Outspoken developer Derek Smart, who’s been around the industry block a few times, took to the Steam forums for his RTS, Line Of Defense Tactics – Tactical Advantage, to provide insight into why he decided to attatch a $24.99 price tag to his game.
“There have been some threads and posts about the pricing of the PC version of the game, among other things.” wrote Smart. “So after much thought, I have decided to pen this piece so that we all know where we stand.“
Line of Defense Tactics started as a companion app, tying into Smart’s upcoming MMO, developed for PC along with mobile devices. From concept to release, it took Smart and his team a little over a year. “This wasn’t some $5K hack job that I came up with overnight, then had it put together in 90 days,” Smart explained “The game cost well over $250K+ to make. And it wasn’t crowd funded. And that’s not even taking into account or reconciling all the things which you can’t put time (e.g. that’s not taking into account my time or the budget would be well over $1m considering what I make per hour, just for falling out of bed) or price tag on. At a publisher, this is easily a $500K+ (minimum) game project. Especially in the now crowded mobile space.”
And each platform required different amounts of work, some to the point where the team was almost developing a new game. “The PC version is not some port we hacked together in an hour and called it a day. In fact, it took even people from the main MMO team (a.k.a. LOD Actual) to assist the LOD Tactics Unity3D team on this project.“
But Line of Defense was slapped with the “mobile port” tag, the scarlet letter of gaming, and commenters were quick to criticise the pricing. Yet the PC version contains no microtransactions, the full game, a skirmish mode and extra weapons. Originally Smart put up two SKUs for PC, one at $19.99 which was the base game and another, a Steam exclusive, at $24.99 which came with the skirmish mode and weapons.
“A week ago, Valve and I nixed the standard SKU,” continued Smart. “And for very good reason. That being it would – according to Valve – only add confusion if someone, somehow (yes – it can happen apparently), bought both versions of the game. During that phone call (yes, contrary to popular belief, there are humans working at Valve!), they explained their concern which we discussed. I still had the option to roll both versions, but I decided to roll with their recommendation because, well, Valve.
“And since I didn’t want or have time to mess with Steam’s handling of DLC, as that is what I would have had to do if I wanted the $19.99 SKU along with the extra $5 bits available for purchase, I decided to roll only one version of the game which had those bits built-in.” That’s how it ended up with the price it’s at now.
“So when I make a decision such as this, it is not because I threw pebbles into a jar, shook it, then went with the prettiest one retrieved from said jar. There was a lot that went into the decision. It’s called experience.” And Smart certainly has plenty of experience, good and bad. His first game, way back in 1996, was Battlecruiser 3000AD, which generated a years long flamewar on Usenet, launched as a buggy mess and ended in a legal dispute between Smart and publisher Take-Two.
Smart’s games are usually massively ambitious, but also rather obstinate and difficult to get into. Line of Defense, then, is a significant departure from Smart’s regular output, which is also why he put together a new team to develop it.
Line of Defense Tactics – Tactical Advantage is on Steam now, with a 25 percent discount.