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CK2 Dev Diary #59: Publishing CK2

Hi everyone! I’m Gustav “Gruffa” Groth, Product Manager on CK2. First, a disclaimer: This is not your regular dev diary as I’m not a developer, I work in publishing. However, as most of the dev team is on vacation, I’ll do my best to fill the gap. :)

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!
//Gustav
 
Last edited:

Dracko81

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While the overview of the process is very interesting. What do your daily tasks consist of?

Obviously it varies, but with what I'm assuming is 2 meetings a week with different teams - bi-weekly meeting of 4 projects - some things are bound to become daily.
 

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Hi everyone! I’m Gustav “Gruffa” Groth, Product Manager on CK2. First, a disclaimer: This is not your regular dev diary as I’m not a developer, I work in publishing. However, as most of the dev team is on vacation, I’ll do my best to fill the gap. :)

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 feedback 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!
//Gustav

Pretty cool to see your level of passion for the game :)
 

Gruffa

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While the overview of the process is very interesting. What do your daily tasks consist of?

Obviously it varies, but with what I'm assuming is 2 meetings a week with different teams - bi-weekly meeting of 4 projects - some things are bound to become daily.

You're correct in assuming my daily work is varied, actually my workload fluctuates massively, which I personally appreciate. Sometimes I'm bogged down with issues and opportunities happening in all four projects simultaneously, and sometimes I get the time to sit back and think bigger and more strategically about them. However, there's certainly some degree of repetitiveness to it as well. I'll try to list some things I do as best as I can:

On a day-to-day basis:
  • prepare meeting agendas, follow up on action points and check in with departments on different tasks
  • make documents such as product overviews which the rest of the organization can use to get an idea of the games they work on
  • be the central hub of information on a product, and as a result get a lot of questions
Less frequently:
  • forecast revenue and costs for my projects
  • follow up on product performance and bring up points for strategic discussion in the product teams
  • write material which the management team and the board base their investment decisions on
  • review game pitches and do research for upcoming games
  • review contracts
  • travel to meet developers and go to events (E3 was a blast!)
... and a bunch of other things that come my way. Some say that a Product Manager should be 2nd best at everything. I.e. everyone else are experts in their respective fields, be it programming, design, art, communication, legal, sales etc. I sometimes get to do things which fall between the cracks, so that the others can do what they do best.

I hope that answers your question! :)
 

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Hello , the worst expansion was aztec one, not because of how was realized but because it broke too much historicity , on countrary an expansion for ASIA including China Japan etc would be much much better... I am waiting for this since AGES!!

Also a nice Expansion would be :

Role play merchant and merchant houses , like having a physical expedition of a icon to move from A to B in the world and during each step in each country have an event of a sort and keep a diary like Marco Polo ... that would also be very cool.

The monks and mystics was a disapointment for me because its boring, too few mechanics and gameplay options, in some cases overpowered and other cvases useless... but I like a lot instead the relic system.
 

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Pretty cool to see your level of passion for the game :)

I consider myself very lucky to be working on CK2! EU4 was my go-to when I joined Paradox, with thousands of hours in the bag. Back then I had only occasionally dabbled with CK2. Now CK2 has almost completely taken over my gaming time and I don't foresee that changing anytime soon!

... and what's even cooler is the passion I see from the community here and on other forums everyday!
 

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This is actually very interesting, I like learning about what goes on behind the scenes.
 

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Hello , the worst expansion was aztec one, not because of how was realized but because it broke too much historicity ,

The whole point of the Sunset Invasion expansion is being ahistorical, though... and as it is fully optional, I don't see the issue.

on countrary an expansion for ASIA including China Japan etc would be much much better... I am waiting for this since AGES!!

An expansion including Asia would be awesome in principle, but in practice it could create severe performance issues. This can be particularly problematic since you can't turn off parts of the map.

Also a nice Expansion would be :

Role play merchant and merchant houses , like having a physical expedition of a icon to move from A to B in the world and during each step in each country have an event of a sort and keep a diary like Marco Polo ... that would also be very cool.

I think that's something that could be represented well through an event chain. A bit like the pilgrimage events, but with your character actually being set to the location you currently are in the journey (if the devs were to create such an event chain, they could add an event command like "set_location", as nothing like that AFAIK currently exists).

The monks and mystics was a disapointment for me because its boring, too few mechanics and gameplay options, in some cases overpowered and other cvases useless... but I like a lot instead the relic system.

Personally, Monks and Mystics is one of my favorites. The artifact and society systems create a great amount of possibilities for the game, and they're both very well-documented for modding (the devs included extensive documentation for both features in the game's files themselves).
 

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@Gruffa
Since next dlc is going to be the last dlc and Paradox's habit to bring patches with dlcs, does this mean the game will be abandoned after hotfixes and such?
 

Andrelvis

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@Gruffa
Since next dlc is going to be the last dlc and Paradox's habit to bring patches with dlcs, does this mean the game will be abandoned after hotfixes and such?

Is it really certain that it is going to be the last? IIRC there was a post from Johan saying that if people were interested in more DLCs, they would make more.
 

luanmameili[LM]

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As Meneth has said, there will be four Dev Diaries during the vacation.
Next Monday is still in July (31th), and would there be more info about the upcoming expansion and patch, in Dev Diary #60?
 

Dracko81

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I hope that answers your question! :)
It does. Sounds very much like a BA/QA type role, especially since you are being the translator between the development team and the customer (the community). Critically analysing feedback to ensure the correct information is passed on for example. I'd also assume that you'd be in the discussions about the user stories and the acceptance criteria for the project or is that outside the scope of your role.

It is difficult to narrow down roles to a specific field, but drawing parallels help with comparing to other structures.
 

Gruffa

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@Gruffa
Since next dlc is going to be the last dlc and Paradox's habit to bring patches with dlcs, does this mean the game will be abandoned after hotfixes and such?

I can neither confirm nor deny that the upcoming DLC is going to be the last DLC, and that's all I can say for now. :rolleyes:
 

Isinfier

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If continued support, optimisation and hotfixing for the game cost us future downloadable content I'd be alright with that. There's still many oustanding issues that haven't been fixed.

LOMBARDY'S PISSING FLAG, FOR EXAMPLE.
 

Andrelvis

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If continued support, optimisation and hotfixing for the game cost us future downloadable content I'd be alright with that. There's still many oustanding issues that haven't been fixed.

LOMBARDY'S PISSING FLAG, FOR EXAMPLE.

It is the other way around, though. DLCs finance the continued support and optimization.
 

Dnote

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It does. Sounds very much like a BA/QA type role, especially since you are being the translator between the development team and the customer (the community). Critically analysing feedback to ensure the correct information is passed on for example. I'd also assume that you'd be in the discussions about the user stories and the acceptance criteria for the project or is that outside the scope of your role.

It is difficult to narrow down roles to a specific field, but drawing parallels help with comparing to other structures.

Consider the Product Team the owners of the game at the company, for their respective departments. GD/PL own it from development, PMM owns it for marketing and PM owns it for business (profit/loss).

It's also the PM's responsibility to make sure that all the pieces come together in a coherent way.. the "product" is the sum of the game, marketing, communication, people, etc combined together. You can have a great game, and a great marketing campaign, but if the two don't work together, then you'll have a poor product, which means you probably won't have a successful product. Gruffa used the term suit, to describe the role, which is what the role is at most companies, a nameless suit behind the scenes making decisions based on a financial spreadsheet. At Paradox though, the suit, is a little more involved in the project, a little more hands on.
 

ashandresash

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What about aesthetic DLCs? I understand that initiative about adding/improving features and content comes from the development team (which seems a good call rather than imposing them what "people" might want). But the first step on what new music, units, portraits develop... on which does it rely?

PS More music, please ;)
 

Gruffa

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What about aesthetic DLCs? I understand that initiative about adding/improving features and content comes from the development team (which seems a good call rather than imposing them what "people" might want). But the first step on what new music, units, portraits develop... on which does it rely?

PS More music, please ;)

Good question! We have an ongoing discussion about such things in the product team as well, as the aesthetic additions become parts of the product we sell. We sort of agree on what type and amount of aesthetic additions we think makes sense, and the dev team gets creative from there. What the additions ultimately become is left up to them, as they know the game best.
 

Enriador

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Great diary! Any clues on what the next one will talk about?