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Bedouin

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Bedouin last won the day on March 3

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  1. I haven't gotten around to really advertising Eqcetera yet, but I've worked with small businesses in their marketing. The rule of thumb is to spend 5-15% of revenue on marketing, but they include items that we normally wouldn't like email softwares, landing pages, marketing agency, photo licensing, branding, etc. I plan to start with a test budget of $5/day then ramp up to 5-10% of revenue depending on marketing initiatives. This budget will include advertising but that won't make up 100% of it since I have other marketing costs. I think for pet sites, it's important to work around other costs. Most of our marketing is through word of mouth. Just do whatever feels comfortable and if you have more money to throw in the budget, do it after you know you're getting an ROI.
  2. Bumping this since we have more availability as a team now.
  3. First of all, good for you for thinking about this before starting. A lot of people start pet sites without realizing the true costs involved. Some helpful resources are: So You want to be a Site Owner... and How to Plan Programming. Adding to what Vix has already said: 1. Programming expenses have multiple factors involved including the complexity of your game plans, the skill level of the person you hire, and the country they're from. That means costs could be anywhere from $10/hr to $100/hr. It all depends on who you hire. If your game is a really simple one, you could get away with 100 hours worth of work but could easily increase to 1,000 hours depending on what all is involved. The answer is: you can't know the final costs until you move forward with a programmer who can estimate that for you. 2. While in development, you can use a $5/mo server from Digital Ocean or a comparable hosting company. Once you open to testers then to the public, this could go up to hundreds of dollars depending on traffic, server setup, etc. 3. Again, this depends on the person and their hourly rate. Usually a frontend developer can be hired for a bit cheaper than one to develop your site (known as a backend or full stack developer) so you may want to hire someone different. 4. Since you have art and writing covered, other things you might not be considering is any costs of other staff such as a community manager or marketer. Supportive software like something to send emails should also be considered which could range from free to $100+/mo. Merchant fees is a big cost for purchases on a game. PayPal is the most widely used because of its international reach, and they charge 2.9% of each transaction + $0.30. So you would never want to have $1 purchases in your game. Despite all of this, don't think that you can't afford to build a game. Many games take multiple years to build which would spread the costs of development out to be more affordable. You can also try to get an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) up and running to get testers and possibly financial support earlier on so that you aren't supporting everything yourself. Good luck on your pet site!
  4. Before You Read If you’re planning a game, make sure to read Planning Your Game Part 1: How to get started. If you know how to program and are planning a game, you have applause from this corner. Being able to do things yourself is the most efficient and time-saving route you can take. If you don’t know how to program, I strongly encourage you to learn. Even if you don’t learn to the level that you need to build a game, it will help you better communicate with your programmer, understand their time requirements, and help both of you not be as stressed in your relationship. If you plan to hire a programmer, be sure to read So you want to be a Site Owner, but have no idea anything about Programming … which has a lot of great advice. Note that this guide is written from the standpoint of hiring a programmer but could easily apply if you are programming the game yourself. Project Management Staying organized and having your whole team on the same page is very important in large, long-term projects. Having everything clearly laid out helps the owner, programmer, artist, and moderators to know their responsibilities and deadlines if applicable. There are numerous project management tools out there but I’ll just list a few of my favorites that are free. Teamwork If you only need 1 or 2 projects, Teamwork is the way to go. The free tier includes all features so you can use it to its full potential. Features include time tracking, messages which email to team members, notebooks for ideas and passwords, files, links, timelines and gantt charts, estimated time per task, calendar, and invoices. You get 5 standard users on the free tier but can have as many collaborators as you need. Teamwork can be viewed in task lists or board view. Asana While you don’t have all the features available on the free version of Asana, you aren’t limited to the number of projects you can have. You can also keep up with project status, files, and conversations. You are also not limited to your team members as long as the project is public. Asana can be viewed in task lists or board view. Trello If you’re a fan of the Kanban board, Trello might be for you. It is free to use, and you can link it to Slack if your team uses that for communication. It can only be used in board view. Be aware that boards can be searchable on Google so unless that is your intention, make sure to lock it down. Podio This one was pointed out to me and seems to be a very flexible management tool. It allows you to build lists and customize views. You can choose which lists your team members see which could be handy if you have an art team, programming team, etc. Other free project management tools: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/free-project-management-software Plan/Game Design Document Hopefully by this point, you know what your game is going to be about. It’s a good idea to tell your programmer (either in conversation or through a game design document) the entire plan. Knowing everything up front will help them build with the big picture in mind. If you add a feature down the road when something was hard-coded to save time, they may have to rebuild part of a feature for the new additions. I can’t advocate a game design document enough when planning a game. In Part 1, I linked a game design document resource, but the document could take on any format. As long as it paints a picture of what features that game will have, you’re doing something right. It’s okay if it doesn’t include everything because games are living entities that change drastically over time based on new ideas and player feedback. Phases/Milestones If you have a plan, it’s a lot easier to break that plan down into more manageable pieces. As an African proverb says, “The best way to eat the elephant standing in your path is to cut it up into little pieces.” In other words, you have to set manageable goals for your project. Instead of saying to yourself, “I’m going to build a pet site like Neopets,” you can instead say, “I’m working on the first phase of my project which only includes basic player information.” Instead of tackling Mt. Everest immediately, you know that you first have to pass the trailhead. You know your progress by passing milestones. So you have this big idea but maybe you aren’t sure how to break it up. First of all, make sure your goals and phases are SMART. S - Specific M - Measurable A - Achievable R - Realistic T - Timely This applies to game planning. If you’re here to do it as a hobby when you can for 1 hour per week or per month, this may not apply to you. But if you’re wanting to make progress and release a game to the public by X month in X year, you’ll definitely want to do a bit of forward thinking. If your plan lacks one of the elements above, add it. This will help you and your team by defining expectations for each phase of the project. Real Example Continuing with the kangaroo game from Part 1, Roo Boss, let’s define some phases. Phase Goal Phase 1: Players Players should be able to register, login, and view/edit their profile. They should also be able to manage their money through a bank. Phase 2: Kangaroos (Basics) Players should be able to purchase kangaroos from an NPC, view basic stats and health information, and edit their name and description. Phase 3: Items Players should be able to purchase items from a shop. Items can be of type food (increases kangaroo health), health (repairs damages), or toy (increases kangaroo happiness). Players should be able to give these items to a kangaroo. Phase 4: Images and colors Players should be able to see their unique kangaroo based on color traits. Phase 5: Breeding Players can breed together 2 kangaroos to produce a joey that has color traits from the parents I could keep going with more phases, but I think you get the idea. I prefer to write the goal as something the player will see which also starts to define how you will eventually test and mark this goal as complete. Are you starting to feel better about tackling your massive project? Pet sites are very time intensive and can very easily cause overwhelm, especially if you start thinking in terms of how many hours are put in which can directly translate to costs. How do you plan programming? Now that you have phases, you can figure out programming for each phase individually. Starting with Phase 1, you already know a few things are needed to accomplish the end goal. Here is a list of to-do items or tasks that you could potentially give a programmer. You will need a domain so that you can test. You’ll need to “point” this domain to where your code is hosted. (Recommended: Namecheap) You’ll need hosting for all the code to go on. (Recommended: Digital Ocean or Vultr) Determine if your game will be built in a framework. There is a great breakdown of framework options and why these are a better choice over code from scratch in the So You Want to Be a Site Owner… article. Set up the framework if applicable. Determine the database schema. This is something your programmer will do, but you need to know that this takes time. Determine what the game will look like while it’s in development. I highly recommend a basic bootstrap template (already pre-packaged with Laravel) until there is more to the game. If login and registration comes with the framework, determine if those need to be customized for your game. An example of this is adding a starting money amount to the pre-packaged Laravel registration setup. Build the profile. This will display the avatar, player name, join date, bio, and if they are online. Create a settings page. This will allow the player to edit their name, avatar (only as a URL, not an uploaded file), bio, email, and password. Create a bank page that allows the player to deposit and withdraw money. Note a couple things in this list. Although the goal of “Players should be able to register, login, and view/edit their profile. They should also be able to manage their money through a bank.” seems simple, it requires you to step back a few steps to determine what is required to reach that goal. Since we don’t have anything yet, we have to start from the very first step of setting up a site. Know what your game is built on. The most popular choice right now seems to be PHP and Laravel but there are a ton of options that you could choose. If it is Laravel, read some of the documentation. There is plenty, and you can get a big picture on what has an “easy button” with Laravel. And if it isn’t, find the documentation because there will always be some on a framework. Know the details of each task and provide as many as possible. You can’t say “Build a profile page” and expect someone to read your mind and know which fields to put on it. Define all of the information that should be on every page. Know the logic behind each task. If there is any sort of special algorithm associated with making the game work, know what it is. If you don’t know what it is, ask the programmer to provide documentation. Down the road when a player asks how something is built or calculated, your answer should not be “I don’t know.” Don’t try to build the whole game in a single phase. It’s okay to not do everything associated with a feature. The goal of each phase is to get a version of something that can be tested then marked off as complete. Additions can come with future feature versions. I specified whether a field was a simple URL link which would be stored in the database or uploading a file. Uploading a file means you are managing files on your server which could mean a significant time difference in this quote. You should also know if the programmer decides to outsource files to a storage site such as Amazon or store the files locally on the server. If files are attached to players and stored locally, know that you could potentially have to manage server space and continually upgrade as your game grows. What’s Next? Now that you have a task list for your phase, you can send it to a programmer. Even if you provide as many details as you can, expect there to be some questions. If there aren't any questions, you should question them on why they are not questioning you. The programmer will most likely add or rearrange the task list so that it makes sense to them. This is okay. Sometimes, there are more technical details than what you can possibly account for without knowing how to program. Be aware of any changes and make sure it makes sense to you why things were changed. Ask the programmer to add hours to each task. This is a common practice in the programming world so they should be able to comply with this. If the programmer charges hourly or by task, adding hours will help you associate time and effort, and therefore cost, with each task. It will also define a scope for the phase and allow for there to be some sort of timeline. Without an idea of the effort involved from both sides, estimating timelines would be difficult. Scope Creep Any project is susceptible to scope creep. Scope creep happens when more things are added after a project is started. This could be due to a few reasons and is sometimes unavoidable. You realize you didn’t define all the requirements for the phase. At this point, it would be better to add it to a future phase instead of adding it to this phase. Unexpected complications came up. This could be due to anything from testing taking longer than planned to packages or dependencies not working like originally thought. This happens to even the most senior programmers so be understanding if this is the case. Communication is key in understanding why something could be taking longer than the original quote. The programmer realizes they didn’t account for everything necessary to fulfill a task. This is slightly different from 2 in that it is avoidable with enough planning. However, this also happens because it’s impossible to predict everything. Beginner programmers are more likely to have issues with this. What do you do when a phase is complete? TEST. And test some more. Make sure the phase checks all of your boxes and what is in the original task list. It is YOUR job to make sure that everything is accurate from the player’s point of view. After you test, start planning the next phase. Make sure to talk about it with your programmer so that you can answer any questions and revise the scope and task list if needed before attributing any hours to it. Try not to make task lists too big. A good rule of thumb is to make each one between 5 and 20 hours. If it gets to be more than 20 hours, that’s getting to be more of a mini project all on its own and could become overwhelming and harder to manage. Conclusion Hopefully this helps aspiring game owners who do not know where to get started in the actual build part of their plan. Keep in mind that this is from my perspective and others can have different processes. I’ve written this based on 6 years of experience of working with clients to build scopes for projects anywhere from 5 hours to 1,000+ hours, and 11 years of building games either with a programmer or programming them myself. If you have any questions, we have a great group of programmers in the community who are happy to help if you are unsure about technical details. If you found this guide useful, feel free to suggest other guides like this. I can try my best to write them or find someone who has more expertise on the subject matter. Other Helpful Guides If you're looking for more information, here are some past TGL guides that go with this topic: Feature Development, Scope & Destruction How to Get Started Considerations of Designing for Scale Version Control with Git How to: Keep your project organized using Trello
  5. Bumping this up. I'll be working on part 2 this week.
  6. Some of you may have heard of Eqcetera, and many of you probably haven't. Eqcetera is a growing horse simulation game based in realism. Basic features Realistic horse genetics 5.5 trillion possible color combinations Unique showing system based on number of entries Estate system Boarding centers Crossbreeds What makes us different? There are tons of different horse games out there. We pride ourselves in a friendly community. As soon as you join, there is always someone there to help you learn the ropes. Our community is a mature one, with the majority aged 20-50 and drama-free. We also have a unique crossbreeding system. Want to create your own breed? Have at it! Any purebred or recognized crossbreed can be bred together to create your own version, including as many breeds as you want! You can view percentages of each breed within a horse and keep track of its lineage. Recent Changes In the past two months, we've been making a lot of changes to fix some economy elements and better the user experience. This includes the following: Instantly seeing horses as soon as you purchase from the Foundation Store. View both parents and instantly see the foal after breeding. You now have to care daily for horses, including feeding, watering, and grooming. Boarding centers are now premium accounts only. They also now have 3 tiers: DIY livery, part livery, and full livery. Brumbies were released with a unique breeding system of being able to breed Half Brumbies then create Brumbies again when breeding back to a full Brumby. The purpose of this is to breed colors into Brumbies. As wild horses IRL, they can have mixtures of many breeds. There is now unlimited boarding specifically for new players (joined less than 30 days ago). Players now have boarding passes which limit how many horses they can board outside their own stables. Coming Soon As you can see, we're making a lot of changes as we grow. There's even more planned! Want to be a part of our growth? Join today and make some friends in our great community.
  7. Thank you, @JimJim! I'm glad it's helpful for you. Although I haven't dove too far down the marketing rabbit hole yet in terms of ad campaigns (I think there are only a couple test ones included in those numbers), I've been trying out different email softwares to see what works. Some of this went towards ActiveCampaign which I have since abandoned. I was interested to see if a marketing software that regular businesses used would also work for a game. In this case, it wasn't successful and ended up being more of a headache than it helped. This was the "cheapest" customer relationship management software I found for the number of contacts I had so switching to another one is not an option at this time. I will most likely build a customer relationship system for the game myself when I get time to dedicate to it (eg. scheduling emails, viewing total donated in the lifetime of the customer, building in other custom statistics in reports, etc) but it's not a priority right now. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but it was a great learning experience! I'll be devoting more of a budget for ad spend once I get a couple things figured out for new players so that I can increase new player retention from "outside" ads. These new players need a lot more handholding than what I had previously planned so I want the experience to be perfect before spending more money. The platform I plan to use for that is Instagram since I've seen success with it in the past. However, I think I'll also add Google Ads into the mix later this year based on @Vix's success that she's currently having with Celestial Equine. The subscription service is still fairly new. Players can upgrade for $3.99/mo which is automatically taken from their Paypal every month instead of paying for an extended period of time with credits. We've had some success with this, but it's a small portion of income. Currently, it pays for hosting each month and our social media manager's pay. My hope is that it'll one day pay for at least one horse breed base per month but that's still quite a ways off.
  8. Bumping this. I'm available right now for work, especially after seeing my first tax bill as a freelancer. ?
  9. This is really interesting! I'm trying to think back to when I took anything huge from Stackoverflow. I think mainly use it for solutions to problems I have and links to available packages/libraries which have their own licensing. There might have been a time or two that I completely copied a javascript solution but I could never track it down now since it's such a part of development. Where would you even find licensing info for that? What if it's just a code snippet? There's a lot of grey areas here. I could definitely see the problem for when people post their own solutions and link over to codepens or their own repos. Like you, I wasn't aware of this either but will keep an eye out in the future.
  10. @Vix Yes, you can purchase an upgrade with credits or subscribe for $3.99/mo. The cost for a monthly subscription works out to be about the same per month as the yearly credit option purchase without having to pay that upfront.
  11. Ah, with the way it was worded, I felt like you were personally asking me. My apologies.
  12. I'm not new to game development nor marketing considering I've been developing games for 11 years and was a marketing director in my last job. I also have a masters in business administration and am running my game like a business. However, thank you for the insight. I did not make this post to analyze my own motivations. I have them. I've been building this game, like I said, for about 4 years now and have been a part of the community as an owner or player for 9 years. I made this post to show people who are building games that there are expenses involved. It's not all rainbows and roses and all the revenue doesn't go into your pocket. You could end up working for little to no compensation for years. It could be a bigger commitment than what people think. There aren't any public financial records to this detail that any game owner has yet provided so I wanted to be the first as a way of opening up to the community.
  13. I wanted to share this article with the community. The writer of this article is calling all PBBG owners to work together. https://blog.pbbg.com/thoughts-on-pbbgs/ We have TGL here so we're already at an advantage! Although they're trying to communicate through their blog, the same can be said for this community: I hope we continue to communicate with and help each other as a community so that all our games can collectively become better. Sure, there is competition between us. But working together can only strengthen us. In the words of Tecumseh, "A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong."
  14. This is exactly the point I'm trying to make though for those wanting to create a game. Based on the time I spend and the money I get personally in my bank account (not revenue), I'm not making enough. If I were hiring an outside programmer, I would personally be making nothing at all and have a lot less progress on the game. Sometimes I wonder if doing this is worth my time at all. It's difficult to do something long-term with little to no benefit. The only thing that keeps me going is 1) I actually do love game development and hope to continue it as a hobby if nothing else, 2) hope that one day I will get paid for the time I spend, and 3) players expect me to deliver. I personally think this is why a lot of pet sites and sims close down in the long run. Either that or stress on top of their own life/job/family. I definitely plan to do this for emails! I'm not sure how it would work out on the site. While most websites have traffic anonymously hitting it, for a game with an active community, players talk. A lot. If they see some different from other players, I'm worried they will say something. It might be worth trying as a test run though.
  15. First off, I just want to say... if you're looking for a get rich quick scheme, the pet site industry is probably not the best place to look. Over the years, I've heard of owners who have to pitch in their own money, who only break even each month and pray that they can pay their hosting bill, and the rare owner who can live off their game's income. I'm definitely not saying it's impossible to get rich and with a great idea, you probably could. But it's not an easy way to make money. Here's a bit of background on the journey of Eqcetera. I bought Eqcetera from a friend back in 2012 and released it to the public after updating the art and layout and adding a couple features. Back then, I was still in school full-time and almost graduating. Although I kept ownership of the game from December 2012 to about August 2013, the stress was too much for me, and I ended up selling the game to the then current admins. Fast forward to December 2015 and those same admins gave me back the game. Note that the reputation of the staff had gone down severely because of unkept promises. They had promised a second version since around the first part of 2013 but never fulfilled on it, leaving that promise to me. It took from the first part of 2016 to July 20, 2019 to release a completely new version. And here we are! Eqcetera has been open almost 6 months. I did one test run of some ads but no further marketing. We've been growing steadily and are working on increasing new player retention before putting a bigger budget into marketing. There are 2-4 development updates per month which means we're also making progress on new features. I just released a quarterly report for Eqcetera.com to its players, and I thought it'd be cool to share it with all the aspiring game owners out there. Month Revenue Expenses Profit October 2019 $1,413.60 $2,936.61 -$1,523.01 November 2019 $1,362.38 $3,153.18 -$1,790.80 December 2019 $1,840.66 $3,058.55 -$1,217.89 Detailed report: Google sheet Not many games are very open with their revenue and expenses. The revenue is not very much, but I thought the expenses would be of more interest to you guys. You can see from an open game what is taking up money. Please note that I do all the programming for the game and I've set my personal rate at $50/hr. Other programmers might have different rates or you might release features slower or faster. Every game is different. As you can see, I'm a big data nerd with many spreadsheets besides the one linked here. I can tell you what each player spends on average, email open rates, player retention, etc. I've also started to get more involved in the marketing side with automated emails, e-commerce reports, etc. If you're a game owner and have any questions about any of this stuff, I'd be happy to help! I want us all to succeed in this market. Hopefully this helps you guys who are building games and planning your launches!
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