Of Meercating, Meows and Feed Bach! A Heart. Papers. Border. long overdue update

Oh Lara, why the frak do you have a blog if you never update it? 

Marketing – the art and science of letting people know about your stuff – is hard. Your voice needs to propagate everywhere it might land on an interested ear. Your message needs to be clear and catchy. You must nurture that interest by providing immediate, straight forward actions. The sheer volume of work is overwhelming. Which is why having a simple marketing strategy is crucial. A simple marketing strategy starts with One Central Hub where information can be spawned and propagated. One Hub to rule them all. That hub, in our case, is not this blog.

A logical best practice of marketing is to use your own territory as the central hub. In our case, the Heart. Papers. Border. website should be it. But I chose the Heart. Papers. Border. Steam Community Hub instead. I wanted to get the news as nearest to the Immediate Action as possible. I wanted you to read our updates and if you are interested, to be able to buy our game right there and then. I might have been wrong.

Once the information is created, it needs to be propagated. Any new Heart. Papers. Border. announcement on the Community Hub is shared immediately on Facebook, Twitter, potentially Instagram and Reddit. It SHOULD be shared on this blog and on the Heart. Papers. Border. website as well. But it’s not. My excuse is lack of time, but I cannot honestly forgive myself. All I can do is to stand as an example of how NOT to do things. Do have One Central Hub that you won where you spawn information, and do spare the effort to properly propagate it once new content is created.

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Whatever happens with Heart. Papers. Border. though?!

The big news is, we pushed the button. Heart. Papers. Border. was released in Early Access on August 20, 2017. Right on the day night hours before we left for GamesCom. This is normally the worst choice an indie dev can make, but we aimed for a “Soft Launch” – aka we kinda hoped just a few people would buy it, and our hopes were fulfilled. That is not necessarily a good thing, but not a bad one either. It is good because we expected build problems and we also launched with very few content and we did not want to disappoint too many people. It is bad because – well. We need money. Fast forward to today, we sold a little under 200 copies. You heard it right: Two Hundred. I hope that is a sobering information for anyone planning to launch a game in Early Access.

Now, from the start I looked at Heart. Papers. Border. as my very own personal toy to poke and test this ever shifting monster that is the modern video games market. To understand how to make, evolve and promote a game, you…. need a game. I have a lot of playing left to do. It spawns across more than one year of development, where we will progressively push all the content and features, carefully crafted together with our small but amazing community. Which brings me to….

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So what did those 200 people say about Heart. Papers. Border.?!

They said good things, practical things and – surprisingly- no bad things, really!

We received a really good review that made us truly happy – we love you, Indie Toaster! We were called a Social Justice Warrior Simulator which made me smile. But the most important thing we received is feedback. Specifically:

That we have very little content. It is true. We know this. We have a lot of very very very shiny graphical assets that I can’t wait to release, but we do not have the content surrounding them: the quests, the stories, the dialogue, the culturally flavored situations, the rewards, the hashtags – everything. It is A LOT of work to do, and we are seriously considering Steam Workshop support. Meanwhile, though, it is still work that needs doing.

That we do not have any Help or Tutorial. I aimed to guide the player through a story mode/ campaign that doubles down as a tutorial, but I failed, or at the very least I barely just started it. I know I have been ambiguous with the announcements, quests and encounters that I aimed as guidelines, but I wanted to provide a Tutorial that’s in line with Heart’s universe. This is a work in progress that is missing a huge element: the Help application in the SpacePad. We aim to make it contextual and to add shortcuts so you can click and get a good explanation of each mechanic, button, action.

That your actions have no clear consequence. The player travels, writes and gains money and/ or influence, but to what end? The goal of the game is to let the player gain fame and influence the countries she travels to. As her fame grow, she has a visible impact in determining countries to become more progressive and open, until no more borders are needed. But the influence system is not implemented at all. In truth, it is not even designed yet.

That the blogging system is too abstract. Oh man, that is so true. To begin with, we will add more explanations regarding the value of the tags which are color coded. We also really want to design a better mechanic to build the blog post itself, and the dream is to have actual paragraphs that fit. However, this is longer down the road, as I think the influence, location, help and a bit more content need to come first. Oh, right clicking on a hashtag that\s used puts it back in the tag cloud but no one figured that out. UX kills us 😀

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We do have a lot of grand desires in the pipeline for Heart. Papers. Border.. We want to have a proper Journal, we want to differentiate experiences as you play with characters from various countries. We would also love some sort of events and news systems, so that you can visit a place for a festival or even for a protest – just an example. We have a Birthday mechanic to implement and then, of course, there is the whole end game. Content wise, we have 26 countries already mapped, and many of them have jaw doping graphics ready to be added. And of course, Retro Brothers continue to work on the music <3.

 

But life kicked in and frankly, hit us hard. In between very demanding jobs, debts, and personal problems, we struggle to spend all our energy and all our spare time on developing Heart. Papers. Border.

We are tired.

But we are not giving up.