my to-do list, but I'm pausing for a moment to share with all of you the story of Silk Games' success. My hope is to make the case for just how viable original games are on BYOND, and why you should start making one right now.

This post is addressed to the developers who have been sitting on the sidelines (or on their hands) because they haven't believed that making an original game is worth it.

I believe that I can boil down the secret to my personal success so far on BYOND to one very simple piece of advice. Heed my advice and put yourself in the same mindset that the Silk Games team did, and you could be responsible for the next big BYOND hit that will make NEStalgia's recent run seem like nothing in comparison.

My advice: Don't make a BYOND game.


I've see a lot of games come and go during my time on this site, and ninety-nine percent of them all had one thing in common: they were designed to be BYOND games. In other words, most developers have believed that a game's worth was judged based upon a simple comparison between their game and other BYOND games. So-called technical accomplishments have been trumpeted over everything else: "I have click to teleport commands in my game!", "I have a 500x500 map!", "There are 100 different types of enemies!" "I made sweet animations for all of my attacks!"

No one outside of BYOND cares, and no one (apart from 8-14 year olds) is going to be interested in your game unless it's good by the standards of all other games that are available online. Let's face it: there are only a handful of BYOND games that don't suck. Put 99% of BYOND games side-by-side with any "real" game in the same genre and it becomes glaringly obvious what an embarrassing mess most games here are.

If you can't tell which of these screenshots looks like a legitimate game, and which looks like some student homebrew crap you'd have found on a Windows 3.1 shareware collection disc back in the early 90s, then you might as well stop reading this blog post right now.


You don't have to make a game that is overly complex, and you don't need cutting edge graphics. What you need is a complete, cohesive package: a great concept backed up with fun gameplay and a professional level of polish. Your litmus test shouldn't be whether or not other BYONDers would review your game as a 9/10 - it should be whether or not a site like Destructoid would.

Before what happened with NEStalgia in February, did anyone think in a million years that a BYOND game could be featured on mainstream gaming sites? No, they didn't: and that is the root of the problem.


NEStalgia's Success: Myths and Facts
NEStalgia's recent success was based upon two very important factors: the concept for the game, and the execution. The concept is unique and has never really been done before in a mainstream game. People have played old RPGs, and they've played MMOs, but by combining the two different genres we have something very original on our hands that is both familiar and new at the same time.

Once we nabbed people's attention with the concept, whether or not they tried the game (and stuck around) was solely dependent upon the execution. In that sense NEStalgia absolutely delivers - the look and feel of the whole thing is spot-on, and the game itself is a lot of fun to play.

The only area in which NEStalgia still has a lot of catching up to do with mainstream games is on the technical side of things. If we could host large-scale servers without lag (200 players+) we'd have retained a lot more people... but I'm not sweating that. While many developers here like to use BYOND's limitations as an excuse for not making a game, the fact is that even without the ability to host large servers we've been incredibly successful. Instead of whining about those limits, the Silk Games team is working pro-actively to find workarounds and solutions for them.

It's all about attitude and determination.


The Marketing Campaign
First a quick aside: Over the course of the past year when I talked about marketing NEStalgia, most of my "haters" on BYOND were proudly proclaiming that it would never work and that I'd fail... yet now that the game is popular, those same people point towards my "crazy marketing campaign" as "the only reason" for the NEStalgia's success, as if that's some sort of insult now. There's a lesson to be learned there, and it's to ignore the haters and don't let anyone else tell you what you can't do.

I've got a secret... and it's actually a pretty juicy one. Are you ready?

There was no marketing campaign.

I'm dead serious. I didn't get the chance to put my plans into action, because the game exploded about half an hour after I sent off what were essentially my "warmup" emails.

My brilliant marketing campaign™ amounted to a website, a trailer for the game, and this email:



NEStalgia didn't make the front page of Kotaku, Game Informer, Destructoid, Joystiq, etc. etc. etc. because I "marketed" the game. It made those sites because it was such a unique concept, and the screenshots and trailer backed it up by demonstrating how well executed the game was.


Player Counts
Everyone over the age of 14 on BYOND knows that fan games here don't get players because the games are good (they aren't), they get players because practically all of their advertising is being done for them. By associating themselves with a popular IP, DBZ/Naruto/Final Fantasy fan games on BYOND are automatically having players funneled their way. There are millions of DBZ fans out there searching the internet for more DBZ stuff every single day; it would be hard to create a DBZ game and not get hundreds of players trickling in automatically.

I know that this phenomena has discouraged many potential original game creators here, and has even turned them a lot of them over to the dark side as they hope to take advantage of leaching onto a popular IP's success. Perhaps it should have occurred to some of you that there was another path to take, one that was not only much more profitable, but much more fulfilling: create your own IP and work to make it popular.

With even this small initial burst of exposure, NEStalgia is now beating the BYOND Fan Games at their own game. Just last week I found out that we'd been featured on 1UP's Top 101 Free Games of 2011 list - which compliments our presence on Gamepro's 37 Best Free PC Games list. We have a lot of very popular "Let's Play" YouTubers releasing weekly videos that get tens of thousands of views. Just a couple weeks ago one of our community members posted about NEStalgia on a website that they frequent, and we ended up with thousands of page views and hundreds of new logins in a single day.

Can you imagine what's going to happen when we expand the game so that it can handle larger servers, and then begin to actually market it? With the long term development plans that we have in place (not to mention the advertising budget that I now have at my disposal), trust me when I say that you've only seen the tip of the iceberg.


The Money
Let's get right to the point: NEStalgia sold $10,000 worth of subscriptions during the first three weeks of the explosion.

Three weeks. Ten. Thousand. Dollars.

Those of you with BYOND development skills who are having a hard time getting motivated - if $10,000 in three weeks doesn't get your attention, then I don't know what will. Of course our profits have leveled off a bit since the initial explosion, but they're still very steady. The average sales/donation revenue for the last two weeks is $150 per day - and even at those numbers I could theoretically develop NEStalgia solo as a part time $40,000+/year job after expenses.

Now all of that is pretty crazy for a BYOND game, yes... but it barely scratches the surface of what a truly successful indie game could bring in. The money we've earned so far has simply proven that NEStalgia has the potential to be a gold mine - it's now up to me and the rest of the development team to take it to the next level.

What's stopping other BYOND games from doing this? That's a good question to ask yourself.


A note about BYOND benefactors
BYOND does indeed receive a much deserved cut of the NEStalgia revenue, which brings me to my next aside:

I've always hated the fact that people champion users who donate money to BYOND as the "ideal BYONDers" who are the ones "doing the most good for BYOND". Donations are certainly nice, but I've always said that the best way to benefit BYOND is to create good games. Now not only have I done that, but as a side effect of creating a good original game I've essentially also become BYOND's biggest financial benefactor.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


What You Should Do
Whether you're new to BYOND or a developer with ten years of DM experience, you should drop everything and start developing an original game right this minute. If you put some real thought into coming up with an original concept, and if you take the time to do it right, there is no reason why you can't experience the same level of success that NEStalgia has had thus far - or greater.

Don't worry about timeframe. The world isn't going to change in 6 months, 1 year, or even 2 years. There is no need to rush something out the door - take your time and get it right.

Just remember that your goal isn't to make a BYOND game: your goal is to make a game. The BYOND Hub, the members page, the developer forums - all of those things are irrelevant. Your audience is waiting outside of BYOND, and when you make a good game you'd be surprised by how little it takes to draw them in.

So what are you waiting for? Go do it.
Great post!

I'm looking forward to NEStalgia's marketing campaign, and what that brings - it's even a realistic goal for you to live off of this project now! I must say, it's been fantastic watching this all unfold first hand and I've definitely learned a thing or two.

Hopefully other BYOND developers have also learned from your success as well, and will put your words into action and receive similar results.
A part of me thinks you chose a terrible time to market NEStalgia.

Players come to play NEStalgia and then get curious and look around BYOND to see what else to play... and what is there?
I can only think of less than half a dozen games that would meet the expectations of someone coming from the outside community.

The time you picked and what there has been available makes it somewhat embarrassing to BYOND.


Anyhow...
Congrats on the success, but the timing could have been better.

Here's to hoping that more quality games will spring up in the near future and save face for our community.
D4RK3 54B3R wrote:
A part of me thinks you chose a terrible time to market NEStalgia.

Players come to play NEStalgia and then get curious and look around BYOND to see what else to play... and what is there?

I don't agree with this! As the post says, and previous ones have stated, NEStalgia was never "marketed" - he wasn't expecting that kind of increase in traffic.

And, even if that were a marketing campaign, you can't fault it based on the timing. It could be several years before there's a sizeable amount of BYOND games that are presentable. As long as NEStalgia is polished, that's all that counts -- it's wasteful waiting on other developers before cashing in.
Silk mentioned advertising NEStalgia to the outside audience in the past. This kind of made the traffic explosion look like the result of a marketing plan



BYOND has been notorious for being a breeding ground of terrible games. Both in 4chan and in Reddit and in numerous other online communities.

When NEStalgia spread about, the initial traffic spike reinforced this view of BYOND and there were few games released on BYOND at the time that could redeem it in any way.

In any case, my point is moot.
If Silkwizard makes another big marketing push, cool. Let's hope the rest of the community will have something presentable if and when this happens.
What BYOND needs are a lot of smaller, funner, polished games so that BYOND doesn't seem like a barren wasteland to NEStalgia's audience.
D4RK3 54B3R wrote:
The time you picked and what there has been available makes it somewhat embarrassing to BYOND. Congrats on the success, but the timing could have been better.

I can't think of a single situation in life where I would postpone my own aspirations for the sake of waiting for another group of people to "catch up".

If BYONDers want to take advantage of the next wave of players that NEStalgia is going to bring in, then it's on them to stop twiddling their thumbs and get to developing a game. To be honest, the idea that BYOND has this terrible reputation on the internet is completely overblown. At the end of the day it's just another excuse that BYOND developers use for why they don't finish their projects.


Duelmaster409 wrote:
What BYOND needs are a lot of smaller, funner, polished games so that BYOND doesn't seem like a barren wasteland to NEStalgia's audience.


Yup, I totally agree. Not every successful game has to be a grand-scale MORPG.

I also think that the BYOND pager could use a massive overhaul to look and feel more like Steam. Most of the new NEStalgia players never visit the main BYOND site, but all of them use the pager.
SilkWizard wrote:
I also think that the BYOND pager could use a massive overhaul to look and feel more like Steam. Most of the new NEStalgia players never visit the main BYOND site, but all of them use the pager.


This.

Awesome post, very inspiring.
Good work and good luck for the future! (:
I've been bugging them about a pager overhaul for years. What did that get? A crappy web-based pager that nobody is gonna use. I think if we want something done we should just do it ourselves. In the two weeks I was testing the Ncom Messenger idea I got over 500 beta testing applications and served well over 200 clients at any given time -- and it didn't even have a real direct connection to the hub. People still had to run the pager of course, but they didn't have to use it. All game tracking and message services were done by the program, the last version even had it loading BYOND news like the pager would.

... it even had group chats, people LOVED that, it cut out the need to join a chat program entirely, you'd just invite your friends and be done with it. I think if we could talk Tom and co into letting a couple of trusted users access to the pager protocol we'd be able to make a program worth using.

As for the original post; I definitely agree -- you should be making games how you want to see games, not games how BYOND makes it easy. It's entirely possible to create professional-level games with BYOND, but not if you keep making them with BYOND 3.5 and below as your standards. You've (Silk) played my recent side-scroller project, you've probably noticed I'm trying to stray away from the generic BYOND feel as much as possible (minus my obviously lacking graphics, the gameplay is excellent). You've also tried my RPG project and have seen it also tries to deviate away from BYOND, it doesn't even use the key system (you can link your key to your game account for easier access though).
40k isn't bad, but 40k off of a BYOND game is a concept that really slaps me in the face. And stings...
I'm glad Silk's game nets him as much as it does. I'm also envious and jealous.
I'm glad you made the post because people don't seem to understand that a BYOND game can be a non-trivial source of both income and notoriety.

I agree about the pager but we're moving that over to a web-based system since that cooperates a lot more naturally with the Flash. It also also us to run some ads without violating the end-user agreements, although I haven't decided whether we'll do that or not (I freakin' hate ads).

I'm not loving the anti-BYOND logo at the bottom there... At a glance, you're basically saying "don't use this @#&* product", even though your actual message is quite different (it's more like "use this product, don't use the #$@$ community"). My hope is that when we get more developers finding success via their creations in the outside world, they still keep in mind that we were a (big) part of what got them there. Half the purpose of this extraneous site foo-- blogs, Membership, etc-- is to keep the project funded (since it is very difficult to make money off of a platform unless it is phenomenally successful or charges for usage).

But meh, hopefully this will be a moot point once we have better web integration, since in theory we'll benefit from traffic anytime anyone plays a game.
Tom wrote:
I'm not loving the anti-BYOND logo at the bottom there... At a glance, you're basically saying "don't use this @#&* product", even though your actual message is quite different (it's more like "use this product, don't use the #$@$ community").

That's a good point - and since I don't have much faith in the average BYONDer to read the post closely enough to understand my actual meaning with that, I'll take it down. I don't want people to take away the message "don't use BYOND" with this blog post.


Tom wrote:
My hope is that when we get more developers finding success via their creations in the outside world, they still keep in mind that we were a (big) part of what got them there.

I think that you have a lot of devoted community members, but at the same time you can never tell what people are going to do when money gets involved. In theory someone could totally cut BYOND out of the revenue stream at the moment, which definitely isn't right. I think that protecting yourselves (and your hard work) by integrating ads etc. into the pager, or by even charging to license the use of BYOND when a game gets big enough wouldn't be a bad idea.

Granted, that's all irrelevant until more big games get developed.
My problem is I'd love to make a game. I have a game in mind right now that I know people would love. I know it would be very cool too. But sadly no pixel artist is going to want to do it so I've given up on it in a way. (Text based now :/)
This thread is full of win.. $10,000 within three week's?...makes me want to start learning how to code and make a game
Congratulations on your success & thank you for an awesome game! :)
I wonder if not having a marketing campaign at all can be considered a successful failure? Gloat ahead, haters! ;)
Inspiring, I'm a daily player of NEStalgia and I can't get enough of it. It's essentially the only reason I still visit Byond.

I havn't sat down with Dream Maker for longer than half an hour in nearly a year now. Granted I do have a lot of essays and college projects to work on, but I'm not lacking free time.

$10,000 is a hell of a motivator, and I think it may well be time for me to sit down and take a serious, dedicated approach to creating a game with Byond.
I think I'll start up PE:SF now that I have a bit of time on my hands. I don't have an artist, but gameplay comes before presentation (At least in my own little world). Plus I could sure use $10,000, being as poor as I am.
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