Sanctum 2 postmortem talks big ideas, low console sales

When the standard challenges of game development combine with advancing a series and learning to port to consoles, it's easy to imagine how things could become overwhelming. Sanctum 2 developer Coffee Stain Studios persevered from building the sequel to its first-person-shooter tower defense hybrid, but co-founder Johannes Aspeby's postmortem on the game, posted on Gamaustra, covers what was learned along the way.

Coffee Stain initially envisioned a "free mazing" system, which would have let players set their own start and end points for mazes, but the concept was ultimately scrapped six months into development due to the team constantly discovering new flaws. Aspeby explained that changes weren't just limited to pre-development, either - at launch, Sanctum 2 spawned materials in the team base rather than automatically allocating them between players. This was meant to encourage sharing and to avoid making one player build every round, but it resulted in teammates racing each other to horde materials for themselves. Coffee Stain's internal testing didn't catch the problem, but the team is now hyper aware of the difference in atmosphere between an acquainted studio and a bunch of strangers playing a game online together.

Bringing the game to Xbox 360 and PS3 meant dealing with the Technical Certification Process, which Coffee Stain allotted a few weeks for in order to find and fix any problems. Realizing the process' time sink led the team to hand off testing to another company, allowing Coffee Stain to solely focus on fixing problems, not discovering them. Performance issues also surfaced with the console versions, resulting in enemy and tower limits, as well as alterations to Sanctum 2's environments, like building walls to limit draw distance. This affected the PC version as well, as Aspeby noted the studio wasn't able to just make a different version for Steam.

Aspeby estimated that a third of Sanctum 2's development time was spent getting the game ready for consoles, but added that in terms of sales, the payoff "hasn't been anywhere near the work." Sales on PS3 were particularly low, keeping the studio from even considering bringing Sanctum 2's season pass content to that console. Aspeby still seems optimistic about the experience though, concluding that the team "still had a hell of a good time, learned a lot, and made enough money so that we could continue making video games."
[Image: Coffee Stain Studios]
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Sanctum 2 (PAX East 2013)

This article was originally published on Joystiq.