Archive for month: May, 2012

Why I dropped the RPG mechanics from Street Sorcery

30 May
May 30, 2012

Time for another video. I know I said I’d try do these once a week, but something (*cough* Diablo 3 *cough*) distracted me for a week or two. 😉

Feel free to discuss your thoughts in the comments!

Wednesday Art Update

16 May
May 16, 2012

Well, I’m busy playing Diablo 3. In the mean time, have some art. Click for bigness, as usual.

And here’s a pic of my process with the Lizbeth piece.

inXile and Unity and Kickstarter promises

12 May
May 12, 2012

inXile has revealed that they will be using Unity engine for Wasteland 2.

While people seem to be arguing what this means for how ‘AAA’ the game will look (hint : they don’t have the budget to afford the number of artists needed to make art for a AAA title, so it’s irrelevant), I have a different question :

Did they settle on Unity before or after their kickstarter campaign? And do they already have experienced Unity devs, or are they hiring them now that they’ve settled on the engine?

This is important in light of the features that have been promised during the kickstarter project. Unity doesn’t really support Linux right now, and while it might in the future, or you might be able to work out a way to port it, that’s a bit of a gamble. And if they didn’t have experienced Unity devs during the kickstarter campaign, how reliable are their time and feature predictions? Remember, time = money, quite literally. The majority of your money will be spent on salaries. When the money runs out, the game must ship.

I’ve had a fair amount of experience with managers promising clients things, then coming to the programming team and telling us that since they promised it, and promised it in a time-frame, you have to make it happen.

The kickstarter trend at the moment is interesting to watch, but I fear that the unbridled optimism we’re seeing while all these projects are still in the promise stage must at some point be tempered against a harsh reality. Kickstarter is not necessarily better than the traditional model, it’s different. Ideas that publishers might pooh-pooh will get funded, but the projects that get this funding have less oversight. Watching the documentary of DoubleFine’s Adventure Game is not the same as managerial oversight.

Publishers are so conservative not because they just hate creativity, but because they have a lot of experience with titles tanking, and tanking hard. And losing them money. It’s easy to be liberal with your money when you haven’t watched millions of your own dollars evaporate.

Right now, the public is like a brand new publisher, one that has never been burned by failure. We are not conservative, we’re backing all the neat sounding ideas! I wonder what will happen when the first one tanks? When the first dev reveals that they couldn’t actually fulfill the promises they made at the start of the endeavor, that maybe they overreached?

Will we be so quick to trust again?

A Wild Video appears! It uses ‘Annoying Static!’

07 May
May 7, 2012

Hi!

Long time no see!

Can you forgive me for my long leave of absence?

What if I offer you not one, but two video updates?

Sound is a bit crap, static and stuff, apologies. Still figuring this stuff out and I need a better mic. Adjust the sound ’till it’s tolerable, please.

Also, enlarge the player to see more detail on the second video, youtube shrunk it. Bloody pain in the ass, this exercise. So much for ‘it’ll be easier than blogging!’

Piracy – The good and the bad

03 May
May 3, 2012

Yes, I know it’s been a month, and yes, I know that I should do a proper update now. I’m writing that up on the weekend, I swear.

But I saw a conversation on twitter and had some thoughts I wanted to get down that didn’t fit in the 140 character format, so I’m posting them up here. Call it thinking out loud.

The discussion was the old one, about whether piracy is good or bad for sales. Some developers said that it was good, that sales increased after their game got torrented. Others say that their sales drop dramatically after sales. (Jay Barnson, for example, said that his sales halved the day after Frayed Knights went up on the torrents, and stayed there)

Before I say anything, I want to point out that I have no real experience or evidence to back up anything I’m going to say. I’m guessing, and these gents all have more real-world experience than me (for a while longer at least), so anything I’m writing here is pure conjecture. Bear that in mind.

I suspect that, like most things in life, the answer is not black and white. That piracy is both good and bad, simultaneously, and whether it is a net positive or negative depends on the circumstances, which variables are dominent.

In terms of positive, piracy generates word of mouth. This is something that is worth money to your business, PR, which is why advertising companies will actually pay money to gain it.

Any person who plays your game and likes it, whether they pirated it or bought it legitimately, may go on to introduce your game to friends, to make them aware of it, if not actively encourage them to play it. More people will be willing to try a product that is free than one which is unknown but costs money (as proven in supermarkets where they give away free samples to try to bridge that hesitance).

You could argue that a demo neatly avoids this problem, but a full free game is probably more attractive than a demo, especially these days, and will probably be propagated to a greater extent.

So that’s the positive. What’s the negative?

Well, I believe that each person who pirates your game and likes it has a greater-than-zero chance to keep it without paying, even if paying is within their means. This isn’t going to be everybody, and the people who do it won’t do it all the time. But I think that, of the people who could pay, given the opportunity to have their cake and eat it, some number of them will choose not to pay if they can get away with it.

There is an often-made claim amoungst gamers that a pirated version is like a demo, and that if they like it they will buy it. While this certainly does happen, is it likely to happen in 100% of cases? If, after you watch a movie, I asked you if you would be willing to pay full price to watch it again, would you be as motivated to pay as you were when you were still anticipating seeing if for the first time? No. The sating of hunger reduces desire.

The only logical conclusion is that some percentage of people who would otherwise pay, won’t.

The balance of these two factors is what gives rise to the differing results, I believe. Imagine, for example, that everyone on the entire planet had heard about your game and was intimately acquainted with all its features. This would negate, or at least drastically reduce, the word-of-mouth benefit that comes from each new pirated copy. The word has, after all, already been spread.

(There would still be some positive effect though, from friends and trusted figures enthusing about the title)

Now imagine that you have the worst PR in the world, and literally no one had heard about the game. But it’s free on torrents and some people simply grab anything that is free, compulsively. Now, the word-of-mouth effect is maximized because there is no overlap between people who hear about it from pirates and people who have already heard about it (because no one has lready heard about it).

Now you get maximum positive gain from piracy.

This, to me, helps explain why you see differing results from piracy. If you’ve already managed to inform most of the niche you’re aiming for about your game via traditional means, the benefit from word of mouth may be outweighed by your potential customers discovering a free version.

If, however, your product is not well known or your ‘personal brand’ isn’t well trusted amoungst the consumers you’re targeting, the largest benefit to you may come from word-of-mouth and the positivity of peers, and that may outweigh the percentage of these new customers that you lose to piracy in the process.

This theory may be wrong, or overly simplistic/missing factors, I really have no way to validate it. But that’s my best guess at what is happening. Does that mean you should love your pirates, or hate them?

I…really don’t know.