After a hectic four months of early development Sol Trader has gone into Alpha.
With this release, you can explore the known Solar System and make money through trading on the stock markets. There isn’t much else there yet, but I’m planning a slew of improvements over the coming months.
I’ve decided to charge right off the bat: you can buy the Alpha for £5 (about $8). This price will go up as I put more work into the game, and future game updates will be free until it’s finished.
Exciting yet terrifying
This is both a wonderfully exciting and deeply terrifying moment for me. The game isn’t near finished, yet I’ve released it on an unsuspecting set of game players. I’ve been reading the Lean Startup and I think it’s ready for feedback. This is my Minimum Viable Product.
The exciting bit: I finally get a sense of whether I’m going in the right direction and whether people might enjoy the fairly simple mechanics that are on offer in this version. Seeing Paypal emails letting me know that people have bought the game is very gratifying, even if I have to manually activate every purchase with a knocked-together ruby script.
The terrifying bit is: I finally get a sense of whether people actually might play this game. After all, if nobody likes it at all, there’s not much point continuing.
How I’m going to improve the game
I’m using KISSMetrics to track both website activity and gameplay. So far it’s working out well: I can see how people go through the site, make purchases, and then sign in and play the game.
I’ve deliberately not worked on the code behind the game for a couple of days, to let the metrics filter through and inform me about what’s next. So far the reaction has been generally positive - my metrics have had good framerates and people are playing for an average of 15 minutes and making about a dozen visits to planets each.
My first impressions based on early metrics and feedback: I need to make the economy more realistic as I think this will cause people to play the game for longer, and I need to add a video of gameplay to the front page to improve my sign up/purchase rates.
More on how I’m following the Lean Startup approach over the next few weeks and months.
The long road
This is where I need self-discipline more than ever. My weakness is that when I feel like I’ve achieved something (like launching an alpha), my tendency is straight away to look for the next thing. I’m determined not to let that happen here. I feel like I’ve delivered on perhaps 5% of the vision for the game. I’m passionate about seeing the rest of the vision fulfilled.
The more of you who buy the game now and play it, the clearer the way forward becomes. I’m grateful for every purchase: thank you to the brave early adopters!
If you’ve purchased the game, what can I do to improve it? If you haven’t purchased it yet, what can I put on the website to better inform your decision? Let me know.