It’s been about six weeks since our launch on Desura and I last posted here. In general, things have been positive at this end. We’ve sold about 750 units since we went live on Desura, so we’re sitting at 2,650 pre-orders or so at the moment. However, the amount we receive per copy sold has fallen drastically since we moved to Desura for several reasons – firstly, we’ve dropped the price $10 with a corresponding fall in revenue. We also only receive 70% or 85% of the revenue of our sales (depending on whether we drive the sales from our site or whether Desura makes the sale themselves) and we’re now obliged to pay VAT. All this has created a situation where we make roughly half as much per copy as we used to, but I think we’ve made the right choice. Though initially more lucrative, Paypal was never going to be the final solution for us.
The big news with Xenonauts is the release of build V8, which is currently on iteration V8.2 (the third iteration). The idea here is that Build V8 will become our long-awaited press preview build when complete, so we’ve been working hard to polish the game up in a similar manner to how we did with Build V7 for the Eurogamer Expo. These little bursts of work are useful because they force us to stop the background system development work and concentrate on improving the actual playability and polish of the game, which is important for the people who have actually paid to pre-order the game and want to play it (which in turn helps us because it encourages community feedback).
We’re currently working on fixing the bugs and improving the stability of the build, which has suffered a little since we implemented Save / Load. V8.3 is due out this weekend and will include fixes for most of the bugs and usability problems reported so far. The major improvements are the addition of the early stages of the research tree, including laser weapons, and the first appearance of a UFO on the battlefield. There are also a LOT of other improvements over V7.5 (the Expo build), but if you want full details it’s best to check the release threads on the forum which are available here for V8.0, V8.1 and V8.2. Build V8.3 is due out this weekend and contains fixes for a lot of the bugs reported, as well as a few smaller updates.
As the name implies, the press preview build will be sent to everyone on our press list as a sort of ‘first preview’ of the game, a proof of concept build to show everybody that we’re a serious project that has all the foundations in place to make something really good. We’ve been doing it with a select few sympathetic magazines already – PC Gamer, Rock Paper Shotgun etc – but this will be the first time we’ll let journalists have a free play of the game. It’s a bit scary, but as long as we’re clear that this is just a proof of concept I think a lot of people will be impressed! Hopefully it’ll translate into a lot more traffic and interest in the game.
We should also mention here the IndieDB have started their annual Indie of The Year competition, and you can vote for Xenonauts here. While there’s no concrete reward for winning the competition given we’re already on Desura, it’s always good to put in a strong showing as it helps raise the profile of the project and doing well in a category increases the likelihood that people who aren’t normally that interested in this particular genre might take a second look at us. It doesn’t take long to vote (just a couple of clicks), so if you guys could help us out with your votes then that would be appreciated.
In terms of the background progress on the game and how the team is faring, there’s a long forum post from a few weeks back that is available here which should fill you in on most of the happenings behind the scenes. In short, things are going rather well. We’ve got a complete list of all work that needs to be done coding wise until the game is feature complete, and I’m working that into milestone builds at the moment to give us a bit more structure. The terrain tiles still remain our biggest timesink but we’re starting to get somewhere with them now.
Finally, the other thing I want to highlight is the Xenonauts Wiki. We implemented this when we launched, but the takeup in it has been pretty poor. This is mostly my fault because I’ve written all of about two articles in it, but I’m going to update it a lot more regularly over the next couple of weeks to make sure that it has most of the core mechanics on it so people can understand how things in the game should be behaving. Because the wiki had been colonised by spambots, I had to spend a few hours exterminating them and now only accounts over 24 hours old can edit or create pages in the wiki. This is a pain, but it’s stopped the spam dead so I’m afraid you’ll just have to live with it. Still, I hope this will turn into a really useful resource for the game so if people think they have time to contribute to the wiki in any way, please do so.
That’s it for now. I imagine you’ll hear more once we get Build V8.x finished and start sending it out to all of the journalists on our press list!