Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville


Out now on PC/Mac, coming this summer to iOS/Android

Steam Windows Mac OS Android iPhone and iPad GOG.com

A POST-APOCALYPTIC CITY BUILDING
GAME BY SARAH NORTHWAY

Rebuild 3: Launch and Steam Refunds

23 June 2015, 5:51 pm

rebuild3happy300It’s out! After nearly 3 years of work and a fair amount of stress and crunching, I released Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville on May 29th. Yaaaaay!

I wasn’t expecting a launch bump since it was Kickstarted and spent a year in Early Access… plus gaming press were too busy with E3 to review it. But release went well! There were Rebuild 3 banners on the front page of Steam, GOG, and IndieGameStand. It was exciting to see my own creation up there with other games I have so much respect for.

I launched at a 15% discount and had the same deal for the Steam summer sale 2 weeks later. I keep hearing from players who are glad I launched on GOG at the same time; looks like about 10% of my launch sales came from GOG which I think is high. The game’s Steam Spy data is currently accurate… though it’s way off for some of our other games.

Rebuild 3 launch sales
Rebuild 3 launch bump and teeny summer sale echo

Steam refunds system

Daily % seems high but cumulative is only 2.33%
Daily % looks high but cumulative since May 27 is only 2.33%

Steam dropped their refund bomb four days after Rebuild 3 released, allowing players to easily refund purchases for any reason including not liking a game or finding it on sale for cheaper, just so long as they’ve played less than 2 hours. As someone who buys a lot of games I love it; they’ve basically brought back demos and made them mandatory for all games. Ideally players will spend their refunded money on a new game and stop when they find one they like. Everybody wins!

But I grew up in the shareware era and I know that sometimes 2 hours of a game is enough, especially for bite-sized indie titles. I don’t think that’s an issue for Rebuild 3 (which has a whopping average play time of 15 hours), but it might be for other games.

Rebuild’s had cumulative refunds of 2.3% since launch – nothing remotely close to the hit/miss ratio of actual demos. Most of them say it’s “Not what I expected” and that the game is too simple and looks like a mobile game. I guess that’s fair enough (she says while working on the mobile port).

Version 1.1 update

I’m rolling out the first big bugfix update for Rebuild 3 to all stores. It fixes 50-odd small bugs, and introduces (in that I fixed the bug preventing it from running) a very rare questline which forumgoers are crowdsourcing to solve as a group.

I also just added Steam trading cards, so you can collect various faction leaders and trade them in for unique profile backgrounds and emoji.

Farmer Bucket's trading card art
Farmer Bucket’s trading card art

Now back to that mobile version… I’ve had some hiccups but it should be coming out to iOS and Android sometime in August. You can get the Android beta version now if you buy the game direct from RebuildGame.com, or if you’d like to be in the iOS TestFlight beta you can email me to request a slot.

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Rebuild 3: The Art Book

26 May 2015, 8:03 pm

Sample page from the Rebuild 3 Art Book
Sample page from the Rebuild 3 Art Book
Adam just put the finishing touches on the Rebuild 3 digital art book, which is included in the deluxe survivalist edition of the game. You can upgrade to the deluxe tier on Steam if you don’t already have it.

Flipping through its pages has been a trip through memory lane for me, remembering the last two and a half years of development and all the people who helped make Rebuild 3 happen.

Hiring an artist

I spent an agonizing eight weeks looking for someone who could do both ui design for Rebuild’s extensive menu system and illustration for the characters and events. My friends told me it would never happen, that I’d need at least two artists because those skills are too different… but I had a romantic indie notion that I’d find someone who was a jack of all trades like me – they’d even help with design and do some of the sound or writing or promotion too. I imagined a team of two taking on Rebuild 3 together. I had no idea I’d end up working with such a big team by the end!

Picking an artist for Rebuild 3 was the toughest decision I’ve made yet in my professional career. Who has the talent and flexibility to do the work, who will care as much as I do, who will stay motivated while working remotely, who can I trust? As the weeks went on, I adjusted my romantic notions – I wasn’t going to find someone as motivated as I was to work on an unsexy sequel where they’d probably have limited creative control. It wasn’t going to be a 50/50 partnership where we bounce game ideas off each other. It would be contract work, and I needed a reliable, professional contractor.

Enter Adam Meyer. When I hired Adam in April 2013, he was juggling work on games with his graphic design company Crystal Clear Art. His interface design was excellent and he constantly pushed me to simplify Rebuild 3’s ui and hide away the ugly numbers and text in favor of more readable elements like dials, icons and color-coding. He defined the clean, angular graphical style for the game and created all the buildings with meticulous detail. But his non-game contracts took priority and he could only work on Rebuild about one week a month. I needed more help.

Hiring more artists

Another sample page
Sara’s sketches and Adam’s characters
I brought Sara Gross on for the Kickstarter in October 2013. I suckered her in for a couple months of part-time concept sketches and illustrations in the hope she could join up for longer, but she evaded my grasp (*shakes fist*). Sara worked in bitmaps and had a tough time with Adam’s vector style, so I found a method to convert her event illustrations into the game that also helped speed up Adam’s work on the characters. He found it faster to sketch something in Photoshop then convert it to vector and tweak than it was to draw from scratch in Illustrator.

Next I roped my friend Pana in for the rest of the event illustrations and she did such a good job of copying Sara’s style that you can’t even tell them apart. At that point we were on our second year of what was supposed to be a year and a half long project. The scale had grown, especially the writing which I hired Stephen Gray to help with, and I underestimated how much work I’d have to do on the art myself to integrate it into the game. I probably spent 40% of my time on the interface and visual polish.

The last mile

Lindsay's sketches
Lindsay’s sketches
Rebuild 3 went over its original schedule by a year. I finally lost Adam to Steamroller Studios where he’s working on Deadwood: the Forgotten Curse. They’ve been prototyping that game for years, and in fact it was a key point in Adam’s portfolio when I hired him. It’s pretty exciting that they’re finally making it happen.

I snagged Lindsay Jorgensen away from Radial Games for a month to help finish up. What a lifesaver! He jumped in to the characters with an excellent imitation of Adam’s style, and can work in Flash which saved me a bunch of integration time. Now he’s working on promotional art, icons and the last few pieces we need. He’s FAST, and we even have the option to work in the same place since we’re both in Vancouver now. I could get used to this…

What I learned

I’m not a good manager. I know it. I’ve worked with talented, awesome people, but I’m no good at motivating them, building relationships, enforcing timelines… and rather than ask for changes I just make them myself, compulsively editing everything they send me. Colin’s much better at working with artists than I am.

So I’d like to try doing the art for my own games in the future. It won’t look as good (I’m terrible at characters) but if I apply myself I’ll improve, and hopefully I can find a style that works. Maybe I’ll hire someone to do concept art then implement it myself. Anyway, once I’m finished the Rebuild 3 mobile port I’m going to give it a try with a few prototypes and we’ll see what happens!

Upcoming release

I’m about to compile Rebuild 3 release build 1.0 for PC – coming out on Steam and GOG in just a few days on Friday May 29. The mobile builds will be another couple months – stay tuned!

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