Sometimes, a bundle is a great deal for consumers, but a lesser opportunity for the creators involved. There are some sob stories around from indie developers breaking down the grinding halt a package deal produces. None of that is present for Ede Tarsoly, proprietor of Elder Games and maker of the highly ambitious Merdian: New World.
As their strategy project was recently put into the hefty Apocalypse Bundle on Bundle Stars, we asked the developer a few questions. We are both close followers of great bundle deals and indie games, so this was sort of a double whammy. Tarsoly fielded the questions themselves.
First off, we asked what the decision about the recent packaging was, to which we were given the following reply:
Meridian is an indie game, and as such, we must take all opportunities to sell the game. Bundles give visibility and brand awareness, while surprisingly, they don’t diminish sales on any platform. Overall, they are a very good choice for indie devs.
Sites like Kotaku, Joystiq and more profiled Meridian: New World’s ambitious scope in real-time strategy (RTS) before it came out. Most of it was made by one developer, with some outside help for select parts. Our question was how coverage affected the overall reception of the game, to which Tarsoly stated:
Reviews on Steam were favorable, though now they changed to mixed. I’ve heard lots of positive and negative feedback alike. Positive is always nice, but it’s the negative I learn from. Those actually helped me when designing my next game.
We later asked to illustrate how the positive and negative feedback matters:
E.g. “The game feels like Command and Conquer, fun and engaging.” This sounds nice, but I don’t learn much from it.
Another review states “pathfinding is a mess, units keep bumping into each other, and the AI more often than not, takes the longer route to its destination”. This is a negative and something to learn from.
The fact is, a negative review is something a developer can learn a great deal from. Obviously, a review that only says “game too hard, don’t like” isn’t particularly useful. Longer, well-constructed reviews however can be a great help when designing future titles, or patching the reviewed title.
We also pointed towards the eventual Metacritic score for Meridian: New World, which now stands at a low 43. Additionally, almost none of the large sites actually had a review present, so we asked if they knew what happened. To that, Tarsoly first deflects the thought by saying:
As you can see, user score on metacritic is 7.9 / 10.
They do, however, go into the question after the defensive rebuttal:
The thing is, Meridian was one of the dreaded Early Access titles on Steam. I took Early Access seriously and even the first release of the game was very polished, however, given the reputation of such titles, major sites refused to review the game.
Finally, we asked how their relationship with Headup Games was, a publisher with quite a few Steam titles on its resume. It was answered as such:
Headup Games are amazing. They know their stuff and helped give the game quite the visibility.
Then, Tarsoly goes back to a previous question spontaneously, to further defend their game:
I would also like to point out that while reviews of the game were mixed, and the metascore looks awful, Meridian: New World was a financial success for us. The game recouped its entire budget in the first week of Early Access, and has been making money ever since. We also have a demo, so the purchases are actually made by people who like the game. This means that no matter what the reviews say, there is indeed a demand for the game.
It sound like it’s all rock’n’roll and sunshine for Tarsoly, so far. Currently, 63% of 237 reviews on Steam are positive. You should tell us why you like Meridian: New World in the comments. It certainly looks like the Command & Conquer glory days. We don’t have a gameplay commentary this time, like we usually do, but you should still check the Bundle Stars deal. It has several more truly interesting games and other underdogs. Our favorite would be Evoland, a game that travels through all eras of the roleplaying game genre.