Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year (thoughts about ADOM in 2015 & 2016)

A Happy New Year to everyone out there!

I'd like to continue the (by now) tradition of reviewing 2015 (now that it has passed away) and look forward to 2016. So let's start by looking back at 2015 by summarizing our goals for 2015 as outlined in my 2015 New Year's post:
  1. We planned to launch a new ADOM website.
  2. We planned to launch ADOM on Steam (scheduled for Q1/2015).
  3. I planned to finish ADOM Lite RPG after launching on Steam (scheduled for Q2/Q3 2015).
  4. We planned to get out the other physical and virtual crowdfunding rewards by Q4 2015.
Where did we succeed?

Let's examine those goals individually:

  1. The ADOM website has been completely redone and for the first time in the existence of ADOM we now have a truly professional, beautiful and clear website (mostly thanks due to Krys, our exceptional Team ADOM graphics & design guru - who also happens to be an HTML wizard). It took a bit longer than expected but the results are wonderful (and we have received nothing but good feedback), so we very happy with having achieved this goal.
  2. ADOM has launched on Steam. Only that it took us much longer than we ever hoped for. We launched on November 16, 2015, which is far behind Q1 2015. I will elaborate on this in the failure section below. So we were somewhat successful in this goal, but not completely.
  3. ADOM Lite RPG still has not shipped (and remains 99% done, but only 99%). I will elaborate on this below in the plans for 2016. So I clearly failed in this regard.
  4. The other crowdfunding rewards (except for some virtual ones) have not yet shipped.

Additionally we released 11 versions of ADOM in 2015 (which is better than the 9 times in 2014), but some of those releases where rather small or confined to Steam.

Looking at the evolution of ADOM 2015 has been a year mostly of fine-tuning and bug-fixing. Star sign selection probably was the biggest new feature although we put tons of work into fine-tuning the user interface. While most of the changes either are in the graphical interaction (e.g. with more and better animations) or in the way ADOM can be played via the keyboard they have been very important and mark a road we will continue to dwell upon.

The biggest success for the lifecycle of ADOM probably has been the Steam launch. So far it went exceedingly well and while I know that many readers don't like it when I start talking about money I will continue to be clear and transparent about this aspect of game development:
  • While we all work on ADOM because we love the game all members of Team ADOM are in stages of their lives where they need to earn money to make a living - each and every day. ADOM these days no longer is the work of a single person (although I'm still the main driver for the content evolution and vision behind ADOM): There's Jochen who's working his magic in almost all areas of programming ADOM, there's Zeno who has been a very important enabler for the new life of ADOM with his work on NotEye and immense programming skill (as well as being a fountain of good ideas), there's Krys whose artistically vision can be seen in all aspects of ADOM, the website and everything else and there's (last but not least) Lucas who has been doing an amazing job in making ADOM an audible experience. We all need to get food on our tables, support our families, pay our rent, etc. So money definitely is an issue.
  • Thus I was very excited about the Steam prospect and eagerly looking forward to see the results of our launch.
  • While it is still much too early to seriously discuss the question of whether roguelike games (in general, more specifically ADOM as the range of games these days is so large) can allow for a viable business model for a game studio my preliminary answer for 2015 is: Yes, I believe roguelike games can provide for a solid business model. But I will reserve my final judgement for the end of 2016 as this year will prove or disprove my opinion due to the sales trends at Steam that will provide some level of objective truth.
  • The first six weeks on Steam have been nothing but wonderful: ADOM has sold more than 10.000 units on Steam so far and is continuing to sell well each and every day. While sales numbers have decreased a lot compared to the first two weeks they are still respectable. Not quite enough to fund a full time studio (taxes and other distribution costs really are more staggering than I expected and far less money shows up on my bank account than you would probably expect from those sales numbers) but the prospect of funding a full time studio working on ADOM at least has become a viable option in sight. And in much closer sight than I dared hoping for.
  • Specifically we already now earned more than enough money to fund the team for at least one more year so that we can invest a lot more energy in ADOM in 2016 than in 2015 (because in 2015 we all were running on personal energy and invest with almost no money being involved).
  • That's good and I intend to invest the generated income in growing ADOM far beyond its current boundaries and hopefully making it known to a much wider audience. Besides paying the whole team this will entail advertisement experiments, professional public relations support and other activities related to trying to build a serious and professional business. It's very obvious that success and failure mostly are totally dependent on visibility. When I look at many of the depressing launch reports of rather awesome titles out there the one unifying point is that without being able to generate visibility you are doomed to oblivion. Generating visibility probably can work in two ways: You need some "thing" that creates lots of attention (a big name like for some of the established game designers that have generated millions of dollars through crowd funding campaigns, a true innovation at the right point and time like Minecraft, lots of marketing dollars like for most of the big wig titles or a large established existing community). ADOM doesn't fall into any of these categories but rather has a small existing community (compared to the gaming world at large). As I have always been quite persistent I'm betting my chips on being able to slowly grow this community into something much larger, now that we have a new audience to reach.
Where did we fail?

I again failed to live up to our planned timeline. For 2015 the reasons were different from 2014 but the end results are frustratingly similar as we are still far behind the schedule:
  • I simply became entangled in the most challenging and exhausting work year ever. As some might now my real life job is being one of three CEOs of a German IT company called QuinScape (which also urgently needs an updated website as the current website doesn't truly mirror our current recipe for success - but that is another story ;-) and 2015 has nothing but a blazing success for QuinScape: We grow by around 30% to almost 100 employees and our revenue increased by more than 50%. But at a price: Never did I have to work so much, so hard and so long to get through a year and felt totally exhausted more than once, going so far that I wondered about becoming the victim of a burnout for the first time in my life. Luckily this has not materialized but also at a price: I mostly stopped working on ADOM for months and months and all advances from my side were quite small and very incremental. In retrospective there was nothing I could have done differently and thus I have to shoulder the brunt of responsibility for not moving forward any faster.
  • All the members of Team ADOM had to revert to other paid activities as the funds from the crowdfunding campaign (except for ADOM Light RPG and other physical rewards) have completely been used up. While my awesome compatriots have been very energetic and nothing but marvelous in trying to push ADOM forward all the time in sum with the first point above we just couldn't move at faster pace.
Is there a good news about it? I hope so. Now that we fresh income from Steam (and it currently seems to be continuing at a reasonably stable level) we will be able to invest a lot more time and energy in 2016 and we definitely will use the chance we have. More on this below in my plans for 2016.

And now for 2016... what is there to expect?

Basically I envision three areas of work, in the following descending order of importance. For each of these major work items I have created a specific milestone in our issue database in order to check the main tasks and the progress for these work items (links below):
  • Task #1: Finishing the crowd funding rewards that still need to be worked on. That's the most
    important and most urgent item on my list for 2016 and will receive top attention. The milestone issue list is not yet complete but should be before the beginning of the next week as I am urgently working on it. Implementing these things will primarily be my own main job, supported by Zeno, Jochen and Krys for the required updates to the UI, internal data structures an stuff. ADOM Lite RPG also is included in this and I have reserved three full days next week to hopefully put the finishing touches to the RPG rules and send them to printing. Expect updates during the next week on this blog.
  • Task #2: Modernizing and improving the user interface of ADOM. In the past releases we have
    worked a lot on simplifying the keyboard controls (and you now can get by playing ADOM with but three or four keys you need to learn besides the movement commands). The prime goal here is to make the graphical user interface much more efficient and flexible, especially in relation to mouse input and controls, different screen resolutions and... controller support. I personally believe that we should be able to provide efficient controller support during 2016 to create a totally new playing experience. We'll probably support the Steam controller first and my dream is then to also launch ADOM on the XBox network and maybe for Sony Playstation, too. For now that's a dream but let's see what is possible :-) Work on this task probably will be a joined effort, lead by Zeno and Krys. We use the feedback from Steam and across all traditional channels to continuously discuss and refine our ideas for this.
  • Task #3: Implementing a team based play mode. While I still do not believe in true multi-player support for ADOM (technically it seems impossible to me) I think that I have a very good idea about how to implement a kind of team based play mode and my recent work on replacing ADOMs internal REPL architecture with an event driven architecture is an important prerequisite for this (but also will allow for many other cool things, especially also related to task #1). In combination with global high scores, a community web site and a true team play mode (maybe as a replacement for the current crowd mode) I envision a very community focussed game play (maybe even with a tournament league and stuff). This task probably will be jointly led by Jochen and me.
Besides that we will be adding all kinds of goodies to ADOM for a vibrant and exciting lifecycle in 2016. We have created a fourth milestone to compile a "best of" idea list, which we will use to select RFEs and implement them while working on the three main points above.

Personally I regard task #1 as totally mandatory and of top priority, task #2 as a very important and continuous effort and task #3 as maybe the most important feature for widening the potential audience of ADOM.

So that is the state of ADOM at the beginning of 2016. And now I'm off to deliver ;-)

Read ya soon!


  1. Sounds reasonable in terms of priorities and otherwise---main thing from here is just getting the update momentum underway as each goal gets attacked in turn as each sizable update to ADOM is a fresh shot at reaching new people, coverage in gaming media and general enthusiasts, and a reflection of actively being willing and/or able to respond to the fresh feedback of newcomers from Steam and otherwise to quicken the confidence going forward. I suppose the release/dev pace depends on exactly what is being targeted at each phase of time---but I would think that it couldn't go spectacularly wrong to endeavor to keep ADOM in the news, as it were, at least roughly monthly so as to pile up enough meaty and weighty accomplishments from the team to springboard each in turn to keep things lively.

    My reticence on Task #3 is diminished with the clarity of focus explained above for Task #1 and #2, though I am inclined to think the first two are still going to be the prime vectors to grow both the active and potential audience for ADOM in the immediate to near future---I'd like to imagine a mid-way point through the year when one or both of those are nearly completed and the issues of what to expect in the remainder of 2016 can be revisited with an update much like this one in a very different place with those fundamental foundational elements nicely bolstered at long last to where you are "caught up" with the past and on even footing for the present for perhaps the first time since this ADOM: Resurrection project began so as to be in a freer position to pluck from the future.

  2. Sounds very exciting! Looking forward to all the fancy new features! Keep up the good work :D

  3. We were 1666 in the Indiegogo campaign. It's impressive that 10K more have been reached through Steam! I hope we see more success and more updates in 2016.

  4. Sounds awesome! :)
    However I'm worrying a bit for several thousand RFEs that doesn't belong to "best of" idea list yet but worth at least to be looked into. Heck, I would even donate some RFEs at least for having a tiny comment from dev team on them!

  5. Excellent update. I wish you continued success in 2016.