The shippable items on Etsy are gone and I’m sure many of you noticed that.
At the moment only digital delivery products are still present there.
Maybe you are upset by this and want them back – I may offer them again at some point but no guarantees for now. If they do reappear that might be mostly on this site (the HornbostelProductions.com shop) instead of Etsy. That would mean similar pricing but more profitability as it would be outside of Etsy’s steadily rising fee structure.
Why would I ditch an Etsy product line that was taking off and proving highly successful? Well, there are three major reasons.
Etsy printing services are not super creative and not what I most want to be doing. Cutting that off allows me to focus more of my time on other projects. For example, game dev stuff, and the imminent launch of a massively expanded HornbostelVideos website.
Etsy wasn’t only time consuming, it was a bit stressful trying to ship batches of packages out on a daily basis. Other (digital) products are different in that I can step back from working on them when I’m getting upset/stressed instead of feeling like I have to keep working through the misery to get stuff out for the mail truck when it swings by.
Final note there is the fact that this year I’ll be moving to a new house. It’s in Sewickley, PA. So that move is going to disrupt any possible work and shipping regardless for the next 2-3 months.
I don’t need the Etsy money at this point, not really. I’ve gotten a mild boost in income in spots outside of Etsy so will likely be able to leverage THAT now instead of Etsy print sales and still make nearly the same amount. It’s enough cash saved or flowing in that I am in a good spot to complete things like Vivid Minigolf. That project, has two courses I still haven’t yet built or implemented, plus various remaining minor bugs across otherwise completed ones. But if I push on that now I can definitely still get it onto Steam by mid March 2023. For various reasons, I will ignore mainstream advice relating to Steam releases. There have been talks about how ‘optimal pricing’ for indie games is $15-20. Now in this case, I don’t care if the cash coming in is ‘optimal’. I mostly just want the game to be accessible and playable for people and I want players to have fun. I considered a $5.99 price point for a while but have shifted my views on this. Current price point at launch is now likely to be in the $3 range instead.
Vivid Minigolf launch is early 2023, on Itch.IO and Steam at a price of $2.75. It will go on sale too with increasingly solid discounts as months pass, eventually dropping as much as 75-80% off which is to say, about 50 cents. Plus there will be DLC every once in a while, at no additional cost. There will also be a free version on the game’s official site which lags roughly a year behind the paid version in content terms. And it has a few ads spaced around it on the webpage. When the game first launches that free version will have one course included, so for the first year it’s essentially a demo. But at the end of year one, by that point the Steam version will have some free DLC and the free version will lag behind said DLC and just have the core seven courses. And so on. Eventually, by 2026 or 2027, DLC updates will likely be over and the free version will fully catch up with the paid one and at that point the ‘paid’ Steam game will go freeware. It’s up to you whether paying $2.75 at launch is worth it, or under $1 about nine months after that, or NOTHING AT ALL but you would need to wait four years.
Astounding Worlds (previously Panoramic Worlds) is now set up for status as an Itch.IO and AstoundingWorlds.com exclusive, free plus optional tip on Itch.Io, and free with a few ads on the official site. That and the minigames like Spiral Skies, Easely, Eracer, and Vortex, all will go live in Summer 2023. The entire batch will be accessible for $1 on Itch (or) free with ads on the official game site in the case of Astounding Worlds.
Miniature Multiverse should be ready to launch by November 2023. It will be priced similarly to Vivid Minigolf.
After all that, who knows? I’m open to going heavily into reimagining other backburner projects from World Pinball to Isola, to a Troop 4 adventure and some fangame stuff.
But the bottom line on all of this is it’s all greenlit and moving forward faster now. I can afford to get all these projects done. Watch for exciting updates ahead!
Another week, another Etsy sale. Most of the time *something* is on sale on Etsy even if not the most popular items (ie printing services) and that’s intentional, it’s a rotation of items on sale from week to week. Some weeks multiple categories are discounted and on holidays everything is discounted HEAVILY. This October has been an anomaly: more sales made the first half of October 2022 than the first half of the year 2021. A twelvefold increase in frequency of sales! That of course makes it something of a challenge to keep up. I try to get every order out on time of course but occasionally things do arrive late especially during sale events or when a HUGE order has been placed.
This month has seen $450 in sales and it hasn’t even hit the halfway mark!
So that is astounding, even if 67-72% of it is getting eaten up by materials and shipping supplies and so on. I even am releasing new print products now like (very cheap, my cheapest material) prints on copy paper and small print items like bookmarks!
The Halloween rush is going to be deranged in its level of activity. I’m pretty sure of that. I am of course setting a lot of other tasks aside to stay focused on fulfilling Etsy orders for the rest of October. A few things still get some attention though – one being the ongoing work on Vivid Minigolf. I aimed for a ‘late 2022’ release and still am hoping to get that done successfully.
Any success via Etsy will slow down the first release of the game slightly but will also give it a stronger shot at visibility when it does get released. Right now I’ve built courses, implemented features, am actively debugging the game… all the mini supply materials involved were covered months ago, the software side of things and the Steam fee are covered too. But that leaves me with a bit of a challenge in gaining publicity at time of release.
Should Halloween prove effective in generating sales activity, it will give me a bigger promotional budget to work with which in turn may have a multiplier effect if used well, in that this title might appear somewhere on the lists of popular releases. Ideally first page of Itch with no scrolling down the list, maybe a bit of scrolling on Steam but not too much? That kind of thing helps people notice that a game exists! I will be messaging a (fixed) list of Youtubers and game news sites with download keys, of course, and my policy is not to hand out keys to anyone not on that top-100 list. I know random people will claim to be a popular Youtuber, ask for free keys, and then resell them on the cesspool that is G2A, it’s a common tactic. I’m just not going along with that, in general.
Other than the PR kit, the key distribution / mailing effort… a better YouTube trailer and more and more gameplay clips by time of launch… and my ongoing manual commenting on minigolf related videos on YT (I think I’ve linked to the game project on something like a hundred of the more popular YouTube minigolf videos at this point) I will also run a massive $150+ ad campaign across Google/YouTube, several banner ad networks, Twitter ads, Facebook/Instagram, and Bing/Yahoo search. I have already fine tuned with the initial $25 – am confident I can make over 5 million (generally, relevant) people aware that this game exists when it launches. This is in terms of *impressions* of course and it will probably translate to at most 1% of that group clicking through, and probable 1-3% of that 1% buying the game. In theory, then, we’re talking 500-1500 sales over time which… anything in that range would be amazing if it pans out. We are talking $1000-3000 there, factoring in the reality that many of the buys will be during sales and that Valve gets a 30% cut.
If that happens though, great potential for free updates over that first year of release. The core seven courses only involved $500 in materials, $200 in Steam submission and software expenses specific to the project, $150 or more promoting the thing at launch. Not to mention hundreds of hours of work as an indie with no actual pay rate.
So if this goes well, great! The target of $1000 in sales pretty much means breaking even on this project, and every $1000 or so above that means maybe some new features added, and an extra 5-6 courses posted in a free update to all players who bought the game.
I have thoughts about revising the game features to include, for example, randomly mixed 18-hole courses. Either a front nine/ back nine selectable combo or just 18 completely randomly selected holes. That is one of those things which would involve a lot of reworking of code to implement (like online multiplayer functions, multiplayer beyond hotseat) but which I would like to do in an update in early 2023. I also want to port this to mobile devices, touchscreen UI and all that. And I want to build AI opponents somehow as an option, even though that is tricky to do well.
I get it, you would all prefer these features exist at the outset. But I am a solo indie game developer. It takes time and cash to add all of this. I don’t have immense resources going in and I am hoping you all understand this. A game with a dev budget below $1k and an unpaid solo dev, is not going to be the most impressive thing ever, but if there is an audience for this, if people buy it and are patient, I will take that support seriously and do what I can to build amazing things with it in the next year.
I’ll be posting two new stock media packs [3d asset packs] on my Itch.IO page sometime soon, probably within the next 5-10 days. These are the ‘Forests & Flowers’ and ‘Snow & Sand’ packs that I’ve been working on. They’ll be $1.10 each except during sales or in bundle pricing situations.
I’m trying to update some websites a bit more, I’ve already overhauled MiniatureMultiverse.com somewhat, and TriumphantArtists.com should see a few small fixes & updates soon as well, along with minor improvements across some of my other websites.
I’m actively ordering a bunch of additional art supplies, shipping supplies, and DVDs/DVD cases. Why? I intend to launch all the Itch.IO content together as a singular $14.99 DVD product on eBay and here as well. I also intend to make a new batch of artworks and sell those too. As in, giant 24″x36″ size artworks, big, beautiful pieces with prices starting around $23.99.
All this stuff going on will coincide with a staggering mix of ad campaigns that should draw in thousands of people and generate crazy levels of traffic from March 15 – April 15. The total cost is estimated at $45, or $1.50 spent on the campaign per day.
I have some fan art stuff going on, behind schedule, but it is happening nonetheless. I also have some updates on RedeemerDocumentary.com heading in soon; you’ll see more content relating to the virtual church building tour which is nearing completion. I am also digitally reconstructing my old house in Houston, TX, and between all the various examples piling up, of my ability to realistically reconstruct architectural spaces, well… I’ll be posting a sale item here which essentially allows for people to hire me to make a made-to-order 3d level/tour for them in Unity.
All the [still unposted] House Trek videos are going to be posted on HornbostelVideos.com shortly, except for the making-of stuff, and the animated DVD menus. And that’s just part of what’ll be posted. Watch for a PDF ebook, and also a printed paper equivalent, that showcases essentially all my work, with an emphasis on the creative process and what I’ve learned by doing all the stuff I’ve done [relating to game development, video production, handmade art, etc] it’s an insightful history summing up the last two decades of my life and it has hundreds of pics – giving you an inside look at a lot of things only friends and family know about so far, massive piles of interesting stuff the internet in general, currently has no idea exists. And no, not a puff piece, I very clearly and bluntly describe my mistakes and errors in judgement, and offer useful advice on solving common issues, that’ll make creative efforts hopefully easier for you than things have been for me.
All of this sale stuff being launched, the artworks and other items, the book, stock media packs/DVDs, and the month-long ad campaign… it’s all a gambit to secure funding to do all the stuff I’m hoping to do by year’s end. I have three videos to shoot, about a dozen to actually finish, plus game content, including Vivid Minigolf v2, and Miniature Multiverse, those two in particular are challenging insofar as they each still have unresolved costs of over $250, in miniature materials alone. And then tack on the $450+ goals in funding between the three videos I’d like to record, plus all the other stuff involved… yeah, basically I hope this plays out well. If I don’t have close to $1k earned by end of Spring 2019, it means a lot of the goals for summer and fall of this year will fall through. And, quite bluntly, if you’re as tired of the slow rate of progress around here as I am, I’m pretty much begging you to buy something of mine, because if sales volume across my web network climbs high enough, and the percentage of visitors who transition to buyers climbs from a current level of 0.0135% to 5%, that’d change almost everything around here! (I seriously have thousands of visitors – around 2500 – every week, across my various websites and shops, and yet the majority of weeks nothing is actually sold anywhere on my network.)
I’ve had a bit of an adorable ‘trial by fire’ in Pittsburgh, with my first two days after my flight, involving twin boys, Nick & Ben, 4 years old, and a 2 year old girl [Evelyn]. They’re my sister’s children and they’re cute but exhausting.
But that’s precisely why I moved to Pittsburgh. I want to be there to help and be a friendly and fun uncle.
A lot of our family is now gravitating towards the Pittsburgh area actually – my parents (the tots’ grandparents) and my grandmother, now in her early 80s, who’s now a great-grandmother for the kiddos.
Downside: Lots of eBay delays – the big moving truck that is carrying my PC and my art supplies left Houston a little while before I did, and it still has not arrived in Pittsburgh at the new house. We continue to wait as it is en route. I am hoping the truck will arrive to unload the stuff within the next couple days and only then will I realistically be able to begin making/shipping eBay items again.
My digital content seems like it’ll likely mostly be fine; I took one copy of all my data on a handful of hard drives. The backup copy of the same data was carried by my family in their luggage on other separate flights.
Between the local backups and the fact that nearly 2/3 of the data also exists in the loud via BackBlaze, I think it’s likely nothing of value will be lost in the transition.
I’ll catch up on delivering eBay orders as soon as I’m able to do so, and will continue chipping away at my other projects as well, once that’s settled.
I am also planning some fun activities with the family. Sure, they’re playing games on my aging and slightly screen-cracked iPad, which is what I’m writing this update on.
But I’ll also try organzing active games, outings, simple board/card games, reading to the kids/playing word games, and some video projects even. I’ll even show you fragments of what I’ve planned – I was thinking of activities with family even before I packed everything up. So here are some images hinting at planned fun things:
I’ll record a short and silly video in which the children are playing ‘the floor is lava’ – complete with menacingly realistic looking lava! Basically we will get to see what the children are imagining come to life.
There’s even a lava monster.
I also have plans for a reconfigurable, modular box maze. It uses the medium-sized Home Depot boxes that we have packed stuff into for the move, and they’ll be arrnaged into a bunch of different maze configurations, a new one each day for a week or so.
This was an early 3d mockup of a possible layout before I shifted to the ‘modular’ design plans:
And yes, the twins are very silly, I introduced myself as Uncle Matthew and Ben the twin, started calling me Buncle Bayou for some reason. The absurd nickname’s a running joke now.
And finally, some kid friendly crossword puzzles. I don’t think they’re quite ready for these but they’ll get there soon enough.
Anyway, you can tell I’m getting into the role of fun uncle or ‘funcle’ in Pennsylvania, but that does NOT mean I’ve forgotten about my internet audience, eBay customers, or my friends still living in Houston, Texas!
Despite a strongly positive reputation on eBay specifically, I do struggle with some notoriety for being ‘unreliable’ in the timing of new releases.
This has been the case for years, even before I had any websites allowing a wider audience to notice my work. Why do I keep falling behind on my scheduled releases? Why do I so frequently disappoint everyone on the web with how slow my work goes?
It is largely due to the amount of my time dedicated to earning money to make content… and the generally abysmal rate at which that money is earned. We’re talking $5.50 per hour in the best cases, and often no more than $2 or $3/hour.
When the total list of videos and video games I want to release [in the near future] looks like it’ll cost at least $10,000 more to complete everything I want to complete – between hardware, equipment, art supplies, miniature elements, and other costs – well, that’s a problem. That’s about 3000 hours of work just to finance everything and probably another 3600-4500 to actually make the content once it’s paid for even if no setbacks or major problems occur. So let’s say I average 11 hours a day on this, it’s still about 600 more days to get all these things done. And as usual, nothing ever goes as smoothly as I’d want it to.
Now, I’ve had a tendency to drift focus a lot in a rotation, from project to project, making incremental progress on things in a sort of loop, but quite frankly I’m getting tired of the perception that nothing’s happening and I want to upend that.
In the last two weeks, I have made – saved up – a decent amount of money and also upgraded a few critical toolsets. That’s great. But now I’m looking at the mind-numbingly tedious sub-minimum-wage gigs I have been doing all the freaking time to cover the bills and the eBay auctions of artworks for customers that I make no more than $2/hour on or so, at best, and thinking “Why can’t I try to pare this back? Do I really think this is the best use of my time? Is this what most of my audience actually wants to see me doing?”
And the answer’s definitively a NO.
The audience here wants:
-Games, Videos, Comics, Artworks, and assorted creative stuff available to everyone, either dirt cheap or ideally completely free, and they want that stuff soon, they don’t want to wait forever for the content to materialize.
Now, there’s actually a way to make that happen. It’s a simple well-worn concept that underlies a ton of things from broadcast TV networks, to Google, Facebook, Twitter, to the various blogs you see across the web.
The problem with ads on a website is that for them to be viable, you need a LARGE and LOYAL audience – a lot of people visiting regularly.
I’m only currently at 1% of the level needed for the ad revenue to be substantial enough to replace my need to sell products or work on freelance gigs [transcription & such].
At the threshold of 100x as many visitors as I’m getting now, advertising covers everything on my network.
At or above that threshold, none of the products [videos, games] I release need to be anything other than freeware.
All the games – free, 100%, and production would double in speed across the board… on everything I’m doing.
I WON’T BLUDGEON YOU WITH REQUESTS TO VISIT MORE OFTEN OR RECRUIT A BUNCH OF FRIENDS SIMPLY FOR THIS REASON.
I want to instead entice you to do that with some cool stuff that’ll make you WANT to come back often and which will make this network EASY to recommend to friends.
So here’s my idea. The last two weeks I earned a fair amount of cash.
The next 3 weeks, I’ll work on wrapping up some exciting things, actually finishing or at least getting to a point of viability, on a few new items you’re all getting tired of waiting for.
Then the final week of February, if all goes well:
-a large but finely tuned ad campaign will draw a few thousand new visitors to my web network.
-systematic restructure of my web network, new content appearing in various places.
-New video material, all the House Trek stuff and a couple of other things too, posted on HornbostelVideos.com, with a higher-quality disc version [with animated menus and special feature stuff] available on this website’s shop for $2.99 download or $11.99 DVD / 14.99 BluRay.
-Some added comics stuff and completion of the several articles sub-sections that are still vacant.
-A new batch of pyrotechnics elements, both real video content and some clips done with advanced gas/fluid simulation, in the stock media section.
The material’s all shot or simulated at 120fps, and slowed down to 24fps and 30fps variants. The free video files will be reduced-resolution 960×540, the paid versions 1920×1080. [full HD!] and the paid versions will show up on HornbostelProductions.com for $5.99 as downloadable content on HornbostelProductions.com, $14.99 on DVD on HornbostelProductions.com, or $16.99 shipped on a data DVD through eBay. (I was considering a $14.99 price on eBay too, but given the typical fees I have to pay there, which come close to 20%, $16.99 is basically As low as I can justify.)
I’ve ordered two new additional high-speed cameras, and will be setting up some black backing, reflective mirrors [really it’s a nice clean thick cardstock type material with a very reflective mirror-like coating on one side sort of like aluminum foil without wrinkles.] set at 45-degree angles, telephoto lenses, fireproofing supplies, etc, for the recording of the real-world pyrotechnic elements. All the equipment required is en route, and I’ll try my best to make the recorded material look amazing. The idea with the mirrors is to minimize risk to the camera. These are old-school Hollywood methods basically, you can set the mirror above or below the effect and align the camera to focus on the mirror, so you get the explosion billowing towards the camera in some interesting ways without actually endangering the camera. As for shooting at 120fps, that makes the effect look bigger and more impressive [and makes it last 4x longer when reduced to 30fps or 5x longer at 24fps] than the limited-scale effect it actually is. Recording at such high speed allows a miniature to move physics-wise as though it were 16 times bigger than it actually is, giving the illusion of immense scale and mass. The effects in question will only be four or five feet or so in size at most, in reality and will dissipate within two seconds. But they’ll seem far bigger as recorded, gigantic even, and the effects elements could each last up to 8-10 seconds when played back at a typical speed.
-New game content. I’ve had some frustration with WebGL releases from Unity as they were tricky to debug at times, and WebGL apps require that the game files AND the RAM usage fit within a 1GB limit, to run in a web browser. That said, I am now realizing that these limitations aren’t so bad if used for a lower-res demo version of an ambitious game and not a full-res one. So my plan is to release some of my game content in WebGL form, but with quarter-res graphics. That is, all textures switched on export to half the vertical and half the horizontal pixel count they’d ordinarily use. That reduces file size and memory use on all these projects from around 2-4 GB to under 1GB as far as web-embedded release goes.
So I’m aiming to launch a lower-res ‘Miniature Multiverse’ demo and a bit of other stuff like an early ‘Vivid Minigolf’ reworking posted in HTML5 WebGL form near the end of Feb. 2018, barring an unplanned complication. Neither is the full game feature wise or content wise, they’re both early beta releases with a lot of the content not yet included, and lower-res textures. They will, however, be freeware, and playable on my web network [embedded in the page, with a bit of ad stuff underneath.]
The idea on most of the games, videos, everything, is it is all going to be accessible free in some form, either the full, entire version for free, as with the comics, or some sort of reduced-resolution form, but otherwise as functional as the full version in the case of video and video game content.
If this succeeds, that’d be great. I’m hoping ongoing traffic levels have climbed 10-fold by end of February, covering a full 10% of my production costs, and that most of the other 90% of my costs in running this network can be covered by sales of high-value products that have better profit margins than before either because they don’t involve shipping [downloadables] or because they’re high quality enough and widely viewed enough that they end up selling for a bit more than they would have before.
Update: There’s been an extensive ad campaign ramping up – and fortunately 200+ people have viewed the stock media section of TriumphantArtists.com just in the past 72 hours.
By the time of launch, I think that figure will be more like 1200-1500, and I’m optimistic that the new pyrotechnic stock media / stock footage collection, which will have cost me a bit over $250 in incendiary materials, other materials and camera gear, will ultimately result in an explosion of sales. [Pun intended]