Updates, May 2023

First big thing you need to know is that Vivid Minigolf is being postponed to late summer 2023. I mean, it was already becoming obvious that Spring 2023 was unlikely, given the absence of any sort of Steam page, but now it’s even clearer.

I cannot guarantee online multiplayer as a summer feature, even. There is a build for that and for now it’s only implemented in one course, and even there it has some really tricky-to-solve bugs in certain cases. There are two courses out of seven that don’t even have fully implemented working hotseat modes, and it’s going to be a ton of work to complete and debug hotseat functionality for those two, even more to get all seven courses working in online multiplayer terms. So the probable launch timeframe now is some time in August. The price is likely to be $3.99 at launch. I’ve seen the strategy docs from other indie devs and pro-level developers too, and it’s clear that the ideal pricing for an indie title is usually in the $10-20 range or even for high end, more polished indies higher than that ($20-35). It’s been noted that overall, higher-priced indies make more total sales AND more cash per sale.

And that’s great BUT the more I consider this, the clearer it is that my goal with this was never to maximize income. I’m fine with a ‘failed’ launch [in business terms] and under 7000 wishlists at time of release. [which means not visibly appearing anywhere near top of ‘upcoming’ charts the week of release.]

My whole model of business is focused on underpricing, always has been. The reason my print services on Etsy are so popular is that they’re only half the price of other vendors AT MOST. This improves reviews, as people get better work from me than they expect. Prices need only be enough to break even plus a tiny extra margin that will allow me to keep building new product lines.

So know that I seriously considered prices ranging from $4.99-8.99 for a release of ‘Vivid Minigolf’ and settled on $3.99. It’s going to gradually drop from there too, during sales. I hope the reduced price results in more positive reviews and more impulse-buy sales, but who knows… I intend to lag the free version 30 months behind the paid version. Which is to say, if you wait for 2.5 years, everything I released for $3.99 will be available for free on VividMinigolf.com, i.e. early 2026. But by the time that’s happened I’m hoping the game will have had multiple substantial free DLC additions on the paid version on top of the initial launch, so that the paid version will always have some amount of new content that the free edition does not.

ETSY – I’ve had a rocky stretch here as I had to replace my large-format printer very recently. The purchase has pretty much wiped out my budget for the next month or so, which is a reason for not only a few delays for specific Etsy buyers in the past week but it also limits my options for the summer – I cannot easily complete my physics-sim toolset setup now, so despite some enthusiasm relating to that it must wait. In the meantime any ‘stock media’ focus will be on the texture and 3d asset updates, I’m overhauling a lot of the TACC2018 textures [the gigantic batch from 2013] and that is to say, many of the depth maps are improved to look more realistic, many textures AI-upscaled, all the seamless edges are consistent [automated actions in PS to clean seams in the exact same way for each texture where there’s inconsistency in seams between the different PBR maps], every texture exists in powers of two [eg. taking the occasional 750×750 texture and making it 1024×1024 or whatever]

Here are a few examples of textures – diffuse, opacity, displacement/normal, etc – applied to quads, out of the hundreds of materials included, these specifically are some examples in the ‘architecture’ category:

I’ve also got a ton of 3d assets in development and those updates, while delayed, are nearly there and should go live in early June now. The itch.IO asset collections are still selling reasonably well, enough to justify ongoing effort. I’ve spent hundreds of hours, hundreds of $ working on all this stuff and have made about $200 of that back – which isn’t ideal, but it’s enough support from all of you to be encouraging and to persuade me to keep trying. The most expensive part (in cash, not in time) was the stock footage, and I’ve been told it’s basically inadequate despite the effort, as the camera gear most of that was recorded on is not high enough resolution for it to be useful for any video VFX above 720p. In particular, the stuff in TACC2018, much of that’s SD quality and basically unusable for modern video, so it’ll be posted as freeware at about the same time the texture-collection update goes live. Basically, when one part of the collection is improved, another will go freeware. Seems reasonable.

Further sale activity on Etsy and Itch.IO will help me get a new physics sim pipeline fully up and running soon, so in theory I should be able to upgrade the VFX video elements, phasing out more and more of the older content into freeware packs, and making more of the new stuff accessible at the typical $1-3 price range per collection. I’ll also keep the Etsy listings expanding into new areas with new products posted. Some of what I had hoped for for Mother’s Day was not ready in time, due largely to the printer disruption, but should be in place around Memorial Day-Fathers Day. Memorial Day is May 29.

Please consider buying something then, and letting others know this stuff exists. I won’t have much of a promotional budget this summer which means my shops will depend on occasional search traffic and existing customer base, I’ll basically be throwing a game I spent hundreds of hours of work making, and $700+ in cash, out onto Steam with basically no promotion, no fanfare. I hope it goes well but it likely won’t. Still, I’ll update it and support it to whatever extent I am able to, even if the playerbase turns out to be very small. Know the obvious: The sales of bundles on itch.IO do include future indie games, not just massive piles of stock media for gamedevs. And that means you CAN preorder Vivid Minigolf and get a lot of extra for about $2.50 during Memorial Day. I think about 20 people have already done so.




Etsy shop is rebounding

Bouquets of paper flowers, in little mini pots. $4.49 each + shipping.

My Etsy shop was supposed to be leveling off and headed into the background, supposedly. 

I raised pricing noticeably… to the extent that the shop is not only profitable but that margin is nearly doubled. 

I also pretty much stopped promoting it with paid ad campaigns outside of Etsy.

Figured that would hold onto some of the existing, happy customer base, but not all of it, and limit the flow of new buyers, who in some cases are unpredictable, maybe difficult to deal with. 

Well, what happened wasn’t a decline or a leveling off but a boom. The existing customers pretty much all kept ordering. And the new customers kept showing up despite my removal of ads leading into Etsy, but now the customers were arriving passively through Etsy itself at increasing rates. I realized that the reason was a temporary spike in the percentage of visitors who were buying, and apparently that metric spiking led Etsy as a platform to boost my listings and their visibility, including through the Etsy search ads you cannot opt out of. Beyond all this, my revenue has almost quadrupled, hitting $50-60/week in gains due to the pricing change, the lack of ad costs, and an uptick in buyers and to a lesser extent traffic generally. And… I’m just gonna roll with it now.

Yes, I’ve gotten a Cricut. Yes, I’m releasing a line of mini floral bouquets soon and they’ll start off at $4.49 each, then probably go up a bit once there are some reviews of them piled up. Most things on my Etsy are like that – the most underpriced stuff is almost always the stuff nobody is buying or reviewing yet.

I also have a ‘Greek architecture’ papercraft kit on the way, plus extension of all existing papercraft sets to O scale and T scale in about a month, and an upcoming option for precut kits at least with N, Z scale by June.

Yes, a few new paintings are being made. That’s not high priority but it’s still going on.

Yes, there was a Cinco De Mayo sale and everything was 15% off.

Yes, there’s a Mother’s Day sale coming up really soon (May 7-15) and everything will be at least 23% off throughout it. Some items are going to be over 30% off.

No, most sales in the future won’t have discounts quite that good. 

Yes, I’m seeing 60 visitors daily on the shop lately. About half of them on any given day are probably new visitors.

Yes, I’ve had 75 people favorite the shop, up from 50 at the end of 2022.

And yes, I do have big plans elsewhere too. I’m working on some major stock media updates, for example, and a revised HornbostelVideos.com site design with a ton of additional video material, which goes live soon. 

Thanks everybody, really excited about this actually and figure it’ll be a big deal in terms of overhauling and improving existing content and adding a lot of new things too.

One more note – an eBay auction is also going on, lots of action cameras in a bundle starting at $49 with no added shipping cost. Take a look here if interested.