Saturday, May 31, 2014

The state of ADOM (rank #11 on Steam Greenlight)

Today I'd like to summarize the state of ADOM in a somewhat more encompassing manner. Steam Greenlight is progressing exceedingly well (right now we are ranked at #11 out of 1665 titles (!!!) on Steam Greenlight and the trend is pointing upwards) so that I have changed my planning (once again) in order to prepare for Greenlighting in the (hopefully) near future - maybe in the next batch.
On Steam Greenlight:

Our unexpected but indisputable success (so far) on Steam Greenlight (I'm once more excited, elated and extremely happy every time I look at the statistics) by so far reaching rank #11 out of so many titles is flattering and a big responsibility. I want the first ADOM Steam release to be truly excellent as that will be the impression we will be giving to a much larger audience and as the saying goes: "You don't get a second chance for a first impression".

Here's the chart I forgot in the last update - as usual ADOM is bright green and the others are the titles at rank #5, #10, #15, #20 and #100:

Next are the top 10 - an awesome chance and honor for the brief amount of time we have been on Steam :-) Hopefully we make that goal, too.

As a consequence of the success so far I have postponed the work I originally intended to do this and next month - finishing ADOM Lite RPG and the majority of the other physical rewards from the crowd funding campaign. IMHO it's an important (and somewhat painful) step in order to focus all energies on the upcoming Steam release (for the reasons mentioned above).

In the past week I have spent endless hours trying to build up a press mailer, contacts and new social connections (mostly on Twitter, LinkedIn is still on my to do list) and this work slowly is starting to show some results. In the future I plan to have set up an automated press release and news distribution system in order to regularly contact important sites and outfits. Marketing, publicity and visibility (sadly) are a major important point for the success and longevity of ADOM and so it's only correct to spend more time on that.

I got some positive feedback and a couple of short postings have emerged to increase visibility: we now are on IndieDB I wish folks would be doing more to increase our visibility - sometimes it seems that it would be better to stop all our download servers and stuff in order to redirect traffic to important social nodes), we are on LGDB, we have a news posting on PCGamesN (yeah, I posted that), gamershell posted a short note and KillScreen had a short note. Also the Octopus Overlords chose us for their Lime Greenlight list (here and here). Additionally several reviews promised to provide coverage within the next week or two - keep your fingers crossed! If you know of other important sites or persons I should get into contact with let me know. Sadly so far from about 150 press contacts I collected only a very few responded (which is natural - this is hard work and needs time).

On ADOM Development:

The next additions to the game will be mostly related to making an awesome first show on Steam but naturally will also be beneficial to the free version of ADOM (at least some of those things).

Whenever I feel like it I add more and more achievements to the achievement system that Jochen devised. My guess is that we will have around 60 to 80 achievements with the first Steam release.

In parallel I'm working on three major enhancements for the graphical mode of ADOM (and maybe at some point also for ASCII mode), all related to mouse support (which I then need Jochen and Zeno to integrate with NoteEye):
  1. Hovering over a position for a moment shall bring up information similar to the look command.
  2. Right clicking on tile shall bring up an information window with both the information from #1 and a context dependent list of useful commands you might be able to execute,
  3. Left clicking on the PC shall bring up an information with both the information from #1 and a context dependent list of commands to access the various information screens regarding the PC.
This is yet another thing to make ADOM more accessible to casual gamers (and naturally will also require more hints in the tutorial mode).

On NotEye Development / the graphical mode:

Zeno has been spending a lot of energy to port NotEye from SDL 1 to SDL 2. The results are awe-inspiring. Not only has performance at least doubled (wait for the next release :-) ) but now we also are back in the race for an iPad version of ADOM at some point (there were problems with SDL 1). This in turn adds fuel to the fires of two secret and yet unannounced future sub projects regarding ADOM I will talk about at some later point. And we can add a lot more animation stuff in the future as performance really is so much better. 

On the rest of Team ADOM:

Both Lucas and Krys are doing work in their respective areas. Krys right now is very busy doing some additional graphical stuff and he has been very involved in considering a much better UI for ADOM. He churned out a number of very interesting proposals and we'll see where this is heading. Lucas is working on more soundtracks and sound effects (his pet quibble - his experiments to create new effects are awesome). And Jochen as usual is all over the place, especially now looking into the Steam API.

On Steam consequences:

There are other consequences of hopefully going to Steam:
  • I finally need to tackle the issue of save file compatibility. As most Steam players use the auto-update feature we no longer can afford to give a heck about save file compatibility. Personally I hate having to do this as the efforts required in keeping save files really are huge. For the sake of it I looked at the Angband sources and looked at their code for loading and saving games and it's so frustratingly trivial to what I need to do in ADOM that I could scream. The code required to load and save games in ADOM is about 10 to 15 times the size of the Angband code. Which might give you an idea about the energy it will take to keep that stuff compatible. Nonetheless I'm afraid we need to do that.
  • I'm planning special community features besides the achievements system and shared high scores I already mentioned elsewhere: I want to have player Ghosts that can migrate between Steam players (I'm looking forward to all kinds of funny new death experiences) and we are thinking about several collaborative game modes as well as a weekly dungeon challenge where you can play but once for a given week, with similar starting conditions and must try to be as successful as possible within the context of a single dungeon. We'll see how all that works out.
On other gaming outlets:

Once we have the first Steam version out I'm very hopeful to next move to GOG and Desura in increasing speed. The first time is the most difficult one ;-)

On more marketing:

I have been considering to go to Gamescom Cologne in Germany this year, maybe even as an exhibitor. Any opinions on that? The cost is quite a challenge (probably around 3000-5000 Euro minimum, work not included, maybe twice that) and it probably would be more reasonable to do that after a successful Steam release. On the other hand it is the one big chance to get lots of media contacts and as a consequence hopefully a lot of coverage - so it might be worth the gamble. Or not. Feedback very welcome.

On secret projects:

There are two of them. Both very directly related to ADOM - so work on them actually is mostly work on ADOM (no more side trek projects that never get finished ;-) ). One already is in the demo stage, the other in preplanning. If I were to say more, I'd have to kill you :-) We'll see...

That's it for now. I'll keep you updated. In the meantime please vote on Steam Greenlight (if you haven't done that), vote for us on IndieDB (right column, middle), rate us on LGDB and blog, post, tweet, etc. We need more visibility :-)


  1. Here's some bedside reading for you:

    It's a site with media links, Youtube Let's Players, business and marketing advice, etc. Really helpful stuff.

    And here's a good post from the dev of squad-based RL Steam Marines:

    Has a lot of nice overview points about getting visibility.

    I'm not convinced conferences help a lot unless you're after specific contacts. The best "networking" at them tends to be in finding people to work with. They can be very fun though ;) I'd advice starting with a much smaller indie expo, something very local, before blowing $4k on a bigger event. Showing your game to the public in such a situation can be a big learning experience!

  2. "I want to have player Ghosts that can migrate between Steam players (I'm looking forward to all kinds of funny new death experiences)"

    As long as they are just normal ADOM ghosts with names I'm okay with that.

    Random level super OoD almost character ghost spawning would be fun killing in the extreme for me, even as a fan of ADOM since 1995'ish.

    1. Couldn't disagree more! Crawl player ghosts are so much fun and add a lot to the game.

    2. I'm sure it could be made an optional feature. It would make the small cave even more deadly, that's for sure...

    3. My idea was to build in some "sanity checks" in order to prevent player ghosts that are not fun to fight (e.g. too high DV, too much PV, too much damage, etc.). Maybe even caps to certain ratings. And then naturally ghosts would be rated on the monster power scale so that you weren't too likely to encounter "out of depth" apparitions.

  3. I'm very excited to hear about these secret projects you have planned. Not sure what more awesome stuff you could possibly reveal about ADOM XD

    Might be worth trying to get in contact with YouTube personality TotalBuiscit he quite often mentions "Ancient Domains Of Masochism" when reviewing rouge-likes/lites. He might have been how I first heard about the game. However I doubt he'll do a video on it till you release a version on steam (not early access) if at all.

    1. I tried. From what I read on Twitter he sadly seems to have another cancer boost and is having more chemo. I hope that's either a false rumor or he gets out as a winner.

  4. Sounds interesting, however, beware of spreading yourself too thin. For example I only see diminishing returns in targeting GOG et al. (after Steam). As in ADOM, pick your battles. :)

    1. Definitely. Now the focus is on (a) completing the crowd funding promises (which just goes naturally with advancing the game) and (b) making the best possible impression on Steam. The rest will be collateral effects.

    2. Great, looking forward to see in how many ways you and the ADOM team can amaze us.

  5. About save game compatibility, maybe have a look at ToME/t-engine code? The non-steam version allows to import characters from earlier versions, witha cave-at that there might be weird bugs as a result. Not sure how Steam version works exactly.

    Also, have a look at this post: - the author is basically saying: new major update incoming, characters won't transfer because a lot of new stuff. Which imho is completely reasonable. Of course there's one upset user in the comments, but there's always one :P.

    I'd hate to see you waste time and energy on savegame compatibility. Maybe that's selfish of me, but I'd much rather see more features and bugfixes. Having "compatible" savegames will give absolutely no benefit to 90% (ok, that's a guesstimate ;)) of players, and a very minor benefit to the rest (their chars would die anyway :P).

    1. Thanks for the pointer and opinion. Which reminds me of the original discussions back in the 90s. Basically everyone hated the idea of incompatible save files and once it was established it never again was a topic.I have noted down to check for means to add a simple "In-game news from the Creator" system in order to be able to warn people ahead of time. Might be a much better approach ;-) I guess I'll also do a separate blog posting for this topic.

      Otherwise I personally totally agree with your opinion ;-)

    2. The problem is not saves themselves... I mean if you download new version of game and you know old saves won't work it not huge tragedy or something.

      And it is also not like "most Steam players use the auto-update feature"- most I know have it disabled and problem is steam still updates... cause they are considered critical for achievements/leaderbords and so on. The only way is to keep steam itself blocked from internet which is counter productive.

      As I' ve played xcom first sign of update was that mods stop working to point of crashing game... And I don't think having your ultra attempt/ archmage in progress/just lovely character not loading is good way to found about game update... Especially since reverting to older version on steam is rather painful process.

  6. I see you mentioned an iPad version of ADOM as a big maybe. What about Android tablet? You are already familiar with eclipse which is the "recommended" IDE for android app development.

    If not ADOM, what about JADE in the future? Since JADE is already java, I really dont think packaging it into an android app would be too huge of a leap.

    1. I think it is also possible to do C based releases on Android. But we'll look into that when (if) we manage to create a sensible iOS version as the first hurdle is lots of UI optimizations for touch based things ;-)

    2. Check out Brogue on iOS - it manages to do a roguelike interface very well.

    3. Meanwhile we can use dosbox to play non-tiled version)
      Doing it geeky way, yes...

  7. Before making the deluxe version available to all on Steam, be sure to make it available to backers so that we can spot possible bugs! A buggy release could be really bad for the Steam launch.

    1. Absolutely. As I understand there is also a possibility of beta releases on Steam for a limited circle of people so I guess I will offer that to the most prolific bug and RFE reporters beforehand in order to make as sure as possible that we really can do a very stable release.

  8. I'd love to see a ID challenge mode, and 2 high score tables for it, score and level. And perhaps make it a weekly challenge, which gives only one try in this mode.

  9. You're probably far down the savefile path already, but I wanted to put in a recommendation for XML or similar hierarchical name/value data as a very easy way to go once you get over the initial conversion. You can compress, encrypt, and/or sign/hash the resulting stream, of course, to avoid cheating. You can easily keep it device independant and have portable save files.

    Years ago I made the switch in personal and professional projects and that serialization part of life has been much better ever since.

  10. I'm terribly excited about all this. I used to play ADOM as a kid and hardly any of my friends or family had the patience to understand it. Heck, my mother saw me playing a few times, thought I was hacking the computer or whatever.

    I can't believe I'm saying this, but I hope you don't have planned getting rid of one time save files. I've played for about 11 years and still haven't been able to beat the game. That's what hooked me. Either way, still love and admire your work.