I won’t reveal any changes to the game in this dev diary, because I think that’s best explained by the devs themselves. Instead, I’ll try to give you some insight into what the publishing side of Paradox does for CK2.
I officially took over the Product Manager role shortly after we released Monks & Mystics. I’d been standing in for the previous PM during the expansion release, and I’m a big fan of the game (current campaign: Zunbil, 769 start, HIP mod) so I couldn’t be happier to work with it! So here I am.
As Product Manager, I’m ultimately responsible for making sure that we provide our fans with the best CK2 products possible. This wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of a number of people from different departments at Paradox. I thought the best way to explain how all us publishing folks contribute, I’d walk you through a somewhat simplified version of the publishing process. This process can vary from project to project, depending on its size (whole game or DLC). The one described below is specific to CK2 expansions.
The core decision-making point for a product at the publishing wing is the Product Team. It meets bi-weekly and consists of the Game Director, Project Lead, Product Marketing Manager and myself, the PM. This is where the initial decision on whether or not to start development of the next expansion is made.
Three things are needed for an expansion (and associated updates) to happen; a design, a dev team and a profitable business case. Without all of these factors in place, development would cease. Luckily for CK2 and its fans, there’s been no shortage in any of them for more than five years!
If the Game Director (Doomdark) is confident in their design, we begin to investigate the potential business case. First, we evaluate whether or not the proposed expansion is something that will be appreciated by you guys, the players. While I trust the judgment of DoomDark and the dev team, I make sure to take time to read your feedback on the forum and elsewhere. As for playing the game myself, that solves itself since it’s something I happily do on my free time. In addition to our own experiences and your feedback, we also use additional analytics tools, provided by our very talented analytics team! These tools help us understand player behavior, and see statistics on start dates, mod usage and many other useful metrics.
When we all think that this expansion is something that you guys would like, the Project Lead (Anona) makes an estimate of the work needed to make it reality. This helps PDS evaluate whether or not the needed staff is available and it’s also used by me to calculate development costs.
The next step is to evaluate the business case. There’s more to this than just having projected revenues be higher than costs. Could the staff at both PDS and Publishing be put to work more efficiently elsewhere? Is the timing right? Does the expected release date coincide with other product releases? The latter situation can be both detrimental and beneficial, but I won’t go deeper into detail about that.
If we decide that the business case is sound, I make sure that I have an approved budget from management and to everyone’s joy, development can start!
This is where the fun begins! That is to say, for everyone else. During the first months of development is usually when I have the least to do, other than follow up on issues brought up during Product Team meetings. Me being the “suit”, my way of helping is usually increasing the budget, pushing the release date, or both.
During this early stage of development, marketing starts planning their efforts. There’s a lot that goes into this; there’s advertising, planning events, social media presence, trailer production, setting up store pages on Steam and Paradox Plaza, producing streams, negotiating promotion deals with retailers and much much more. Suffice to say our marketing department is a big (but lean) machine consisting of people with a large variety of skillsets, coupled with a passion for the games we make. Today, Crusader Kings is an old and well established brand, so marketing can manage most things on their own without input from the rest of the product team. Although some things will always require input from all parties involved, such as expansion name and trailer script.
During the middle months, there’s lots of communication between departments, prioritization and handling of issues and opportunities as they come up, all the while keeping a close eye on budget and your discussions and impressions of dev diaries.
As we close in on a release-ready build, marketing efforts ramp up. This is a hectic time for everyone involved, as the dev team puts their best effort in killing bugs, marketing activities happen almost daily and planning for the next expansion begins in earnest. On release day, all involved hands are on deck here on the publishing floor to ensure everything goes smooth. I can’t do much myself but nervously monitor player feedback and sales figures.
After release, while the dev team is working on hotfixes and patches, we do follow-up. We give feedback to each other on what went well… and not so well. I prepare a short report on the sales and player numbers which is presented to the entire company at our next Monthly News session in the kitchen. There we also share what we learned from the project to the next organization, so we don’t make (too many of) the same mistakes again.
So, that was a short summary of the CK2 expansion publishing process. I hope it was somewhat interesting to get a look at how we do things in publishing, and that it was an alright substitute for the regular dev diaries. I thought I’d leave you with a fun fact: CK2 set a new record number of Monthly Active Users (MAU) with the release of Monks & Mystics, the all time high happening on March 19th. Not bad for 5+ year old game! We’re lucky to have such passionate and dedicated fans!
I’ll stay around in the thread to answer as many questions as possible, or just to chat with you guys!