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Default Society of RPG Friends / Discuss the Future

November 23rd, 2007, 23:08
Dear beloved Society of RPG Friends.

Nowhere i could find a better place to discuss this topic and nowhere else i would be rock solid convinced that my statement will be fiercely checked.

Statement:
  • Indie developement of RPGs are a dead end street, because the production effort cant be high enought to improve the content of old classics like BG2.(a.e. any NEW idea in Eschalon ? nabgbnfm)

Mass market developers like BIOWARE will be develop "RPGs" like Mass Effect. Flame me, but this game is a Adventure game disguised as RPG nabgbnfm. Or they will create such highlights as OBLIVION (level scaling). I could also not handle the camera and play flow from NWN2 nabgbnfm. I love the environment and setting from the witcher, but the load times bring me back to the harsh reality nabgbnfm.

Statement:
  • To fulfill the market demands and surely help the company survive and gain profit all the professional development teams have to follow the marketing departments and their guidance. Therefore RPGs with a deep character system, great storyline, replay value, rich scifi/fantasy setting, party (or strong solo character, like Fallout2: i and my dog ) development, turn based or semi turn based combat system and a wonderful playing FLOW will be not created in the foreseeable future.

I do not want to receive answers like:
  • you old doter, who cares
  • you ignorant fool, write your own game
  • play a MMORPG. (i did. but i want to be the HERO. yes, indeed.)
  • play another indie. (i played them, i played them)
  • play xxx rpg from 198x. (i did)

I want to receive comments like:
  • You have to rethink your statement because of argument xx and xx the industrie will perform to fulfill your RPG needs.
  • WE have to do xx to convice xx and then do xx to fight for our cause.

(nabgbnfm: not a bad game but nothing for me.)

Or maye the best thing is to duck and cover ?
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November 24th, 2007, 00:41
What does "nabgbnfm" mean ?

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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November 24th, 2007, 00:48
nabgbnfm: not a bad game but nothing for me
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November 24th, 2007, 01:19
No 1. is possibly correct for you but not for me. I thoroughly enjoy Spiderweb's games and am enjoying Eschalon. New ideas are always welcome but solid mechanics and decent writing will work for me even if the title doesn't innovate or advance the genre. There are still opportunities for an indie to impress you — we have yet to see The Broken Hourglass and Age of Decadence but no, no indie is likely to improve on the production values of BG.

BG had a budget of 2.5m (even back then) — no indie is likely to challenge that and therefore, you're not likely to beat those production values. However, I think the quality of content in, say, Geneforge is streets ahead of BG so I guess it depends on what you want and how you define "content".

2. Largely correct, except for Euro/East Euro projects. Drakensang, for example, might be your ticket. The Witcher is impressive, for another.

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November 24th, 2007, 14:01
Originally Posted by SALZHERZ View Post
Indie developement of RPGs are a dead end street, because the production effort cant be high enought to improve the content of old classics like BG2.
You claim that a game with 2D sprites on 2D backgrounds where all character interaction is conducted purely through text is beyond the limitations of indie developers? I think not. Tools that reduce the technical entry barrier for games development are improving and the community of talented individuals capable of contributing to no/low budget projects is growing.

Various modding communities have already proven – time and time again – that they can produce better versions of commercial games than the games’ original development studios. Europa Barbarorum and Fall from Heaven are far superior than anything Creative Assembly or Firaxis games have released for the Rome: Total War engine or Civilization 4 respectively.

PC games are in a period of commercial transition. The challenge isn’t so much development, or that there’s no market for ‘niche’ games, but that the typical business model adopted by development studios isn’t up to the task. Unwieldy five-year development cycles, “every product must be a blockbuster” attitudes, and mass marketing “Hollywood” style models just aren’t appropriate for the extremely discerning and fragmented PC market.
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November 24th, 2007, 14:38
If most crpgs offer you nothing then are you sure you are a crpg fan anymore? I have friends who dislike most crpgs except few like fallout-series. Beyond that they have never liked crpg-games.

Or perhaps you have simply lost interest to rpg-genre. Ive lost interest to som genres too like sports and RTS in the past.

If youre looking why crpgs are turning into stalish actionmovies nowadays then the reason might be the huge influx of new gamers (PC/consoles) during the past years. They are new to gaming so their standards are lower. They are happy to buy simple pretty games.

If wed get 100 billion new rpg gamers that have never played rpg before, the gaming companies could make hordes of gold simply by cranking out pretty action games disguised as rpgs.

The only cure is time. You just have to wait for the audience to start demanding better quality.
Last edited by zakhal; November 24th, 2007 at 14:55.
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November 24th, 2007, 16:22
Your premise is set up so there's no way to refute your conclusion. You make a set of assumptions (more like stipulations in this case) and then very specifically disallow any challenge to those assumptions. Sure, based on your assumptions, your conclusion is rock solid, but I'm afraid that doesn't make the position a universal truth.

2+2=5. I've done math for years including addition, subtraction, and the occasional differential equation, so you cannot use math of any sort to dispute my premise. Prove me wrong. See what I mean?

You've already ran this rant in two threads. Thru it all, I think Zakhal might be on to the key. Perhaps you've simply burned out on RPGs. Not a crime. Give the genre a few years to percolate and make a brave return.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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November 24th, 2007, 19:00
I thought the original post seemed pretty sincere and displayed a lot of the angst that's been common at RPG forums for a while. It's a bit like beating a dead horse, but if you love the genre, how can you stop raising these questions?

I wonder how well those marketing guys are evaluating their markets. Are they seeing it right? Sometimes I try to imagine how my dream RPG might stack up against a slough of graphicy shooter-type CRPGs. When I do, I picture kids gathered around store TV sets, watching my competitions' demos flash across fancy new screens, and I imagine their faces looking fascinated by the explicit rendering and vivid detail.

Can RPG's intrinsic distinctive quality compete with the novelty of seeing snot run down the nose of a big hairy ogre? I cherish what's wonderful about real RPG, but would kids even give it a second glance when they can hardly take their eyes off the sight of costumed grown-ups cowering while being crushed into goo?

Tough sell.

As far as the indies go, I think there may still be hope there. Myself, I would advise them to concede the current markets and try to pioneer a new one. They should recreate CRPG by emphasizing the computer's value as a tool for other things besides rendering graphics. Emphasize writing, because RPG is primarily about storytelling.

Connoisseurs of this genre often struggle with and debate about its definitions. More and more, the genre are all starting to seem alike. That's because the current approach is so limited. They're all, basically, arcade games.

A new approach would be welcome, IMO.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
Last edited by Squeek; November 24th, 2007 at 19:08.
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November 24th, 2007, 23:21
Thanks for the different view. And to bring the discussion back to the basic idea, the future of RPG, please, don't try to check my mental state about RPGs. I still love them, i still play them (The witcher and NWN2 expansion).
But again…..
Both didn't come close to the fun i got with Fallout or BG2 or Planescape Torement.

And i see that the whole genre is missing NEW IDEAS. Youre playing the indies. Show me a new idea. You playing the other professional developed RPGs. Some new ideas ?

Dont break the problem down to the messenger. Thats not the right thing. Check the actual state, discuss the future and ways to improve the situation.

(a.e. i support the indies, i buy there game, i didnt play it. The last i played was geneforge, good game)
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November 25th, 2007, 01:23
In general, you won't find too many new ideas with indies — but I don't have a problem with that. Why does it have to be a new idea? I see nothing wrong with good execution.

If you liked Geneforge, why haven't you played any of Spiderweb's games since? And if you liked Geneforge, can't you see it exceeds Baldur's Gate in many ways?

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November 25th, 2007, 02:14
Dhruin,
i do not want to break down the discussion into a fight between two RPGs. I played the first Avernum, the first Geneforge and liked it. (a.e. i love to speak with my sword find in the sewers of BG2, thats pure fun for me.)
Then your statement is: the actual state of the art is fine, i am happy with new stories/quest and a good execution. Thats a point of view, nothing wrong.
But where is the vision, the strong wish to expand the genre. Not in the way about the graphic, or the sound, but maybe in the way the story is told, the character system is developed, the quests are structured, the combat system is build ?

For me, Fallout was a big step in the right direction (i didnt know GURPS). BG expand the genre with a big production value. I could (and everybody of you also) list the failures of several RPGs produced after this milestones.
And i cant find a new RPG which turn the whole market in a new direction, which was able to find new customers and expand the Genre.

This discussion hurts, for sure. But better than no discussion. Hopefully.
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November 25th, 2007, 03:22
The Developers have seen that they can make easy money with games with great Graphics and simple Gameplay - and this is the direction where RPGs are heading. Why should they try to inovate when dumbing down sales better ?

This said, I'm very happy with MOTB and The Witcher - both Games are a Step in the right direction - I hope they sell well enough…

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November 25th, 2007, 04:56
So, to borrow an analogy I've used over in the music thread, you can't appreciate a good PB&J sandwich? What's so great about innovation? Five star restaurants are coming up with exciting new dishes every day, but the portions are so meagre that you're left wanting a cheeseburger. You pay dearly for the glamor and the crazy ingredients, but you've still got a rumbling tummy at the end. Just because something doesn't realign the stars doesn't mean it can't be skillfully done. There's a lot to be said for a well-made PB&J. (and Eschalon just might come with chips on the side…) Nice full stomach, and it sticks to yer innards doncha know!

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November 25th, 2007, 06:59
Innovation, new ideas!! Er… correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't The Witcher do some of this? Compare it with the big O; are they even remotely the same? TW has made some 'bold' moves to expand and move the genre away from the pre-digested pap, I mean hype of most rpg's. I you missed it, (these innovations, not the game ) then you REALLY need to play it again, this time with your eyes open!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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November 25th, 2007, 08:25
First of, not to sound too offensive, but someone needs to disillusion himself that BG2 is the best of the best in the RPG genre. Or Fallout 2. Or something else. While I will probably always include at least BG2 in a list of my favorite games, nowadays I just can't bring myself to keep on playing it - whenever I feel the urge to play it, I usually install it, start a new game, play for a while and then it gather dust on my hard drive untill I run out of space and uninstall it.

Second, the statements "game X brings nothing new to the genre over BG2" and the like showcases a rather narrow vision, excuse me again if I'm being offensive. That's like saying "I won't watch movies because these days they are not Kill Bill and bring nothing new to the genre" (I like Kill Bill). In reality, most RPGs do bring something new to the genre, but that is not over BG2 since it's a single game. And we can't have all the things in one single game. There is no perfect game afterall.

And please, please (pretty please with a sugar on top) don't rant me on how RPGs these days are not expanding the market! We should be glad that there are still RPGs being made, more spefically big budget titles that you can still label as RPGs with a straight face on and indie titles, that are really trying to fill the niche. But there are some - Puzzle Quest is a great game that both expands the market for RPGs (while catering to casual game players as well) and bring innovation (who had thought that a cross between RPG and a puzzle game would be such a blast playing?)

What do you mean by innovation, anyway? While I personally am still open to surprises like Puzzle Quest and beyond, I believe that RPGs are such a genre that there is basically little room for great new things to be introduced. What we need is more polish.
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November 25th, 2007, 10:13
The crpg genre is like the bird Phoenix:

A phoenix is a mythical bird with beautiful gold and red plumage. At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises. The new phoenix is destined to live, usually, as long as the old one
Everytime someone writes: "the crpg genre is dead or degenerated" a new developer with new ideas or old ideas with a new implementation arises:
1985 - 1992 -> Golden era of crpgs
1993 Ambermoon
1994 Jagged Alliance
1995 Anvil of Dawn / Albion
1997/98/99 Fallout / Baldurs Gate / Planescape Torment
1998 Might & Magic 6
2001 Gothic 1 / Wizardry 8 /Arcanum /Evil Islands
2002 Neverwinter Nights / Geneforge / Arx Fatalis
2003 KOTOR
2004 Vampire Bloodlines
2006 Neverwinter Nights 2
2007 The Witcher

What can be done to get more good crpg releases ?
Give the good old games to the kids - show them the good stuff - they are the game buyers of tomorrow. I am doing this for many years now, and I have influenced a lot of crpg-newbies of my kith and kin.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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November 25th, 2007, 10:44
@HiddenX nailed it.

On the other hand, you nailed the negatives pretty well too. If all you want is proof that you're wrong, I'll just point to The Witcher — a game with great production values, great gameplay, *and* great cRPG qualities. However, I think there's more to it than that.

Here are my ideas on the positives — why it's inevitable that great cRPG's will continue to be made, and in fact we ain't really seen nuthin' yet.

(1) Technology development

Game engines are constantly improving in sophistication and coming down in cost. That means it's technically possible to make a game with pretty damn decent production qualities without doing any engine programming at all even now, even if the business model may be a bit dodgy.

Example: The Planescape trilogy.

That means that you can do way more now for any given input of effort than you could do in 1997. Costs are coming down.

(2) Market development

The gaming market is starting to mature. We're entering the same phase the film industry was post-WWI, with the emergence of a studio system and a technology infrastructure to go with it. That means that games are becoming mass-market entertainment, like films at that time.

On the one hand, this does mean that the big money is going into stuff made for casuals, who aren't ready or willing to handle the genuinely complex and interesting games you're asking for.

On the other hand, it means that with every passing day, *someone* gets bored of hitting things with a sword for its own sake, and starts to wonder if there's something else out there.

The upshot is that while the "mature gamer" market is and will continue to be a small niche compared to the "casual gamer" market, in absolute terms it's growing, and will continue to grow.

Example: You. Me. Most of us here. Most of the folks at the Codex. The folks at NMA. And a large number of people who are completely disconnected from us, but are experiencing the same thing.

(3) The market opportunity

The upshot is that there is a growing market segment for "serious" games that's currently way under-exploited. It's getting one, maybe two games per year, whereas I'm sure it'd support ten times that now, and a hundred times that in a few years, once the kids who are getting their first XBoxes now get a bit older.

(4) The business idea

Start a game studio based on the following ideas:

* An open-source game engine. Base it on OGRE and other already available pretty damn good lower-level libraries. Add a higher-level abstraction designed for maximal ease in scripting and adding artistic content. The studio should lead the project to begin with; open-sourcing will bring dividends a few years down the line if the project takes off.

* An open-source basic game object library, including models, behaviors, mechanics kits, buildings, and so on. This avoids having to re-invent the wheel (literally, sometimes) for every new project.

* A focus on cheap to develop but dense game content. For example, writing is cheap, painting is cheap, textures are cheap, music is cheap, and animated cutscenes are cheap. OTOH level design is expensive, animation is expensive, programming is expensive, FX are expensive, so whenever you can, get those from elsewhere, ideally the OSS world, and OS whatever you do in that department — at least after you've used it once.

* Frequently released episodic content with on-line delivery. There are mechanisms already in place for this, and since we're talking about a niche product targeted at a market that's actively looking for this kind of stuff, there's no *need* to get it into Wal-Mart. That means that we might even be able to dispense with ratings altogether wherever they're merely voluntary (e.g. the US) rather than mandated by the law.

If I ever manage to finish with my current job (which I quite like, btw), I might even do this myself — but feel free to "steal" the idea. If you do, I'll just enjoy playing the games.
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November 25th, 2007, 15:12
Originally Posted by SALZHERZ View Post
And i see that the whole genre is missing NEW IDEAS.
I see this actually in ALL game genres.

Or, as Feylamia said in the official Drakensang forum:
(Beware ! : Very, very roughly translated ! - At least to my own standards !)

"Of course, especially graphics-heavy things are super-appealing to the younger generation, and to Fast Food and Fast Sex also come Fast Games as well. If people like it - why not ? But that's nothing for me - often tested, never convinced."

So, this is it now ? The generation - or rather: the age, or decade of Fast Living ?
Fast Food, Fast Sex, Fast Games, to quote from above ?

Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
The Developers have seen that they can make easy money with games with great Graphics and simple Gameplay - and this is the direction where RPGs are heading.
No, I cearly distuinguish between the Publishers and the Developers.

In my view, the decision lies clearly with the Publishers, not the Developers.

The only bad thing is that too many Developers are dependend from (the decisions of) Publishers, because of money funding.

To me, it's in the end like a pupeteer and his marionettes, so to say.

The most extreme is to me the Parasite, like EA, which swallows, then milks, and then closes a franchise and the connected developing company.

Originally Posted by Arma View Post
First of, not to sound too offensive, but someone needs to disillusion himself that BG2 is the best of the best in the RPG genre. Or Fallout 2. Or something else.
Gaming Magazines create their own "Industry Standards" by erecting as a "standard" what actually sells million-fold.

You won't find - to this date - ANY RPGs without the slightest hint as like "this is like Blizzard" or "this ain't like Blizzard" …

This bloody mess is a simply "Industdy Standard".

And what do uneducated people buy ?

Standards.



It's like with Microsoft Office:

At home:
"Why do you use MS Office ?"
"Because I haven't learned anything else".

At school, university, or anywhere else:
"Why do you only each MS Office ?"
"Because everyone uses it."

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
Last edited by Alrik Fassbauer; November 25th, 2007 at 15:20.
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November 25th, 2007, 17:26
Innovation is overvalued. One of the tendencies I see in the gaming market is that the majority of the buyers want more of the same. No, even more of the same!
Innovation is per definition something new, which is not more of the same. You can get away with a few of innovative features, but when the whole game is perceived as innovative and something new, people prefer to stick to the things they know.
From a commercial standpoint a hundred small improvements to "the formula" are better than 5 huge innovations.

Market segmentation inside the RPG genre. I see this as a huge problem, especially in combination with fear of the future, intolerance and inflexibility. How many hardcore RPGers are still buying games all over the world? 250k? Probably less, I would guesstimate. Many of them have clear ideas how they want to have their RPGs. TB, party, 1st person, ISO, 2D, 3D, fantasy, sci-fi, PA, D&D, no D&D, random encounters, no respawning, a lot of micromanagement, comfort functions, and so on. Hardcore gamers find all sorts of excuses not to buy a game, even if it´s relatively close to the feature set they like. RTwP? I only play TB! Your party doesn´t have to eat or sleep? I don´t play such dumbed down crap! I´m not sure how good the quests are … and won´t buy it until I know (-> how high is the risk compared to a Diablo clone? Can the quests be worse?)
That´s not an attractive market for an investor. The target audience for an action-RPG doesn´t care for all that stuff. Much easier to cater to. I can understand every publisher who wants to stay away from hardcore RPGers.
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November 25th, 2007, 18:06
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
(1) Technology development

Game engines are constantly improving in sophistication and coming down in cost. That means it's technically possible to make a game with pretty damn decent production qualities without doing any engine programming at all even now, even if the business model may be a bit dodgy. […]
That means that you can do way more now for any given input of effort than you could do in 1997. Costs are coming down.
Are the available low cost or OS engines really feature complete? Otherwise you would still have to spend resources on coding.

(2) Market development
[…]
On the other hand, it means that with every passing day, *someone* gets bored of hitting things with a sword for its own sake, and starts to wonder if there's something else out there.

The upshot is that while the "mature gamer" market is and will continue to be a small niche compared to the "casual gamer" market, in absolute terms it's growing, and will continue to grow.
But in the gaming industry there´s no reliable business model for indie productions above a certain quality level yet. In the movie industry you can say: Great script, good actors, attractive topic, budget 12M vs. the whole revenue chain (cinema, DVD, pay-TV, free-TV, covermounts, budget … repeat for foreign markets) -> risk close to zero -> greenlight The Usual Suspects.
Getting some money back is routine work. Feed it into the pipeline, the rest is understood and will be done at a professional level.

A game developer on the other hand has to be very careful and quite clever to earn money with his game. Further problem: Games get old quickly, while movies don´t.
(4) The business idea

Start a game studio based on the following ideas:

* An open-source game engine. Base it on OGRE and other already available pretty damn good lower-level libraries. Add a higher-level abstraction designed for maximal ease in scripting and adding artistic content. The studio should lead the project to begin with; open-sourcing will bring dividends a few years down the line if the project takes off.

* An open-source basic game object library, including models, behaviors, mechanics kits, buildings, and so on. This avoids having to re-invent the wheel (literally, sometimes) for every new project.

* A focus on cheap to develop but dense game content. For example, writing is cheap, painting is cheap, textures are cheap, music is cheap, and animated cutscenes are cheap. OTOH level design is expensive, animation is expensive, programming is expensive, FX are expensive, so whenever you can, get those from elsewhere, ideally the OSS world, and OS whatever you do in that department — at least after you've used it once.
I´m not sure if making your stuff OS is the right way, apart from technological improvements which would gain stability.
Ogre is certainly proven technology. Deck 13 went from a few people to 2 teams within a few years developing adventures (Ankh, Jack Keane) with Ogre.
One of their key points seems to be lots of synergies between their projects. Recycle as much as possible.
If you release art, etc. as OS you sort of weaken your own brand. Others could quickly clone your games to a certain extend.

* Frequently released episodic content with on-line delivery. There are mechanisms already in place for this, and since we're talking about a niche product targeted at a market that's actively looking for this kind of stuff, there's no *need* to get it into Wal-Mart. That means that we might even be able to dispense with ratings altogether wherever they're merely voluntary (e.g. the US) rather than mandated by the law.
I would modify this slightly.
Look at TellTale´s business model.
They use contract work (CSI for UbiSoft) to improve their technology. This enables them to work on their own games efficiently and maintain full control over both the products and the way they´re marketed.
The difference between TellTale and other indies is that they don´t limit themselves to one channel. It was also quite impressive how they´ve made sure to pursue the business opportunities with the best profit margin first:
They started with GameTab (exclusive deal), quickly followed by their own download service. Repeat for all 6 episodes. Demos, bundle deals, upselling the whole season, lots of PRs, open communication with the community. Advantage: high margin and control over the price.
Rather late, around the time the 5th episode was released, TellTale announced a deal with The Adventure Company to localize Sam & Max and ship it to retail worldwide. It´s safe to say TellTale sees less money per retail copy than per download. The TAC / JoWooD marketing was leveraged for season 2, their next high-margin product.

I think the lesson to learn here is that business development and marketing are at least as important for an indie as the actual game. Don´t start developing a game before you know how you want to sell it to whom.
That´s often the biggest weakness most indies have.

As for "getting into Walmart" - if a publisher wants to replicate 20k copies and push them into the retail channel, why shouldn´t you take the money if the deal is right? Only after all high-margin business is through, of course.
The same for cheap retail deals in foreign countries. 10k$ upfront for RUS and the baltics? Take the money.
Maybe you don´t earn much per unit, but at least it increases the installed base for your next game.
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