Ethan: Meteor Hunter Interview with Olvier Penot

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Olivier Penot, the producer and co-founder of indie developer Seaven Studio sat down to chat about the Ethan: Meteor Hunter post-mortem that went viral on Reddit, the future of Seaven Studio, Steam Greenlight, and important lessons of indie development. The post-mortem is a must read for indie developers and fans of indie games. Also be sure to read our review of Ethan: Meteor Hunter and remember to vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.

Since your blog post went viral on Reddit’s /r/Games, Seaven Studio has received a lot of feedback on why Ethan: Meteor Hunter didn’t attract their attention. Based on all your feedback and your own suspicions, what are some lessons your team has learned?

First and most surprising reason is that the vast majority of people had never heard of Ethan: Meteor Hunter, despite the shows, the blogposts on the PlayStation Blog, etc… So that’s really something that will dramatically change the way we talk about our game. How? It’s too early to say but now we know better how Reddit works. We also enjoyed a lot doing livestreams of the game, so maybe twitch is a possibility.

We have also learned, and that’s confirmed by the comments, that the art is key when selling a game. A screenshot needs to sell at first glance and then your good gameplay will make word of mouth possible. At least that’s how we see it right now.

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A lot of time and money was spent attending a variety of game shows. Would you do this again?

Hum…. Maybe not. The experience was great, having this direct talk and contact with the gamers is really something worth the money spent. But business wise, we’ll most probably go to less game shows. Rezzed was really small and great, rather than Eurogamer Expo where everybody was there for Call of Duty.

A lot of indie developers have publicly voiced their frustrations on the lack of transparency with the Steam Greenlight and the whole concept itself. With your experiences so far, are there any changes you would recommend to Valve?

Steam Greenlight is really frustrating but on the other hand you can understand that Valve doesn’t have 20 people to play and decide which game they can allow or not. It’s not an easy process. Obviously having better transparency on what are the rules to get greenlit, what works best or not would be a huge step ahead. It doesn’t feel like super clear on why this or this particular game got greenlit. Also, as I say on the post mortem, having the possibility to change one’s vote, maybe only once every 6 months, would be a good thing. We mention an example of someone not being convinced at first but game shows demos changing his mind. Also, I think the first idea of greenlight was “share concept with your community and improve your game based on feedbacks”: how could this possibly work if you can’t change your vote when developers have improved their game with updates and such? This is more suitable for early access. But for early access… You already need to be on Steam!

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Ethan: Meteor Hunter began at Hydravision. How was the culture shock when the team left the corporate studio setting and went at it independently?

It was a massive shock. We basically turned around! Hydravision was doing cheap games for others and not taking care of the marketing or PR. It was really “get a contract, produce the game and ship it to the publisher”, that’s it. Where at Seaven Studio we went full self publishing, focusing on quality gameplay games and getting closer to the gamer community. Learning the job on the go! Taking the time to think properly and do one’s task without to rush is a huge change.

What’s the future plans for Ethan: Meteor Hunter?

Hopefully a Steam version, release of Mac & Linux versions somewhere next year if we’re still alive and actually seriously considering a Vita version. Maybe doing a new trailer and new screenshots based on the feedbacks.

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Any plans for new projects at Seaven Studio?

Yes! A new platformer, because we love platformers, but the art will be more “indie”. It will be based on musics and rhythm. You will have to move on the beat to get through the levels. We’ll show you more as soon as we can!

2013 is arguably the year indie went big. There is a huge explosion in new indie developers taking their games to the masses. Do you have any advice to them?

Please read our post mortem and don’t do the mistakes we made. Read other indies post mortems too. Show your game to as many people as possible and as early as possible. We thought we did but apparently not enough. Have something special and show it everywhere you can. Most of all: good luck, you’ll need it!


To celebrate going viral, Seaven Studio is hosting a Thank You Reddit! sale on Ethan: Meteor Hunter. For the next two days, the game is 30% off at the Seaven Studio website. Special thanks to Olivier Penot of Seaven Studios for taking the time for an interview!

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