After 14 months, penis-centric multiplayer game Genital Jousting left Early Access last week.
Described as 'online and local multiplayer party game about flaccid penises and wiggly anuses', the title started out life as developer Free Lives wanting to juxtapose silly and serious elements, including penises.
"The game never really had to be pitched to anyone, it just kind of evolved from what we thought was funny and the kind of story we wanted to tell," Free Lives (yep, the entire studio) says.
"The first stepping stone was just the thought that the juxtaposition of a colourful penis in a fully narrated – but otherwise mundane – world was hilarious. We started exploring from there."
Genital Jousting launched into Early Access – the team chose this model so that the community could shape the project.
"Early Access gives us an opportunity to gauge player interest," the studio says.
"Which in turn helps us shape the scope of the project - if people are enjoying what we’re making and supporting the game, we can spend more time on it. We’re also big on player feedback, getting the game out to players early allows us to stay motivated and see what is and isn’t working with the design. Never testing your ideas is really risky. A typical Early Access development process also helps us stay on track with the regular updates providing mini-deadlines and milestones."
Free Lives continues: "Genital Jousting was a bit different from our typical Early Access development process. We released the multiplayer modes on Early Access first, and did a few updates to them. But after that we were working in secret on the story mode for the best part of a year.
That process was really hard actually. Not having players provide that constant stream of motivation and feedback was definitely a struggle. We had some low points where we wondered if we’d gone down the wrong path completely.
"There were definitely more than a few times that we woke up in the middle of the night wondering what we were doing with our lives."
This isn't the first project that Free Lives released into Early Access – the studio has put out both Broforce and VR title Gorn launched into Steam's alpha launch scheme. But over the years, Early Access' reputation has become somewhat tarnished as projects of low quality being released and sometimes never launching properly. But Free Lives says the studio has had a positive experience with Early Access.
"It’s a miracle that any game gets finished at all," the developer explains.
"We’re among the lucky few that has the means to fully realise their projects. That said, Free Lives has had a lot of positive experiences with Early Access. Aside from Genital Jousting both Broforce and GORN are successful Early Access projects. Broforce was in Early Access for two years, and became a much better game because of it. We believe that Early Access done properly always produces better games, so we want to go that route whe we can. Although with Genital Jousting we were a little bit worried that the development would look like it had stalled because we were working on the story mode in secret. Luckily we seem to have avoided the ire of angry gamers. Possibly because of the game’s low price point.
One of the concerns with an Early Access title is that everyone who is interested will buy the project during that phase and that sales will drop off once the 1.0 version releases. But Free Lives worked hard to get buzz around the project on its 'proper' release.
"We work with our wonderful publisher, Devolver Digital. Before the game went live to the public we sent out press copies (as well as plushies) so that journalists and YouTubers could have reviews and videos ready on launch day," the developer explains.
"We also did a big streaming event with Devolver. Did you know Genital Jousting was the first ever game to have video streamed live to its Steam store page?
The final release sees Genital Jousting making its debut in New Zealand and Australia. Devolver and Free Lives opted to not launch the game in this region due to their tighter laws on content in video games.
"Australia and New Zealand have very strict policies on what they will allow," Free Lives said.
"Our publisher had a hard time with several other (less controversial) games, and we all agreed it probably wouldn’t be worth trying to get it through since the chances of success seemed so slim! But during our time in Early Access, we’ve had so many people in Australia asking for the game that we decided to try and just see what happens. Maybe it’ll be banned in a week’s time, who knows?"