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Default Rampant Games - The Olí Kickstarter Shuffle

November 4th, 2013, 05:17
The Rampant Coyote has a new blog post were he gives his opinion on kickstarters, and indie games.

Seriously, folks Ė I spent some time chatting with a friend (and a far more successful game developer than me) who is growing despondent over the current situation with indie games. A vaporware project in mid-Kickstarter and a single joke going for it was greenlit on Steam, while entire libraries of quality, decently-selling (by non-Steam standards) games are still ignored. The things that will make a splash and get funded / greenlit are not the same things that make quality games. That doesnít mean they canít be combined into the same package. But there are no guarantees.

I guess itís the same old story: Luck and a good story (or line of B.S.) trumps a good product. At least for a while. But neither is very reliable in the long-term. Please note that Iím not talking about specific KS projects (Iíve backed plenty, and in principle Iím a fan of crowdfunding) Ė just the tendency for people to be far more willing to throw time and money at a promise than reality.
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November 4th, 2013, 05:17
Anticipation is an incredibly powerful force.
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November 4th, 2013, 09:35
Steam has really been going downhill lately. There is a lot more low quality titles getting through, while titles such as Drox Operative struggle to get noticed. Now you also have to contend with all this early access garbage which plagues the new release section.

I liked Steam a lot more when it had its more selective nature for quality, pre-greenlight.
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November 4th, 2013, 14:01
The conclusion is off. Crowdfunding as a funding method comes with a price.

It is quite hard not to sell money at a promise rather than reality in a crowdfunding process because it is what it is all about.

All this crowdfuning thing puts in front the importance of a publisher as a screener.

Crowdfuning methods are sales of concept and select efficient sellers of concepts. An actual delivery on the concept is absolutely secondary.

In video gaming, it ranges from seasoned programers who keep selling the same very formated games they are sure they are able to implement because they have already done in the past to unexperienced developpers who have the technical skills to assemble an engine (or know how to use a pre assembled engine) but know nothing about gameplay demands and use crowfunding to subsidize their learning process.
As a sidenote, it was thought that the availabity of ready to use engines would allow programmers to focus on the core of a game: the gameplay but nothing of the sort actually.

In board gaming or associated, the situation is certainly worse. For two reasons: the selling of a new concept through a new crowfunding campaign is so enticing developpers do not bother to finish, correct, or fix their previous release. Yout bought a game, it is yours (until you decide to alter it and sell it, at this point, you are sued for intellectual property infringement), so it is up to you to fix a broken gameplay or even design a gameplay. Classical answer given by board games developpers. After release, no monitoring and integration of players' feedback as game developpers are already involved in preparing the next project, marketing the next concept to sell that will be de facto profitable if funded.
The second reason is that board gaming comes with a second hand market and the way crowfunding is done attracted speculators that have no interest in gaming but sniffed the good opportunity to make an easy return.
Usually, crowdfunding projects aer delivered to their backers before theyare distributed through other channels. it opens a window for speculators to resell immediately theirs orders. As usually, crowdfunding offers a discount price compared to the shop price, it is always profitable and can run to 200% profits. I know a couple of people who are now used to invest 1000~1500 Ä in KS in order to get a low risk return.

Crowdfuniding shifts the burden of the risk. Publsihers used to take part of the risk.

The few good games I played that came from crowdfuning methods were most of the times okayed by publishers but chose to go the way of crowdfunding.
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November 4th, 2013, 14:02
Yeah the Red Baron failure is a pity - the original was my favorite flight sim of all time. For some reason this genre isn't as popular as it once was. Hope they eventually manage to get it off the ground.
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November 4th, 2013, 16:49
I guess it’s the same old story: Luck and a good story (or line of B.S.) trumps a good product.
Yeah, that's one interpretation. Another would be that Jay's analysis of what constitutes a good game is subjective.
Did there used to be a system where all the wonderful games got funded and published and now it's been replaced by cruel old Steam? Not that I remember.

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November 5th, 2013, 07:51
Yeah, that's one interpretation. Another would be that Jay's analysis of what constitutes a good game is subjective.
I'd pretty much guarantee that…

However, I also have an apparently aberrant belief that a game that exists is inherently superior to a game that does not, no matter how lofty the hype might be for the latter. Maybe that stems from a lifetime of disappointment. It also comes from seeing a *lot* of promising indie game projects lose momentum and collapse at a point where inexperienced teams called "70% to 80% complete," and experienced teams call, "just getting to the hard part."

Not that I have fantastic suggestions for improving things. It's easier to throw rocks from a distance. It would be stupid to prohibit incomplete games from being greenlit - ideally, they SHOULD be greenlit right about the time they hit (a *real*) beta. But it is frustrating to some devs - particularly the full-time devs who feel like they must get on Steam in order to survive.
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November 5th, 2013, 10:07
The mistake is to consider that people come to games to play quality games. People come to games for different reasons.

Game quality might be subjective in some parts but a number of games released through crowdfundng or other by the way, did not pass the objective parts.

The mistake is to think that players buy games with the expectation of playing games., even more quality games.

For example, the investors. Investors do not spend money on games. They invest.
An investor has ten hours to kill and will look at how to fill them from an investor's perspective. The purpose is not so much to play games than to fill time in an investing manner. Investors often compare means to fill time between them and compute return on hours etc Games, their gameplay, their mechanics? It does not matter most, what matters is to fill hours in a investing way.

Lets say there's this KS for a tabletop miniature games running for 60 days.
Lets say that it is backed for 150Ä.
Lets say that the beta version of the rule set is released after one week in.
Lets make the ticket price for a movie theater seat 10Ä.
Lets invest: 150Ä, that is 10 tickets. Average time of movie: one hour and half.
So 150Ä, that 15 hours filled by movies.
Lets say that the average duration of the table top miniature game is 2 hours.
Lets say that to assess the game, 8 games were tried. Total:16 hours.
Great, I made a better investment on that KS that I would have if I went to the move theater ten times. And that is without counting the hours invested in painting the minis, building up the table sceneries etc

Clear minded people, though, could say that not only I spent 150Ä to test what is not yet a game, but I also spend 150Ä on a project of a game, something that came with such flaws that it wont materialize as a quality game, but I also wasted 16 hours of my life to determine whether the product could deliver or not.

Not it is where the crowdfunding method kicks in: usually, what I did is what a publisher does. The accuracy of his assessment is his risk taking.
Now as a backer, I also knew that the game was not unfinished and the possibility of improving it exists. Evidence: it was done during the fund raising period as the beta rule set was corrected. And game was supposed to be released 6 months later.

Before the crowdfunding way, the game industry, especially the video game industry, was already plagued by the release of unfinished products with the prospect of later support to fix or even to turn a product into a game.

Crowdfunding pushes the slider even further by getting people to fund even more unfinished versions of products.

With a published game, the option of waiting one, three months to see how things come together, exists. It exists because the publisher took the risk of assessing the quality of the game before that.

With a crowdfuning process, the option is no longer on the table. Backers can not wait and see. If they do not back the project, there will be nothing to see later.

There is a whole crowd movement to declare, with no regards to facts, that crowdfunding will do good to gaming, that it will end the big, bad corporations habits that ruined gaming.

Tough luck: the crowdfunding will do no good to gaming in terms of quality.

And there is a way out though: claiming that what makes a game a quality game is totally subjective. That way, no bad game will be ever released through crowdfunding, only games are subjectively good or bad.
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November 5th, 2013, 11:05
Originally Posted by RampantCoyote View Post
It also comes from seeing a *lot* of promising indie game projects lose momentum and collapse at a point where inexperienced teams called "70% to 80% complete," and experienced teams call, "just getting to the hard part."
The next stage being to release a "beta" that wouldn't qualify as pre alpha in any other software genre.

I suppose that those potential indies that do accurately estimate how long their game is going to take mostly don't start making it at all, but become estate agents, or something, instead. So, by a process of natural selection, we end up with a bunch of embryonic games where the release date is even more of a fantasy than the contents of the game.
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November 5th, 2013, 13:52
Technically, they are beta version as they commit people not actually involved in the developpment.
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November 5th, 2013, 14:39
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
Technically, they are beta version as they commit people not actually involved in the developpment.
If that was true all software would be in beta immediately you involved your customers, which is often before you start coding. Traditionally a beta is a build that is feature complete and where only bug fixing is required. Of course like many such terms it isn't always used that way and some developers have unusual ideas as to what constitutes feature completeness.
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November 5th, 2013, 14:39
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
As a sidenote, it was thought that the availabity of ready to use engines would allow programmers to focus on the core of a game: the gameplay but nothing of the sort actually.
Can you show by any means that Project Eternity and Tides of Numenera would be as far along in the development process as they are now if they hadn't used Unity?

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November 5th, 2013, 15:51
Originally Posted by RampantCoyote View Post
But it is frustrating to some devs - particularly the full-time devs who feel like they must get on Steam in order to survive.
Here's the deal: there is no downside to Steam. Indie devs do still need to get on Steam *to be fantastically successful*, but that kind of success was almost never possible at all before Steam.

I don't use Steam, I never have, but I do like to see indies succeed and I don't think anyone can argue that Steam has been bad for indie developers.
If the current greenlight model, which as you said encourages devs in very early stages, goes bust, then they'll have to modify the model. It doesn't mean indie gaming will be dead or irrevocably degraded for the rest of time.

People like Jeff Vogel have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the new business models. Then, when they finally arrive and sign the papers on their new Porsches, pretty soon they're lecturing everyone else on the proper way to launch independent games.

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November 5th, 2013, 18:30
Originally Posted by Roq View Post
If that was true all software would be in beta immediately you involved your customers, which is often before you start coding. Traditionally a beta is a build that is feature complete and where only bug fixing is required. Of course like many such terms it isn't always used that way and some developers have unusual ideas as to what constitutes feature completeness.
Alpha version: testing is performed by people involved in the developpment (coders themselves)

Beta version: testing is performed by people non involved in the developpment (closed beta: paid (or not) crew of testers with confidential papers etc, open beta: customers or willing help)

Indeed, going to beta traditionally suppose some sort of user friendliness.
Well, until crowdfunding projects at least…
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November 5th, 2013, 21:17
Originally Posted by Sacred_Path View Post
Can you show by any means that Project Eternity and Tides of Numenera would be as far along in the development process as they are now if they hadn't used Unity?
I dont have to. Assembling an engine does not make a game. Engines like Unity should allow developpers to save resources from assmbling an engine from scratch to concentrate on the core of a game: its gameplay.

The use of Unity does not guarantee in any case the delivery of a game: it simply makes it simpler to release a product that might or might not be a game.
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November 5th, 2013, 21:48
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
I dont have to. Assembling an engine does not make a game. Engines like Unity should allow developpers to save resources from assmbling an engine from scratch to concentrate on the core of a game: its gameplay.

The use of Unity does not guarantee in any case the delivery of a game: it simply makes it simpler to release a product that might or might not be a game.
And who would make a claim like the engine being done guarantees a working/ polished game?

From the words of the P:E devs, Unity has enabled them to get things done more quickly than they usually would. AFAIK P:E is still slated for a Q2 2014 release, though I'm willing to bet it'll be more like Q3. That's two years of development. Certainly not an eternity, but probably long enough to really polish a game whose technology you didn't have to create. I'm also guessing things may even speed up more in future projects the more items get added to the Unity Store. So yes, saving time on technology development frees up more time to spend on creating content. There's no arguing about that. Now, if the game had been due for 2013, I'd be skeptical. But then, advertising such a blatant rush in delivery wouldn't be a smart PR move anyway. In the end, it's up to the informed customer to make a decision as to what projects to support.

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