Archive for category Game Business

Are Stretch Goals Right For Your Crowdfunding Campaign?

crowdfunding Indiegogo Kickstarter

You have all seen them. You may have backed a crowdfunding project because of them. But the question remains, are they good for your business? Kickstarter has finally written a blog post on the topic and it pretty much meshes with how I have always thought of them.

For a typical stretch goal a creator will promise to release their game in additional formats or add extra functions if certain funding goals are hit. But expanding a project’s scope can change the creative vision and put the whole project at risk. We’ve seen stretch goals leave some projects overwhelmed, over-budget, and behind schedule.

Many Kickstarter projects end up significantly overfunded, and creators often use those funds to improve the project’s end product. More funding might mean higher-quality materials and other improvements that thank backers with a better-made thing. For other creators overfunding means the project turns a profit. Both are great outcomes. Stretch goals, on the other hand, trade long-term risk for a short-term gain. Tread carefully.

This is pretty much how I have always looked at stretch goals. While they may seem like a good way to spend that extra money or attract additional backers, if you do not plan them out correctly, they can be a bad thing for your project. I would personally like to see that extra money just go toward general polish on the game rather than extra features that may or may not work out or that may or may not ever get completed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ouya Matching Funds A Great Deal For Developers

The Ouya $1 Million Free The Games Fund

With the news yesterday on Ouya’s plans to match the successful Kickstarter campaigns of potentially Ouya exclusive games, a lot of people, both press and developers alike, have wondered if this is a good deal for indie developers. After thinking about it and seeing some numbers, I think it is.

The first thing going for Indie developers is that there are roughly 58,000 Kickstarter backed consoles in circulation right now. That is not including the thousands sold both by Ouya directly and participating retailers. That means there are 10s of thousands of console owners hungry for quality games to reach the console. While asking those console owners to wait a year or more for your game might seem daunting, it is nothing new. It happens all the time on Kickstarter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Game Maker DRM Permanently Vandalizing Paying Users’ Games

Game Maker DRM ProblemOriginally Published on Game Politics.

Popular indie game making tool, Game Maker, has a bit of a DRM problem. Over the weekend, some users noticed that the tool was permanently vandalizing their sprites with images of a skull.

A recent update to Game Maker Studio has left many developers confused and frustrated after an anti-piracy system went haywire.

Those who use a legally obtained version of Studio have had game resources, such as sprites, overlayed with an image of a skull and crossbones. The resources are permanently edited, rendered useless.

In response to these complaints, YoYo Games has decided to remove this particular action from the many things its current DRM does when it detects a pirated copy of the software. However, the DRM and the many more ‘passive’ things it does will remain.

We’d LOVE to be able to remove the protection completely, but we know that vast numbers would simply copy it if it was that easy. There are many levels to the current protection system, and while many are visible like this, there are also many hidden so that we can always tell when a final game was created with a crack.

We expect an update to go out tomorrow to remove this protection, and will move away from the “destructive” protection like this, to more passive methods to help protect innocent users who through no fault of their own, somehow trigger it.

While YoYo states that it would love to remove DRM completely, it feels that because it is targeted by pirates so much, it cannot do so. It feels that it would not be able to retain the same level of sales without it. This is an unfortunate decision as many game developers, such as CD Projekt, have found that without DRM, it is still possible to make money.

For now, YoYo advises those who have this problem to uninstall the application and delete all the data and registry files and then reinstall.

The current solution is to uninstall, delete both %appdata%\GameMaker-Studio and %localappdata%\GameMaker-Studio, delete the GameMaker-Studio registry key, scan your machine in case its a virus, and then reinstall.

What this DRM will do to Game Maker’s reputation among indie developers is yet to be seen. Few if any people would willingly use software that would vandalize their game projects. Hopefully, those affected by this DRM will be able to properly recover their projects without losing much if any of their progress.

-via Techdirt

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Super Podcast Action Committee – Episode 28

Super Podcast Action CommitteeIn Episode 28 of the Super Podcast Action Committee hosts Andrew Eisen and E. Zachary Knight discuss the importance of voting, Microsoft’s bad Xbox 360 press event in Israel, and a dumb patent designed to count how many people are watching licensed content from a console (so they can charge more money, we assume). Download it now: SuperPAC Episode 28 (1 hour, 18 minutes) 69.6 MB.

As always, you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and use our RSS Feed to add the show to your favorite news reader. You can also find us onFacebook (where there’s an app that will let you listen to the show), and on Twitter @SuperPACPodcast. You can send us feedback on the show by dropping a note to superpacpodcast@gmail.com.

Credits: The Super Podcast Action Committee is hosted by E. Zachary Knight and Andrew Eisen, and produced by James Fudge. Music in the show includes “Albino” by Brian Boyko and “Barroom Ballet” by Kevin MacLeod. Both are in the public domain and free to use.

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Capcom Can No Longer Make New Tatsunoko Games

Tatsunoko vs CapcomOriginally Published on Game Politics.

Sad news for Capcom vs Tatsunoko fans. Capcom no longer holds the rights to publish games using the Tatsunoko properties. In response to a forum post about playing the game on the Wii U, Christian Svensson, Corporate Officer/Senior Vice-President, stated that Capcom won’t be making any more.

Our rights with Tatsunoko have lapsed fairly recently (so we’re no longer allowed to sell the title physically or digitally). Unless Japan were to strike a new deal, I’d say the chances of this happening are slim.

While this does mean that no new games will come from the series, you will still be able to play and buy existing copies. However, if you like buying games new, you will need to pick it up now, while supplies last.

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Super Podcast Action Committee – Episode 27

Super Podcast Action CommitteeIn Episode 27 of the Super Podcast Action Committee hosts Andrew Eisen and E. Zachary Knight talk about the 2012 presidential election – including some candidates you may not have heard of because the media has done its best to ignore them. They also talk about Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s past statements on video games, net neutrality and other important issues that impact internet users and gamers… It can’t hurt to listen to this show before you go and vote on Tuesday, November 6. Download it now: SuperPAC Episode 27 (1 hour, 16 minutes) 69.6 MB.

As always, you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and use our RSS Feed to add the show to your favorite news reader. You can also find us onFacebook (where there’s an app that will let you listen to the show), and on Twitter @SuperPACPodcast. You can send us feedback on the show by dropping a note to superpacpodcast@gmail.com.

Credits: The Super Podcast Action Committee is hosted by E. Zachary Knight and Andrew Eisen, and produced by James Fudge. Music in the show includes “Albino” by Brian Boyko and “Barroom Ballet” by Kevin MacLeod. Both are in the public domain and free to use.

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Adding Value While Correcting Player Behavior Through Positive Reinforcement

Originally Posted to Techdirt.

Hop onto most any online multiplayer forum or other chat site, and you will find horror story after horror story of foul mouthed, homophobic, misogynistic, racist rage quitters. Bad behavior has become almost synonymous with gaming online. Thankfully, many game developers are looking at ways to combat such behavior. While many companies have systems that punish bad behavior, some are looking in the opposite direction, of rewarding positive behavior.

League of Legends developer, Riot Games, has taken this latter approach. In a new system for fostering positive behavior, such as team work and friendliness, Riot has hired a group of experts to implement an honor system in its game.

Here’s the background: Six months ago, Riot established Team Player Behavior — affectionately called Team PB&J — a group of experts in psychology, neuroscience, and statistics (already, I am impressed). At the helm is Jeffrey Lin, better known as Dr. Lyte, Riot’s lead designer of social systems. As quoted in a recent article at Polygon:

We want to show other companies and other games that it is possible to tackle player behavior, and with certain systems and game design tools, we can shape players to be more positive.

Which brings us to the Honor system. Honor is a way for players to reward each other for good behavior. This is divvied up into four categories: Friendly, Helpful, Teamwork, and Honorable Opponent. At the end of a match, players can hand out points to those they deem worthy. These points are reflected on players’ profiles, but do not result in any in-game bonuses or rewards (though this may change in the future). All Honor does is show that you played nicely.

So how is this honor system working out for League of Legend players? After all, this is what it is all about. Improving the lives of gamers. Well, The Mary Sue provides a few LoL players who were willing to share their stories. For instance, there is this player’s experience.

When Honor went live, there was an immediate difference in tone. I had allchat [cross-team chat] disabled in the game because I was tired of hearing incredibly sexist, racist, and homophobic comments being tossed both ways, and if I was playing with randoms, I would often mute them as well. After Honor went up, EVERYONE became nicer – I went from seeing problematic behaviour in almost every game to seeing it something like twice over the span of 20 games (and even then, it got shut down pretty quickly). I’ve turned allchat back on, and I love the dynamic both in game and after game. People compliment each other’s play-style, and on top of giving people on the other team credit for being honorable opponents, you can also give your own team points for being friendly, helpful, and being team-oriented. It’s nice to be able to give the good ones credit for what they do, and it’s also nice to be able to see such a drastic shift in mentality, even if it is sort of constructed.

While this change in some players’ experiences is great, not every negative player will change. There are some people who are fully entrenched in being jerks online. There is no curing such people. Of course, this was expected. For one of the experts, Dr. Lyte, this is not about changing negative players to positive players but about helping neutral players shift toward the positive end of the spectrum.

“The average player in the game is not toxic or positive, they’re neutral,” Lin says. Because the Honor system allows players to praise other players for their actions “we’re able to nudge them a little toward the positive.”

I am glad to see that more developers are looking at this as a way of improving player experiences in game. Other developers, such as Blizzard, are more focused on punishing and banning unsavory behavior. What that seems to do mostly is cause people to complain loudly when they are banned. Often these players will make claims that they were banned unfairly or for no reason. Whether true or not, these accusations can then make others a little more wary of taking up the game in the future.

Now, the idea of rewarding positive behavior is far from a new concept. We not so long ago highlighted an experimental program from Valve that attempted something similar. We have highlighted numerous other stories of creators who took the time to encourage positive behavior in their potential customers (you know, by convincing them to buy).

More importantly, this kind of reward system could have a far more important impact on LoL. It could be a great way to keep gamers in the game. It is this large number of players on at all hours that adds value to the game for the individual players. Because of its multiplayer nature, people would not want to play if few people were on and those that were are jerks. So by ensuring that more positive players stay on for longer, the experience will be greatly improved. This positive atmosphere and high value could also have the added benefit of convincing more players to buy in.

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Making Sure Players Get The Best Experience Is More Important Than Worrying About How They Got The Game

Originally Posted on Techdirt.

Recently, Extra Credits did a great episode on game demos and why no one makes them any more. The reason came down to the fact that it was really tough to make a game demo that really allowed a game to shine — you were more likely to make a great game look terrible. In this episode, they talked about the need some people have to try out a game before they buy it and that free to play games were one way to accommodate that need. I would also add to this that piracy is another way some gamers try a game before they buy.

Just as it is important that people who play a demo get a good experience that leaves them wanting more, the same should be said of the full game itself. If your game sucks, people will stop playing it, word will spread and fewer people will buy it. This word of mouth also comes from those who pirate the game. Although they never paid the developer money, these players are still willing to speak their mind when it comes to the games that really make an impression on them. So it is still important to make a great game.

It was this last scenario, of people pirating a game and then talking about its bugs, that led one developer to take to the Pirate Bay to let those players know that a patch was coming. Jonatan Soderstrom is one of the developers behind a recently released game, Hotline Miami. After the game showed up on the Pirate Bay, people started complaining about bugs they ran into.

However, a few people had a couple of problems getting the game to run.

“Whenever I try starting the game I get [an] error,” user randir12 explained. “Error defining an external function.”

“Sometimes the game works if I click ignore, but there’s no sound.”

Instead of letting these players get help from other Pirate Bay users, Jonatan, as user cactus69, showed up himself with advice and news of a coming patch.

Hey there! I’m Jonatan Soderstrom, me and my friend Dennis Wedin made this game.

We’re working on an update that hopefully will take care of any/all bugs, and we’ll try to do some extra polish in the next few days. Would be great if you could update the torrent when the patch is out! It’d be great if people get to play it without any bugs popping up. Hope everyone will enjoy the game!

For the ‘Error defining an external function’ problem, try restarting your system and play again, it can pop up when your computer has been running for a while. We’ll try to figure out if there’s more to it than that.

While such direct contact between pirates and a game’s developer is not entirely new (we have seen something like this before) it is still not the norm, and a great way to make an impression on the fans of the game. Soderstrom was able to put out a potential fire that could have led to some people to never picking the game up. In fact, this was his thought process on taking that effort. In a pair of tweets, Jonatan explained that he both understood why people might pirate, but also that it was important that they have a good experience.

I don’t really want people to pirate Hotline Miami, but I understand if they do. I’ve been broke the last couple of months. It sucks.

And I definitely want people to experience the game the way it’s meant to be experienced. No matter how they got a hold of it.

That great experience is one of the most important things any creator should work toward. It doesn’t matter how much time and money you put into a game, movie, album or book. If the output does not meet the expectation of those who experience it, they will tell others. That will lead to even more people avoiding it. However, as you work toward making the best possible experience and you are completely open about faults, then people will respect you more, and often look past any flaws to support you.

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How Being Very Transparent May Have Saved A ‘Failed’ Kickstarter Project

Originally Published on Techdirt.

For a while now, we have been highlighting many stories about the successful crowdfunding of movies, music, books and games. This new source of funding for creative content has been an exciting time for indie artists and those wanting to break free of traditional funding models. However, this funding model is not without its risks, something that Kickstarter has recognized with a change in the way projects are presented.

So what exactly happens when a successfully funded project fails to meet its completion goals? Well, reader Marcus Wellby sent along a story about one successfully funded game project that has hit some major roadblocks to completion. Haunts: The Manse Macabre, although successfully funded, has run out of money and programmers and was in danger of never being completed.

Haunts sought $25,000 (£15,590) from Kickstarter but the project proved popular and meant the game’s developers got $28,739 (£17,895) to fund completion of the game. Prior to the funding appeal, Haunts creator Mob Rules Games had spent about $42,500 getting the basics of the title completed.

The end result was supposed to be a haunted house horror game in which players could take on the role of the house’s inhabitants or intruders investigating what lived within it.

Now Mob Rules Games boss Rick Dakan has revealed that the game’s development has prematurely halted.

“The principal cause for our dire condition is that there are no longer any programmers working on the game,” said Mr Dakan in a blogpost updating backers.

You can see Rick’s full explanation of the problems the game has had over at Kickstarter. With all the cash and programming problems, Rick felt so bad about letting down the backers that he was willing to refund, out of his own pocket, anyone who wanted their money back. While most companies will silently kill off projects that do not meet expectations, his forthcoming post about the state of affairs actually had a positive effect on the project’s future.

The next day, Rick posted the following update.

I’ve had a lot of interested emails from programmers offering their help. Thank you all very much! There’s a lot to sift through and I’m not sure what the best way to proceed will be, but I am very encouraged by these offers and want to try and figure out the best way to take advantage of this opportunity. I’ve reached out to a good friend of mine who’s an expert in collaborative open source development, and he and I will talk soon. I also want to discuss this exciting development with Blue Mammoth and get their take on it.

By being open about the problems he was having completing the game, the community came in to offer their help. Granted, this is a unique circumstance, but having such a dedicated fan base is wonderful. Had he let the game fester with no updates for longer than he had, he might have been met with more hostility than encouragement. That would have made it far more difficult to find any kind of solution.

Finally, in the most recent update, Rick announced that after considering the situation and the best way to move forward, he will be open sourcing the game with over thirty programmers offering their help to complete it.

We’re going to finish developing Haunts: The Manse Macabre as an Open Source project. The source code has been open from the beginning, but now we’re going to fully embrace open development model and making the game entirely open source. We’ve had about thirty programmers from a variety of backgrounds, including many proficient in Go, who have stepped forward and offered to help finish the game. We’re still in the process of setting up the infrastructure for issue tracking, source control, documentation wikis, and other tools necessary before we can begin in earnest, but we hope to have that all up and running within the next week or two.

While this story is far from over, it is a great lesson in the risks of any project whether crowdfunded or not. Projects can fail, they can have problems, they can be shuttered. The key takeaways from this story, however, are (1) being transparent (rather than hiding) with supporters can do wonders and (2) being flexible and willing to change course can help. Rick notes that there’s been plenty of press coverage about the supposed “failure,” but much less about what happened after…

We’ve gotten a lot of press coverage, most of it in the general vein of, “Look, see, Kickstarter projects can go bad, so be careful!” I think that’s a fair and useful point to make. But we’re committed to being the follow-up story. You know, the underdog who comes back from the brink of collapse and proves a resounding success!

Yes, this is a story that highlights the risk in any kind of crowdfunding endeavor. Backers may be out the money they put in with nothing to show for it. However, if those who run these projects will be open and honest through the whole process, stumbles and falls included, even if the project never comes to fruition, then the potential that such a failure will damage their reputation and future projects can be mitigated. And heck, maybe you will be struck with a miracle and your project will come back to life.

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Windows 8′s Arbitrary App Certification Rules Could Block Skyrim And Other Huge Games

Originally Published on Techdirt.

We have already mentioned that some game developers were having a hard time accepting Windows 8 as a viable gaming platform. The primary concern is with Microsoft’s insistence on walling off its Metro UI and accompanying Windows Store. When a distribution system is walled off, new restrictions come along that limit the type of content that can be made available. As application and game developers learn more about the restrictions Microsoft plans to implement, their concern is growing.

Take for instance the recent discovery that Microsoft plans to limit the games made available through its Windows Store and Metro UI. In a broader piece on what a closed Windows 8 platform means for developers, Casey Muratori highlights one of the strict and ultimately contradictory restrictions on game content. Using the 2011 Game of the Year, Skyrim, as a hypothetical Windows 8 candidate, Casey asks the question, would it be allowed on the Windows store and Metro UI.

Because no software can ship on this future platform without it going through the Windows Store, the team that built Skyrim would have to send it to Microsoft for certification. Then Microsoft would tell them if they could ship it.

Do you know what Microsoft’s answer would be?

I do. It would be “no”.

This is not speculative; it is certain. Skyrim is a game for adults. It has a PEGI rating of 18. If you read the Windows 8 app certification requirements you will find, in section 5.1:

“Your app must not contain adult content, and metadata must be appropriate for everyone. Apps with a rating over PEGI 16, ESRB MATURE, or that contain content that would warrant such a rating, are not allowed.”

And that’s the end of it. No Skyrim for the Windows Store, unless of course the developers go back and remove all the PEGI 18-rated content.

Unfortunately, Casey does not highlight the contradictory nature of this arbitrary rule — what if a game has both an M rating by the ESRB and an 18 rating by PEGI, as Skyrim does. What will Microsoft do? Will it block the game entirely, region-restrict it to only ESRB regions or make an exception to its own rule and allow it for all the world? These are the kinds of questions that frustrate developers. Apple has had its fair share of arbitrary enforcement of content restrictions and you would think that Microsoft would at least attempt to learn from that example.

To further highlight the problem with this restriction, Casey lists four games that are in competition to be 2012′s Game of the Year. Of those four games, none would be allowed on Windows 8 for the same reason, they got an ESRB M rating and a PEGI 18 rating. Microsoft has set itself up to exclude some of the best selling games of the future. Hardly a way to attract the support of developers.

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