The funny part is that both problems are really kind of one problem, as more exposure would result in more sales, which results in more time for development through the added budget, resulting in more refined and more frequent releases, which would again lead to more exposure through more news and people sticking around longer.
So far, I have not had the budget to work fulltime or even parttime on the game. So all that you see now is the result of long spread-out work, resulting in a slow but steady growth the game has been going through for the past 2.5 years. I have tried unsuccessfully to break this vicious circle of not having the budget to do this before with 2 crowdfunding attempts in 2013. Both of which never came close to their targets but they have shown that the game's fans are dedicated as most of the funding received did come from returning players.
Today, more than half a year later, while we are in the final weeks of development for series 0.3x the situation is looking a lot better. The first three months of 2014 each earned more than 19 out of 24 months before that and the following three months up until now being by far the 3 most successful months the game has seen to date. In total the game has earned more money in this first half of 2014 than it has in 2012 and 2013 combined - even with those two crowdfunding campaigns.
So where does this leave us now?
Actually - if things stay as they were in the last 3 months - we're getting close to me being able to work full or at least part time on the game. If the amount of sales from these 3 months were to come each month I could start working fulltime on the game, which would lead to you seeing a lot more and a lot more refined updates.
This is a huge improvement, as the game would have needed to make 10 times what it did during 2013 on average.
So to help and take these final steps in speeding things up a final, shorter Indiegogo campaign (42 days until August, 10th) has been launched. The goal of the campaign is to gather the funds I need to be able to fully concentrate on developing for the next 2-3 months. (If the sales hold up or go further up, potentially even longer.) During that time Cars Incorporated's user interface (UI) will receive a major makeover to get rid of what appears to be the biggest problem of the game in getting attention: The graphics.
The new UI
Right now the new UI is in the planing stages but I intend to show a prototype sometime in July. The main difference will be that the background of the screens will not consist of pre-rendered images as it was originally intended (and like the simple office backdrop already works). Instead the background will feature a 3D scene that is being rendered on the fly by your graphics card. The submenues will be - for the most part - available in 3 sizes in windows that can be moved around. A mini view, a regular view and an expanded view that features additional information but requires higher resolutions then the default 800x600.
This has multiple advantages over the current AND the previously planned system:
- The game becomes independent from the resolution. This means that you can select from a variety of resolutions, giving you more or less room for the menu windows and it will neither look pixelated because of scaling nor will it require pre-rendered backdrops for every resolution (which would significantly increase the installation size)
- The flexibility of what the game shows will be greatly increased. With the old system every object that might change would need to be pre-rendered in it's position, which is a lot of additional work. With the 3D setup I would just need to swap 3D models, allowing for an easy replacement of furniture and other props to reflect the advanecment of time over 125 years of gametime.
- Animated details will also become easier to implement and would not take up a lot of space for pre-rendered animation sequences. For isntance the ceiling ventilator I've been wanting to add to the office would need dozends of pre-rendered images to fake a movement. In 3D I just need to rotate it.
- The incorporation of the 3D cars into their environment will be seamless. As an older test on Facebook has shown: Slapping the 3D cars on a preexisting 2D image looks awful, so adding the cars to any of the screens would not be an option. With the 3D environment it can simply be placed there. For instance in a research room, between some spare parts and drawing boards a prototype car could be placed.
Some people might have gotten the wrong idea about the word 3D in the initial name of the campaign, so I removed it. Just to clarify: You're not going to walk around in those rooms, all that will change is the way the environment is rendered, not the way it is used.
IMPORANT: What you can do to help
Aside from the obvious answer of contributing funds to the campaign it is VERY important to get the word out. As you all probably know by now I completely s*ck at marketing, so the most important part you can do is to help spread the word. Use the tools on the campaign page to share it on Facebook, tweet about it, e-Mail about it and get people to notice. If you like the game this can become a huge advantage to you as well as the game will be significantly faster developed and will turn out much more refined if this final attempt at crowdfunding hits the mark.
Of course there is also a new referral contest involved in which you can win the game, including a chance to be in the game yourself and of course access to the Inner Circle.
So please share the campaign as often as you can and help me out on the front that I alone can't suceed on: Getting exposure.