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A Longer Post about Indie ‘Cliques’

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Games, Rants | Posted on 08-09-2014

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So, game development eh? What a flupping nightmare.

Before I begin, I’d like to state that I can only talk about what I know as an indie developer based in the North-East of England, and I’m not going to comment on the really horrible comments/attacks since it’s flupping obvious that’s detestable and also utterly irrelevant to the conversation.

When we first went indie, our first venture was an extremely low-paid commissioned game which was a joint production between two of us in the North-East and one chap down in London. I must admit, it made us feel a little sad and isolated watching on the internet as all these exciting events and meet-ups were planned, photos were taken, fun was had – as two of us were cooped up in a dingy flat with next to no money. It’s possible that these events were mind-numbingly dull – but everything looks exciting when you’re not there and you don’t get to go to any. By the time that game was done, the two of us in the North were penniless and panicking about what we should do next. That was when Zomboid was planned.

So there we were, with a vague idea, no money, and no actual friends in either indie development or working as games journalists. We’d made a few acquaintances, I guess, since we did manage one or two trips to London in the two years or so we were working on that first game – plus there’s Twitter, but you don’t really make friends on Twitter – especially if most of your tweets are facetious. And even now – three or so years into making Zomboid, a game which has done pretty well overall, has had a modicum of exposure on “proper” games websites – I can count the number of games journalist friends I have on no hands. There are just hardly any indie devs or journalists up here – no trendy parties, nothing. Unless everyone hates me and I’m simply not invited.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. There was one organised recurring meet-up which, at best, you’d describe as sporadic and infrequent. But most of the people who went to that were mobile phone / tablet devs and, well, sorry but I’m just not interested in mobile games. At all. Also, a frightening proportion of the people there would describe their game as “the product” which immediately makes me stop listening.

So this indie dev clique thing. Is it nonsense? In all honestly I just don’t know. What I would say, however, is this:

  • If I had made an astronomical amount of money from a staggeringly successful indie game, I could imagine myself investing in a friend’s game to help them get going.
  • If that was the case, I would likely be somebody whose tweets and opinion were newsworthy and I would probably use that to pimp my friend’s game.
  • If there was an Indie Games Award thing near where I lived, or I was happy swanning around the globe on a private jet, I would probably take part as a judge.
  • …And then recuse myself if it turned out my friend’s game was submitted and instead make do participating in the gazillion panels I’m constantly invited to.

In other words, I do not find it particularly surprising that all manner of connections can be drawn up between notable and/or successful developers. I also do not find it surprising that the sorts of developers who have made huge amounts of money would also be the sorts of developers who would invest in other games, and also be the sorts of developers notable enough to be involved in panels / award judging / all that shit. Frankly, it would be a bit weird if that didn’t happen.

But here’s the trouble:

It doesn’t half look bad from an outsider’s perspective. And, I think, at the very least we can acknowledge that it looks a bit bad even if we believe it to be perfectly innocent and above board. Because, much like me – sat here in a part of the country where none of those swanky parties happen – it’s easy to imagine it all being better, more exciting, more career-helping than it probably is. And it’s easy to become angry or embittered when you’re making a game and struggling for press attention when all those other developers appear to have things easier.

It’s easier to imagine that it’s some back-room dealings than simply some failure on your own part. And this is coming from a developer – someone with some degree of knowledge on how games are made and marketed. If you’re a gamer, however, you’ve got nothing to work with except some sense that something is wrong (given that there have been documented cases of wrong-doings in the past). And when developers or journalists glibly reply to you, write off your conclusions as laughable, focus on the manner in which you comment rather than the message, paint you with the same brush as the worst of the commentors, or simply say nothing – what are you supposed to do? You have no access to this knowledge that the devs and journalists have. It all feels a bit like Kings mocking the plebs, and it just adds to the frustration and anger which then increases the use of extreme language and the connections which you will find and the whole thing becomes a vicious circle. Because, after all, questioning the press is a good thing in general. Sure, you might have drawn conspiratorial conclusions which (to those in the know) may be so far off-base to be laughable. But it’s better to do that (in principle) than just to accept everything you read or hear as fact because that’s precisely how corruption starts.

Or there might be some truth to some of it. I don’t know. Perhaps there’s a city somewhere with an unusually high concentration of press and devs and things operate differently. Maybe the UK is different to other countries in this regard but I can only comment from my perspective. I read somewhere (I’ll pop the link in if I can find it) some journalist say words along the lines of, “all my news comes from dev friends” which is less corruption and more being utterly shit at your job. But if there is some truth to some part of the claims, I suspect we’re dealing with a tiny tiny minority of devs and press because most indie developers are like me. Sat on their own at home or in an office with no other indie dev friends to speak of, no journalist friends, and no easy way to get exposure for their game.

(Those “gamers are dead” articles were proper bullshit though. If we had Golden Raspberry Awards for gaming articles, they’d be a shoe-in)

Some Random Musing on the FemFreq Videos (and other things)

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Games | Posted on 31-08-2014

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These thoughts were things I posted on The Indie Stone forums in multiple posts, so please forgive the way it’s not really organised into a cohesive whole.

——————————————————

In my (extremely) personal opinion, the Sarkeesian videos raise an interesting discussion extremely badly. I don’t believe the best way to tackle and raise awareness of legitimate criticisms with some videogames is to say effectively, “videogames are often sexist, I’m going to make some videos to prove my point”. Sure, you can do that as an opinion piece, but it’s not research or of academic merit unless you draw conclusions starting from a non-biased perspective. In other words, she raises some extremely good points but it’s muddled in with extremely bad points such that it becomes far too easy for people to dismiss the lot, which then defeats the purpose.

Conflating issues in advertising with games was one such example. What publishers and advertisers do when selling a game has *nothing* to do with what developers do developing it. Muddling in criticism of advertising in a video about tropes in games… bad idea. Certainly it’s something to explore in a separate video – advertising is a waaaaay bigger culprit for this stuff and you could tear it to pieces in a dedicated video. But mixing it in with discussion of games comes across as not really understanding the medium you’re criticising to the point that it feels like a cheap shot.

Then there’s Hitman which *does* actively penalize the player for acting in the manner she shows. Now if that were the *only* game out of all the ones she shows that you had any experience of, it would lead you to doubt the credibility of the rest. It damages her argument to demonstrate that particular component of the game as proving her point. For example, take Project Zomboid. You could make a video where you were a man, and you were playing multiplayer with a group of players playing as women. If you griefed those players, brutally killed them in PvP and stripped them of their clothes, you could claim that Zomboid encouraged misogyny and it would be an even stronger case than Hitman since Zomboid doesn’t penalise you for that – in fact, it encourages it since you’d still be alive and have all the loot they were carrying. But it would horribly mis-represent the game since the game offers primarily freedom, as does any sandbox RPG. That’s not to say that I don’t think there are any problems with Hitman Absolution, just that her example was a piss-poor example of it.

I made the analogy as such: When I was Lead Artist in a commercial development studio, I was responsible for judging CVs to decide who would be interviewed. The single most common “mistake” of art showreels is inability to recognise your best work from your worst. Pop 10 outstanding pieces of work on your showreel, you’ve got an interview. Pop 10 outstanding pieces of work in amongst 10 crap pieces of work, you probably won’t get an interview. The worst work damages perception of your ability to far greater a degree than your best work raises it.

——————————————————

A few years back I was posting on a blog which was having a discussion on gender issues and I used the term “fireman” at one point. I was immediately jumped on and personally attacked for my sexist language – “It’s fire-fighter you sexist pig!”. I tried to explain that where I grew up, my entire life thus far, “fireman” has *never* meant specifically “a man who fights fires” – because where I’m from, “fireman” is pronounced “FIREmun”, emphasis on first syllable whereas American English tends to emphasise the second –  so the “man” component utterly evaporates and it doesn’t come across as a gendered term. That argument didn’t wash at all. But why not? Well, I was being judged by their culture, their up-bringing, what *they* meant by the word. But the internet is vast – it includes all cultures, all types of people, and you simply can’t hold everyone accountable to Western culture or, in this case, specifically American culture. It was a surprise when The Simpsons used the word “wanker” to those of us in the UK. When Americans say “fanny”, it’s amusing to the British because it means something entirely different here. See also: “fag” meaning “cigarette” in most cases in the UK.

Similarly I’ve seen discussions about how vile the word c*** is (note: I don’t like this term personally, but then my swearing is mostly limited to “shit”) in the context of this word being used specifically against women. But in large sections of the UK, this word has almost no power and is humourous (like bugger – you daft c***) and is more commonly used against men and, *most* commonly, men who are your friends. The same words are used in many different contexts across the world, but on the internet all these cultures and people are thrown together and problems will continue to arise unless we either: invent and insist upon a global internet language, or accept that words have different meanings and power to different people. The latter, in my opinion, is the more inclusive response. Perhaps in 100 years, we’ll have a common internet language, but it’s not going to happen any time soon.

Now, to bring this somewhat back on topic: I think the same applies to videogames. Show my mum *any* vaguely violent videogame made in the last 15 years and she’d be aghast at the violence. We laughed at Jack Thompson because he just couldn’t see how this stuff was inconsequential – he was not familiar with the language of videogames and so judged them superficially. He couldn’t see past the guns, the violence, the blood, and see the game. This is no different to the response to Rock and Roll in the 50s, or video nasties in the 80s. To some, The Human Centipede was abhorrent, to others hilarious. People who have not grown up with games often can’t see them for what they often are – puerile and mindless entertainment. I think this has happened with games, they’ve continued to be made using the same rules and language they always have, but recently there’s been a huge influx of new gamers and things which have always been just part of the language become seen as problematic. I absolutely do not believe that perceived misogyny in games leads to misogyny in the same way that I do not believe that violent videogames cause violence. HOWEVER, that said, as videogame developers we should acknowledge that the gamer market has expanded and cater to those new gamers.

So, to summarise, while some games go a bit far (that bit in God of War from the latest Sarkeesian vid, for example) and that definitely needs addressing, I think mostly what we need is more *variety* of videogames. Rather than change games, we just need more choice.

Finally, I do believe there is a place for calling out the shit when people see it. I don’t agree with criticizing and attacking Anita Sarkeesian for having the temerity to not like some of this stuff in games. By the same token, however, we shouldn’t report on this stuff like it’s objectively true – everything she says accepted as fact (especially as she does not represent *all* feminists or *all* women – what she represents is herself. That’s all). It’s not academic research, it’s opinion and we should treat it as opinion (and so should she). There is a middle ground – there’s a rational discussion to be had, and Anita Sarkeesian along with everyone else is welcome in that discussion.

Is there an indie game dev ‘clique’?

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Stuff | Posted on 24-08-2014

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Buggered if I know. Not in Newcastle anyway, since there’s bollocks all indie devs up here so far as I can tell.

Hope that helps.

Love and hugs,

Binky

Why I’m not (yet) excited by the Oculus Rift

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Games, Stuff | Posted on 11-08-2014

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Let’s forget about the Facebook acquisition – that one aspect is enough to make me not want to buy one – but for the purposes of this blog, “Oculus Rift” is short-hand for any VR headset.

I have a spinal condition which makes it difficult to walk and to move generally. Basically, imagine that your central spine and hips have been replaced by an inflexible metal pole, and that’s essentially what it’s like. It doesn’t affect my life at all – obviously mobility issues have an effect, but I mean that it’s not something which bothers me which is why I almost never actually talk about it.

VR is tremendously exciting – the idea of actually putting yourself in a game world and experience it in a tangible way (Richard Cobbett has written an excellent post about the Oculus DK2 covering exactly this and more) has long been a dream of gaming.

However, playing Elite:Dangerous right now – I’m using an X52 Pro joystick – I can look around the cockpit with a simple flick of my thumb. Swapping between in-game control screens is quick and easy. Plug me into an Oculus, however… My neck’s ‘pitch’ control limits me to about 2 degrees up and about 5 degrees down. ‘Yaw’ I have about 15 degrees left and 2 degrees right. I have no ability to perform ‘roll’. And for that range of motion, what I definitely can’t do is turn with any kind of speed unless I want it to hurt. While I could continue using the joystick thumb stick for cockpit looking, this is quite likely to trigger nausea with a fully immersive headset so, more likely, I’d just have to put up with a limited range of head-look in-game.

As I said, in the real-world this doesn’t bother me particularly. But in a VR environment I’m pretty sure it would. I think I’d feel considerably more frustrated by my (lack of) mobility plugged into a device which, unlike in the real world, cannot recognise that I am primarily using eye direction to determine what I’m looking at.

It’s possible that these are empty fears, that the 3D effect alone will be sufficient to squash any frustrations. But never more so than with technological advances like these has something made me feel a little sad about a physical disability that up until now, had never bothered me. :(

A handy guide to clarity

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Useless Advice | Posted on 29-07-2014

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Definitions of “very clear” seem to vary. I have therefore produced this handy guide.

Extremely Unclear

Very Unclear

Explanation requires clicking “read more” in the description.

Somewhat Unclear

Explanation (“in association with…” etc) does not require clicking “read more” in the description.

Murky

Explanation (“sponsored by…” etc) does not require clicking “read more” in the description.

Somewhat Clear

“Sponsored by…” written onscreen at the end of the video.
Explanation (“sponsored by…” etc) does not require clicking “read more” in the description.

Very Clear

“Sponsored by…” written onscreen at the start of the video.
“Sponsored by…” written onscreen at the end of the video.
Explanation (“sponsored by…” etc) does not require clicking “read more” in the description and occupies its own paragraph.

Extremely Clear

Explanation (“sponsored by…” etc) written in full onscreen, in large bold text – no other flashy attention-grabbing text/imagery onscreen to distract from this message, message is held for minimum of 5 seconds.

Binky’s Top Five Unreleased or Yet to be Fully-Funded Indie Games

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Games | Posted on 21-07-2014

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Everyone loves lists, yeah? That fad didn’t get old, like, five years ago did it? No-one can accuse me of not having a cutting-edge blog.

Anyway, I’ve done enough blog posts where I whinge or rant so I figured it was time for some loveliness. Here are, therefore, the five indie games which make me go “wooo!” and “blimey!” and “I wish I’d thought of that!”

#5 Immune Defense

 

Now I’ve got to be honest, I know next-to-nothing about this game. Maybe it won’t work at all, maybe it’ll be awesome. Who knows? So then why have I picked it in my top five? It’s not because of what it is because, as I’ve said, I don’t actually know that. It’s because of the concept behind it. To quote from the developer’s webpage:

Our goals are to keep ourselves in business and to increase general knowledge of molecular behavior. Proteins, lipids, drugs, allergens, vaccines, degradable plastic, ocean acidification, heath: molecules are the key to understanding many important concepts. We will accomplish our goals by creating games that take place in the molecular world and making them available to as wide an audience as possible.

Well, I’m sold. At this point, I don’t really care what the game is, I just want something – anything – to exist from a set of people with this as their raison d’être.

Edit: Further information about this has now been added to their game page :)

#4 TerraTech

 

  • Genre: Physics-and-construction-based real-time strategy type thingy
  • Developer: Payload Studios
  • Status: Unreleased

This is a hard one to easily describe and I’ve probably horrendously under-sold it with my woeful attempt at a “genre” above, so I suggest you check out the in-depth information on their Kickstarter page. Essentially, imagine the cool modular creative aspects of Spore except with vehicles, plonk them onto a swanky planet, and battle other modular vehicles while attempting to harvest resources and– oh, for heaven’s sake, just click that link I provided and see for yourself.

There’s only 6 days remaining which is cutting things awfully fine – but it’s a great example of how to produce a Kickstarter pitch and, as with all great pitches, there’s a demo you can try out right now and then consider pledging!

#3 Sheltered

 

  • Genre: Post-Apocalypse Survival… em-Up
  • Developer: Unicube
  • Status: Unreleased, due August-ish

Okay, so the Kickstarter period for this is over. And it was successful, so it’s ultimately not too important that I didn’t write this blog post a month ago. Because I’m sure the project would have really benefited from the three hits this blog may have generated. Anyway, the game.

It sort of reminds me of Papers, Please! not because of the gameplay style but because of the element of protecting your family. Larger issues in play other than that of simply being a lone survivor in the apocalypse. It’s the kind of moral choices this would present and the narrative you construct while playing which makes this game sound so enticing.

So if you missed the opportunity to be involved in the Kickstarter campaign, do keep this on your radar.

#2 Crypt of the Necrodancer

 

  • Genre: Roguelike Dance-em-Up
  • Developer: Brace Yourself Games
  • Status: Unreleased, Early Access release due 30th July

Out of all of the games I’ve listed here, this is the one I wish I’d made. At heart, it’s your typical roguelike with its sprawling dungeons, array of monsters, powerups, equipment, all that jazz. But it’s been fundamentally fused with a rhythm game in a way that’s too far beyond charmingly brilliant to describe in words, so I’ll just show the trailer.

How has no-one had this idea before? Have they? They must have! No?

Pop it on your wishlist, from the Steam Store page.

#1 Mighty Tactical Shooter

 

  • Genre: Turn-based Shoot-em-Up
  • Developer: SockThuggery
  • Status: 60% funded, 10 days remaining – Kickstarter

Wow, there’s a surprise right? I totally haven’t pimped this at every possible opportunity. Now let me get something out of the way and, if you’re reading this SockThuggery, I mean this in the nicest possible way: The graphics aren’t, like, particularly amazing. I’m sorry, I really am and, let’s face it, that’s a criticism you can level at Project Zomboid too.

The important thing is, though, that they do the job – they don’t get in the way of the action and, in my opinion, suit the style of game rather nicely. I’ve seen better pixel art in my time BUT (and it is a big ‘but’) the game’s got class – it does a terrific job with what it’s got. I mean, look at this:

Classy!

That’s the gameplay in a nutshell. It’s cool, it’s clever, it’s unique. It’s the most interesting gameplay concept I’ve seen since Fract OSC. All it needs to do now, is reach its Kickstarter goal. Click here to check it out, try the demo, and consider pledging!

Some Short Musings on Game Prices

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Games, Rants | Posted on 19-07-2014

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In the past, I’ve written quite a lot about how much i dislike the free-to-play model for games. As I’ve said, I think it harms the design of a game to be thinking in terms of revenue and not enjoyment. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t design a free-to-play game that is both designed in terms of fun and that happens to then do rather nicely from in-app sales. The most obvious way to do this is with purely cosmetic purchasable items.

So regardless of how much I’ve whinged about it, that doesn’t mean I regard it as black and white – as if all free-to-play games are evil because they’re free-to-play, and all traditionally priced games are not. It all rather depends on the game, and the motivation of the developers/publishers responsible.

So this article got me thinking – in part because it does rather talk about things in these binary terms, but mostly because of this:

First though we have to accept a universal truth. Just because we put effort in to our game doesn’t mean it’s worth a given amount of money. Your game is worth what people are prepared to part with to obtain it.

Hmm. I think this section neatly clarifies exactly why I have such strong feelings about game prices and monetisation. Because I don’t believe this at all. No, my game is not worth what you decide it is, it’s worth what I decide it’s worth. You are, of course, free to disagree with my determination – regard a game as under-priced or over-priced depending on how you feel about it. It might be worth more or less to you than it is to me and if sufficient number of people share your opinion, that would certainly make me reconsider my own – but it’s still up to me whether or not I reduce the game’s price to reflect that.

I mean, that concept of “it’s worth what people are prepared to pay” is true in some contexts. Like an auction, for example. A painting. Some rusty old junk that somebody eventually realises is of historical value. But digitally downloaded games with infinite supply? No, I beg to differ.

So perhaps it’s purely this that makes me annoyed so much by weird pricing. £200 for alpha-access, you say? So you judge the worth of your alpha (despite the fact that alphas are hugely feature-incomplete, often incompatible, and buggy messes) to be £200? Crickey. Your choice, but wow. Frankly, no massively incomplete, buggy, and potentially incompatible game could possibly be worth that much, so I can only assume that most of that price is the value attached to allowing the consumer access to your development process.

Okay, fair enough – there’s definitely value in that, especially if the game is high-profile and exciting, spear-headed by a chap many of us would like a chat with over a cuppa. But what about the value the consumers bring to the table? How does that factor into the price? They are, after all, providing feedback, bug reports, compatibility information and all that jazz which’d be expensive were you to use a QA company.

So anyway, if that’s what was done – determine the value of access to the alpha, the forums, the ability to speak to the developers then add on the value of the alpha build provided, and subtract a bit for the value the consumers bring to the table – and if the figure arrived at was £200… then I’m not sure I would have a problem with that. It would still strike me as awfully expensive but if that’s what they decided, that’s their decision. Instead, though, the same old argument is trotted out: “The intent was actually to keep the number of players down.” This, I do not buy.

Staggeringly High Alpha/Beta Prices

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Games, Rants | Posted on 11-07-2014

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Source article, on Eurogamer

Please Note: I don’t want this to sound like a bash of David Braben – he’s still the guy who co-wrote arguably the most important videogame in history and spear-headed the Raspberry Pi and I don’t believe that this pricing is a cynical financially-motivated manoever, so he’s still in credit in my book ;)

I’ve also singled out Elite because it was in the news but it’s not the first game to set alpha/beta access at this sort of price *glares at Planetary Annihilation and Galactic Civilizations III*

 

Ever since Minecraft did it, the alpha-funded model has been a pretty popular way to get a game off the ground. You charge very little for very little, and the price raises over time to reflect the level of completion of the game. It’s a tremendously fair system – you reward those who believe in your project with a low price and those who are on the fence don’t need to make an immediate decision. They can wait a bit, see how the game develops, and join in later and still get the game for a lower price than release. The price reflects the state of the game as it is right this second. You’re never paying for content yet to be made – at least, in theory.

Then came Kickstarter. In theory, Kickstarter is a really great way to achieve similar results – albeit one designed for a short window of high exposure rather than a slow burning build of momentum. The “all-or-nothing” approach rather gamifies the process of getting your game off the ground, but I can’t deny it has yielded some terrific games which may never have seen the light of day otherwise.

The problem comes down to the tier rewards, which are marvellous within the context of a Kickstarter but the problems set in when a Kickstarter project slams into another system – say Steam Early Access, for example. Suddenly, those tier rewards start to make less sense. A high level tier granting access to alpha or beta builds which otherwise would remain closed works, but come the point that you release on Early Access you can’t suddenly offer that same access for a reasonable Early Access price without pissing all over your Kickstarter backers. So you’re stuck in a quandary – you either skip Early Access entirely, or you’re somewhat forced to reflect that KS tier price in your Early Access price.

So what do you do, when you find yourself in this situation?

This is where you need Captain Hindsight to remind you, “maybe you should have thought about this before you decided to make ‘alpha and beta access’ a high level reward tier, eh?”. Because using reward tiers in this way is like this:

“Hey there, poor person. Thanks for the £20 which might represent your ENTIRE game budget for this month or so, which you’ve chosen to spend on a currently non-existent game that you crave, but you’re £80 short of sufficient PASSION to be involved in the alpha process.”

“But the important thing for the alpha is, for it to be a genuine alpha, we didn’t want huge numbers. Maybe we shouldn’t have restricted it by price but it seemed like a logical thing to do. It seemed like a fair thing to do.”

David Braben

Now, Mr. Braben. You’re a flupping intelligent chap. I know that because you co-wrote Elite. I cannot believe that you honestly consider this to be “fair” or “logical” – not in a general sense, at least.

But let’s take him at his word – he genuinely wants to restrict numbers. Are we saying, then, that the co-developer of one of the most ground-breaking technical achievements in gaming history is unable to think of a fairer way to restrict numbers than simply slapping an enormous price-tag on access?

“We could have thought more carefully about that. The intent was actually to keep the number of players down. But it looks like a terribly capitalist way of doing it. That’s the trouble. I mean it in the nicest possible way. It’s when you think about it you think, oh yes, that does look a bit bad. But it’s because what we’ve got is a group of people who really care about it. And that’s been so helpful.

We’ve gone into this not knowing exactly how the process would pan out as well. We were one of the first people to use Kickstarter in the UK. I didn’t know how it would pan out.”

David Braben

It seems not, that by his own admission they didn’t really think too hard about it despite it being really rather important. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to predict that outside the context of Kickstarter, a £100 or £200 price tag for an unfinished game might raise a few eyebrows.

So the question is, then, does it work? Do you get the reduced numbers that you claim to want, and only those people passionate enough to commit to such a price? And is this fair?

Well here’s the thing, you’re not selling some unknown and unproven game, you’re selling Elite – a game which time and time again people have pleaded with you for. “When will we get Elite 4?”, asks everybody whenever they interview you. You’ve teased us about it for over a decade. I went to a GDC session in San Jose in… some time around 2001 when you were making A Dog’s Life and the subject came up during the Q&A. You had a glint in your eye, “we’re working on it”, you hinted. And here it is – finally, after all these years. People will pay any amount for it.

This price tag takes huge advantage of that. Does it restrict access to only people who care? No. Because flupping shit loads of people care – but comparatively few have a couple of hundred quid spare to throw at it. You’re restricting based on income, not on passion. You’re taking advantage of those who can’t afford it, but will pay, because it’s a new flupping Elite game. We criticise those free-to-play games which target the vulnerable too regardless of whether or not that was the intention.

If you really want to restrict access fairly then have a closed alpha/beta – application only. Treat it like a job application.

And don’t charge them a premium for the privilege of HELPING.

 

What other ways are there to advise only the passionate to play your game?

“DayZ Early Access is your chance to experience DayZ as it evolves throughout its development process. Be aware that our Early Access offer is a representation of our core pillars, and the framework we have created around them. It is a work in progress and therefore contains a variety of bugs. We strongly advise you not to buy and play the game at this stage unless you clearly understand what Early Access means and are interested in participating in the ongoing development cycle.

Does this work? Probably not, probably only a few people read that on the Store page. But it’s fair and that should come first.

A smaller rant about F2P

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Games | Posted on 07-01-2014

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What is the perfect way to design a game?

Ideally, you either live in Utopia where money no longer exists, you win more money than you ever need in the Lottery, or an eccentric billionaire funds you setting no limitations on what you do. Then… go.

You’d be designing your game completely free from any financial concerns. The objective would simply be to make something fun, exciting, personal, whatever. All design decisions you ever make during development would be utterly untainted by subconscious financial motivations.

That, obviously, is not a particularly likely scenario. Games, generally, need to make money – someone has to pay for development and it’s fairly reasonable to say that someone should be those who play them.

But that means that unless you’re a robot, you’re going to be affected – albeit often subconsciously – by that knowledge, regardless of whether you’re EA or one person in an attic. Given that the best way to design a game would be utterly free from financial concerns then my argument is merely that the more we limit referencing or thinking about money during a game’s design, the better the design will be on average.

So. Make a game, think only about the game, finish, then spend however much time you want contemplating price-point. This is a better way to design a game, as far as I’m concerned, than designing one where the design itself necessitates financial decisions such that there isn’t even a single page in the design document which doesn’t have the word “money” or “cash” or “gems” or “stars” or “marketplace” in it. Unless you’re a robot, that’s going to affect your design decisions whether you like it or not.

THAT is why I’m not a fan of free to play games.

It doesn’t mean they can’t be good. Can’t be great. Can’t be mind-blowingly terrific. But I don’t want to make one or play one.

Top Tips: How much should you sell an Alpha-Funded game for?

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Useless Advice | Posted on 23-10-2013

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Question 1:

How much is your game worth RIGHT THIS SECOND?

 

Take that number and subtract a bit. Easy.