Obsessive-Compulsive Development: Retro/Grade Postmortem
May 28, 2013 3:07 PM   Subscribe

An honest, heartbreaking, and ultimately informative postmortem on the positively rated game Retro/Grade presented at the 2013 Game Developers Conference.
posted by SpacemanStix (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Poor guy learning lessons the hard way. He sounds really talented and I hope he finds a way to do it better going forward.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:38 PM on May 28, 2013


Great talk, but I had no idea what was going on in the gameplay videos.
posted by smackfu at 5:16 PM on May 28, 2013


I had the same reaction as the first question asker; appreciated the frank, earnest presentation. Thanks for posting it here.

He implemented the negative response!
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:28 PM on May 28, 2013


Aww - I totally teared up at the part where she was so happy just to have a day long date with him :(

I'm so glad it was fairly successful. Such a labor of love.

DJ HERO CONTROLLER EXTRA SPECIAL? My lord, they really did go all out...
posted by symbioid at 7:25 PM on May 28, 2013


I'm so glad it was fairly successful.

Did we watch the same video?
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:29 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm hopeful that the recent Steam implementation will give him some better sales. Valve have an effective way of showcasing good but relatively unknown games during key sales times. If a game should be making sales based on its merit, Steam can help make that happen in a pretty unique way, I think. I'd be interested in hearing an updated report in the near future.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:34 PM on May 28, 2013


I feel bad for the guy, but Retro/Grade just never looked fun to me. I followed it off and on through the development cycle.
posted by graventy at 7:36 PM on May 28, 2013


Yeah - I typed that before I actually got to him saying that and just after that point (I had saw #4 on that list, and thought that was good), but then he showed the graph and I'm like... Oh.

Sad thing is, I remember the news from way back, and this is the first time I actually understood what it was trying to do... It looks better than the early days, that's for damn sure.

And I agree with this commenter that it was so good he laid his heart on his sleeve. And yeah, Steam might be a better space for him. I don't own any current consoles.

Anyways, I like this guy. He's so fucking genuine.
posted by symbioid at 7:39 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you liked Bit-Trip Runner, it's in a similar vein. I did buy Retro/Grade today because I enjoy this type of game genre. It is enjoyable, but a little more difficult to get into than Bit-Trip. I like the visual style, even though he thought it was one of the areas where they may have wasted time in development.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:41 PM on May 28, 2013


Just bought the game on the strength of the video. I can confirm this thing is lush.

It plays much better than it demos, which is almost certainly one of its problems.
posted by Nahum Tate at 10:39 PM on May 28, 2013


It's too bad he doesn't seem to really know why it didn't sell well. The post-mortem does address things that were done wrong and delayed the release, but it's very possible that following all that advice would have led to the same end result, just a year or two sooner.
posted by smackfu at 4:12 AM on May 29, 2013


Yeah, but I have to imagine that figuring this all out a year or two sooner could have helped minimize the utter confidence shredding that happens when contemplating just how much time was wasted on the project.
posted by Diagonalize at 4:26 AM on May 29, 2013


he doesn't seem to really know why it didn't sell well.

He hinted well enough. I'm guessing if early reviews had come back saying "I don't know how deep this game goes, I'll never get to the end of it. So addictive." then he'd have sold well. Just not enough levels and songs.
posted by surplus at 6:33 AM on May 29, 2013


True, that is what the reviews harped on. I just wonder if there was fundamentally a market for this kind of game: a rhythym game with no licensed songs with all the crazy visuals of a schmup but without schmup game-play. At some point your market starts to be the intersection of two genres, and that's not necessarily a big market.
posted by smackfu at 7:19 AM on May 29, 2013


It's so unpredictable at times. There have been some games that have had less than perfect reviews that have done alright in the end if marketed correctly. It's like predicting the stock market in a way, in that you can't predict all of the variables of customer behavior, although you can some of them. I don't have a PS3, but I've not heard about nearly as many success stories through their online store than I have with the XB360 or Steam, but that might just be my ignorance. It could simply be an issue of calendar timing, other games that were on sale at the time and promoted, or the overall way that it was marketed, and very little to do with the merits of the game. I wonder if he'll have more success in other venues.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:24 AM on May 29, 2013


I just wonder if there was fundamentally a market

That -- and the Q&A question about enlisting a Producer -- points to the fatal flaw of many an engineering-driven startup. Market-driven development could have given him better milestones, beta feedback, and a work-life balance.
posted by surplus at 11:07 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


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