As of this morning, the most recent Steam sale is now complete. The sales figures were excellent and we picked up a lot of new users. Most importantly, we've got a lot of new data on how people behave and what can be done to make them happy.
There's three stages a new Leadwerks user goes through to become a happy productive developer. The first is to actually buy the software. The main ingredients here are the demo, website pages describing the benefits of our approach to game development, and the intro video on the Steam store page. Above all, the basic promise of ease of use has to resonate with them. I've learned to not try to convince people who insist they need the most features, the biggest worlds, or want to make an MMO like World of Warcraft but ten times bigger...it's just not worth trying to make them happy. Leadwerks is about ease of use and the right blend of features to make game development fun and enjoyable.
Although we've done very well with my home-made video on Steam, and the website looks better than it ever has, the production quality is lacking that intangible extra polish, and it is unlikely I will ever be able to achieve that myself. A revamp of some aspects of the website and store page is being planned, with help from an external firm that specializes in this sort of thing. A slicker sales pitch that focuses more finely on the basic premise of Leadwerks will increase sales dramatically...but additional work is needed to make sure the user experience matches the expectations of new users.
The second stage is to learn how to use Leadwerks. This is accomplished with our documentation and tutorials. I think our programming documentation is nearly perfect. The layout is clean, attractive, and there are hundreds of small self-contained examples. The documentation on using the editor needs some updating, as much of it was written for the release of 3.0, and we've changed direction considerably since then. Finally, there is a lack of connection between what commands do and how to turn that into gameplay. I don't think we have to explain how to make every game in the world, but some more game-centric lessons that get into the guts of simple Lua scripting would make things easier.
To optimize this process the entire documentation is being revised and designed with a top-down approach. Instead of adding explanations of how to do something here and there, we're designing the entire sequence of learning before any of the material is even written. This will provide a better flow, with a linear sequence of lessons listed on a single page that teach you everything you need to know. This is being done with the help of a third party, and more information will follow.
Finally, the last stage, once users own Leadwerks and know how to use it, is product development. This basically boils down to three factors: new features, repair of discovered bugs in existing features, and maintenance of third party technologies (i.e. filing bug reports for drivers problems or the occasional Steam issue). This mostly falls on me, and is what I am most effective at. However, there are plans to accelerate the implementation of a few key features with the help of another party.
So basically that's my view of Leadwerks and my plan to gradually start farming out some of the functions that others can do better than me. I'm being vague because a lot of legal and financial stuff is still being solidified. I think this is a good way to grow gradually without too much risk, and you'll see the results of this over the next six months.