This is a guest blog post by Jon from Cherrymochi, developers of the game Tokyo Dark. It's posted under Ashley's account but was written by them. Enjoy!
Hi everyone, Jon here. My wife and I run a small indie studio Cherrymochi, based just south of Tokyo. We recently released our first title Tokyo Dark, published by Square Enix Collective. The launch has been a great success! From concept to Kickstarter to launch we have used Construct all the way, so wanted to share an overview of this journey with you.
Tokyo Dark is a fusion of visual novel and mystery adventure game that puts the story in your hands.
Play as Ayami Itō, a detective desperately trying to solve the mystery of her missing partner. To uncover the truth, you'll have to dive into Tokyo's dark underbelly, confronting strange and unreal sights while struggling to maintain your sanity. Explore the many sides of Detective Itō and discover all 11 exciting conclusions to her story.
Detective Itō concept art.
The steps involved in bringing TD to life:
2013 — Decided to set up our own indie studio (Background in interactive narrative and digital media having worked as a freelancer for companies including Hewlett Packard & Aardman)
Early 2014 — Form Cherrymochi as a company, build a number of prototype games while testing engines.
Mid 2014 — Created outline and concept for Tokyo Dark. Decide on using Construct 2.
Late 2014 — Create prototype (around 30mins of game play) in C2.
Late 2014 — Register trademarks & legal protection.
Late 2014 / Early 2015 — take part in Square Enix Collective platform feedback. Receive a 94% positive vote.
May 2015 — Run Kickstarter — hit 100% goal in day 1. End campaign with CA$ 225,386
June 2015 — Start full production.
February 2016 — Distribute Alpha to Kickstarter backers. Receive feedback on development from players.
March 2016 — Sign to Square Enix Collective. Begin working with publisher.
2016 — Take Tokyo Dark to many game shows around the world to receive feedback directly from players. Gamescom, EGX, Tokyo Game Show, San Diego Comic Con, Bitsummit...
July 2016 — Win Best in Show 'Vermillion Gate' award at Bitsummit.
Mid 2016 to Mid 2017 — Peak production period.
Spring 2017 — First fully playable build.
July – August 2017 — Quality Assurance testing with Square Enix.
September 2017 — Launch for Windows on Steam.
As you can see from business start up, to concept, to fund raising to launch took us around 4 years in total. During the initial period of this we focused on evaluating engines and building a number of prototypes for different games before we settled on Tokyo Dark and Construct. Development took around 2 years after fund raising fully focused on TD's production.
During our initial R&D period we built prototypes using many engines available at the time. We knew we wanted to focus on 2D and C2 simply clicked with us. We found plug-ins incredibly useful and were able to easily add functionality that C2 didn't provide 'out of the box.' We used Spriter throughout Tokyo Dark and it always worked seamlessly for our animation needs.
As an art focused team Construct's visual programming allowed us to make progress faster than other options available at the time.
Animations using Spriter & Construct 2
Another huge advantage of using Construct is it's WebM video support. This allowed us to easily include high quality animations, integrated seamlessly into the game.
Tokyo Dark's anime sequences use Construct's WebM video playback.
From our experience we think one of the biggest mistakes any dev / company can make is to work on a project for years in the dark, with no idea if there is an audience for their product.
We very intentionally built in a number of 'check points' that (we hoped) would stop us from investing too much time and funds in a game that would not appeal to it's intended market.
The first of these was taking part in The Square Enix Collective. If you don't know about this it's a great platform to get feedback on your initial concepts and prototypes from the Square Enix community. The community votes and gives feedback on games they would like to see developed. We received a very strong 94% positive rating. This was our first 'check' that we were moving in the right direction.
Our second was crowdfunding & running a Kickstarter. As well as the (huge benefit) of raising a proportion of your production budget, it's also a really good way to gauge interest in your title and get feedback from a passionate community to steer the game in the right direction.
With a Kickstarter community along with us for the journey our next 'check point' was a playable alpha. We thought it was important to get a playable build out to backers as early as possible. This took us about 7 months, from the Kickstarter finishing to getting an alpha build in players hands. The feedback we got from all these playtesters was incredibly helpful. We published all the feedback we received for the community to see: kickstarter.com/projects/114971883/tokyo-dark/posts/1501426
The next 'Check point' we'd recommend to all game-devs is to get out to shows and get you game into the public's hands. Kickstarter backers and the community you build up around your game are amazing, but they are (quite literally) invested in supporting you and seeing you do well.
The general public at a games events are completely neutral to your game. So the amount of interest you see at these events and the feedback you get are another fantastic way to check that development is moving in the right direction and gives you the opportunity to make tweaks to the games from the responses you get.
The final 'Check point' I want to mention is signing with a publisher. After receiving a fantastic offer from Square Enix Collective we signed with them in 2016. They have been a huge help along the way. Helping us with promotion and quality assurance testing that proved to be our final 'check point' before launch.
Tokyo Dark at Square Enix 2015 E3 conference presentation behind SE CEO Phil Rogers
With so many indie titles being released every week, signing with a publisher and getting their support can make all the different to your success. With a tiny team like ours, having a publisher take on promotion responsibilities gave us more time to focus on development. It's a win / win situation. We've had a great experience working with Square Enix, though approaching a publisher of that size may seem a bit intimidating, if you have a title that is unique and you are confident in, it is absolutely worth putting the game out there and seeking support.
It's been said before, and I'll say it again, the last 10% of a project is 90% of the work. Getting the game out is by far the most difficult part and is incredibly exhausting! But once it's in players hands and people are enjoying it, it all becomes worthwhile.
Tokyo Dark is made by a husband a wife, working with a handful of freelancers using Construct 2. We've reached a global audience and had great write ups from major games media sites such as Kotaku and Destructoid in a little over 4 weeks since we've launched we've received a 93% positive review rating on Steam and the game is selling well at $17.99 for the Standard edition, $24.99 for the Collectors edition.
If we can do it, so can you!
I want to keep this post brief (it would be far too easy to get carried away and write a 20 page ultra detailed post-mortem here instead of a brief overview), but if you have questions on any areas that you'd like more details on, be sure to ask in the comments and I'll post answers there.
And please be sure to go check out Tokyo Dark on Steam! store.steampowered.com/app/687260/Tokyo_Dark/