How is publishing things on going?

For me, from my point of view, fine. Things are going fine.

Publishing on was, in the first instance, a necessary step in participating in a jam. Jams happen on itch, I wanted to do the thing the jam was about, to fulfill that, I had to publish on itch. Pretty simple.

First Thing

The thing I wanted to do was participate in the What is So Cool about Jam, which ran in 2020. A jam is where someone on itch decides on a theme of any sort, and says, essentially, “hey, this will be fun, make a game!” Or make whatever the theme of the jam calls for. This jam was inspired by Jared Sinclair, whose What’s so Cool about Outer Space? is a small table-top role-playing game, which was itself inspired, largely, as I understand it, by the classic ttrpg Traveller. Traveller is not a simple game, at least not on the surface.

In 2020, during the early days of COVID-19 lock-down & work from home, I was constantly in front of the computer screen, doing job things. I don’t smoke, so rather than smoke breaks I took Twitter breaks, and–casting around for a replacement for playing ttrpgs–found the indie ttrpg design community on Twitter. Jared’s voice was bracing, and the more I encountered it, the more I felt like he was talking about things that I felt about games. It was great. So when a jam based on his work came up, I decided to participate.

That game is What’s so Comic about Supers? Which I enjoyed making a great deal. And setting up the itch account, and adding a game to it was (and still is) pretty easy, on the scale of “doing things on web sites.” I just took a look, and as of this post’s date, it is the 97th most popular submission, out of 131. I feel pretty good about that, given that it’s a first stab at writing a game, and I have about zero reputation in the space.

And, let’s be honest. When I say “writing a game” in this case, what I really mean is “doing a copy change on someone else’s text to convert references to outer space to references about comic book super heroics.” I composed the document in Google Docs, and used a lot of (I hope) public domain Golden Age comic book illustrations. I’m as pleased with it as it deserves: it’s complete, it’s designed to look thematically correct, and it’s a usable system. What more could anyone in the ttrpg hobbyist-designer space want?

More Things

Then another notion perked up, about a game where people who like each other get into fights because they can’t agree on something. Not like there’s some essential thing they’ll never agree on & things constantly get out of hand. More like what should they do next to solve the problem of the day. Then they fight, maybe duke it out, maybe some other way. And this will affect their relationship for a while.

I also thought “maybe I can do something with playing cards rather than dice.” And that’s Chatter/Box.

Then, in no particular order, a mercenary team of nice bugbears, a set of rules for psychic powers, a possum with a magic sword & knapsack, a game inspired by Robin Hood, and recently a simple dungeon game, and a very rough-n-ready dungeon.

All of these things up on itch. Plus a shitpost of a game called This is a Chair, Use it to Make Dreams.

Selling Things and Not Selling Things

Up until a few months ago, I would put a ton of Community Copies up. This is my long-term goal: just let people have copies. I’m a hobbyist in the design space. If I decide to sell anything, I’ll do it outside itch. But.

But. I have sold some things on itch.

And unless I sell some more things, I’ll never liberate my loot from, first, itch, and then Payoneer. So, if my math is correct, I need to sell about $80 to bust my loot out of finance jail. After reaching that threshold, I’ll adjust pricing way down, probably just free–maybe pay what you want, if I can find a way to liberate the loot with less effort.

To wrap up this post, let’s talk about the relative popularity of my itch offerings.

What’s Popular

There are a few ways to gauge this. I’m not going to share actual looks and downloads numbers, because they’re so, so tiny, and they’re not really the part of this I find interesting.

Here’s a list in order of upload.

  • What’s So Comic About Supers?, August 16, 2020
  • This is a Chair, Use it to Make Dreams, November 9, 2020
  • Chatter/Box, February 23, 2021
  • Forest Outlaws, March 7, 2021
  • Possum, Sword & Knapsack, August 21, 2021
  • You are a Head! And You are Carried Around!, April 1, 2022
  • The B-Team, May 8, 2022
  • The Pauper’s Tomb, October 28, 2022
  • Fairly Simple d6 Dungeon Game, October 1, 2022

Nine titles over 28 months, on average one every three months or so. Five are games, rulesets, or (my preferred term) play guidance. Four are supplemental materials–two are playable character types (one includes a magical object that could get pulled out and used seperately), one is a group of non-player characters (or seeds for pre-gens), and one is an actual adventure of the dungeon-crawl variety. There are things in each I am pleased with, though I wouldn’t say any of them are better than not-bad/pretty-okay.

In order of number of views:

  • Forest Outlaws
  • This is a Chair, Use it to Make Dreams
  • What’s So Comic About Supers?
  • Fairly Simple d6 Dungeon Game
  • Possum and Sword & Knapsack
  • You Are a Head! And You Are Carried Around!
  • The B-Team
  • Chatter/Box
  • The Pauper’s Tomb

In order of number of downloads:

  • Forest Outlaws
  • What’s So Comic About Supers?
  • Fairly Simple d6 Dungeon Game
  • The Pauper’s Tomb
  • This is a Chair, Use it to Make Dreams
  • Chatter/Box
  • Possum and Sword & Knapsack
  • You Are a Head! And You Are Carried Around!
  • The B-Team

In order of the ratio of downloads to views:

  • The Pauper’s Tomb, 57%
  • Fairly Simple d6 Dungeon Game, 57%
  • What’s So Comic About Supers?, 46%
  • Forest Outlaws, 45%
  • Chatter/Box, 21%
  • Possum and Sword & Knapsack, 9%
  • This is a Chair, Use it to Make Dreams, 9%
  • You Are a Head! And You Are Carried Around!, 8%
  • The B-Team, 8%

What can we learn from these facts? We’ll have to look a bit at the particulars. This is a Chair is unusual. It’s always been for sale at an outlandish price, and the full game has always been visible on the product page. There shouldn’t, really, ever have been any downloads, so that’s an outlier no matter where it appears.

Forest Outlaws got a couple of fantastic boosts when I contributed it to the Bundle for At-Risk and Houseless Youth, and when a real commercial designer said nice things about it.

The Pauper’s Tomb, Fairly Simple d6, and Supers were all submitted to jams, so they got greater exposure than anything I could ever muster on my own.

One more list, in order by revenue:

  • What’s So Comic About Supers?
  • Forest Outlaws
  • Fairly Simple d6 Dungeon Game
  • Chatter/Box tied with Possum and Sword & Knapsack

So the lesson is: make your own thing, but if you can get the attention of your audience expanded by other people saying nice things or participating in a larger event, then do that as well.

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