Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! is the first PC game from Singapore-based team Daylight Studios. It has been quite an experience for them having launched it on Steam on July 13th. A lot of what has happened since then has been very positive, but some has been negative, and most of it is has taught the team a lot.
Siliconera caught up with Faizan Abid, the game’s producer, to find out how the studio has handled the reception the game has got from players, press, and streamers. He talks about a critical save bug that almost ruined the game and Daylight’s reputation, scuffles with TotalBiscuit’s criticism of the game’s UI, and the grand plans for this little potato RPG that may one day include a theme park (because why not?).
How has the launch of Holy Potatoes gone so far? Has it performed better, worse, or as well as you were hoping?
It has been 10 days since our launch on the 13th of July, and I must say that our game is doing really great; definitely much better than we expected. Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop (HPAWS) was a joy to develop as it was a game designed out of true passion and we were all focused on building a great game.
However, it was not without a massive struggle. On the day of the launch we discovered a critical save game bug reported by many players. Save game bugs are of the worst kind and there is nothing more detrimental than to have your players lose hours of progress in a game. Negative reviews had started to flood in by that point and our mostly positive reviews dived into mixed reviews within hours.
We realised this problem only during the wee hours of the night on the 13th July and immediately went into battle mode. It was a studio-wide witch hunt where everyone was weeding out every possible reason where the save file could have failed. After hours of non-stop searching, we found a potential reason. It was the mostly likely one as well. The engineers immediately went into crunch mode to solve the problem and the entire team dedicated their time to QA. After 2 hours of QA testing, we believed that the problem was solved but there was no guarantee that it would work and the clock was ticking.
We then posted a call for help in the discussions forums on Steam to recruit willing players who were keen to help test this beta version of the game. To our surprise, many players opted to help and this immediately enlarged our QA “team.” After 2-3 hours of the players’ testing and our own team’s testing, we confirmed that the bug was in fact resolved. At the 20th hour after the bug was first discovered we finally put out the new patch on Steam and the bug was finally fixed. Days after the launch, we had to constantly apologise to players that their previous saved games can no longer be revived and that they would have to restart their gameplay. Some players were massively angry but most were very understanding and applauded us for our swift action through the entire ordeal.
One by one, negative reviews turned positive and more positive reviews started to stream in. In three days, the game was back to “Mostly Positive” reviews on Steam. Today, we have achieved a “Very Positive” rating and our strategy to constantly engage and listen to any problems or suggestions by our players in the forums has paid off. We regained our community’s trust and won back the hearts of our players. Many players shared their great experiences in the game in forums and how time seemed to fly by as they played the game. Players with more than 25 hours of gameplay began filling the store page with great reviews of the game and It was both heart-warming and inspiring for our team. We endeavoured to keep improving the game until it is perfected.
We also managed to achieve top 20 sellers on Steam for both Windows and Mac platforms and we could not have done it without our players constantly working with us to make this game better.
Then, there is YouTube. We never expected such a great reception from streamers/YouTubers. Although we did not plan for this, Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! was apparently very entertaining to watch! Top YouTubers like Jesse Cox, Sips, TotalBiscuit, Ragegamingvideos, and Markiplier did Let’s Play/first impression/review videos on the game. Some of the initial burst also came from guys such as Wanderbots (who is doing a series on the game now and has reached episode 15), who did early access previews on the game. TotalBiscuit streamed us on Twitch as well and achieved 7.3k concurrent viewers.
You mentioned previously that you’ve had some critical feedback from players. Was it anything significant that struck you? Was it surprising? Or has the reception generally been quite pleasing?
In general, most feedback has been very positive but as players went on and got more invested in the game, we noticed that many began to share their criticisms, suggestions, and general thoughts about the game. This shows that the game meant something to them and they wanted to see it get better. And this was absolutely fantastic. We firmly believe that the best way to make a game is with our players and we are utterly surprised at the amount of suggestions that are being loaded into the forums.
Here are some of the critical feedback that we got and are taking very seriously:
- Your game is a rip-off of Swords & Potions!
It is disappointing in many ways when a player who has barely played the game gives such a criticism since we never once referenced Swords & Potions. We mentioned explicitly in our game’s description that the game was inspired by Recettear An Item Shop’s Tale, Game Dev Story, and Weapon Shop De Omasse. All of which are premium games that you buy once and play forever. Swords & Potions is a free-to-play game and has a very different gameplay compared with HPAWS. So why is HPAWS inspired by the above mentioned games?
We definitely were inspired by Game Dev Story for its amazing stat generation system and various events. Recettear for its selling to customers and price adjustments (though we did not think haggling would have been suitable in our game since it is a team management tycoon game and not a SIM RPG). And Weapon Shop De Omasse (3DS) for using great story telling and selling weapons to heroes to make a great game (though we did not like their weapon forging process and preferred a management style instead). Overall, we were greatly inspired by these games but of course the adaptation of each gameplay element into our game was left to us. It is a lot harder than it sounds. E.g. Game Dev Story (makes games), HPAWS (makes weapons), if you think about it, they are very different things. We can’t simply release a weapon into the market like how Game Dev Story does it can we? You can’t sell multiple copies of weapons like games. Lastly, Potatoes, thats 100% us.
- Your UI is too “clicky” and it requires too many clicks to perform actions.
Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop is our very first PC game and we have to admit that the journey to designing our game UI is truly challenging for us. The key thing was simply that no one has ever made a team management style game for a weapon shop. The closest references we had were Game Dev Story and Game Dev Tycoon, but because making games is very different from making weapons, it required a very different game UI.
One of the most difficult challenges while designing the UI was to balance the amount of information to show the player while they make decisions in the game. Showing too much will make the game UI too clunky and showing too little meant that the player had to make too many steps. I will have to say that we did not realise that the game UI required too many clicks to perform actions but we are pleased to say that massive effort is now being made to optimise the number of clicks required in the game.
- Your game has no windowed mode or resolution options.
We realised soon after our game launch that game reviewers and players are very particular about resolution options and windowed mode. This was an oversight on our part since it was our first PC game and we assumed that the default settings would work for everyone. Once we knew the importance of these features our team began immediate development to include these features. I am glad to say that this feature has been included in the game on 24th of July as part of a patch with many other improvements.
In the end, we are just so thankful for the support from our players and even non-players who have been posting all their queries and feedback in the discussions page on Steam. It has helped us understand what our players care about and how we can make this game better.
Switching gears for a second, it seems that the indie game development scene in Singapore is really taking off. Would you agree with that from what you know? Is there much of a community over there or does everyone keep themselves to themselves?
Hmm.. I believe that various indie game developers have been gaining traction over the past years, but the community of indie game developers is still pretty small. The Media Development Authority of Singapore has been extremely proactive in supporting game studios in Singapore with financial and commercial support. This has allowed many indies here to get their game out there and into this great big world beyond the shores of Singapore. I would say that there are probably as many indies who hang out with other indies as indies to keep to themselves. The team at Daylight Studios tends to prefer hanging out by ourselves, though. We aren’t socially awkward or anything, haha, we’re just a bunch of friends who prefer chilling out together.
Where did the idea of Holy Potatoes come from? Was it something that emerged from playing RPGs for a while or did it come from somewhere else?
We always wanted to make a simulation game. Even while working on our mobile project we threw ideas around about how we would do a sim game. Our team members really loved games like Game Dev Story, Weapon Shop De Omasse and Game Dev Tycoon. It was around April/May last year when we were reaching the end of our other projects that we decided to really work on one! It all began with our executive producer (Don), producer (myself) and art director (Julian) sitting at a coffee shop discussing new possibilities and what we all agreed on was that a team simulation game about making and selling weapons would be awesome. The RPG references was a natural part of it since heroes in any RPG world needed weapons! The Potatoes came later, when we were trying to figure out the right art style.
There is a very interesting blog post from our lead artist about how we came up with using adorable potatoes in the game. And once we decided on this wacky potato guys the team went crazy with amazing game ideas and we knew it was the right choice. The very next day, Don came to the office and told the team that the game’s name was going to be “Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!” and that sealed its fate. We settled on it because we thought the ‘Dancing Potatoes’ by our lead artist looked cute, unique, and colorful! It just opened up the door to so many possibilities. We created a whole RPG potato universe. We started to get so serious about the whole potato thing that we set it as a long term goal to expand this universe further! We had cool ideas about games, merchandise, and even theme parks (no kidding!).
We didn’t really know if the art would work out but over the next few months we started posting our potato people on social media and, to our surprise, we gathered a large following of people who had no idea why we were posting pictures about potatoes! The first affirmation we had though was when our Steam Greenlight campaign was Greenlit in seven days. We knew that people really wanted this game to get made.
So you decided to set the game in a potato world as part of the game’s humor? Were you always trying to make a funny game with Holy Potatoes or did that come later?
The decision to build an entire potato world came after our art director devised our potato characters. From the absolutely ridiculous look of these potatoes, it spun open an entire universe of puns, jokes, references, and humor. Making a light hearted game was always there since the conception of the idea but making a funny came much later. But once you unleash the kraken, there is no going back. Crazy puns and the most ridiculous jokes become daily life in Daylight Studios. Every great idea was then thrown into the game.
It seems that you’re listening to the community a lot. How and where are you taking on feedback? What’s the biggest requests you’re getting?
Most of our feedback is from the Steam discussion groups. Other places includes Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and even YouTube videos. We also have a button within the game that directs players to our site to submit their reports. We used that button heavily during beta many players continued to use that after launch. The biggest requests are the ones we are addressing the first! Here is a short list:
- Provide resolution options in the game (which was not obvious to us at first but made complete sense. This feature has since been added into the game)
- The ‘pause’ button (Also added into the game recently to help give players breathing space before getting back into crazy forging mode.)
- Windowed mode (also done and released)
- Allow players to rebind keys (We are still working on this one but since this feature is highly requested for, we are compelled to make sure we build this into the game)
- Quality of life improvements like allowing players to send multiple potato smiths to explore (To save time and require less clicks while playing)
Beyond requested features, are you working on any more content to expand Holy Potatoes? If so, what can we expect and do you have any idea when it might arrive?
Great question! We have loads of requests coming in every day for major to minor improvements but the next thing on our list after all that is done is to localize the game into more languages so more players can enjoy it. We hope to release new languages within the next 1-2 months. We are also working on a New Game + feature to give players more replayability and challenge as well as possible DLCs for more content, more story, more weapons, and more potato jokes. We have no confirmed date for New Game + or DLCs but we will do our best!
What’s next for you after Holy Potatoes? Are you looking to create a bigger game by expanding the studio perhaps? Are you in a position to consider options like that?
Well, “Holy Potatoes!” is now an IP and we are definitely thinking about how we can potentially build a franchise out of this. There are some really great ideas brewing from within the team for a possible new Holy Potatoes! title. With the success of Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! we are definitely considering to expand the team and increase our team’s strength and capacity to build more. And yes, we are definitely in the position and have the support to do this.