I've talked on and off over the past year about Zafehouse: Diaries, a game independently developed by myself and David Kidd. What I haven't done is cracked open the hood and revealed the fascinating statistics we've gathered from players and how we're using those figures to help people understand the game's complexities.
One aspect of indie development that's proved challenging is promotion and I know we're not alone. Be it getting noticed by the media, to drawing attention to a Greenlight campaign, finding the right notes to hit with journalists can be almost mystical. You would think experience as a games journalist would help in this regard, but what I've found is that I've fallen into the usual tropes — typing up press releases no one will read, not focusing on what the story is and an assortment of other missteps that in hindsight illicit various combinations of my palm hitting my face.
One piece of promotional material that's hard to avoid is the gameplay trailer. Regardless of the game you're making, it's an expected chunk of media you find yourself drawn to produce. Unfortunately, if you've seen Zafehouse: Diaries, it has the type of gameplay that's hard to put across in a video. So, we decided that if we're going to show people what's going on inside the simulation, then we should find some way of presenting the numbers so people can see Zafehouse's guts... so to speak.
This this end, this week we published a dynamic infographic called "Bodycount" that pulls out a small selection of the various stats we collect anonymously from the game. Along with the typical numbers of zombies killed and games won, we show more esoteric statistics, like failed amputations (an option players sometime have to "cure" an infected survivor) and the percentage of positive interactions (that is, any time a survivor accomplishes an activity successfully with another survivor).
Zafehoue: Diaries also has a "dilemma" system, where the player is occasionally presented with a dire circumstance they must act on immediately. Once a choice is made it is recorded, allowing us to determine the most popular decisions. Each hour, we pick four random percentages to show on Bodycount, the results of which have surprised even us.
For instance, only 12 per cent of players decide to help the hunter fight the super zombie, despite the fact that you stand a better chance of killing it with his aid. If you send him away, it'll try to track you down and standing against it proves a tougher proposition. It made us realise, along with a number of other stats, that players are risk-averse — a desirable trait given the game's difficulty and something we try to teach via the gameplay.
This, of course, is just a single value among many. We've focused on the more interesting ones, but there's all sorts of numbers we're looking to reveal and I'm sure we'll put those into the infographic over time.
In other news, I've been waking up to this for the last few mornings. Yes, we're a measly three percentage points from reaching the top 100 of Steam Greenlight. While breaching the top is no guarantee of being greenlit, it is the next step to making it happen.
Is it painful to look right now? You bet.
Bodycount [Zafehouse: Diaries]