Gunpoint is a stealth puzzle game that lets you rewire its levels to trick people. This video will explain it.
Windows only for now, hopefully Mac and Linux later.
By Tom Francis. Uses Adaptive Images by Matt Wilcox.
No! Don't tell them my scheme!
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Every aspect of its clever design, laugh-out-loud noir story, tiny but expressive art, and moody music work harmoniously with one another.
A framework for a puzzler that rewards cleverness and convoluted sadism in equal measure. JC Denton would be proud.
I just finished Gunpoint’s third patch yesterday, and a lot of what I need to do next requires someone to help with Game Maker Studio / Mac / Linux porting (more on that at the end). So perhaps I can finally take a minute to tell you how it all went?
About 1 minute and 4 seconds after Gunpoint became available for pre-order on the evening of Monday the 27th of May, it had recouped its development costs. This was not entirely surprising, since the only direct development cost was buying Game Maker 8 for $30 three years ago.
Edit: I should have mentioned that I call that the only direct development cost because I was still working my day job. There were some less direct costs too – if you factor all those in, it took a few hours.
The surprising bit happened next.
That’s pre-order week, when the free demo was out but the game was not. This was beyond all my estimates – we were on course to sell enough for me to become a developer before it was even out! But would launch see a surge like those first two days of pre-orders? How fast would it slope off after that? Would we even-
So, I quit my job.
In fact, I think I have quit jobs, as a concept. I started Gunpoint as an audition piece to get myself a position at a developer, but designing it has been so creatively satisfying that I no longer want one, and so commercially successful that I no longer need one.
The upshot is:
More amazingly, I can do it with total creative freedom. There’s really no pressure for my next thing to make a lot of money in a hurry, so I can do whatever I think will be most exciting.
It also means I can afford to keep being nice. I didn’t let anyone pay for Gunpoint until I was ready to put a free demo out, so everyone would have a way to make sure it ran OK on their system and that they liked it before giving me any money.
I was informed by lots of people with industry experience that this is commercial idiocy: you want to hold it back so that excited fans buy without trying, then you can release the demo later to tempt those who weren’t convinced. And with some (not all), you get weird responses if you bring up non-money factors in a business conversation.
“You’ll lose sales this way!”
“From people who don’t really like it? I think I want to lose those sales.”
“No, you don’t understand. You’ll have less sales.“
I’m sure they’re right, and as a noob I appreciate the advice. In fact I got so much skepticism that I started to think the lost sales might actually be the difference between being able to become a developer or not. But even if that had been the case, I wasn’t going to quit my job for a career in tricking people into giving me money and regretting it.
I have no idea if and how much the pre-release demo hurt Gunpoint’s sales, but it doesn’t matter now – that’s how I want to treat people, and the amazing support for Gunpoint means I can afford to.
So, my deep, deep thanks to everyone who bought it. In return, as well as continuing to develop Gunpoint, I will make new things for you!
Update: Call for help removed – I’m now working with people to add Steam Workshop support and to port Gunpoint to Mac and Linux.
This’ll free me up to manage how Gunpoint evolves, and to start working on a new game as well. Lord knows I have plans.
Anonymous: Your industry-experienced friends are, in the nicest possible way, morons.
We don't want to be regarded as receptacles of cash waiting to be emptied by some "clever" marketing strategy. Instead of wasting time attempting to trick people into buying a product why don't they simply focus on making good games?
I'm so happy that you've proven it's possible to be both nice and successful. If you promise to continue being nice I shall promise to continue buying your games.
Well done you :)
Andy Durdin: That is absolutely fantastic news, Tom! Really glad to see it’s been a success beyond your wildest dreams (literally, it seems).
Dean: The fact that they say "less sales" rather than "fewer sales" isn't just them being grammatically incorrect, it's a wonderful insight into the mindset of people that think that way.
Anonymous: I would like to second this:
"I'm so happy that you've proven it's possible to be both nice and successful. If you promise to continue being nice I shall promise to continue buying your games."
Anonymous: I'm one of those 'played the demo but didn't buy it' outliers on your Steam diagnostics page. I'm just kind of broke right now. Soon.
John: This is excellent news. Congrats! With so many major developers complaining about not being able to recoup their astronomical development costs, and using that as an excuse to support DRM and kill used game sales, it's good to read stories like yours.
Good luck with the Mac port. I will buy a copy day one!
Alex Maskill: So happy for you dude! It's a shame to see you leave the world of games journalism - you're one of my favourite writers in that field - but so long as you're turning out games as great as Gunpoint I think I'll manage. The fact that you've been able to quasi-retire from the back of this project isn't too bad either ;)
Loryn: Asides from being happy I bought a fun game to play, I'm now also happy to have been one of the sales that made this possible.
Congrats, well deserved.
Anonymous: Love your sense of ethics. Treating others with respect and giving them help to make an informed purchase. Glad it's paid off for you.
Anon: I'm happy to see you're working on porting. If you don't mind suggestions, Apparition Games have just done a brilliant port of Hotline Miami (GameMaker 8 originally) to Mac and Linux, so you might seek to get them to do this.
Gene Reyva: You deserved every sale dude. Gunpoint is a fantastic game. I look forward to seeing anything else from you in the future.
Congratulations with its massive success and good luck with future successes.
Naveen: Congrats with the success - the game was great (as I blogged about here http://www.destructo... ...5518.phtml). I'll miss your writing on PC Gamer though. Good luck with the future!
Chase: Tom, I just beat Gunpoint and it's pretty awesome. It seems like levels wouldn't be too difficult to add. Have you considered making some DLC for this game? The framework is all there, I just want more levels.
Also, the TF2 hat helped a bit, but it's still mostly you and your great game.
Patrick: Wow, congrats. You must have made a million quid (after taxes) at least if you never need a job again. Amazing!
Great game. Looking forward to the next one.
Fernanda: I played your demo for 10 minutes, I didn't even finished it because I was ready to buy it. When you got a game as good as Gunpoint, you don't need to worry about lost sales. I'm very happy you're being successful and I'm excited to see more content from you.
Niraj: Congrats, that's great to hear and happy to see all your hard work paid off! Can't imagine what you'll crank out if you are able to focus on game development full-time :)
Daryl: Congratulations on the release and sales. I've been watching Gunpoint for a couple of months now, and I'm really impressed now I'm able to play it.
Can't wait to see what's next.
Tom Francis: Thanks everyone!
Patrick: Haha, not quite that much. I just meant I won't need a job at a developer because my own games can be commercially successful.
Jhon: Well to be honest, the beta made you lost my sale. Because after having send you my feedback, I stopped and wondered what was left for me to discover, since I knew all about the story. And while some of the extra stuff you provided in the special packages was appealing, I didn't take time to buy. And now the excitement I had for a long time about the game is gone, so I don't feel compelled to buy it, even if I kind of want to try the level editor. So, maybe a suggestion for the next game: don't give the full story in the demo, so we still have stuff to discover? :) (but you'll still need to beta test the last parts too at some point... maybe restrict that to players you know provide efficient feedback? IDK.)
I'm glad to see you've succeeded so good, and you'll keep making games. Congrats! Good luck for the future!
Jeremy Brayton: "This was not entirely surprising, since the only direct development cost was buying Game Maker 8 for $30 three years ago."
That's a fine measuring stick I suppose but I guess you worked out the labor costs involved too? Which is now why you can quit "jobs" and just do this full time.
This may be a little too revealing, but I'd be more interested in what your salary is. Breaking six figures multiple years into the future would be ample reason to quit "jobs" as you could likely afford a few years off or working on something you wanted. If you could produce Gunpoint to be this successful with "teh jerbs" then one would hope you could do a billion times better without the pressure of paying bills.
Robert McGovern: The demo is preciously why I bought it. I played it and thought this is exactly the sort of thing I want. (Humour, style, music, gameplay)
It bugs the hell out of me that the games industry has largely ignored demos on the PC now. I need to know if a game will run on my system (so ideally the demo really should be the near final form, if not the final form of the game) as its a little older. I don't want to be laden with a game that won't f'ing run. (Ghostbusters *cough*)
So yeah, congrats on your success and stick with what you are doing. It seems your on to something :)
Not Tom Francis: Tom Francis likely no longer regrets any of this.
Antan: Jhon, if you think the demo gave away the whole story, you missed an awful lot. When I played it through, I thought I had reached the last mission on at least three occasions; there were a number of nice twists to it.
Tom, regarding releasing the demo. Contrary to what the industry people say, it's a lot of free advertising. It's like the old story with piracy: the industry counts every pirated copy as a lost sale, when, in fact, those copies can enable the game to get to a wider audience and potentially increase sales!! Demos achieve the same thing, only in a more legal manner!
I also want to echo this sentiment: "I'm so happy that you've proven it's possible to be both nice and successful. If you promise to continue being nice I shall promise to continue buying your games." But I also want to add my own, as a linux user: If you promise to continue being nice AND if you release games that run on linux, I shall promise to buy those games even if I'm not interested in playing them.
A little incentive for you :)
DrQuint: It didn't hurt you at all! I bought the game on release because of those demos. Hell, I still feel rather ripped off since the game was so small for its price, but reading your blog posts and what you wanted to do with the game was enough to remind me that I don't care enough about my money to make a big deal out of that.
Zeddy: Your game is quite inspiring for the good folks at the Game Maker Community. If you haven't already received hundreds of applicants for your porting job, I expect you will soon:
iamjethro: Out of curiosity, who did the TF2 promo hat for you? Was it Valve, or did you get someone else to do it? Or are you also proficient in 3D modelling as well?
Mauno: Good bloody job!
Novitano: It's great to hear that you'll be able to work on more games and truly do what you enjoy. I remember way back when I saw the tech demo on the CAD site awhile ago and I'm glad everything turned out so well! :D
Timothy: Well done, mister; you deserve it.
Marcin: Congratulations! Always nice to see well-deserved game dev success story.
Can't wait to see what's next!
dignan: high five dude,
Daniel: Noo, Tom! How will I live without your hilarious antics in PC Gamer?! (Don't tell Graham that)
In all seriousness, that is some mighty fine graphical evidence you got there. Good look in the future, you amazing man you.
Rich: The demo was a great idea. It got me really excited for the full game.
Andrew: I would say that releasing the demo was critical to this success. You had no reputation or popular IP to help you sell games. There's tons of indie games out there, some of them good ones that don't sell because there's no hype or attention. That demo, showing us your fun game, is what hyped it up and I think most of us here wouldn't have known why your game is so great without the demo. Whether it be directly playing it or heard about it from somebody that played the demo, you needed the hype from people that sampled the game. So, good job on ignoring the advice you were given, because I think it's why your game is a success.
Welison Douglas: And no, there's no way to get any numbers from those graphs.
Chris: i support indie developers alot, this article convinced me to purchase your game! keep up the good work!
Cameron H: Keep fighting the good fight sir. I can't wait for Gunpoint to be released for mac so I can play it! Also, are there any plans to release for ios in the future? I haven't played the game yet, but from the videos it looks like it might be well suited to the ipad.
Aerach: Among a sea of negative posts from indy folk, i would just like to say how much I enjoyed reading this blog post. You are quite clearly on an understandable high here and it's infectious ;)
Fadobo: Awesome! Congratz :) I am so happy we made you charge for it!
DarkRyoushii: I played the demo, absolutely loved it and bought it straight away!
Have you considered adding your game to the humble bundle? It seems like the kind of game that would suit the bundle quite well :)
Michael Straight: "And no, there's no way to get any numbers from those graphs."
Well, you can guess how much Tom thought he needed to become a game developer and then multiply by six.
Alistair Hatch: Congratulations Tom! I've loved what I've played so far and looking forward to playing it to completion.
Derrick Pereira: I love reading success stories like this. Bravo and all the best for the future, looking forward to your next title!
Ginko: I have been following gunpoint development for a long time and always wanted to put my hands on the game.
The fact that you put up a demo before the launch was an awesome idea and it allowed me to talk my friends into trying out the game. I don't even know if you would have had as many preorders if you hadn't made it available.
My opinion is that you shouldn't listen to people telling you that a demo is a bad idea. If no demo had been available, many people would have probably pirated the game to try it out. And that makes you lose sales as many of those people would have finished the game and not bought it after.
Your game is amazing, I love it and please, for your next games, release a demo too.
Grats Man: Awesome man, good for you. For the record when Gunpoint hit Steam I was literally about to click 'buy' when I saw there was a demo. Played the demo, decided it was neat but ultimately thought I had enough of a taste and didn't want to drop the cash :\ So I might be an exception to the rule but I am really glad it worked out for you!
Daniel Morsing: Welison Douglas: I've lost the reference, but I read a interesting article about using the pixel count relative to each of the of the points to figure out the absolute scale. Since sales is an integer, you can find the lowest common denominator for each of the points, using guides like the gridlines.
Also, Tom, Congrats on shipping a fantastic game. If I knew enough about game maker, I'd jump at the opportunity to help you out with porting the game.
Anirudh: This post make me very happy. As an amateur game developer myself (who doesn't really have the experience to port games to get that out of the way) my support for this game was most undoubtedly in good hands and am pleased that you're taken a pledge to continue being "nice" to us. Hope your next game is just as good and wishing you all the success you could possibly need.
Colm: Hooray! Congratulations.
I *love* success stories like this, I *love* your quote on giving up jobs as a concept, and I *love* your attitude regarding people buying your game only if they like it!
phuzz: There was a TF2 hat? How did I miss that?
Also, congrats Tom, although I will also miss your writing.
Daniel: On an additional note, I knew you had the game making spark since that excellent Half-Life 2 mod 'Blunt Force Trauma'!
Fadobo: I'd like make the bold estimation and say each of the steps in the big graph are about $100.000 before tax.
Adam: The demo banished any doubts about the purchase, and it made me buy the game at full price instead of waiting for a Steam sale as might otherwise have been the case. I don't regret that purchase one bit.
my name: looking at the graph, he got 300k to 350k in 2 days. do i get the job? wait, what?
BreadBasket: I was about to jump on the "less sales" thing but I noticed somebody else had already got there. Anyway, congratulations Tom, It's been fascinating to watch this project develop over the years and I will be contributing to your enormous wealth by buying the game once I've finished my exams. I've been reading PC Gamer since 2004, which I believe is the year you joined, so it's sad to see you go, but I eagerly await your next project.
Thom: This is fabulous and, perhaps oddly, has made me want to get this game even more. Which I will.
Jason: Really pleased that a really decent lad has been rewarded and successful..always great to hear when good guys do well.
Eldergias: Please, please, please also consider leader-boards for time and mission stats. That would encourage speed and pure stealth runs much more.
Out Reach: A mixed bag of feels, It's great that gunpoint has done so well and you've basically made your dreams a reality. But I'm sad you won't be writing any more. You've been one of my favorites at PC Gamer since Plan B made me go buy one of my favorite games ever.
Quinn: So awesome. Congratulations! Really looking forward to the Mac release - I've been waiting for that ever since I got to sample the game at GDC 2012!
Tom Kenny: I'm so stoked to read this! You're a darn good human being and I loved Gunpoint.
Ryan D.: Congrats! It's great to hear that you'll be able to keep making games and being awesome. Good luck in your future adventures! :D
If and when you get the game ported to Mac/Linux, I'll be there to buy it and play it.
JOtto: Congratulations. Please keep ignoring advice that feels wrong, re-hire the music guys for any expansions/next project, and keep RPS informed of your progress.
Beat Darwin: Hey Tom, I just belatedly watched your dev log video about launch week. That was wrenching! I hope you have been able to de-panic since then, relax a bit and enjoy the success that you and the rest of the team have created. And here's hoping that the curve on the graph above keeps going up and to the right. Enjoy it, man!
gryffinp: The only problem I have with this is that I really like it when you write for PC Gamer.
RagnarRipper: Holy crap! I'm really and sincerely happy for you.
Been following your development since very early on and was psyched to be given the opportunity to try the demos back when you needed testers.
GLADLY paid the money for the game and am loving it and everything surrounding it (release notes, achievements and all the humor you ooze even in those parts that have only marginal interest to "regular" gamers...plus the game itself).
I can only hope to be as fortunate as you one day.
Thank you :)
SleepyMatt: But ... but... I *do* feel tricked.. the only ending to the demo was "Buy the game"!
On a serious note, this joke in the demo actually made me laugh so much that I instantly went and pre-ordered - I had been following the development for a while, and was pretty keen anyway, but the humour infused in the demo was a fantastic deal-clincher.
Congratulations on your success, and hope you have plenty more in the future!
ShotGaming: It is fantastic to hear you made your goal. The game was so amazing and it is nice to see a person with a dream can still make it without needing a giant budget. We covered the game on our show and gave it our highest rating: http://www.youtube.c... ...Q7exhDRrq4
We can't wait to see what you work on next!
AlmostNot: Cracking game. Great concept, great execution, level designer concept just tips it over the top into genius.
Look forward to see what you make next?
Paul T: Having listened to the PC Gamer (UK) podcasts since those heady days of it being recorded in the pub, I've always considered you guys a good bunch, and you in particular sound a well balanced and amiable chap, so it comes as no surprise to see you being such a decent fellow when it comes to how you're treating us minions. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.
Any thoughts on how to upgrade a Special Ed to the super-duper version? (or the standard to the special ed?) I've probably not got the time to go through the various versions in the Deluxe Uber version (though I'm taking the tiem to listen to the commentary) but there may be some that would like the chance to upgrade rather than buy it again.
Cyberis: It couldn't happen to a nicer guy or a more surprisingly fun game. Don't become too predictable or invested in the GD community and you'll continue to succeed.
Anonymous: Being a journalist and knowing how to present things to media certainly should have helped. There are a lot of nice games that are not doing so well not because they are bad but because the devs don't know how to present their games. Tom, please write now something of a short how-to for working with media :)
It's probably a risk to release a demo before final release. If people don't like it they probably won't buy the game but if they do like it it will most likely mean more sales. So in your case it was a good move to do it.
Anon: The people who say demos hurt their sales are also the people who make games that are completely uninspiring in every way once you play them.
Jonas: Well, they're right. Releasing a demo is bad for game sales. If your game sucks. Or is terribly overpriced. Oddly, your game didn't suck. Might be why you didn't have crappy sales.
Oh sure, there are aspects of your game that suck. Such as being too short. And...being too short. But, uh, didn't exactly pay 59.99$ for it either. It may have been short, but I wasn't expecting 200 hours of fresh gameplay at the price either...
wirm: my mind is fucking blown! congrats!
Andrew: An incredible tale. I'm really happy it worked out, you deserve it.
Jan: I congratulate you on being able to quit your job and continue earning a living with making games - which is something that you seem to really enjoy.
Good luck for the future and keep us posted on further updates and games please :)
Ethan Hand: You need to add a page on the website where players can upload their home-made levels so that other people can easily play them too.
Andreas: Congratz! But the title is very much misleading as also game devs need to eat and pay for a place to live in. So your dev costs were much much higher than 30$.
Blanjipan: Seriously can't wait for your next game.
The Business Of Demos | MultiPlatform: [...] The purpose of a demo is to let consumers try out a game to see if they actually like it enough to buy it. Why assume that absolutely everyone will like the demo and thus buy the game? Do movie producers assume everyone who sees a trailer will like it enough to see the whole movie? The guy who made Gunpoint said something along these lines in his blog. [...]
If possible, could you introduce a community tab in the game.
Where people can submit their custom made levels and others be able to play?
In there you can have popular rated maps, most downloaded, new, 'Tom's Pick of the Week'.. That would be so awesome!
Also, I loved the game. I don't really venture into the indie games category (I should now after finding this).. but this game was well worth it. I enjoyed it and have been spreading the word everywhere.
James F: Loved it, good work. I demand regular updates to figure 2 continuing with the 'hilarious' y axis scaling. many thanks.
BuggerRat: One of the best (Not just indie; games in general) I have played in years. Thanks for showing that solid gameplay design trumps flashy graphics and gimmicks every time. Will definitely recommend to my circle of gamers. Best of luck and I'll be keeping an eye out for your next game.
Michael: Just want to say good job... I watched the trailer and wasn't convinced, but downloaded the demo for the hell of it and loved it. Too many games these days focus too much on polish and not enough on gameplay
Anon: Love the game. So glad its been such a success for you. Looking forward to steamworkshop support in the future! Any chance of a sequel/DLC?
Tim: I decided to buy Gunpoint after watching the Giant Bomb Quick Look, and I absolutely loved it. The slower pace allowing me to plan out my moves, the music (my god, the music!), the simple sprites which were gorgeous, I even found myself enjoying the story! I absolutely loved this entire game, what an amazing package. Absolutely phenomenal work.
(I haven't gushed like this over a game in a LONG time.)
Jasmat: I like how Tom Francis seems like a genuine fan and all round nice guy, its what we need after this fez 2 business...
‘Gunpoint’ Developer Talks Engine Updates, Mac/Linux Ports, And Steam Workshop « DIYGamer: […] lead by Tom Francis. The game was a success, and the costs of development were recouped in mere moments following the game’s availability. Since Gunpoint’s June 3rd release, Suspicious […]
Gunpoint Development Breakdown, by Tom Francis: […] post about how it all worked out when we […]
Many Urdu Websiites provide good collections of this work today along with the audio and video clippings of the events held to present the
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Future Plans, Game Dev, and Future Plans of Game Dev | Decentralised Processing Unit: […] on: Now that I’ve got you in an agreeing mood, go read this (old) blogpost by indie game-dev, Tom Francis. No need to read the whole thing. Maybe just go as far as where he […]
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Alex: I love you.
Leon Rose: Loved the game, will blindly purchase anything you make in the future.
Vance: LOVED This game, Thank you so much!
5 success story avec Game Maker, je publie quand la vôtre ? | Tuto Game Maker: […] l’a énormément aidé. Les retours de Gunpoint ont tellement été positifs qu’il a décidé de quitter son job […]
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