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If you're interested in the potential profitability of independent RPG development, this post on the official Iron Tower Studio forums shares the latest sales numbers for both The Age of Decadence and Dungeon Rats. And if you're someone who couldn't care less about all that financial data, the post also talks about the ongoing development of Iron Tower Studio's sci-fi Colony Ship RPG and even mentions that game's already planned sequel where you'll have to actually establish a colony and deal with the native aliens.
Here's an excerpt:
Colony Ship, formerly known as The New World
As the last update says, we finally have a playable build, so we hope to release the combat beta in 2 months and a full demo by the end of the year, so it should be a very busy, stressful, but exciting year for us. In unexpected news, our efforts were noticed and we've received our first publishing offer from a well-known company (in fact, I was very surprised to learn that not only they're aware we exist but that they also read our updates occasionally). Some folks are destined for greatness and greatness does call for strategic alliances and capital injections. Sadly, we're too small-minded to dream of such things, so we'll stick with our 0.0003% of the global market.
Anyway, we've been working for 2 years building the "infrastructure" (RPG-izing the engine, developing systems: character, combat, stealth, inventory, dialogue, etc), working on items, models, effects, etc. Even though we're far from done, the time and effort investment is already considerable. Starting from scratch every time is painful, so we'll have to brave the dangers of the "more of the same" curse and do a proper sequel, instead of another small tactical game or a brand new project.
Naturally, investing 3 years into a sequel and selling 30% of the original will be equally painful (as Dungeon Rats' sales data shows, you don't have to spend 3 years to sell 30% when a single year will do), but what we in mind is so crazy it might actually work.
The main problem with sequels is that the setting and gameplay remain the same. It's nearly impossible to switch gears and offer the player something radically different. While your best fans may be enthralled with the initial game and crave more of it, part of what they are craving is the sense of exploration (of a land and a rule set), novelty, and wonder that accompanying a new RPG - things that will almost inherently be absent in a sequel. Obsidian's Deadfire, for example, plays the same way as the original (which is to be expected, of course; after all, Fallout 2 plays the same way too - you know what works, what doesn't, so you follow the established path and know what to expect from the enemies and factions). With Colony Ship, this problem is easy to solve, not because we're so clever, but because the setting itself implies its solution: we land the Ship and start the Colony.
A Tentative Sequel
From Colony Ship's intro: "...after the Ship's launch a deep space probe transmitted highly detailed images of the surface, which revealed one minor setback: this very habitable world is already inhabited. Since the voyage is estimated to take close to 400 years, it’s possible that by the time the Ship arrives the colonists will encounter a mature civilization, corresponding to Earth’s Middles Ages."
The typical space opera trope is that when we make first contact, it is with aliens either corresponding to very primitive indigenous people (such as in Avatar), consisting of a nightmarish swarm (as in Starship Troopers), or at some extraordinary level of technology themselves (as in Star Trek or Babylon 5). Here, however, while the aliens are pre-industrial, they are well past the spears and face-paint stage, and have well-established political, economic, and military systems.
More importantly, they are alien, which means that while they may be humanoid (to make our animator's life easier), the fundamental logic of their society, religion, and power should be truly alien to ours and vice versa. The result is a highly asymmetrical kulturcampf.
For the record, it won't be a retelling of the conquest of the New World but on another planet. The ragtag Terrans who'd land on Proxima B after 400 years of space travel and in-fighting will be at a disadvantage and will have to fight for survival and adapt to this less than welcoming arid new world. Reinforcements won't be coming, so the Terrans will be on their own and each defeat will bring them closer to being wiped out for good. They will have to rely on crude firearms more than ever as the high-tech weapons and gear intended for the future colony were used up during the Mutiny and the civil war that followed. New factions will emerge in response to new threats, each offering a different way to survive and become part of this world.