In this week’s blog post, Mark Venturelli of Rogue Snail discusses what it’s like to develop a game as big as Relic Hunters Legend. He also shared some insight into Rogue Snail’s community development for the game, some of the challenges they’ve faced as a team, and talks about what it’s like to make your dream game.
My name is Mark, I’m the game designer on Relic Hunters Legend and I’m the CEO of Rogue Snail.
We have fourteen people on full time, we’re fully remote.
Most of the CEOs I know here in Brazil have big offices, so we’re very different. Since we’re fully remote, I chose the name Rogue Snail because they carry their houses on their backs.
Brazil is such a huge country, and every time we wanted to work with someone, the person would be hundreds of miles away. We don’t have the same central hubs like San Francisco, Austin, or Vancouver––these cities where everyone in gaming tends to gather.
Rogue Snail is all about Relic Hunters. This indie label was basically just me for a while, Rogue Snail wasn’t a company for the first couple of years.
Relic Hunters Zero was a surprising success, it was something we did just for fun, we released it for free, open source. It ended up having millions of players, which caught us off guard.
After that we decided we should do a serious Relic Hunters game that could actually make some money. That’s when Rogue Snail actually got started as a company.
We’ve been working on Relic Hunters Legend now for about two years.
“We were funded in the final days of the Kickstarter.”
Even though we got over 100% funding on Kickstarter, I wouldn’t call the campaign successful.
We just barely made it. It was a horrible experience.
It was really good and we’re really grateful, our backers are sweethearts and we owe so much to them, but the actual experience of running the campaign was by far, the most anxiety inducing, hair pulling stress I’ve ever had in my entire career.
I hope I don’t have to go through anything like that ever again.
We were funded in the final days of the Kickstarter.
We were very hopeful at the start, we had done our homework and spent a lot of time researching what to do. We had a lot of people helping us out with PR and marketing to get the campaign going.
Our first week of crowdfunding went really well, and by all indicators it looked like would have a successful ending, so everyone was really hopeful.
But at the same time, there was so much to do. The game didn’t have a demo, and we thought that if we just kept working on the game, it would be okay that we didn’t have a demo during the Kickstarter.
We didn’t want to rush things or go into crunch or anything crazy just because of the Kickstarter, we wanted it to be business as usual.
I tried to shield the rest of the team from the Kickstarter as much as I could at the time, but we realized the campaign slowed down right in the middle of it––no new pledges, all the page views stopped––it was really discouraging and we weren’t sure that we were going to make it anymore.
We knew that we had to make a playable demo to stir interest in the game.
We threw out our previous plans out the door and we rushed to make a playable demo for the Kickstarter.
On the one hand it was good, it was fun writing really bad code as fast as you can, just to get it out the door. It’s kind of fun to write code like that, in a sort of irresponsible way.
However, it’s kind of like a party, in the sense that after it’s done, you have to clean up.
We felt the pain of the demo after the Kickstarter ended.
For about 3 months, we were still fixing bugs and errors that were caused because we were rushing.
At the same time, I think it’s the thing that allowed us to push through. We barely made it, and I think if we didn’t have the demo, we wouldn’t have made it.
“None of us has ever worked on anything this ambitious.”
I was just telling my business partner here even though we’re all veterans with over 10 years of industry experience, that our game sounds like the kind of project a dumb game dev right out of college wants to make.
It’s a really stupid project, but we’d like to think we’re doing it responsibly.
We understand the kind of thing we’re getting into, we’re not just going into it without understanding how hard these kinds of things are.
We know we’re stupid, so we’re trying to do things in a way where we won’t go insane.
I think that’s why we’ve had so many delays, because even when we try to be a little bit pessimistic about some of the goals we’ve set, we just know that if certain boring parts don’t reach the level of quality we’re looking for, that we’re going to suffer a lot down the road.
For example, server infrastructure or how we do our netcode, this is something a lot of younger teams usually skip so they can get to the cool stuff.
We spent a lot of time on the boring stuff because we know that if we don’t, it’s going to be way worse one or two years down the road when the game is live and we’re trying to update the code and everything’s a mess.
I think we’re now at the worst part of it. In the Brazilian dev scene, we have what we call the “v of development,” it’s a graph of your happiness and your excitement about the project.
At the widest part of the V shape, you’re so happy and you think it’s going to be the best game ever made, and then as you go down the V, your happiness quickly goes down and things don’t always feel like they’re progressing as they should, then as you get closer to release it goes back up when you’re excited again.
I think we’re just past the lowest point. We spent about 5 or 6 months without any visible progress in the game, and even our backers and our most hardcore fans started to wonder what was going on.
I think we’re all at the point in our careers where we’ve been through this cycle many times. My first game was about 3 and a half years ago, and Chroma Squad was about two and a half years ago as well.
I think that’s why the Kickstarter was so stressful though, because it was new, but this kind of thing, we’re used to.
On the one hand, this is the most ambitious project any of us has ever done.
None of us has ever worked on anything this ambitious.
At the same time, it’s just a big collection of a lot of things we’ve done before, just scaled larger. I’m not scared, but I’m a bit anxious for it to be done.
We’re actively developing the game with the community.
The thing that’s the most different about this project is that we’re not only actively developing the game with the community, but it’s also always been an online game since day one.
There are people in our community who have been contributing to the game and helping us make decisions longer than some of the people on the Rogue Snail team.
We’ve always had servers up, we’ve always had people playing the game, and our community has always been connected to each other through the game.
We’ve got a lot of people in our Discord, and we talk to them every single day.
There isn’t a single day that goes by where someone from our team doesn’t talk to our community.
I think it’s really energizing to have this kind of closeness to the people who are cheering for us, investing in the game, and giving their ideas and feedback.
It doesn’t feel like we’ve been working on this game for 2 years.
It’s crazy that it’s already been 2 years, because the proximity we’ve had with our community makes the time go by much faster because we’re always releasing content and having actual people play it.
It feels like we’ve released the game 10 times already.
Working so closely with our community is different, but in a good way. A lot of games can’t go through development like this, and I feel like it’s an advantage for us.
Take a game like Anthem, for example. The texturing team on Anthem is certainly bigger than my entire team, and it’s such a gargantuan project with so many levels, like, $100 million plus budget, and they can’t show or test things early.
The game just released, and they’re having all these problems now, and they’re taking feedback, going in and fixing things, and being really active about it, but this is what they have to work on now that the game is out.
We’ve been doing that since the game has been playable, and I think it’s such a privilege that we’re able to develop the game with our community like this, and I think it’s something that we’re taking full advantage of.
People know that when we decide to release, it’s going to be so much better than if we locked ourselves in a little room and then afterwards showed everyone what we made.
Sometimes it can be a little distracting having so much feedback, but overall it gives us a degree of accountability for everything you do.
If we delay something or decide to change a big chunk of the game, if we’re keeping details of the project secret, and no one knows, we just have to make the decision and move on with our lives.
When you’re developing with your community, you have to explain things like this to the people following your game.
Overall, it makes us accountable because otherwise, we might waste time on things that aren’t important.
A lot of things that we think are important are not necessarily what the players think is important. This is something that a lot of game devs have trouble with, ourselves included.
Sometimes we spend a lot of time on things that people don’t care about and we don’t spend as much time on the things that people do care about.
The way we’re making the game, we have to make different decisions about what to prioritize and what to change.
How does it feel to make your dream game?
It’s kind of crazy, it’s really fun to do all the things you’ve wanted to do.
Relic Hunters Legend is everything I love about video games in one package: it’s got the cartoon visuals, the loot (which is something I’ve always been obsessed with in games), and it has the online component, which brings people together in a friendly, kind of feel-good energy. It’s not a gloom and doom kind of game.
Since it combines all the things I love with all the things I’m good at, it feels really good to come in and work on this game every day.
On the other hand, I feel an overwhelming responsibility not to screw it up because I’m doing the thing I’ve always wanted to work on.
I’m in a point in my career where I feel like I have a grasp on this: I can have a healthy lifestyle, I can have a good relationship with my wife, and I can just work 8 hours a day, call it a day, then come back the next day.
A lot of game devs just burn themselves out.
It’s something that happens to a lot of game devs. I’ve seen it, I’ve been there.
A lot of times, they’re just so excited that they’re doing their dream job or working on their dream game, or whatever it is, and they just forget to live life.
During the development, as much as I’m anxious for it to be done, I can find enjoyment and fulfillment in every single day.
The game doesn’t have to be a massive hit, it doesn’t have to make a million dollars or get perfect scores on all the review sites, I just love working on it.
For me, this is the biggest thing.
No matter what happens down the road, I feel like for me and the rest of the team, we’re happy during the process.
Relic Hunters Legend is aiming for Early Access release around Q4 2019
If people want to support us and be part of the development of the game, they can play the game right now by going to our website and becoming a founder.
I’ll be the first one to say that I don’t think the game is worth the money right now. If you’re just after it to have fun with a game, I don’t think it’s a good purchase for you.
If you want to support us, you think it’s a good project and you think we’re a good team, and you want to participate and be part of the development, I think it’s super cool.
We’re going to be on Steam Early Access at some point, and we’re going to be doing a closed beta sometime this year, probably around Q4 or maybe Q1 2020.
That’s the point where we’ll feel more comfortable charging money for the Early Access.
With that said, the full game will be free, we’re not going to be one of those games that says it’s going to be a premium game and then after a while goes free-to-play.
Our closed beta is going to be available on Steam Early Access, but eventually the game will be free.
So even if you’re not comfortable paying for a closed beta, you don’t have to, because the game will be free when it comes out.
Relic Hunters Legend is on Indie Boost!
Verified content creators and press on Indie Boost can request interviews with the Rogue Snail team and be among the first to receive keys for Relic Hunters Legend when they become available. Search for Relic Hunters Legend through your dashboard, or click here for their game page.