Crowdfunding Goals

Posted on May 19th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Katie Chironis on what the massively successful crowdfunding campaign for Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night means for smaller developers also using crowdfunding:

Bloodstained isn’t a story of the little guy triumphing over big publishers, it’s the story of a campaign that had millions of dollars of funding before the Kickstarter began and the help of multiple companies handling the logistics of the campaign. They asked for $500,000 to prove a point, not fund a game. The issue is that campaigns like that cause members of the community to believe that $500,000 is all you need to create large-scale experiences.

When you ask for half a million when you really need $5 million it becomes impossible for games with realistic budgets to survive. It’s not that people don’t understand what a game costs, it’s more that Kickstarter is actively distorting people’s understanding of a sane budget. The ecosystem is being poisoned for projects that need to raise their actual, workable budget for a game.

There are two kinds of project operators on Kickstarter and other similar crowdfunding services.

The first, and what I believe to be the majority of projects, is everyone who actually is in their theoretical or actual basement toiling away. It’s here that you find the projects to mock that will never successfully achieve their funding goal alongside game developers who actually need the funding in order to start and complete their project.

The problem group is the minority. They’re so successful at crowdfunding they blow past their initial goals and quadruple them in hours. They have already started the work and have invested significant resources into producing a compelling pitch video with supporting concept art to demonstrate their potential for success. They can summon significant external financial backing at the conclusion of a crowdfunding campaign which existed only as a representative measure of the potential market to sell the finished product into. If it fails to generate enough funding or fails during production, who cares? They’ll walk away relatively unscathed and might even finish the project with the external investment they already had lined up or move on to another.

Both kinds of crowdfunding projects have succeeded and failed beyond everyone’s wildest expectations and this has lead some people to declare crowdfunding as a whole either an enormous success or terrible failure. All of the declarations ignore the continued successes and failures of both kinds of project that occur after the declaration has been made. Even this article isn’t immune to sudden declaration syndrome. The opener is:

We all know the Kickstarter bubble is bursting.

The difference between Katie Chironis’ declaration and the others is that she is right. The majority of projects can’t compare with crowdfunding goals as low as Bloodstained‘s $500,000.

Why would anyone running a project who is otherwise wealthy or has external financial backing do the right thing and set their goals appropriately when the wrong thing is working out so well for them?

There are enough fans of Castlevania out there that the Kickstarter project for Bloodstained is at about $2.5 million. Of which Kickstarter is already set to make $125,000 at their 5% fee. The payment processor will get about the same cut of that $2.5 million if the funding level doesn’t change by the time the campaign ends.

Why would Kickstarter’s crowdfunding change when they made $1,016,900 for hosting another project webpage, the Pebble Time, with an unrealistic goal, external funding, and an already complete project ready to go to market?

If Kickstarter’s bubble doesn’t burst for truly independent project operators, it will be because Kickstarter changes to properly support them by focusing on those who aren’t succeeding at finding funding and shipping complete projects instead of passing the blame entirely onto project operators.

If that happens, Kickstarter might actually earn some of their cut.


Tom Jubert’s Talos Principle Masterplan

Posted on May 18th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Tom Jubert spoiled us with his writing in The Talos Principle, FTL, and The Swapper. Everything he works on is 100% pure gold pressed latinum that might be consumed in a manner not unlike that of a starving teenger wolfing down hot pockets without regard for the ensuing restroom debacle. Each time Jubert’s blog (Plot is Gameplay’s Bitch) updates it’s a new world of excitement at what incredible game could pop out that he’s touched next. This time he’s about to talos about the upcoming expansion pack for The Talos Principle called Road to Gehenna:

Without spoiling anything, the pitch we went with provides us huge flexibility in terms of the sort and tone of material we deliver. It gives us a world that fits within the original game’s religious and science fiction mythology, but which resolutely has its own identity. Most importantly for me, it lets us explore completely new ideas about how to interact with the game.

There’s plenty of more Talos in the post, most exciting is that the story is just as large for the expansion as it was for the original, however he also mentions a new game coming out that he had a hand in, The Masterplan. It’s a top-down heistery already in Early Access on Steam but I will probably wait for the game to be finished on June 4th to enjoy it.


🍕 in 2015

Posted on May 13th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Bruce Horovitz:

Domino’s regulars will be able to order by tweeting only the pizza emoji to @Dominos.

In 2016, Domino’s regulars will be able to order lap-band surgery just by tweeting a lap-band emoji to the hospital of their choice.


Your cyberpunk games are dangerous

Posted on May 12th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Fascinating article from Jon Peterson goes over the history of government intervention in gaming, and how it relates to the internet we have today. Includes this on the Dungeons & Dragons scare of the 80s:

This misunderstanding arose only five months after TSR obtained widespread notoriety in a similar confusion surrounding the disappearance of college student James Dallas Egbert III in East Lansing, Michigan. A private detective hired to find Egbert had learned that the young man played TSR’s role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons—at the time virtually unknown to mainstream America—and hypothesized that Egbert had come to believe the game was real. Famously, this led to calls for a search of the college steam tunnels, where presumably Egbert would be found wandering in a deluded stupor, questing for monsters and treasure.

Actually, Egbert had run away to Louisiana for unrelated reasons, but a seed was then planted in the American popular imagination. Role-playing games were dangerous: they warped fragile young minds, breaking down the barriers between the real and the imaginary. The irony is that it was the authorities, not the players, who couldn’t tell a game from reality.


Dex

Posted on May 7th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

There aren’t a lot of 2D side-scrolling RPGs, I can’t think of any that aren’t from consoles like Odin Sphere on the Playstation 2 and Valkyrie Profile on the Playstation and Playstation Portable. Certainly none were cyberpunk. We’ve had a resurgence of cyberpunk gaming with the isometric Shadowrun Returns, the third-person Republique, and the first-person Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Those tough-times for cyberpunks looking for their side-scrolling fix are at an end. 

Originally crowd-funded way back in December 2013, the side-scrolling cyberpunk RPG Dex has been released for Windows, Mac and Linux on Steam.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go scroll through the listing of cyberpunk games and dreaming of a sky tuned to a dead channel.


Newt Gingrich Using An Oculus Rift

Posted on May 7th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Oh no.

Newt:

The implications for education and entertainment will be enormous. Imagine crossing the Delaware with George Washington on Christmas night of 1776. Imagine watching the debates of the Constitutional Convention as no one but the Founding Fathers did. Imagine being a member of the audience at Ford’s theater the night Abraham Lincoln was shot. Or imagine watching the State of the Union in real time from a seat in the center aisle of the House chamber–with your best friend from the other side of the country sitting beside you.

First we put the reptloids into immersion vats where they might become sedate. Then we turn on the virtual world where everything they want has come to pass and they can no-longer harm the real world.


Oculus Rift’s First User Kit Ships Early 2016

Posted on May 6th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

An un-named conglomerate of corporate drones came together to announce the upcoming release on the Oculus Rift Blog:

Since the earliest days of the Oculus Kickstarter, the Rift has been shaped by gamers, backers, developers, and enthusiasts around the world. Today, we’re incredibly excited to announce that the Oculus Rift will be shipping to consumers in Q1 2016, with pre-orders later this year.

Valve and HTC’s team-up VR headset is shipping out first, later this year. If developers use Valve’s OpenVR software instead of directly writing for the Rift we’ll be able to buy a headset from anyone whose hardware works with OpenVR rather than having to buy a specific headset from one manufacturer.


Almost Lost Big Bird

Posted on May 4th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Rob Crilly:

Big Bird, the giant yellow-feathered Sesame Street character, was offered a place on the doomed Challenger space shuttle mission but had to withdraw because his oversized costume would not fit in the craft.

The extraordinary revelation is contained in a new documentary I Am Big Bird, which tells the story of the Jim Henson creation and the man who has played him for 45 years, Caroll Spinney.


Skyrim Mods

Posted on April 28th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

In the past, for Skyrim and many other computer games, mods were almost universally grafted on by players who loved whatever game they’re working on so much that they were willing to work for free to see their vision through. Just by working on these mods the players who did so were turned into amateur developers, artists, sound designers, level designers, and game designers.

If the mod developer was interested, and had the opportunity, they could use their work as an amateur in a portfolio to use when applying for work as a professional game developer. Most of the people I know who get paid to make video games today got their start over a decade ago making mods for computer games. According to one of Valve’s founders, Gabe Newell, about half of Valve got their start making mods.

Last Thursday Valve and Bethesda added paid mod sales to the Steam Workshop storefront for Skyrim. Mods are any kind of additional items, maps, levels, art, or sounds added to a game. The modifications to Skyrim could range from a new sword or a new companion  character to a full, professional quality, series of missions that rival what the professionals who get paid for their work at Bethesda have added on to the game. In this new system it was still possible to distribute a mod for free if the mod developer chose to do so.

There were all kinds of problems with the technical and business implementation for the Skyrim mods being sold through the Steam Workshop. Some level of curation should have been implemented by Valve to monitor the system when people were copying work from other mods and putting it up for sale. The most egregious part of the whole thing was the cut the actual mod developer received, which at 25% of the price charged to the player was completely ludicrous. 

I’m writing in the past tense because Valve and Bethesda’s work to reward the people who had spent hours making additional content for Skyrim, a game that had been otherwise abandoned by its developer (Skyrim hasn’t been patched since 2013), when the paid mod sales were killed yesterday after positive feedback from mod developers and almost universally negative feedback from users who seemed to hate it for all of the wrong reasons.

While there were a few well reasoned arguments against paid mod sales, most of the player feedback on public forums consisted of a zero-tolerance policy on paying for anything outside of the original game and whatever horse armor the original developer wanted to sell.  

If the only way to distribute mods for Skyrim were for pay and through the Steam Workshop, then the argument against paid mods would make sense. In that scenario you would never have ridiculous licensing nightmares where the dragons are replaced with Thomas the Tank Engine or Macho Man Randy Savage. Instead, all we had was choice. We could have kept downloading most mods for free and paid for the ones we liked. Now the mod developers will continue to get nothing for their labor except pitiful amounts of donations in the few cases where they’re popular enough to receive any at all.


The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers

Posted on April 21st, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Dan Benjamin (of many fine podcasts at 5by5) and Merlin Mann (of Back to Work and Roderick on the Line) recently recorded a podcast about the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski.

The Big Lebowski is such a great movie in all of its nonsense, and as Dan and Merlin point out we all know a Dude but for some reason the person I’m most amused by in the movie is Walter Sobchak.

Walter is dead-set on rules (he threatens a man with a gun for breaking one during league bowling) and constantly living in the past (all of his talk of the war in Vietnam) but he’s also bizarrely focused on being politically correct at one point in the film (Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.) and at the same time is constantly bumbling and unapologetic in his every attempt to help the unmotivated Dude. Every attempt of Walter’s to help ends up resulting in failure and more pain for The Dude. What a great character. I know a Walter Sobchak, I bet you do as well.

This podcast goes over almost every minute of it and points out details that those of us who have only watched it three or so times may have missed.

You should read Dan and Merlin’s notes which contain links to the script, links to the movie if you haven’t seen it recently, links to get the show into your podcast dingus, and more. For something completely different maybe consider listening to Chipocrite’s 8-bit Lebowski.


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