Steam Next Fest dev describes the "weird arms race" required to stand out from the hundreds of other demos in the seasonal event

Tactical Breach Wizards
(Image credit: Suspicious Developments)

Tactical Breach Wizards creator Tom Francis says it isn't easy standing out in Steam Next Fest.

If Francis' name sounds familiar, that's probably because you recognize him from certified indie darlings like Heat Signature, Gunpoint, and Floating Point. The latest project from his indie studio Suspicious Developments is a strategy game called Tactical Breach Wizards, and it's something of a hybrid between XCOM and Into the Breach, with an acclaimed demo that debuted during the most recent Steam Next Fest event. I had the chance to catch up with Francis following the event and was curious to know what it's like from the inside not only making a demo but marketing it so that it stands out from the hundreds of other games at Steam Next Fest.

"There's always this weird arms race with Steam developers where they come up with algorithms and systems and metrics that they believe will will detect which games are organic and doing well, and then boost those," Francis said. "And then developers have to sort of decipher what those tricks are, what those metrics are, and where it counts, and we have to focus on it. And then the more developers do that, and focus on it, the less of a good metric that turns out to be for organic reach."

Despite Valve's decidedly Google-like algorithm for discoverability, Francis very much strikes me as the type of person to make exactly the game he wants to make regardless of the latest trends. This is why Tactical Breach Wizards is nothing like Heat Signature, which is nothing like Gunpoint, which is nothing like any of Suspicious Developments' other games. Namely, Francis wanted to make Tactical Breach Wizards because he loves XCOM, played it for "hundreds of hours" - but also has "so many problems with it."

Only time will tell if it makes our list of the best strategy games.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.