Archive for category: Indie Life

Happy 2015!

12 Jan
January 12, 2015

Well, I’m back from holiday now and ready to tackle the new year, creative tanks refueled and energy levels restored!

That was a long, difficult year (I’ll write more on that in an upcoming post, but suffice to say, I was fairly burned out by the end of it), so I chose to put aside any thoughts of “being productive” over the break and get some proper R&R in. Once social duties were discharged, I played 2 video games start to finish (and got halfway through Shadowrun:Dragonfall), read through some of my backlog of books and gorged myself on TV series. And spent my evenings drinking and gazing at the stars in the jacuzzi with my beautiful girlfriend.

I’m really glad I did. It’s going to be a big, challenging year for me, and it’s important that I take my own advice here and don’t push myself to the breaking point. ūüėČ

Anyway, let’s start off the year right with something cool and System Crash-related. I finally finished the proper website, and it’s looking stunning, thanks to some great art from my artists.

Check it out!

And if you’re interested in the game, don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter! I won’t spam you, I promise. ūüėČ

The Juggling Act

11 Nov
November 11, 2014

best-jugglers-nj

I was asked a question by Daniel in the comments of my last post, about how I juggle my leisure time and work. Do I go full coder-hermit, or take regular breaks?

So I thought I’d turn my answer into a blog post, since the answer might help someone, somewhere.

First, let’s set the scene. I work full time as a programmer, putting in a standard 40 hours most weeks. I work remotely though, so that saves me burning time I would otherwise sit in traffic, which is nice. I don’t have any kids or other dependents. I do have a girlfriend, who I mostly see on weekends. For the first year and a half of System Crash’s development, I worked full time on it, burning my savings until they started running out. The start of this month, November, marks the third year that SC has been in development, though I would put the total man-years at approximately two, as my progress working after hours is about a third or a quarter or what it would be working full time.

The first thing I’m going to say is that game development is for the long haul. Except for extremely small, simple games (which you should be making if you’re a beginner), anything you build is going to take a few months to finish, minimum. You may be tempted to burn on all thrusters as hard as possible, to banish all social contact and code late into the night, chain-drinking caffeinated drinks in the hope that enthusiasm and a fierce work ethic will take you across the finish line. But that is almost certainly not going to be the case. You will burn out long before the game is done, that way.

You have to approach it as a marathon runner would. You must pace yourself for the long haul, carefully managing your internal resources. Your goal is to come up with a strategy which will set a moderate but sustainable pace, and which will see you across the finish line in a reasonable amount of time.

The human body is also not a machine. We are analogue beings, our bodies follow ancient rhythms and cycles. And those rhythms vary across people. What works for me, won’t necessarily work for anyone else. You have to start with self-analysis. When are you most productive during the day? How much sleep do you need? How much social contact? How much time for chores?

For me, I have found that I struggle to work in the early evening. My energy levels climb through the morning, peaking at midday, then falling again after lunch. By early evening, I’ve fully shifted into unwind mode, recuperating, relaxing, having some supper. And, once I’m in that mode, I find it hard to pull myself back into work focus again. It’ll usually be 9 or 10 before I get back into the swing of work, if I go that way. Which leaves me working past midnight.

These days, I tend not to work in the evening, though. At least, not much. What I’ve found works best for me is to get up a few hours earlier in the morning, instead. I’ll make sure I don’t open any email or check twitter, anything that could lead to procrastination, and I’ll get a few good productive hours in, first thing. Not only am I fresher in the morning, it’s motivating to feel like you’ve gotten the work you wanted to do out of the way first thing.

Then, when you’re relaxing in the evening after working all day, you don’t feel any guilt. It’s the pleasure of knowing the day is over, that you’ve done all you can, and that you can rest.

It requires careful discipline on my part, since I’m naturally a night owl. If I let myself, I’ll stay up past midnight. But if I do that, I wake up too late to get my early morning session of work in, requiring me to work in the evenings instead, which leads to me staying up late again and so on and so forth in a cascade. Or, I might still wake up early, but without my 8 hours I’m sluggish and prone to procrastinate instead of working efficiently. It requires careful discipline.

When I pull it off, it’s great! I get between 2 and 3 good hours work a day in during the week, and in the evenings I play games or read for a few hours before I hit the hay. On the weekend I’ll put in about 10-12 hours, distributed around the time I spend with my girlfriend and social events (she watches her shows while I code on my laptop). So somewhere north of 20 hours a week, on average, is what I put into SC.

Now, this is not to say that careful time management is all that’s required. I have had to give up many things. I go out less, and don’t see my friends as often. I don’t play games anywhere near as much as I used to, ironically, and I haven’t got the time to invest in any game that’s going to waste my time with filler or stuff I’ve seen a hundred times. I’m not getting enough exercise, really, and have gained a fair bit of weight in the last three years. My back and legs get sore from sitting at a desk too much, which was the main driver for me to move to a standing desk. I dropped taekwon-do lessons, which I enjoyed. And my relationship survives in part because my girlfriend is incredibly understanding and supportive of my goals.

It’s pretty demanding. I’m working 60 hour+ weeks, every week, month after month, with no guarantee or reward at the end. My body and mind suffer the effects of permanent, self-imposed crunch, and I still hit the occasional wall, physically and mentally. When that happens, it’s best just to take the weekend off and chill. Do the things you love that help to fill the well again, then come back to it and keep working. Just so long as you don’t take too long a break, or lose focus and drift onto something else. That falls under “knowing yourself” again, being able to take enough of a break when you need it to restore your batteries, without falling out of a regular routine.

It’s like gym, you can skip a day or even a week, but skip a month and you’ll find it hard to start up again. Beware that trap.

So the take-away is this:

1) Plan for the long-term. It’s consistent, sustained effort that gets you there, not a quick dash. Don’t try to outrace burnout.
2) Work around your own rhythms and constraints. No two people are quite the same. Know yourself.
3) Your body is not a machine. Schedule recharge/down time.
4) Manage your time effectively so that you get the most out of your hours. This requires discipline.
5) You’ll have to make sacrifices, regardless. Anything worth doing will require something in exchange. Work out what you can give up or cut back on, and what you can’t.
6) Recognize when you reach breaking point and give yourself time off to recuperate.
7) But know the difference between taking a break and losing focus. Make sure you you don’t lose your momentum.

I hope that helps. ūüôā

Sustenance

23 Oct
October 23, 2014

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Gosh, but Alien:Isolation is pretty.

Especially on my new gaming machine. Everything on ultra, runs smooth as butter. Delicious. Screenshots can’t really do it justice.

I stood in front of this window, staring in wonder at the scene in front of me, for about 5 minutes. And trying to find the right angle to take screenshots. At least, until an android came up behind me and strangled me. Bloody androids.

The only good android is a phone.

Funny thing, right. Game development is so intensive, so time consuming (especially with a day job), that I can go long periods without stopping and playing new games. At least, nothing more involving than lunch-break games. Things I can fit into half an hour. Which is not a good thing, I think. You can lose sight of why you’re doing it. Why you’re working so hard. What was it all for again?

It’s good to regularly reconnect with that sense of wonder. To remind yourself that this is why you push yourself to the edge of exhaustion. The body needs food, but so does the soul, the creative spirit. Don’t forget to eat. ūüėČ

Don’t Bet On Goat

12 Aug
August 12, 2014

I enjoy reading stories of viral success as much as the next guy. There’s always that fun “and then lightning struck, and man, it really took off!” element that appeals to the part of us that longs to win the lottery. Maybe we’ll be next, we think!

And, of course, like all struggling devs, I too envy the viral successes. I would love for that lightning to strike me next.

But man, way too many people read these stories and think they’re typical.

Goat Simulator sells a million copies.

Myself, the most common point of reference I hear when telling people I’m making a game is Angry Birds. Of course, those are mostly non-gamers, so you can’t expect much. But still. I sigh internally, grin weakly, and nod “Yes, something like that”.

“Oh, you’re going to be rich!” they respond. To which I again sigh.

I’d be cautious about trying to emulate virality. It sounds simple. Take a whacky idea, throw together some assets, push it out there, profit! But I’ve seen plenty of developers push out humorous gimmick games that fall completely flat.

For every one that succeeds, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, that simply disappear into the background noise of the internet. But we all suffer from survivorship bias to one degree or another. We have a distorted perception of the hit-to-miss ratio.

So personally, I’d be cautious about treating it like a repeatable formula. Sure, if the muse strikes, go ahead and whip something up, see what happens. But I’d caution against building your long-term business strategy around hoping for lightning to strike.

Fearful Eye

31 Jul
July 31, 2014

Playing around with logo ideas.

I like the sense of narrative and mystery in this one. But I’m not sure it doesn’t imply that RMS is a horror game studio. ūüėõ

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Then again, does it really matter?¬†Bioware, id, Mojang, Bungie, CDProjectRed…I’ve gotta go with Jack Monahan here. ¬†The name (and by extension the logo, probably) is less important than what comes to be associated with that collection of syllables and glyphs, in the mass consciousness.

Fuck it, I like the imagery. What the hell is up with that moon, man? Is it…is it coming for me!?! Oh nooooo!!!

Until I come up with something better, I think I’ll go with that. ūüėõ

Do As I Say, Not As I do

24 Jul
July 24, 2014

I’m going to give you some good advice.

In fact, it’s great advice. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot, recently. Ruefully, mostly. But yes, it’s excellent¬†advice. And I’m going to give it to you even though you’re going to completely ignore it, hypothetical reader. I ignored it. The people who passed it on to me, they ignored it themselves. And you, reader, will undoubtedly continue this proud tradition.

But I’ll give it anyway. So here goes –

Pick a smaller project to start. No, even smaller than that. Like, SMALL.

Got it? Yeah, sure you do.

I direct this mostly at other game developers, though it applies generally. But let’s go with game development as the target here. Whatever game idea you’re setting out to develop as your first project, young indie developer, you’ve almost certainly picked something with too large a scope.

I know, I know, you probably nodded when you read the¬†advice above! Very sensible, you thought, I totally agree with that. That’s definitely something I’ll¬†keep in mind! I’m going to set myself a realistic target!

Yeah, I thought¬†that too. And then I proceeded to completely disregard it. Ok, disregard is probably the wrong word.¬†I certainly thought¬†I was keeping it in mind. But I maintain that, in my heart of hearts, I knew I really wasn’t. And¬†I can offer you a simple test to determine whether you’re ignoring it, too.

First, go and find the game that is the nearest equivalent to the idea you have in mind. Don’t tell me your game is completely unique. Find the closest thing to the core gameplay mechanic, whatever.

Got it?

Right, now find the credits. Ignore the biz/marketing people. Just look at the production team. And be honest, now. What was the size of the team that built that game?

Was it more than 20 people?

It was, wasn’t it?

Yeah, I did that too. The game I had in my head was comparable to some of my favourites. Because of course, you get into game development because you love those games. Certain particular games excite you to the point where you just have to make your own! But those were built by teams, probably. I knew that. But I somehow thought that, with real dedication and perhaps some enthusiastic volunteers I would find online, I would be able to build something equivalent to the output of a 20 man team. I would do it, I was certain!

Yeah, no.

Pick a smaller project, dudes. One that you know is of a similar scope to what individuals like yourself have been able to achieve in a reasonable time frame. And start with that.

Unless you’re already experienced or are absolutely certain that you’re one of the rare, god-like developers, the John Carmacks of the world. Everyone else, learn to crawl before you walk.

But you’re going to ignore this advice. I know, I did. I’ve ignored it multiple times. I scoped down, and down, and down. But each time I realized that it wasn’t not far enough. System Crash, for example, only came about after I realized that Scars of War was beyond my current capabilities. Scars of War, had, at that point,¬†been¬†through three rounds of scope reduction.

But with System Crash, my little card game, I thought¬†that¬†it would be¬†a good idea to build an interesting, involved narrative for the single player campaign. I mean, I don’t have multiplayer so I had to have something else, besides just card battles, right?

Yeah, what I should have done is start with something a lot simpler (narrative-wise) that provided context for the core mechanics, but not much else. Then, for the next game, I could take that mechanical core, build on it and wrap it in the deeper, more satisfying narrative. Alternatively, I could have built a narrative game but kept the mechanics relatively simple.

Instead I, foolishly, took on both challenges at once. Narrative depth and mechanical complexity. Which¬†is like¬†trying to write a short novel at the same time as¬†building your first¬†video game. Not an insignificant challenge, let me tell you. I’ll get it done, but damn,¬†I really should have structured it to get one¬†game out in the first year, with¬†another to follow the year after that. That would have been sensible.

Not only would that have paced out the work better, I would have had experience with shipping and marketing two games, instead of one.

Ah well. Spilled milk and all that.

But you, reader, you really should choose a smaller project.

But you’re not going to. It’s ok. Just nod, and we’ll both pretend that you’ll take my advice to heart. And perhaps, in a few years, we can ruefully exchange stories. ūüėČ

Good luck, my friends.

Shark Infested Waters

14 Jul
July 14, 2014

Indies beware.

There are lots of folks out there who don’t have your best interests at heart. Scary, scary stuff.

On Anxiety And Measuring Success

03 Jul
July 3, 2014

Anxiety is paralyzing.

Or, at least, it is for me. I can only talk about my own experiences here. Other people might thrive under stress, I don’t know.

Tell me if you’ve ever experienced this. A giant deadline looms. Every time you think about it, your stomach clenches slightly. But, instead of doing the rational thing, instead of buckling down and focusing on making the best use of your time, you find yourself procrastinating. Flittering away your time on the most trivial distractions.

Which makes the anxiety even worse. Whenever you stop procrastinating, the anxiety rushes back, made all the more worse by the knowledge that you have even less time left, and compounded by the guilt you feel at having squandered time on procrastination.

Which, of course, makes the urge to go back to procrastinating, to distract yourself from your anxiety, even stronger. The proverbial vicious cycle. And even if you’re aware of it, it can be extremely hard to escape the cycle.

For myself, I’ve experienced this more and more frequently the closer I get to releasing System Crash. I’ve invested so much time, money and effort into the project that thinking about the outcome creates a churning mix of hope, fear and stress. And, unfortunately, I’m one of those people who hopes for the best but anticipates/plans for the worst. I would love for System Crash to do well, but mentally I’m braced for it to be a flop. Which is just realistic, very few people hit it out of the park on their first swing, and certainly I’ve made a range of mistakes that I cringe thinking about (though hopefully I’ll avoid them with the next project).

But that kind of “realistic pessimism” mindset means that, in my mind, the chance of failure far outweighs the probability of success. So the anxiety loop feeds on that. I think about the outcome, my mind imagines failure/disappointment, and I feel…well, I suspect it’s anxiety, but I’m not so consciously aware of that part. What I am aware of is a sort of draining away of my motivation and enthusiasm. I develop a creeping apathy toward my own project, and a strong desire to focus on something else.

So I’ll go off and paint, for example, even though I know it isn’t a priority, that I really should be getting my SC work done in my scant free time. But the painting is simple, relaxing and creative. And painting still feels like I’m achieving something, unlike goofing off playing video games for hours. The fact that it feels productive means that I don’t feel the guilt that I do when simply playing around, but it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, so there’s none of the anxiety either. My future, my self-identity, that isn’t caught up in whether I paint this fantasy monster well or not.

Another one is getting into pointless internet debates. I have strong opinions on things at the best of times. But I think that when I’m stressed, I give in to the temptation to argue far more. Again, I suspect it’s my mind distracting itself from one emotion with another. “But it’s important that this is said!” I think. But it isn’t important. The long-term work is what is important, my mind is just focusing on distractions to push away the stress, to alleviate the sense of looming identity-threat.

So that’s fairly sucky. I dunno, I hope I haven’t come off sounding neurotic here. I don’t want to exaggerate the problem. But it certainly is something I’ve noticed. Especially now, toward the end. The closer to the end I get, the stronger the resistance is. But what can you do about it?

Enough talking about the problem, what’s the solution?

Well, discipline helps. Being able to force yourself to soldier through, whatever you’re feeling. But I don’t find discipline alone does it. At least not for me, not long term. Maybe I’m just not disciplined enough, I don’t know. But it’s really hard to stand as stern taskmaster over your own mind when it’s that same mind experiencing the stress and wanting to escape it. I find that if you try to simply pit your will against your emotions, eventually your will crumbles. Willpower is a castle built on the rock of your emotions, your drive and desire. When the foundations start to crumble, the structure cannot stand for long.

So discipline alone hasn’t proven to be a great solution, for me. I can power through, but only for a while. A more permanent solution is required.

What else? Well, what’s really needed here is to address the source of the problem, that anxiety. The mind can’t carry that kind of burden for long, it will seek to put the burden down one way or the other. If you can’t find a more intelligent way to give your mind relief, the animal subconscious will do it for you, it will play its tricks with procrastination and so on.

So What I’ve found works best, for me, is to reframe the way you think about it. The anxiety comes from the sense of identity-threat and impending disappointment. From this line of thinking – “I’ve tried so hard, put in so much, what if it’s a failure?!? What if it’s a public failure?!?! Oh no!!! :(”

But what is it specifically? What is the “failure” I’m afraid of? Well, here, failure is the game being a financial flop. Not making enough money to cover its costs. Being disappointing, to me and others.

But surely that isn’t the only measure of success? Making money? I know it’s going to sound like hippy bullshit, but the only way I’ve found to truly relieve that anxiety long term, to achieve a measure of mental zen, is to redefine how I am choosing to measure success. Let the money be a nice, but not necessary condition for considering the project “successful.”

Instead, choose to measure success by :

– Whether you’re proud of what you’ve created. You’ll probably never be perfectly happy with anything you create, but you can be proud of it, nevertheless.

– The sense of pride and accomplishment you feel for actually having done¬†it. You’ve done what you set out to do. You’ve taken the step most people can’t or won’t. You haven’t just talked the talk, you’ve walked the walk.¬†You haven’t just dreamed about it, you’ve picked up your tools and turned it into a reality. That’s a powerful thing. Keep doing that and your life WILL change.

– What you’ve learned in the process. Education ain’t cheap, as a friend told me when I mentioned that I was stressed about the fact that I’d sunk so much of my savings into this project and I might see¬†little in return. And that’s the plain truth. Education is expensive, but it’s the best investment you can make, investing in yourself .

– Whether the game finds an audience who enjoys it, no matter how small. Even if it’s just 3 people and one of them’s your mum. If it finds an audience who it resonates with, who enjoy playing it and are enthusiastic, you’ve built something that adds value to other people’s lives. That’s a great, rare thing. Treasure it.

– Fun. Plain old fun. Did you enjoy creating¬†it? Do you still enjoy playing it? Look, it’s not going to be fun all the time. There will be long periods of hard or boring work. Lots of grinding. But in amoungst that, there should be plenty of moments where you felt that joy at creating something that excites you. Remember those moments, clutch them to your breast, let them feed your soul.

So that’s what works for me. Changing my own definition of what it means to be successful. When I do that, the anxiety melts away. I’m already successful. And I look forward to the future, I look forward to releasing System Crash and sharing what I’ve made with all of you. And then doing it again.

The doing must be¬†an end in itself, not a means to an end. That’s the secret that I’ve found. The process is the reward. And when I keep that in mind, I can get back to creating from a place of joy and excitement. Instead of a cloud of fear.

Yoda had it right. Fear really is the path to the Dark Side.

On Indie Bubbles

26 May
May 26, 2014

So Jeff Vogel’s latest, rather pessimistic post, in which he predicts the collapse of the so-called “indie bubble”, is doing the rounds at the moment. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it here for context.

Now, it’s worth noting that what Jeff is talking about isn’t really a bubble, in the economic sense. An economic bubble is when the market valuation of goods is higher than it really should be, usually driven by speculators, people who buy up that good because they anticipate its market value increasing in the future and hope to sell for a profit. When the market realizes the good is over-valued, the speculators panic, they attempt to sell their stock of the good before the price they can get for it drops, which of course causes the price to plummet, losing most of them a good deal of money. The dot com and housing bubbles being prime examples.

Now, that’s not what’s happening here, clearly. But it’s not worth getting too pedantic about the exact terminology, as that would be failing to address the real spirit of Jeff’s argument.

For myself, I don’t know whether Jeff is entirely right, but he isn’t entirely wrong. I know from speaking to other devs that being on the front page of the New Releases category on Steam can mean many times the number of sales as being off it. And the flood of recent releases means that each new game is getting less and less time on that front page. Even worse, the default page that Steam loads has recently changed, it isn’t New Releases anymore, it’s “Top Sellers.”

Which really just results in a feedback loop, where being successful makes you more successful, and the boost to “discoverability” afforded by the front page for hopeful up-and-comers, weakens.

It’s certainly a real factor, but that, to me, doesn’t speak to a limited pool of gamer dollars being split amoungst an ever-growing pool of developers. To me that signals the fracturing of Steam’s ability to direct the attention of gamers, Eye of Sauron-like. Since it’s trying to direct your attention to more and more games, and the number of hours in a week hasn’t magically increased, it’s naturally able to give each new game a smaller slice of time. Less time = fewer sales.

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If Vogel were right, if it were about a limited pool of gamer money being divided up more and more, then you’d expect the top sellers to be feeling the pinch almost as much as anyone. After all, even for a Braid or a Transistor, if this were the core problem, the maths would be inescapable. Sharing the pie with 1000 other developers would be worse than sharing the pie with 10 other developers.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ve seen nothing to say that the top sellers, even amoungst the so-called “AAA indies”, are having their profits eaten into by the growing flood of greenlit games. Now sure, I don’t actually have stats that they aren’t feeling a pinch, that data is guarded fairly closely, but I think I’d have heard some rumblings. If anything, there seem to be more of the “superstar” indies than there used to be, all doing fairly well. Which, if you think about it, is also a counter to the “limited gamer money being divided more” argument. Since each new AAA-indie released on the service would be gobbling up more of the supposedly-limited cash pie that the existing developers on Steam used to share than any 10 other minor-league indies.

So to me the issue is that we’re seeing the end of a time when, if you got in the door, you were almost guaranteed to be bathed in the attention of steam’s huge customer base for a week or so. Which is enough time to get you some really good sales figures, and potentially grow your customer base to the point where the word-of-mouth becomes self-sustaining. Being greenlit was kinda like winning a free, powerful advertising campaign, courtesy of Valve. Now it’s like winning a much smaller marketing campaign, courtesy of Valve.

So we’re getting back to the point where devs have to work much harder for marketing, perhaps harder than ever before. Which sucks a bit, I had my own dream of Steam fame and fortune, after all. But this is what many indies asked for. Many resented the fact that Steam could act as kingmakers, especially when steam access started to hurt their ability to sell directly to customers on their own sites (many have reported that some of their customers won’t buy games if they’re not on Steam).

Now, I’m not saying that competition isn’t a factor. It is. But competition doesn’t quite work out as simply as Jeff describes, when it comes to art. You see, art and entertainment products aren’t widgets. They’re not directly interchangeable.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, and you see the next Harry Potter book for sale for $20, you’re not likely to be strongly moved by the fact that there might be a sale for Tom Clancy novels, 3 for $10. Not unless you’re also a Clancy fan, in which case you may have a dilemma. If you’re a Metallica fan, I can’t move you with an offer of a Red Hot Chilli Peppers CD instead.

It’s not like saying this bar of soap is cheaper than that bar of soap, or this running shoe is cheaper than that running shoe. Games, and art/entertainment in general, are not very homogeneous.

A flood of casual match-3 games isn’t likely to be strong competition for the dollars of the hardcore RPG fan base, which is where Vogel operates. Vogel is much more likely to face competition from the recent wave of Kickstarted RPGs, or the Eschalon series, or possibly hard-core strategy sims.

Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t competition, or that it isn’t growing. There is, and it is. But it’s not as simple a story as “publisher dumps a hundred casual game ports on Steam, competition increases 10 fold” or some such. If anything, I think many good niches are still under served, for indies, game backlogs from bundles not-withstanding. I know that, for myself, I buy far fewer RPG or strategy or simulation games per month than I could afford to. And an intriguing new gameplay mechanic or game world is still a draw. Half the kickstarter projects I’ve backed have been in the hope of reseeding some of my favourite genres which have dryed up in recent years. I, for one, am still very much an under served customer. Despite my 50-deep unplayed game backlog on Steam (I’ll get to that in a moment).

So building games for an untapped niche or coming up with an original design can still leave you relatively free of competition, even in a heavily-crowded marketplace. That’s one of the wonderful things about creativity in design, it can leave you with a sort of pseudo-monopoly, at least for a while. Your unique mechanic, style, storytelling, world or thematic flavour can be something that no one else can easily or quickly copy. It’s a lesson Minecraft should have burned indelibly into our minds.

One last point, on bundles and backlogs. Sure, I’ve picked up many a bundle myself, usually in the hope of finding a hidden gem. And many of them languish unplayed. But, in my mind, that’s more like spending money on discoverability than anything else. I used to plonk down similar levels of cash for game magazines each month, mostly for the demo cds. Sales and bundles are mostly filling the role of demo cds these days, for me, acting as a way of paying a small amount to try something you’re not willing to buy blind at a higher price. If I like it, I’ll look for sequels or DLC or other games by that developer to buy full price.

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You could that the comparison is wrong because they’re full games, not demos, and won’t lead to full sales later. But they still seem to fit into that role and ecosystem, to me. As a gamer I spend a negligible amount of money to sample a wide range of titles that I otherwise wouldn’t, and it doesn’t bother me a whole lot if some of those go unplayed. And, for the developers, a small amount of cash from a large number of bundle buyers willing to try your game at that low price is comparable to 1 in 100 trying your game demo and deciding to buy it full price. Maybe even better.

All those unplayed bundle games, just like the games I hadn’t played on demo cds, don’t seem to stop me eagerly buying titles I’m truly sold on, when they come out, at full price. They don’t seem to be directly competing. There seem to be two categories of games in my head.

Category A – games I’m really excited about, which I want to play as soon as I can. That category feels like it’s empty most of the time, I go months between satisfying that drive. When a game does enter that queue, I consume it as soon as possible, making time in my evenings for it, playing it until I’ve finished it, savouring the experience. Then, sadly, I go back to reading the news and watching trailers of upcoming titles , waiting the months and years for the next anticipated game to finally release. Months of waiting, a few weeks playing. Far more demand than there is supply.

Then there’s Category B. This is the category for casual browsing. This part seems to exist to find new games to add to Category A. It picks up games when they’re cheap to try and doesn’t feel much urgency to consume the games already in the queue. They’re there for “whenever”. Since so little has been invested, there’s no remorse if I play a title for only half an hour before deciding I don’t care to keep playing. In fact, many titles I forget I own, I’ve bought some Category B games repeatedly, forgetting that I’d picked this or that title up in a previous sale. Games in Category B will always be bumped aside for Category A releases. They don’t seem to strongly compete for my attention. Unless a game graduates from Category A to B.

That’s me. What about you guys? Do you find something similar? Or do you think my comparison way off?

System Crash 2

23 Apr
April 23, 2014

Lying in a hot bath, the design of System Crash 2 crystallized in my mind. You know, as it does. A much stronger, more immersive design than SC1, I think.

System Crash, you and me ain’t done, oh no. This is the start of a long and fruitful relationship! ūüėÄ

(Will do another game in-between SC titles though. To refresh myself before tackling this type of game again.)