Monday, January 27, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #91: Early Post-Launch

Okay, lots to get to today.

I couldn't have asked for a better post-launch week. It's been crazy, and I'm exhausted (and I somehow threw my back out yesterday), but it's all been good. I still have no idea about sales--still afraid to look--but here are some things that seem to have gone well:
1. Release date
I accidentally released in what must be the slowest period for games all year. Because of that, I'm still the first listing in the Steam "sports games" section. Not first in sales, but I'm the most recent sports game to be released, and that gets me an excellent placement on the page.
2. Stability
If the user doesn't have Windows Media Player installed, or it isn't enabled, the game will crash on launch (WPF apps use WMP to play audio and video files). But when it happens, the crashdump routine has done what it's supposed to, popping up a window and asking the user to send the file to the support e-mail. So 8 reports of that crash, all fixed very quickly.

I've added WMP as a requirement in the game's specifications, but almost no one reads those (I don't), so I'll probably keep getting a few of these e-mails.

Other than that, almost nothing. One user had a Windows crash in the third quarter of a game (bad). One user has an issue with the Steam community overlay somehow interfering with his ability to load a league (although it works fine as soon as he disables the overlay).

Overall, I am tremendously happy that the game seems to be extremely stable.
3. Reception
The Steam forums have been very positive, and the people playing the game seem to be enjoying themselves. I've had people tell me they were up until 4 a.m., or that they'd played the game for over ten hours in the last two days. I couldn't ask for anything more satisfying than that.

There have been two reviews posted so far (Red Door, Blue Key and One Guy, Too Many Games), and they've both been very positive.
4. Feedback
It's been very helpful to get intelligent feedback about what might get tweaked or added to the game. People are absorbed in the game to the point that they have useful and perceptive feedback.

Now, stuff that may not have gone so well.
1. Sales
I know, I haven't looked yet, but while the Steam forums have been very supportive and positive, the number of people in the forum isn't very large. I'm not concerned about this, but it's part of the overall picture, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

Okay, here are two stories that I think are very funny (hmm, that sounds a bit risky for you, doesn't it?)

First, DQ Ideas Man John Harwood installed GS on his adorable eight-year-old son's computer, because his son wanted to play the game (he's 2-0 on Rookie difficulty with the Explorers, so hell yeah!). John installed the game successfully and it runs fine, and just wait until you see the system specs:
Win XP SP3
Pentium 4 3.2GHz
1.5 Gig RAM

So basically, if you can still turn your computer on and it boots up, you can probably play GS with no performance issues.

Second, I gave away a fair number of Steam keys to reviewers and YouTube streaming channel guys last week. However, I did have one unlikely e-mail exchange:

*incoming transmission [Gridiron Solitaire]

Alien Joe 
to contact

[Incoming Transmission]
Humans *bzzt
We are *bzzt near your stinky and poor planet
Your last chance to save your world
is steamkey for Gridiron Solitaire
William Harris 
to Alien

The price of saving the universe has apparently gone down MASSIVELY. But what uses can the aliens have for my football card game?

Alien Joe
to me

Your game will be played by our great Admiral Zebulon. He want San Diego to won NFL. AND TO DESTROY ENTIRE LEGAUE WITH OUR MEGAGIGALAZOO..
Nah, he just want to win league.
 William Harris
to Alien

Okay, one last question. Did Admiral Zebulon become a fan of the Chargers while they were in the AFL, or after the AFL merged with the NFL? These are important questions when our planet is at stake.

Alien Joe
to me

He became their fan when they won AFL in 1963. Admiral was scout, looking for good players to our club Cojones Saturno and he felt in love to San Diego team. 

 William Harris
to Alien

Okay, man, I don't know who you are, but for an alien, you are incredibly entertaining. Here's a Steam key.

I don't know what the lifespan of your species is, but I'm going to keep working on the game and improving it, so hopefully you and/or your ancestors will enjoy playing.

Alien Joe
to me

Thanks a lot. Invasion cancelled. Hope your game will be sold good enough to make other fantastic titles.
Cheers, my friend from earth!

Yeah, that might have made the four years worth it, just with that one e-mail exchange.

Let's see, a couple of other notes. First, I recorded the GWJ podcast last night, and it should be up on Tuesday. Many thanks to Shawn Andrich for inviting me. It was far, far outside my comfort zone, but I have to be willing to promote the game if I want it to survive (I do), and the GWJ guys are incredibly nice.

There's also going to be a 1.01 update this week. Contents:
1. AI tweaks for 4th quarter situations where the CPU is behind. There are certain moments in the game (due to score and time remaining) where the CPU will basically lose if they punt, and there were a few cases where they weren't evaluating this properly.
2. I show a "fullscreen" option in the Options menu, but it's mislabeled. It should be "maxmimized".
3. The link to the BBC introduction to football players was inactive, so I've linked to the guide I put up in the Steam forum instead.
4. A sharp-eyed user noticed that the third game of the season was taking place on September 31. Oops. That's fixed.
5. There's now a version label on the title screen.

I think that's it for now. I'm working on a post about balancing complexity in card play versus skill gradations and time, but I may just pin that in the Steam forums and link to it here.

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