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Shiny Shoe CEO Reflects on Lessons From Inkbound Early Access, From Monetization Pivot to Feedback

Christina Gonzalez Posted:
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Shiny Shoe CEO and co-founder Mark Cooke has a new post-mortem talking about the development and Early Access period for their game, Inkbound, and what went right and wrong on the way to its recent 1.0 launch.

Over at Game Developer, Cooke dives into the process of making Inkbound and lessons learned. Their original plan was to follow up Monster Train with another card-based roguelike, but they wanted to make something that featured online co-op multiplayer. Pivoting based on that, they came up with the roguelike runs in book-inspired worlds, accessed through portals, with a looming mysterious threat to ultimately face.

While you can play solo, the 2-4 player co-op multiplayer is an option. There’s a mix of real-time decisions and much that’s left up to the players to coordinate. This combat system meant that players had to work together well and was one reason they wanted to continue refining development through Early Access. 


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Some of the things that went right included making giving feedback easy and acting upon feedback received, even when it was harsh. “Some aspects of how the title was built were not received well by players in a way that blindsided us” and some of the early feedback led to big features being added later, like new character classes, bosses, and vestige sets to collect during runs.

As for what went wrong – the business model was a big one. They decided to launch as a premium title with optional in-game cosmetics, something that they acknowledge isn't common in roguelikes. With players complaining most about selling items in an Early Access title, and perhaps a general shift on in-game monetization, Shiny Shoe ultimately removed all monetization and added optional DLC supporter packs on Steam. 

Another mistake was launching Early Access in English only. Localized into many languages for 1.0, but Cooke says “I’ll always wonder how many players we failed to reach between Early Access that we were not able to reconnect with at 1.0”. As for what ifs, going solo only or multiplayer only comes up, since it proved hard to balance both optimally.

Inkbound is now in its 1.0 release, and Shiny Shoe continues to support the game. They’re “debating internally if and how we will use Early Access on future games”.


Christina Gonzalez

Christina is MMORPG.COM’s News Editor and a contributor since 2011. Always a fan of great community and wondering if the same sort of magic that was her first guild exists anymore.