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Project Three: Fortune Summoners

I’d been thinking about waiting a little while longer on this, but the game is already show-off-able, and announcing at AnimeExpo was simply too tempting.

So. Just as announced at AnimeExpo – Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone is Carpe Fulgur’s Project Three. You may recall that we were previously uncertain if this project was actually possible. I am happy to report that all issues have been worked out with Lizsoft and that work is now proceeding apace, to the point where we already have a build in-house with interface elements 90%+ in English and only in need of debug and a further editing pass; all of the “events” in the prologue/demo are also now fully rendered into English, and need only minor editing before they are ready for primetime. Progress has been rapid since the deal was reached. Expect more screenshots Damn Soon™. Continued…

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CF at AnimeExpo!

So the poor blog sits here, neglected and forlorn. Happily, I do intend to do something about that very soon here, I’m just waiting on a single particular thing before rolling out a bit of artillery with which to blow you all into next week.

As the timetable on that is a bit uncertain, however, I thought I would post a brief bit of news for anyone considering attending AnimeExpo in Los Angeles: both Robin and I will be in attendance for the entire event! Furthermore, the current plan is for both of us to be on the “Bringing Doujin Gaming to the U.S.” panel, sharing our experiences in bringing both Recettear and Chantelise to the U.S., and possibly, maybe sharing other news as well. That particular panel will run in LACC 411 on Sunday, July the 3rd, from 4:30 to 5:30PM. We’ll also be wandering around the convention, schmoozing with fellow industry dudes and, just possibly, setting up a few things for the future. You’ll definitely be able to find me at both the NISA and Aksys panels, in the audience, and around the show floor looking at various things. Normally I’d say I’d be hard to miss in my white coat, but at AX I suspect that might not be quite so true.

Regardless, hopefully some of our fans can see us in the wild for the first time at the Doujin Gaming panel! We’re looking forward to running into some Recettear fans!

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An update from the Game Developer’s Conference

“So, SpaceDrake”, you may be saying, “where’s that long-promised Recettear postmortem?”

Well, technically we did one here with the crew at RockPaperShotgun. Also, my default state of mind is terminal laziness, so, there you go.

That’s only part of the answer, though. The other part of the answer is that this has been fairly busy month for Team Lightning, just on things that haven’t involved actual game-making. During late January and through most of February, I went though the process of moving from Virginia all the way to Portland, Oregon, which needless to say consumed pretty much all of February in terms of time and manpower. I did this primarily so that Robin and I could work face-to-face from now on (this having been a bit of a problem during Recettear’s localization process), and also for easier access to west coast resources for future development… such as being able to attend the Game Developer’s Conference!

That’s what I’m up to right now; this week is actually going to end up determining quite a bit of how the coming year proceeds for Carpe Fulgur and what we may end up working on. I’ve already had one extrmely interesting lunch meeting that I can’t go into further detail about at the moment, but it certainly opens up a door I’d previously thought was completely closed (and a lost cause, to boot). Over the rest of the week, I’ll be doing things like investigating console possibilities and talking with various companies about things we could do. Wonderful things.

After that, March will be a busy month for us. Now that I’m settled in Portland, real work on Chantelise will begin in earnest, and we’ll hopefully have it out by the end of April (though don’t take that as gospel just yet). And I really truly for honest will get not only to a dedicated blog taking-apart of what went right and wrong with Recettear‘s localization, but I’ll talk about the localization itself and why we did what we did with the project and our methods in general.

The short of it is, no I was not eaten by a shark, and this is an extremely exciting time for us. Stay tuned, Cool Stuff is on the horizon.

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A Few Clarifications

In the wake of my recent mega-post, I’ve noticed one or two misconceptions springing up about what I said. I’d briefly like to clarify a few points. This mostly has to do with the section detailing the sales and whatnot, and how it meant we didn’t get as much as if the game had been bought at full price for all 100,000 copies.

First seems to be this notion that we “didn’t make any money at all” (which is an assertion I’ve seen in a few places). Let me be clear: we still made a heap of money off of Recettear. Recettear so far has earned us enough money to pay for salaries for everyone for over a year (having started in September of 2010). Recettear was never expected to do this; it wasn’t even in the business plan. We were fully willing and able to push Carpe Fulgur forward in some form if Recettear had earned a quarter of what it now has. Recettear’s runaway success means that a lot of what our upcoming projects earn will go straight into the Warchest For Cool Stuff™. Carpe Fulgur is doing better than I could have dreamed it would do at this stage. Let me put it this way: we made way more money with the discount promotions than we would have without them. And a lot more people got to play Recettear, which is even more important as far as we’re concerned.

Second seems to be a notion that I’m displeased with either our distribution partners and/or EGS themselves (which I could see coming from a particularly negative reading of the original line in that part of the blog, which I’ve edited a bit for clarity). It is true that we currently get the smallest share and EGS get the largest. This is deliberate and by design. Recettear is, fundamentally, EGS’ game; they did all of the “real” work on it, and they provided all the code support for the English version. It’s only fair that they should get the largest share of each retail sale. The only reason the ratio of who gets how much is changing post-Recettear is to help CF do Cool Stuff like English voiceovers and whatnot (and to ensure that we can keep operating even if a game doesn’t perform as well as Recettear did).

On top of that, EGS getting a lot of money from Recettear’s English release helps us. It allows them to grow as developers and do more; it allows them to get new equipment, perhaps even add a person or two to the team, and above all it gives them the ability to make their games even better. Which, in turn, gives us more awesome games to bring over. I don’t begrudge EGS their share in any way; if anything, the concept-cum-reality of an EGS with hundreds of thousands of dollars on hand that they didn’t plan on having in 2011 makes me tingle with excitement. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

It’s also worth pointing out: in the end, I’m the one who made the call on the various sales and promotions. Nobody, not Valve or Gamersgate or Impulse or anyone, forced our hand on anything.  I made the call because I thought it would allow us to sell more copies, make more money and have more people enjoy the game. And you know what? We succeeded on all fronts. The sale promotions ultimately made us a lot more money than we would have otherwise, and I’m glad we did them. The only regret I have is that our very first promotion was as deeply discounted as it was, but in the end I’m still the one who approved it. So if I have anyone to blame for that, it’s ultimately myself.

Carpe Fulgur is going fantastically well. Am I a little sad that not every copy of Recettear sold for full retail price? Well, sure; if nothing else, I’d like to do a Scrooge McDuck backflip into a pool filled with benjamins at some point in my life. But I, and everyone at CF for that matter, are not displeased with how things have gone so far; just the opposite. Now that Recettear’s been successful, we have the opportunity to do some really fun and crazy stuff. I’m looking forward to this year more than I’ve looked forward to any year ever.

Lightning ho, mofos!

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P.S.: Alas, we only got “honorable mentions” in the IGF, which means we aren’t in the running for any awards (nor do we get to present on the show floor, nor do we get free rides to the GDC). I’ll still be at GDC 2011 in San Francisco, regardless, though!

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100,000 Copies Sold and What That Means

So. I know the Recettear postmortem is way late, but I am going to get to that soon. Right now, we have something else to talk about.

With the happy new year comes the bombshell we’ve been sitting on for a little while now: Recettear has sold 100,000+ copies. (In fact, we crossed that line during December.) This is a fairly monumental number, and there aren’t many games in general that can claim to have broken that kind of sales figure, never mind independently-developed-and-published titles. It’s the kind of figure that, on some level, I thought we could never conceivably reach, under any circumstances, ever. Not as a brand-new startup with no advertising budget. But here we are: six-figure sales on Carpe Fulgur’s very first game. Success comparable to releases from established publishers.

We do need to talk about what exactly this means for Carpe Fulgur going into the future, however, as in some ways that may be a deceptive number.

What A Hundred Thousand Copies Sold DOESN’T Mean:

We don’t have money coming out our ears. In the face of as many sales of one game as the entire catalogs of some companies this assertion may seem faintly ridiculous. The trick being, of course, that it wasn’t a hundred thousand sales at full price. The majority of the game’s sales so far have been at a sale price, meaning we haven’t made as much money as we might have otherwise.

The larger problem comes from the fact that a large portion of units were made at a steep sale price; we pushed a heck of a lot of units via the Indie Story Pack on Steam. The problem is, we made very little money per-unit on that sale, since the pack was sold at less than Recettear’s sale price to begin with, and then, being a pack, we naturally only saw a portion of the price. We still made more money than we did during October, it’s worth pointing that out… but we didn’t make the money we could have, and as the head business dude around here, that nags at me. Especially since we have a lot of data – and I do mean a lot of data – suggesting that people were buying the pack pretty much solely for the promise of “Recettear for $5”.  Had we sold the game for $5 first and then bundled it into a pack, we’d have earned quite a bit more than we did. So lesson learned on that front.

(And it’s worth pointing out that, ultimately, I’m the one who said we should go ahead with the pack, so any “blame” for us not making enough money falls squarely on my scrawny little head.)

Another thing to keep in mind is this: for every unit sold of Recettear, Carpe Fulgur doesn’t end up seeing a whole lot of the actual retail price. (And just to be perfectly clear, our distribution partners get a perfectly fair “cut” and aren’t squeezing us at all;  it’s EasyGameStation who, quite deservedly, get the lion’s share of each sale.) We still get enough to operate off of from such a cut – during the “slow period” of October and the non-pack-deal days of November, we earned enough each month to just about cover everyone’s salary, so we were essentially breaking even. But it means that even with huge sales numbers, we don’t see a particularly large amount of that money.

Now, everyone involved has realized that this situation is somewhat less than ideal for various reasons, and for future EGS titles (and any future titles we bring over from other developers) will see CF getting a somewhat bigger slice of the pie. When it comes to sales of Recettear, however, we’ll always see a fairly small portion of the overall purchase. (It’s worth noting that I’m perfectly fine with this; it was a way of proving we were really serious about this, and it still allows the members of CF to live very comfortably.)

Recettear’s still made us a lot more money than I’d dared to hope it would; due to how we timed our discounting and how much certain deals were discounted, however, we don’t really have the insane money hat one might associate with “one hundred thousand sales” and it means we can’t just throw around money on stuff willy-nilly. We’re still quite well off, though; keep reading!

What A Hundred Thousand Copies Sold MIGHT Mean:

Will it mean Recettear gets an English voice option? Maybe. This one is actually a bit annoying because, due to how the chips have come down, we are literally right on the line money-wise I’d set for us months ago between being comfortable with doing an English voice set for the game and not. The big trick is that we need to be able to throw at least $10,000-15,000 to really do it with the quality I’d want any English voicework to be. This is very much a “we either do it really well or we don’t do it at all” deal; I’ve seen enough feedback about janky English VO over the years to know that it can really ding a publisher’s reputation, so I’m determined to do English VO right if we do it at all. And that, dear readers, means that we need to be able to throw around $15,000 (or more, even) and not have it really affect the future of the company at all… and if I’m being remotely honest with myself, we aren’t there yet.

Now, an upshot to an English voice patch (which would probably include some miscellaneous improvements and whatnot to the game) would be that we could probably do one last promotion for the game with our various distributors and whatnot, which would likely drum up a bit more money… although at this point I’m very worried about us reaching our market cap. (That’s probably a blog post all its own, however.)

And just to head off the inevitable question: if we do English voice, it would complement the Japanese VO already in the game, it would not replace the existing VO. There’s basically no reason we can’t do dual-voice on the PC, so if we move forward with this, we’d do it right.

Will it mean Carpe Fulgur begins to move to console development on top of their PC stuff? Also maybe. This is really going to depend on the results of my upcoming trip to GDC 2011 (regardless of what happens with Recettear re: the IGF) and what kind of prices get quoted at me when it comes to acquiring a dev kit or two. I won’t lie: for all the problems we had with Recettear on the PC (and yeah, that is a blog post all its own) I am not particularly sanguine about getting involved with the politics that come with publishing a game on a console. (And non-downloadable publishing is still a problem for us, especially DS publishing and the costs involved with the carts.)

It doesn’t help that this is a bit of an odd time to be a new publisher; the 3DS is coming, the PSP2 is also all but confirmed, and it’s an open question as to whether or not we should even pursue “old” DS/PSP games and how many people would buy them. (OTOH, there’s a level on which I do not mind this “digital only” route Sony is taking with the Go and supposedly with the PSP2 as well…)

Another trick, of course, is that this could be exclusive to the voice thing; since it’s all coming out of the same wallet, if we spend money on dev kits we won’t have that money to spend on the English voicework. So we may well have to make a choice here, and since a console devkit could let us expand our operations, it would likely get priority. It all really depends on what the kits would cost us, however.*

Really, a lot of solid answers to this question will only come once I get to GDC, pin down some Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo guys with nailguns, and have nice long chats with them about various things. Including why I’m holding a nailgun, come to think of it.

*As a note here; some people might suggest “well, just take out a business loan if you need to get extra money for voicework or dev kits”. A wise woman once gave me the following advice, however: “No capes, and no debts!” Mortgaging Carpe Fulgur’s future is pretty much the exact last thing I want to do, especially in the modern banking climate. I’ve already witnessed too many companies eaten or nearly eaten by creditors, and I’ve put too much heart and soul into CF to put it in that risk. The plan is to keep us as debt-free for as long as humanly possible… and if given a choice between “go into debt” or “fold the company”, we may well choose the latter. If we end up not dealing with the modern financial sector at all, we’ll be in good shape, I think.

And now for the fun bit:

What A Hundred Thousand Copies DOES Mean:

– It means Carpe Fulgur is very secure moving into the coming year. Even if sales of Recettear were to come to a literal dead stop today, and we released nothing in the coming year, we’d still have enough money on hand to pay everyone their salaries, even after tax, with some left over. In September, we were in a good place but still in a “we have to release another game within a year or we’re smoked” position. Now we could take the entire year to work on something, if need be, and not worry. If we release another game or two and they do even a quarter as well as Recettear has, we’ll be set well into 2012 and we can begin to think seriously about expanding the scope of CF’s operations.

It means the CF crew can get out and about a bit. I’ve already mentioned the fact that I’ll be attending the 2011 Game Developer’s Conference regardless of what happens to Recettear in the IGF. That’s just the start; Robin attended Comiket 79 this past week to meet up with a lot of developers in Japan and we already have plans for him to attend Comiket 80, as well. Beyond that I’d like for us to make an additional con appearance or two; I’d really like to be at PAX Prime 2011, for example. We’ll be doing what we can to make this happen.

It means a developer who deserves it earned a lot of money. I won’t throw around exact figures without permission, naturally… but since EGS gets the lion’s share of each Recettear sale, it means you guys made EGS more money than they’ve ever seen before. And I, for one, think they earned every cent of it. One of CF’s missions is to help indie devs in non-English speaking countries get the love they deserve overseas, and in this case I think we can say mission accomplished on this one.

It means CF can bring you excellent titles in 2011. Above all else, 100,000 copies of Recettear sold proves that the market for imported indie games (not to mention Japanese-style RPGs on the PC) isn’t just there, it’s famished for content, and that Carpe Fulgur knows how to serve that market (occasional bundle-deal-related silliness aside, of course). We’ve already gotten comments from developers in Japan to the effect of “we’ve heard of you and we’d like to work with you”; now we’re an even bigger known quantity. One hundred thousand copies mean that Carpe Fulgur’s future looks bright, and that means that everyone can look forward to a number of great titles in 2011 and beyond.

Like, for example, our worldwide release of Chantelise.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to a very good 2011.

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Posted in Business, Carpe Fulgur.

Recettear in the IGF; Also, This is Still a Thing

So things, I suspect, have looked fairly quiet from an outside perspective. It has been a little quiet, to be honest – for a few reasons, Carpe Fulgur’s had to be in a holding pattern for the past few weeks while we waited for a few things to happen (and frankly this gave me time to pursue other things this past month that needed to happen, as well as decompress a little after the incredible whirlwind of activity that was Recettear’s lead-up to launch and launch).

However, the woods are well and truly gotten out of at this point. I’ll say this much: there’s a whole, unique level of “feels good” attached to being able to fulfill long-promised contractual obligations and provide an intrepid business partner, without whom you would not be in the business at all, with their well-deserved six-figure royalty payment. Now that both we and EasyGameStation have literal buckets of money on hand and we’re really certain we can do this for a living for at least another year proper, things can really get started again, and I intend to start with some things that I hope to make Big Official Announcements about here in the next few weeks (if that). In 2010 Carpe Fulgur released a single game; in 2011 the current crazy mad scientist plan is to hopefully release at least three, and I’d like to make it four if we can manage it (though that’s no sure thing yet). We’ll see how this goes, but it’ll be a ride, I can guarantee that. (And I’ll leave wild random speculation as to what we could be pursuing license-wise to the forums whilst I sit in my squooshy office chair and cackle madly. We do have a minimum of four games currently in our crosshairs, however.)

There are quite a few things to talk about: a proper postmortem of Recettear’s translation and what worked, what didn’t, and what surprised us; a nice, long talk about “localization” and just why Recettear’s English script was crafted the way it was and how it was crafted the way it was (which is nearly as important and leads into the why); outlining Recettear’s future patch plans; and various other topics ranging from working without offices (tldr: bluh) to the nature of the indie games business to a little bit of history about myself and/or other members of CF. These will all get dedicated posts in the coming week(s) as everything around here kicks into gear again.

There is one bit of news of note: as many people may have noticed, Recettear is now an entrant in the Independent Games Festival. We did this with EGS’ blessing and hope, and I think this might be the first time a Japanese indie game has entered this particular festival/competition (though I’m not quite certain on this one). This isn’t quite front-page worthy yet as we’re only an “entrant”; that is, we paid the entry fee and submitted a copy of the game for consideration. It’ll be a good deal more newsworthy if we end up nominated for an award, which I actually have some doubts about; not because I lack faith in Recettear, really, but because there’s a ton of entrants in the IGF this year. Seriously, look at this bloody list. There’s a hair under four hundred entrants this year. That is a lot of competition! We’ll see how the cookie ends up crumbling (and I think Recettear does have a shot at an award or two), but the IGF has one hell of a lineup this year, and we’ll see just how that goes. If Recettear does end up a finalist and shows at the IGF, we’ll keep everyone posted (and take lots of pictures!)

Up next will be a lengthy look at the development process for Recettear’s localization: what went right, what went wrong, and how hoodlums stole more cuteness than I ever imagined they would.

Until then!

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Posted in Business, Carpe Fulgur. Tagged with , , .

Well, hello there world.

Got this all set up, then. This blog will be where I waffle on about various things concerning Carpe Fulgur’s business that are a little too big for (and that I’d like to be more visible than) just a forum post or whatnot. Topics will include localization (and why we even do it), how Carpe Fulgur is run as a company, and my own thoughts about the video game business and the art of making games.

It’s worth noting that, despite the above assertion, this blog will be using the Carpe Fulgur forums for discussion of each blog; blog comments themselves are disabled. Each blog entry after this one will have a link to a corresponding forum topic.

Well, time to start blathering about a job I’ve wanted for years now. I hope everyone enjoys it!

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