Introversion Speak Out: Play Our Bloody Demo

By Kieron Gillen on October 11th, 2008 at 2:49 pm.

I haven't played Multiwinia against RPS yet, but I will now predict John will be the worst of it.

Chris Delay writes at length on the Introversion forum about Multiwinia’s release:

Multiwinia has the highest conversion rate we’ve ever seen. What this means is that every time somebody plays the demo version, there is a percentage chance that they will go on to buy the game, and that percentage is higher than any of our other games. This is excellent news, and generally lines up with our belief that Multiwinia is the most accessible of all our collection, the most immediately satisfying, and the most visceral and intense of our games. We can infer from his high conversion rate that people enjoy our game immediately, and that makes us very happy. By comparison, Darwinia had a very low conversion rate, at least initially, because we royally messed up the launch demo. The kinds of conversion rates we are seeing with Multiwinia are in fact excellent by any standards, and we should be very happy about this.

Unfortunately, a high percentage of zero is still zero. Nobody is playing the demo of Multiwinia.

More quotes and additional notes follow…

The obvious question is “Why?”. Chris aims it mainly in no-one having heard of it, as there’s been no reviews…

It’s been three weeks since we launched Multiwinia, and today Metacritic shows four reviews (the minimum required for a metacritic average) for the first time since game launch. By comparison, Defcon had nearly thirty metacritic reviews within a week of launch. Of the reviews we have arranged with websites and magazines, less than 20% of them have been published at this time. One british games magazine has declined to review Multiwinia at all – ever.

Which is pretty serious, as far as it goes, and clearly worrying. To be a little harder, I can certainly theorise why the latter ended up happening. Firstly, I know that review code for Multiwinia was relatively late going out – as in, around the week of release (Chris admits this was probably a mistake). This means for a print magazine, the review isn’t going to appear until a clear month and a bit after its available. This is something magazines do worry about, and at least bear in mind. Secondly, is the time of year. While Multiwinia is hitting just before the major rush of games, we’re in the point where all the major Christmas games are hitting. There’s only so much space in a Magazine. I dare say the one who’s decided not to review Multiwinia is a multiformat magazine. When they have to squeeze in all the Gears of War 2 and Fable 2 and Fallout 3 and whatever, actually including a smaller game is tricky. Especially when it’s a smaller game that’s been out for a while, thus no longer contemporary.

This doesn’t actually explain why there’s relatively few reviews from the online world on metacritic. Chris has an idea…

We’ve heard disturbing rumours from more than one source that major games websites are now cutting back on the number of games they review – and it’s games like Multiwinia that are getting dropped because there will always be hundreds of bigger games. If this is true and is widespread (as we are starting to believe), it has grave repercussions for all indie developers who rely on press reviews as their primary form of publicity.

I was actually the source for this – I was mentioning that I’m finding it harder to pitch Indie (or just smaller PC game) reviews to game sites. Admittedly, the site whose editor who actually explained why – in short “They get far less hits” – is one of the ones which has actually reviewed Multiwinia, which kind of undercuts the paranoia. But as a general rule, Chris is completely right. People talk about whether reviews matter – of course Halo 4’s going to sell a trillion, even if we all slag it off. Point being, reviews matter enormously when a game is smaller. If a gamer isn’t even aware of a game, there’s no chance of a purchase. For the importance of a review, look at Vic Davis’ of Armageddon Empire fame over at Newsweek. Specifically, look at the direct effect the mention in Games for Window and my own Eurogamer Armageddon Empires review had on it. Later, look at Penny Arcade – which is a different thing, of course, but still a clear example of the effect of commentary.

In other words, with only five reviews out there, it’s not surprising that Multiwinia isn’t being picked up enough. I’m not doing a formal review for anywhere – no-one commissioned me, mores the pity – but we plan to do a Verdict next week, after we’ve all had a chance to play it.

Chris ends his piece with two sets of pleas. The first aimed at journalists, and the second at fans. I’ll quote the second…

You guys are the other major reason Introversion is here. The word of mouth that went with Uplink was incredible. Across the Internet, everybody was talking about it. It was the underground hit of 2001. Many of you probably heard about Uplink for the first time on Internet forums, and this wasn’t an accident. At the time we asked our community to help us with this directly, encouraging you to talk about our game to spread the word further. The combination of growing numbers of reviews on bigger and bigger sites and our fanbase aggressively spreading the word on internet forums pushed Uplink to a wider audience than we could ever have reached ourselves.

Now we need you to do the same. You all hang around on different internet forums all over the Internet as well as the Introversion community – go to those forums and strike up conversations about the game. Include screenshots, link to the videos on youtube, link to the demo on our website (www.multiwinia.com). Tell people why you love the game, get them excited about it. Most importantly of all, you are bringing Multiwinia to their attention – they may have heard of it or not, but at no point have they felt compelled to investigate further and try the demo. You have to encourage them past this point. This is a game they have missed, it’s fallen through the cracks, but they should give it a try because its really good fun.

To help you with this, we’re working on modifying the current Multiwinia demo so that demo users can join a LAN game, so long as the host owns the full game. The purpose behind this is to make it very easy for you to play against your friends who don’t yet own the game, without having to buy more copies. LAN parties in particular are great events for trying new games – take Multiwinia along and show it to people, fire up a game and invite other players to join as demo users. They’ll have a great experience, and they’ll thank you for showing them this game that they’ve either not heard of or ignored.

The opening up of LAN play is particularly welcome, I think you’d agree. I actually think a future true Multiplayer demo would also help the game down the line, but that’s clearly speculation. I kinda think it’d be an idea to push that MP demo later, after the Christmas chaos has calmed down a little, but I’m just theorise.

I think Multiwinia is well worth playing, even if you don’t ultimately like it – though I also think you will. Like most Indies, Introversion go from game to game with the money for one paying for the next. In a hard way, Multiwinia not selling more than it is could be the end for the company. I think that’d be tragic.

Man, that’s a guilt trip, innit? Just play the thing, yeah? It’s fun.

, , , .

81 Comments »

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  1. Forceflow says:

    Downloading !

  2. Heliocentric says:

    Teach you to bring out your indie title at christmas.

    Didn’t realy enjoy the demo mind you.

  3. Kast says:

    I find it very worrying that IV could disappear all because of one poorly received game. Each of their games so far have been landmark moments in gaming and future games like Subversion and Chronometer promise to be just as important.

    I do wish I could support all Indie developers and, though IV have always been my favourite, I only have so much money and Mount&Blade got my shiny coins this month.

    If computer and video gaming magazines and websites shy away from independent games, they are in serious danger of becoming mouthpieces for the publishers and advertising houses. No one wants that, and gamers can only lose out from such an arrangement.

  4. vordhosbn says:

    The lack of a multiplayer demo really is what is keeping me from buying this. I’d like to try it out with the group of people I usually play games like these with but since the demo doesn’t have multiplayer, none of us particularly feels like splurging for the full thing yet.

  5. Heliocentric says:

    Actually, yes… Thats why i didnt enjoy the demo.

    Getting stomped by AI? Not fun.

  6. Simon Jones says:

    I think part of the problem is that gaming is splitting into ‘blockbuster’ and ‘indie’ now more than ever. Up to now there hasn’t really been a big distinction between the two, but with the blockbuster games getting ever more expensive and blockbustery and the indie games getting more polished an innovative, there’s a clear divide.

    Although there’s almost certainly a market for both, the gaming press is still massively far behind. Both print and online are still very much focused towards the blockbuster end of the market, even magazines that purport to be about the ‘art’ rather than just ‘woo, guns!’

    There needs to be the gaming equivalent of Sight & Sound in order to support the independent productions. The games are there, the customers are there, you just need a new form of gaming press to connect the two. Until that happens it could be a painful few years for indie devs.

    On the other hand, the Multiwinia website lists lots of online press that has covered the game (including my own review!). The problem is that the different blogs and commentary sites are too scattered and disorganised at present, so don’t really present a united front of pro-independent gaming.

  7. Robin says:

    Introversion like moaning, don’t they? (j/k)

    I do wonder if ten years from now they’ll still be positioning each of their games as desperate underdogs. OK, they may not want to follow the trajectory of the likes of id or Media Molecule, but at this point I’m starting to suspect that their determination to isolate themselves is limiting their potential.

    It would be interesting to examine exactly what they did with Defcon compared to Multiwinia in terms of presenting it to the press/world. Maybe Defcon just caught people’s imaginations more readily. Still, four reviews does sound unusually low.

  8. subedii says:

    I’ll be honest. I haven’t tried the demo of Multiwinia. I tried the demo of Darwinia and it didn’t really appeal to me (liked Defcon though, although the community’s pretty quiet now). The prospect of a multiplayer version didn’t sound too enticing if the gameplay was going to be the same but just taken against other people.

    Still, the authors have guilt tripped me, so I might give it a go later after some more messing around with World of Goo. If the gameplay’s different and fun for me, then I might hop on board the hype train, but for the moment, well Darwinia wasn’t my thing so in my case that’s why I haven’t really been paying attention to Multiwinia since.

  9. Hoernchen says:

    So, why would I want to play the demo of the multiplayer version of darwinia if there is no actual multiplayer part included?

  10. trillex says:

    It’s a great game but just buying this would turn over my budget – so sorry IV!

  11. karami says:

    I’m surprised the conversion rate is high, I wouldn’t generally recommend the demo as being fun in itself (demo review), although the game seems like it would be an excellent quick-fix multiplayer RTS.
    Surprised people say they got stomped by the AI too, on easy mode it’s a piece of cake and after maybe 5 games I was consistently winning on hard – you just have to figure out which order to take the spawners, grab a small majority of capture points (don’t take more, the rubber-banding kicks in) and pick up powerups while you wait out the clock. The AI is too predicable, this is why it really needs a multiplayer demo.

  12. nEBUz says:

    I want to, I want to – but if I play I will fail exams =( – bad timing for release..

  13. JungleTiger says:

    I remember checking out the multiwinia web site a long time ago, because I loved their “uplink” game (and bought it, too). Sadly, Multiwinia is windows-only, so no download/sale from me.

  14. Kieron Gillen says:

    Hoerchen: It’s Skirmish.

    KG

  15. alexis.kennedy says:

    >We can infer from this high conversion rate [+ low download rate] that people enjoy our game immediately, and that makes us very happy.

    Or alternatively that the it has a niche appeal and that the people who download it are the ones predisposed to like it.

    >I do wonder if ten years from now they’ll still be positioning each of their games as desperate underdogs.

    Yeah. I’version are great and I wish them the best, but this is pretty shameless.

  16. Bas says:

    Demo wouldn’t help, since nobody would have open ports (as they boot up the demo asap), they fail to connect to any game, and the leave again. That’s what killed Multiwinia for me. I CAN’T FUCKING CONNECT TO ANY GAME EVEN AFTER OPENING THE CORRECT PORTS.

    The netcode on this game is retarded.

  17. karami says:

    “predicable”… Oh, edit, my love, how I miss thee so!

  18. oddbob says:

    I’ve never got the Introversion thing. I adore their style and Defcon was peerless for the atmosphere it generated, but neither Darwinia or Defcon were games I enjoyed.

    I’m also a little off put by the constant railing when things don’t go their way. We all know that being an indie is tough going at times, but every time something doesn’t go Introversions way you certainly here about it. And in one way, that’s fine – we all get pissed off and aggro sometimes with the hand that life deals at us, but it is getting a bit of a formula, no?

    I’m reminded of the thread on a board where a couple of folks said they didn’t enjoy Darwinia and as if by a miracle, the shopkeeper appeared (well, some curious internet stranger) to convince everyone that they should keep trying the demo until they got it. It’s quite souring to try and have folks browbeat you into liking something you don’t. To this day I don’t know if that was an innocent and enthusiastic passer by, a “street team” effort or PR offensive. Regardless it left a souring taste in the mouth. Unfortunately, when looking for the thread in question it appears to have been the victim of the great Invision free “whoops, there goes half of our forums” hackgasm.

    I dunno, I don’t want IV to go to the wall, but I struggle to get on board with their attitude and PR, and unfortunately, the games also.

  19. oddbob says:

    here=hear, obviously.

    Silly half awake me.

  20. Gabanski83 says:

    This just reminded me that I’d downloaded the demo, but never given it a try. Installerising now.

    But yeah, open up the multiplayer side of it please. Not much point having a mulitplayer game if we can’t, y’know, try out the mulitplayer with other people?

  21. Rook says:

    I didn’t particularly enjoy the Darwinia demo but I ended up getting the game as part of an Uplink pack, and I do have to say the finished game is actually really good and well worth an afternoon or two’s play.

    However, Multiwinia very much feels like the multiplayer component I should have got first time around considering that Darwinia was quite pricey. When I first heard of it I naively thought it was going to be a free expansion, or at the most maybe $10. I think they priced themselves out, and released during a bit of a gamerush which doesn’t look like dying down anytime soon.

  22. Frosty840 says:

    I… uh… I just don’t want to buy another multiplayer RTS.
    I’ll play some skirmish CoH now and then, and sometimes I’ll manage to rope someone I know into playing a game of that with me, but I just don’t want to do the whole “playing against random people” thing.
    Yes, I do enjoy online RTSes when I can get a good game played, but unless there’s some kind of hairline-balanced matching system, I find that most online games are one player soundly thrashing a less experienced opponent, resulting in no fun for anyone.

    I did not enjoy Defcon. I thought it was broken. I don’t trust IV to make another RTS that I will enjoy. I still trust them absolutely on the singleplayer, but I can’t see that there’s anything for me in Multiwinia.

    Sorry, IV. Wake me up when you make a game I want, eh?

  23. Kast says:

    Have to agree with not enjoying IV’s RTSs, but I put that down to myself not liking any multiplayer RTS. Here’s looking forward to something with a similar feel to Uplink. But without people spending money on Multiwinia we won’t get the opportunity to enjoy those future singleplayer games.

  24. Nick says:

    “One british games magazine has declined to review Multiwinia at all – ever”

    What a bunch of cucking funts.

  25. I don't understand this comment system says:

    I would have thought that review sites would want to review some indie titles to differentiate themselves from their peers in terms of content, guess not.

    Throwing in my 2 cents, I would have bought both Defcon and Darwina already, in fact I had my credit card out to order Defcon, if your could use the game on both windows and mac. The second I saw that I had to purchase the game twice for me to be able to play it on my windows desktop and macbook I put my credit card away and went “oh well”.

    Before someone jumps all over me, I understand that they have a 3rd party port their games to mac, and I understand that alot of major companies get away with this nonsense. But I never purchase any game unless I can play it on all my systems. A game like defcon would have been a great laptop game, but sometimes my GF in on my laptop and I need to use my desktop or vice versa. In short I feel like I am not getting the value for my money unless I can play a game on both systems and I wonder how many sales they have lost because they of this (given the popularity of mac laptops).

    Licensing Defcon out to a 3rd party might have made sense when they were first starting out, maybe they didn’t think ahead about porting it when coding the engine, but going forward they really should have used better crossplatform tools and done the mac version themselves.

    Just given my 2 cents, not a rant at all, read it in a matter of fact voice. Introversion would have had my purchase for several of their games had they treated all versions as equal instead of pulling this nonsense.

  26. Nick says:

    Yeah, I would have bought Deus Ex but it didn’t work on my Game Boy Colour.

  27. crozon says:

    “One british games magazine has declined to review Multiwinia at all – ever”

    What a bunch of cucking funts.

    second that, dumb bitchy little shits, why the fuck won’t they review it. maybe they want all games to be like fucking halo. cunts.

  28. Saflo says:

    Yeah, I bet they want all games to be like Halo.

  29. Rosti says:

    One of the problems I see with Multiwinia is that it’s not Darwinia. Admittedly that’s an obvious statement, but for those that enjoyed the quite pace and arcadey nature of the ‘digital dreamscape’ Multiwinia’s competitive nature and completely different gameplay will be alienating. Similarly, those who tried Darwinia and didn’t gel with it’s pacing or design will wonder why they should bother.

    In some ways it may have been easier to market in a “Future War” game with Doom sprites instead of ‘winians.

    On the other hand, I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the game and love in a simmilar way to Mario Kart – quick action muck-around RTS over in 5-15 mins FTW. Very glad that a future demo will include some LANage; most of my friends are on the fence so at least I’ll get a few games in.

  30. Rosti says:

    Also – get well soon edit function… I’ve come to rely on you :'(

  31. Heliocentric says:

    I realised why i was getting stomped by the ai. I was playing the advanced tutorial and broke it. Units stopped spawning and the ai was raining artillary on me.

    I remember reading or watching something on multiwinia that annoyed me. The designer was proud that he didn’t play other rts and that he was designing from a blank canvas. ProTip: play company of heroes before you make another rts.

    My main issue is the player has a lack of meaningful options. Sure i’m a hardcore rts player and by that i mean i will play online against people i don’t know. But if more options were added and a demo with multiplayer? It might tempt me to buy the game.

    Iv i love you, you make great games. But your multiplayer games are much too simple and have little scope for application of skill.

  32. Pace says:

    The general impression I get from this game is one that is made because IV think it’s what other people will like, rather than what they would like. Kieron echoes that with apparently lukewarm personal support, but says that he thinks that we’ll like it. To me that never seems like a good way to make a quality game. Or movie or TV show or whatever else that reasoning is sometimes applied to.

  33. Kieron Gillen says:

    Pace: Haven’t played the full game for more than a few hours. I’m going to play it more for the RPS verdict. I do like it a lot.

    KG

  34. I don't understand this comment system says:

    @Nick

    I am stupid in the fact that I want to play my software on all my computers. You could counter with the amount of time and money you have to spend to make things cross platform. But instead you set up a straw man about the game boy color like it has anything to do with what I was talking about. Its not like they never ported darwina, it is available for mac, its that they chose to make the serial keys for the pc version not work with the mac port and vice versus, as a consumer that seems like arbitrary lock in to me.

  35. arrr_matey says:

    It really bothers me that the attitude of game websites is that they won’t cover indie games because the reviews “don’t get enough hits”.

    They’re just being lazy. Sure, if you put a link to a review of a game that nobody’s ever heard of on your main page, you’ll probably not get as many hits as your review of Gears of War 2. They have to do something different. Jazz it up. Give people a reason to want to read the article.

    The website writers and editors are supposed to be creative people, so why can’t they come up with a way to draw people in. You know, spend some time to make sure that your lead to your indie review is amazing and sucks people in to click on the article. Put up a graphic that people feel they have to click on to see what it is. Arrange your indie reviews in a new way to make them more readable… maybe they can be shorter or do a weekly round-up or something like that.

    The way gaming press is set up these days is to cash in on the titles with the most hype simply because that’s the easiest thing to do. I wish they’d put in a little work and creativity to think about how they can bring more hits to reviews of indie games rather than just throwing their hands in the air and saying, “Nope. Sorry. It’s just not going to work.”

  36. Pace says:

    Kieron; duly noted. Hopefully Introversion feels the same way? (I’ll download the demo if you guys convince me with the ‘verdict’!)

  37. M_the_C says:

    I want to support Introversion.

    But like several others I simply can’t afford to buy all the games I want.

    I’ve been playing the demo quite a bit, and been enjoying myself. Personally I don’t care that it doesn’t have the online part as, I would most likely, only ever play the computer. And I think it’s good at that. It’s a pretty good game, but is missing the magic of their other games.

  38. Broslovski says:

    I love IV – have their other stuff, but Darwinia is what won it for me. I am trying to get as many people as I know (a woefully tiny number) to play it. I suck at RTS games. I suck at multwinia. I’m still loving it. It doesn’t have quite the amount of atmosphere darwinia has, but I think I can only name about 3 games that do…

  39. Munin says:

    Maybe the problem is a different one – that Multiwinia pretty much seems to be a stand alone multiplayer expansion for a game that is 3 (?) years old. I played Darwinia and liked it and all, but I’m not going to take the plunge again, no matter how good it is. I’d rather see Introversion do something new. And honestly, I have no idea what took them so long to develop this.

  40. cujo says:

    @Heliocentric

    yeah, being proud is one of the things i really dont care for from iv. they have this tendancy to reinvent the wheel so to speak, and their games suffer from it greatly. this applies to the whole never played an rts, to the poor networking, to the poor performance, etc. this is also why it takes them ages to get a game out. multiwinnia is 3 years too late.
    dont get me wrong, they have some neat ideas, but this whole “the last of the bedroom programers” schtik is getting old.

  41. Nick says:

    I don’t recall saying you were stupid. I was merely pointing out the absurdity of thinking buying a PC game means you should be able/allowed to play it on a Mac without installing XP on it. I choose to do it flippantly, as is my wont. Call it strawman (cliche!) or whatever if you like.

  42. Arienette says:

    I got the demo at the PCGamer Showdown, really enjoyed it and I will buy it at some point. I’ve just got so much on at the moment I’m not buying anymore games with which to distract myself.

  43. Sam says:

    Having now (thanks for the tip, ChaosSmurf – #multiwinia were very helpful) gotten Multiwinia working in Wine, I can say that it is fairly awesome, although not as awesome as Darwinia – the tone is a little more bleak, I felt.
    I’ll definitely be trying to get more people to play the demo (and buy it, on Steam or otherwise) though. I’d review it, if I thought my random blog would actually count for their metacritic rating.

  44. Chandrose says:

    I’ll give it a try. RPS has turned me on to more than a few indie games I never would have known about otherwise, this very well could be the next.

  45. Simon Jones says:

    “I’d review it, if I thought my random blog would actually count for their metacritic rating.”

    Sam – I think this is where metacritic maybe falls down. It’s not that I want every random blog to count, of course, but there’s no denying that smaller websites and the blog scene are the ideal place for coverage of independent games. But as long as places like metacritic only take into account the big boys, it’s always going to be tilted in favour of the blockbusters.

    Not sure what the solution is, mind you. indiecritic.com perhaps? :P

  46. Optimaximal says:

    that Multiwinia pretty much seems to be a stand alone multiplayer expansion for a game that is 3 (?) years old.

    Munin, that’s because it is… Its the multiplayer component of the Darwinia+ Xbox 360 release that’s coming to Xbox Arcade in a month or twos time.

    Basically, I hate to hate on IV, since they’re a diamond in the rough, but throwing their toys out of the pram at poor sales at this point is just silly…

    Firstly, it’s essentially half a game (unless you bought the SE, like I did, and got the original bundled) and it has been marketed as such – nobody at IV has actively denied it’s the PC version of the Xbox multiplayer component (assumedly required to get on the service).

    Secondly, I think a lot of people were holding off the game after the less than stellar response to Defcon – yes, it sold well for IV and was fun, but there wasn’t much too it and everyone who purchased up front couldn’t resell the game if they didn’t like it because keys were tied to accounts. The fact a retail release which was originally denied appeared later and offered resell rights only hurt.

    I hate to say it, but neither Defcon & Multiwinia have the charm nor the depth of Uplink or the original Darwinia either… Yes, they’re both easy to play but hard to play properly, with deep tactics available, but everything is given too you up front and there’s nothing more to it after your third or fourth game. It’s like the poker analogy in the Hinterland article – the games are so quick that there’s no room for discovering stuff 150 games down the line.

    Also, £16.99? TF2 is that price too…

  47. Shawn says:

    Tried the demo, wasn’t all that impressed to be honest. I also didn’t like the new control method of selecting characters. Darwinia remains one of my favs, and I think Introversion needs to add some more single player content, like a Darwinia 2 or something.

    BTW, a few months back, I added Multiwinia to the giantbomb.com website, which is a wiki that you have to manually add. No one did it a month before release so I went ahead and started building the page for the site.

    Help me build it up:

    http://www.giantbomb.com/multiwinia/61-21649/

    lots of content and pictures to be added, plus written reviews. The great thing about giantbomb is that WE can dictate content, this is something that Introversion needs to be active with.

  48. George says:

    I also think it’s suffering from being too indistinct from Darwinia. It has the same visual look, and almost the same name, so my presumption whenever I hear about it is “expansion pack”. (Or even worse, the contemporary “free DLC”.)

  49. RichPowers says:

    I downloaded the demo from Steam the day it was released and frankly didn’t enjoy it.

    Multiwinia reminds me of DEFCON in that it’s a neat concept, but not all that fun to actually play.

  50. Scundoo says:

    I did my good deed for the day:

    http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=198394