“Post mortem” is a game industry thing, reflecting on a project for our own benefit (to learn from our mistakes and successes), and for anyone that might try to follow in our footsteps. Production for Outwitters has been suspended, but servers and season support will continue for as long as there are players to spend the wits. The forums will always be around to find active teammates and opponents.
This is being written by Adam, the artist half of OML, and doesn’t necessarily reflect Alex’s experiences making Outwitters. I’m responsible for artwork, and we collaborate on the business and game design decisions.
What Went Right
As the first prototypes for Outwitters were being assembled, we had never balanced a competitive multiplayer game. I had never done real character animation for games before. I hadn’t done digital painting since high school, and I didn’t have much in the way of level design experience.
In the roughly 1 year and 10 months we worked on this game I tried all of these things, scrapped the work, and redid it until it felt right (or we ran out of time). Looking at the project in terms of what I was capable of when we started versus what I can do now, Outwitters was an amazing learning experience. We really challenged ourselves and got outside of our comfort zone, and I think that paid off.
The stated goal of the project was to create a turn-based strategy game for everyone. It started as sort of a reaction to strategy games I thought were too complex to get into. I think Outwitters is easy enough to pick up, and we’ve had a fantastic fan community that’s really taken to it. But there is one caveat:
What Went Wrong
When you set out to make a “strategy game for everyone”, that includes people who don’t like strategy games. While working with some of our testers, we learned that these people don’t like them on a molecular level. They do not want to play your turn-based strategy game, no matter how cute your bears are. So catering game design decisions to them, like keeping teams the same except for one unit, was probably misguided.
A bigger problem, financially, was that Outwitters took a really long time to make.
After release, I remember Alex wondering at what point we would break even. How do we even calculate that? We wrote it off at first; we’re a small company with no office, so our games must only cost sound effects money and the occasional equipment purchase. Then it occurred to us that if we need this much in salary to feed our faces and X to run the company each month then, gasp, our time has value! It sounds crazy, but only now do we know what a month of game production costs us. And Outwitters cost many months to make.
The rationale behind our business model was something like “it’s multiplayer, so we need lots of people playing” and “freemium seems to be working well for other companies.” There was definitely a dash of “we can do it without getting all shady with ads and timers.” Not much thought was put into pricing, conversion rates, or how many users we’d need to break even; because that had never really been a problem for us before. We didn’t understand what made the freemium business model work. I’m glad that we learned something about the business side of game development, and we’re still very much alive, but it was an expensive lesson.
Very early in production, but still excited to announce our next project: Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous. Be sure to sign up for our mailing list for an email reminder when the game’s released, and stick with this blog to follow our journey back into the realm of arrow-on-dot violence.
Outwitters 1.6.1 is out! Players are loving the new maps with the release of the 2nd gen maps in our previous update. Then they realized the new maps weren’t coming up in league play. Oops! This update fixes that. The new map pack should now start appearing in league matches.
On the topic of the recent Bramble buff, we’ve been listening to feedback and watching match outcomes in aggregate. With most drastic changes to unit abilities or gameplay rules, we see a slight upswing in favor of the new ability as players are typically faster at learning how to use the ability offensively than they are at defending against it. Defensive strategies tend to lag behind any metagame changes as players slowly adapt new tactics and let go of old ones that no longer work. While we do think the new Bramble is strong, we aren’t 100% sure if it is broken or a matter of the metagame lagging behind. We would like for the Bramble change to run it’s course through this weekend, and come next week we’ll look at the data and feedback and adjust from there. We do appreciate our player’s patience and support as we work towards a more balanced game!
Outwitters 1.6 is approved and on its way to your device! Be sure to grab the 2nd Gen Maps IAP to practice dominating on three fresh 1v1 maps and two new 2v2s.
Bramble fans will be happy to hear that you can now remove less-than-ideally-placed barriers (though you’ll also lose that patch’s children in the process). As if that weren’t enough, thorns can now attack your enemies for 1 damage as their action for the turn. Snipers, medics, and runners beware!
Another change coming exclusively to our free users is the addition of interstitial ads! Every third turn you take, you’ll be dazzled by images and copy from some of the brightest minds in modern marketing. All at absolutely no cost to you! You can disable them by buying anything from our store. We fought hard to find other adequate revenue sources, but now we’re trying this.
2nd Gen Map: Skullduggery
The results are in, and if you keep reloading this page there’s a 1 in 7 chance that Outwitters will be at the top of the Honorable Mentions for the coveted Best App Ever Award! We’re truly grateful to join such excellent company as Punchquest, The Room, and for some reason Google Maps. We even took home 2nd Place for Best Multiplayer Game of 2012, beat by a super-slick word game called Letterpress, which is totally fine by us.
Thanks a butt-ton to everyone that went out of their way to nominate and vote us!
As you’ve likely already noticed, Outwitters 1.5 is out! This update buffs the Veggienauts’ thorn patches to 3 health, so enemy soldiers and runners will have a harder time cutting through. You can even medic-boost them to 4, so no one can kill them in one hit! Since it’s tougher to clear thorns from the map, we’re giving out a bonus wit for each patch that’s killed directly.
- Bramble thorns now have 3 health
- Players get 1 wit for killing a thorn directly
- The League Point system was amended to make divisions more competitive
- Fixed some memory leaks that would cause crashes
This slipped under our radar, but voting is underway for the Best App Ever awards and we’ve been nominated in FIVE flippin’ categories! Those are nominations by the public, so it really means a lot that you guys thought us worthy. Click a link to support Outwitters in whatever category you like. If we win something because you voted, it’s kinda like you won something, eh?
I remember the crushing disappointment when I learned that Tilt to Live’s cooperative mode only worked with blue tooth connections. I have only ever had white teeth.
But lo! Through the magic of Game Center, Viva la Coop now features online matchmaking in new updates for both Tilt to Live iPhone and Tilt to Live HD! Just don’t try to play HD with your iPhone buddy; they’re different games. You can match to random strangers, or invite a Game Center buddy to help out. Bullet points!
- Viva la Coop can now be played online via Game Center!
- Big fat iPhone 5 display support! See parts of the background you have only dreamed about.
- No mic support, so your friends won’t hear you yelling at them.
- Replaced a few images that have been blurry for like 2 years.
Like a real sport, but requiring less coordination. Outwitters ranks will now reset at the start of each new season, so you might not be in Fluffy League forever. The end of Season 1 will be announced soon.
- iPad base avatar store now works.
- You can no longer hear thorn patches being grown in the fog of war.
- Mobi’s position is no longer revealed in the fog of war when moving hidden teammates.
- Fixed HUD issue with tutorial on iPhone 5.
We’ll be taking a look at some server statistics and shifting unit balances where needed, in preparation for Season 2! Edit: Sike. We’ll start Season 2 while we look over the balance.