Post Mortem

This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but a whimper. – T. S. Eliot

Well, this is it. The game isn’t bringing in enough money on a month-to-month basis to pay my bills. I’m also tens of thousands dollars in debt and I’ve burned through most of my savings. The game never came close to generating enough revenue to pay back my investment costs – despite my investment costs being super cheap: approximately $20,000/year to survive while I created the software. Sales peaked within the first two months of release, and have been declining ever since with occasional jumps due to a sale. November 2010 (the most recent month that I have numbers for) was the worst sales month on record – bringing in a scant $370 for the entire month. (Multiply that by 12 and it works out to only $4,400/year.) I don’t have any faith that I can or will ever recoup that development cost, and it’s better to cut myself loose rather than let myself be dragged down trying to beat a dead horse.

While I’m not happy about it, it’s a good thing to surrender to the inevitable. The past year has been tough. I intermittently suffered from too much stress, anxiety, and occasional depression caused by my financial problems. Because of this, on a few occasions, it was difficult to get anything done. Other times, I would defiantly work seven days a week.

What to say about Empires of Steel? Sales didn’t go nearly as well as we were hoping. The game took five and a half years of full time work by one person. It’s extremely rare to have a game created by a single person anymore. Assuming I worked 40 hours a week (I probably worked more than this, but I don’t track my hours), this adds up to 11,000 hours of work. When I had first talked to Battlefront, they had suggested that we might have revenue around $100,000. This would’ve averaged to around $9/hour, not very good from an hourly-pay standpoint. This is a bargain rate for a software programmer, and cheap for almost any work, considering that minimum wage is $7.25. But, it would be (just barely) enough to live on. After a year of sales, I haven’t earned close to that amount. I’ll post the actual numbers later, but I think it’s already obvious that I’ve earned less than half of minimum wage for my last 5+ years of work. Maybe I’m a cautionary tale for the game business.

I have to admit that it’s also been difficult seeing games like Minecraft, Angry Birds, and Plants vs Zombies catapult to fame and fortune while I crashed and burned. Like I’ve said before: it’s very feast or famine in the indie game business. Even the businesses that are big successes this year might be bankrupt five years from now — as illustrated by Introversion Software, who were the media’s favorite indie developer back in 2005 and 2006, only to lay off most of their employees and nearly go bankrupt in 2010.

Post Mortem

Thoughts on what went right and what went wrong with the game

* Part of me wonders if the game business isn’t conducive to being a lone developer. Certainly, single-developer games are extremely rare anymore. Back in the early 1980s, it wasn’t at all uncommon for single developers to make games. But multiple developers can accomplish more, and that raises the bar of what’s expected from games. In most cases I think the profit-work curve favors groups of developers over single developers. In other words, for many game genres, it’s difficult for one developer to put in enough man hours to move out of the “insufficient work” section and onto the top of the curve.

Obviously, this isn’t always true – since there have been some successful single-developer projects (Minecraft, or games on smart phones) – but it’s a matter of being able to successfully compete in the genre and accomplish what a game is supposed to do in that genre. One-developer games have to tackle small-projects that can be adequately reached without a ton of man-hours. These small games have to leave me thinking, “I’m not sure what else I could add to the game to really make it a much better game”, showing that they have largely fulfilled their niche. They also tend to have some innovative, creative gameplay that makes them quite a bit different from other games, resulting in less direct competition. In contrast, nation-building games, role-playing games, and first-person shooters have a problem in that there’s always something that can be added to the game – usually, this means better graphics or more game depth. In those cases, they favor large teams because a lot of work is needed to add those features, and any developer not adding those features get unfavorably compared to those larger projects.

In general, you can think of the game industry as a kind of ecology. The indie game developers are the mice and we can’t compete with the lions. But, that’s okay if we find our own ecological niche. Mice go after crumbs. Lions take down gazelle. We co-exist because we’re not going after the same food.

I guess the lesson is: know how much work it’s going to take to adequately compete in a genre. There are some genres that are simply off-limits, and I sometimes see small-time amateur developers talk about some work they’re doing in this or that genre and I just can’t help but realize that there’s no way they can possibly compete in that field. (Case in point: a week ago, I heard some developer talking about a hobby project he had to develop an ambitious massively-multiplayer game.) It should also be taken into account that we (especially amateur game developers) have inflated opinions of our own capabilities.

* I think the game was released a little early and was priced too high. The original plan was to release the game for $25. Somehow, the price kept edging up. Sometime later, we were talking about a $35 price. Sometimes later, my publisher was suggesting a $45 price. I thought it should be priced lower, but was a little flattered that it could be priced at $45. Even though I still thought $35 was a better price, I decided to go with my publishers accumulated experience and accept a $45 price tag because I figured, based on their experience in the game industry, they must know pricing better than me. Besides, he argued, we could always lower the price later if that’s what we wanted to do, but we can’t raise it after the fact. I now disagree with this view because it’s important to get things right at release, while we still have a lot of media attention.

The higher price and early release of the game caused a number of not-great reviews. Most of them were mixed between good and bad, giving a middling or slightly positive review of the game. In some ways, I think the game was ready for release, but I also knew I’d be improving the game significantly over the coming months. At the same time, I didn’t want to say, “Hey, I’m still adding to the game – it’s still a work in progress” because I was afraid people would read that as “it’s not ready, don’t buy it” which would muddy the release sales. Most of the reviews you’ll find on the internet are from early versions of the game, now more than a year old. I feel like those reviews have dogged sales of the game, putting off people who considered buying it. I also don’t think those reviews do justice to the game anymore. Not only are they out-dated, harping on problems that have been long fixed, but they are also harping on the original $45 price, which is more than twice the current price. I was well aware that this could be a problem – I remember the example of “Masters of Orion 3”, which was barely playable at release. I heard that it improved in the coming months, but by that time, they had lost all the momentum provided by the release buzz. Heck, I bought Masters of Orion 3, and I haven’t even gotten the patches to see if the game has improved since release.

I think part of the problem here revolves around the long-memory of the internet and the fact that the game industry revolves around “game releases” – as if the game is complete at released, and never a work in progress. Hence, a game can be judged by it’s reviews at release. This is true for most games. Only the online roleplaying games really buck this trend. I think the way to truly shed the bad reviews that put-off the potential buyers is to release a whole new version.

Even worse, when I was filling out the application for Steam, they wanted links to reviews of the game. Steam includes a “metacritic” score alongside ever game they sell. As a buyer, I find this helpful for figuring out the quality of a game. At this point, most of those reviews I’d be passing to Steam will be old, outdated reviews which will be distilled down to a single metacritic score. There’s no space for some “wait, wait! Don’t take the metacritic score too seriously!” disclaimer on the Steam webpage. Again, the year-old reviews will be dogging the game.

Lesson: Come into the game’s release with some force. If the game isn’t hitting home runs and getting As with both game quality and price, you’ll will miss a critical window when the media is paying attention, and your bad or middling reviews will dog you.

* There’s a variety of things done right and wrong in the design of the game. I probably could’ve made the game more flashy, with better explosions and combat animations to draw in new gamers, and give it more visceral appeal. I think the AI should’ve definitely been better at release. I fixed a lot of problems with the AI after release, but there’s still reviews (done weeks after the game was released) knocking it for having an AI that’s too passive. I think the customizability of the game, with maps, scenarios, and rules along with the sharing system was good. I think the combat system should’ve been more straightforward.

* I’d like to find ways to avoid the complicated code. The pathfinding system was complicated and suffered from occasional glitches (this eats up code-fixing time and decreases the user experience). The combat system was surprisingly complicated because it handled a lot of different cases. The AI (artificial intelligence) was tremendously complicated. I rewrote the AI, the pathfinding system, and combat system multiple times to solve problems I was having with it. The AI also takes up large portions of the source code. I would’ve done better with the AI if I had some previous experience writing AI (this was actually my first project involving any AI). So, there’s a variety of potential lessons here (take your pick): (A) you should have some previous experience writing AI or allow yourself lots of extra time to learn how to do it, (B) try to stick to game rules that can be easily programmed with an AI – for example, it’s easy to write a very good AI to play something simple like tic-tac-toe. Also, the AI in old nintendo games – e.g. Super Mario Bros or Zelda – was very simple, the same is true of smartphone games, (C) avoid writing games with AI (stick with human-vs-human games or games with no intelligent enemies – like sudoku or tetris). Of course, this can cramp the types of games you can create. Looking back, it seems rather audacious that my attitude was “I’ve never programmed an AI before, but I’ll figure out how to make a competent AI for this strategy game”. I don’t regret it. I’m just saying that it exists on somewhere between self-assured and foolhardy.

* As far as the really successful indie games, there’s a certain self-reinforcing momentum that gets built to make them financially successful. The vast majority of indie games never achieve this, but a few do. Here’s what I mean: a game is created. If it gets good reviews, more websites start mentioning it. Sales are good. It financially successful enough that more game-distributors pick it up. For example, Steam won’t pickup Empires of Steel, but they pickup a lot of other games. This blunts our sales while further expanding the sales of other indie games. The game is financially successful enough that it makes sense to port it to other platforms. For example Plants vs Zombies was successful on the PC, then it was ported to the iPhone where it sold 300,000 copies in a single day (at $3 each) – again, reinforcing their financial success. They get into the top 10 or top 50 iPhone apps, which gets them more visibility, increasing sales even further. It’s a situation where most people lose, but the winner’s success gets turned into a cycle of more and more success. Just the other day, I saw three different references to Minecraft – one in PC Gamer magazine, one in on Penny-Arcade, and another reference on some other website. It was all free advertizing, and it was spinning Minecraft into an unbelievable success. By my estimates, the creator of Minecraft has earned $1,000-$2,000 an hour for his work.

* I really wish the multiplayer system worked better without requiring people mess with their router. There were some ways to do this – provided that I setup a dedicated server. I didn’t have a dedicated server and it would’ve been expensive to pay for one. A dedicated server wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it probably would’ve helped. (Admittedly, I probably would’ve had more security problems. People are always trying to hack into internet servers, so they have to be built very carefully.) Internet routers (those are the modems used by players) are just a pain to deal with. They’re all different makes and models and manufacturers setting them up however they want. So, methods to get computers to talk to each other might work fine 90% of the time, but then the other 10% will have problems — problems you can’t adequately diagnose or fix because you don’t have the same hardware that they do.

Things I’d do differently:

– On one hand, I think it was really useful to get feedback from users to make the game better. On the other hand, the majority of game reviews were based on the game as it was initially launched. The question is: how do you get feedback from users to improve the game, while holding off the reviews until after the game has been improved? Perhaps a longer beta or a beta with more people. I suppose it would be possible to do a “beta” version that users could buy (thus, they could provide feedback while helping fund the development), and then reviews might be more circumspect about their opinion or hold-off until the game comes out of beta. Essentially, that’s what minecraft did – start selling copies of the game while it was still in open beta.

– More fine-grained information on sales. There were times when I wanted to know whether my action (e.g. posting forums or releasing a new video) had any effect on sales or downloads. I couldn’t get any of that information from my publisher. Sales were only given to me on a monthly basis, which made it next to impossible to figure out whether a particular action had any effect.

– I don’t know that I should attempt large nation-building games. Perhaps they’re just off-limits to small developers at this point, unless the game can be simplified and well-defined while still being small and fun. If I make any games in the future, part of me thinks I should stick to smartphone games or something, because there’s no massive teams of programmers to compete against.

– The growing number of defiant pirates on the internet makes me think that I should avoid creating client-applications in general. This makes me concerned about where things will be in, say, five years. On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of conflicting information about the decline of the PC market. While it’s clear that the console game market is growing much faster than the PC game market, I’m not sure if the PC market is shrinking. Part of the reason it’s so hard to get data is because of the shifts in the PC market. Sales of PC games in stores have been hitting a steep decline for five to ten years, but online sales are going up. Even better, game developers get about twice as much money from the sale of one digital download than from a game sold in stores because stores take such a large cut. There’s also been a shift towards in-game purchases and subscription services (like World of Warcraft), which are difficult to track but they’re still part of the PC game-market revenue. I don’t know what my conclusion is about this, but it might be safer to lean towards games that use more server code. Either that, or move towards consoles (which are harder to pirate) or smart phones (which generally have such cheap apps that most people don’t bother with piracy). Whatever the case, I feel like I should be ready to abandon ship with the PC market or find stronger ways to deal with pirates. (I don’t blame EOS’ poor sales in piracy, by the way. I’m just saying that it’s potentially an issue going into the future.)

What Next:

– I’m going to continue running the game server so players can play multiplayer games and upload/download maps, scenarios, and rules. I’ll also be putting out some occasional updates, but they’ll be less frequent and will focus more on bug fixes rather than improvements.

– Will I make more games? I’ve always enjoyed making games, but the revenue numbers seem to indicate that this is pretty much just a very expensive, time-consuming hobby. If I do take another swing at games, I’ll take a very different approach. I’ll do smaller games where I risk a lot less time and money. Maybe games for smart-phones or something. Either that, or find some compelling game ideas for the PC that can be done in less than a year. Angry Birds was done in less than a year (although it was more than one developer). Minecraft spent 1.5 years in development (one developer). Plants vs Zombies was two years (I think) using three people plus one musician. But, matching the success of those games is unlikely, so maybe I shouldn’t bother with the game industry anymore.

– Shortly before Empires of Steel was released, I had started thinking about what I was going to work on next. I had hoped to do a space game, and had gathered lots and lots of concept art. (If you want to see some of the concept artwork I’ve been looking at, visit and Based on my financial state and the fact that space-games are largely taken-over by the big companies, I’m doubtful that I can compete in this field. So, it’s rather unlikely I’ll ever create this game. Come to think of it, this should be under “what I thought might be next, but it won’t happen” category rather than the “what’s next” category.

Some of my concepts for the game involved some new types of warfare: genetically-engineered biological warfare, more interesting planetary warfare and invasions; political propaganda and culture – which would allow players to mold their population in various directions that have various positive and negative aspects. For example, turning your empire into a fascist, xenophobic, nationalist structure might make your population more industrious and willing to go to war, but also inspire more planetary revolts, spies willing to work for your enemies, and reduce technological breakthroughs and creativity (example: Hitler helped shut-down nuclear research, labelling it “jew science”; although, at the same time, the Germans made good tanks, the first assault rifle, and the first jet aircraft). Because he believed in his own superior “strategic intuition”, he forced his generals to make mistakes against their better judgment. Other gameplay aspects might involve revolutionaries (misguided or enlightened) from your own population working against your empire. Maybe your enemies (alien races) are helping to arm and support them in various ways. There might be ways to discredit them or hunt down these revolutionaries and reformers. If you are caught in too many lies or manipulations, then your population trusts you less, which causes various problems in trying to rule them.

Admittedly, part of the reason I wanted to focus on the politics is because I want people to understand the types of manipulations that governments and corporations can use on the common people to manipulate them for their own ends. I think those are enlightening concepts that are applicable to the real-world, but I don’t know yet if it would make for good gameplay. I wanted to add artificially-intelligent advisers that could help guide new players in their decisions. I also wanted an interesting technology system which changes each time you play, and different empires would have different options. For example, the idea of nuclear-weapons wasn’t an option until Einstein formulated a theory of mass-energy equivalence. In gameplay terms, maybe certain technologies would not be an option unless some scientist happened to formulate a theory about it. And, maybe empires pursue dead-end technologies and bad theories (for example: Lysenkoism). I also wanted to portray a universe that was vast, empty, and beautiful. I don’t think most space games do a good job of portraying that. With any luck, I could find a way to add some science and education in there, but again, I’m not sure if I can do that while providing compelling gameplay.

Angry Birds, Crush the Castle, and Inspiration

When I first saw Angry Birds, my first thought was that it copied (or more diplomatically, “was inspired by”) another game I had played called Crush the Castle. I looked up some details, and discovered that Angry Birds was released on December 10, 2009 while Crush the Castle was available in early 2009, at the exact time Angry Birds started their development. I will say this: Angry Birds added a lot more personality to the game. I thought it was interesting that Angry Birds kept the monarchy/military theme for the enemies, with pigs dressed in crowns and helmets. Angry Birds also uses a slingshot rather than a trebuchet.

A comparison:

And here Crush The Castle (jump ahead to 30 seconds):

Link: Crush the Castle

Also, as a side note, the game “Osmos” which is included in the Humble Indie Bundle is also reminiscent of a flash game I played years ago as well. I couldn’t find the old flash game, but it involved controlling a fish to eat smaller fish while avoiding larger ones. Each time you ate a smaller fish, you’d become slightly larger. It was the same basic gameplay as Osmos, though Osmos seems to have added a few more features.

Used Games and Rights

A new article says that a US court has ruled that software publishers can prevent reselling software (i.e. used software). The ruling (if upheard) could allow publishers to kill the used games business. The whole “used games” and “used software” sales market has been opposed by a few companies. Some companies see used sales as undermining new sales, and while I don’t agree with their attempts to eliminate used-sales, I can understand why they would be irritated by the fact that GameStop makes a lot of money from used-game sales. Nearly half of GameStop’s profit comes from used-game sales. Because of their markups, GameStop earns 85% more money on the sale of a used game than a new one. At the same time, the publisher gets paid when a new game is sold, but not a used one.

Autodesk* has also tried for years to shut-down used sales of its software – including blocking eBay sales. The typical method for doing this in the software world is to give users a “licence”. When software is counted as a “licence” rather than a “sale”, it opens up more options for publishers to restrict what a user can do with that software. For example, they can sell the user a non-transferable licence (i.e. no software resales). On the other hand, if software is “sold”, then it falls into the legal structure of the “first sale doctrine” which means users can do things like resell their software. The first sale doctrine was originally setup a hundred years ago, and applied to things like books. Book publishers tried to shut-down used bookstores (for fear that used book sales were undermining new book sales), but courts handed down the “first sale doctrine” that said people can resell them. The main way that software “licences” are being challenged is by arguing that publishers are using “licence” as a legal ploy to restrict what users can do, when, in fact, it’s really a “sale” masquerading under the “licence” term.

I think there’s a certain logic to preventing used-game sales, I just don’t think it’s strong enough logic to convince me that users should not be allowed to resell their software or buy used software. I also think the act of shutting down used-sales creates a degree of dissatisfaction among users, and creates the idea that companies have too much control in their lives what they can do with their software. This unhappiness among users has to be weighed against the monetary benefit of eliminating used sales. While eliminating used sales might increase revenue in the short term, it might create longer-lasting resentment, as well. As we all know, CEOs of companies can be ridiculously short-sighted – either because everything is measured and rewarded on a short-term basis, or because they lack foresight. Based on that, I have very little faith in business leaders making the right long-term choice.

On a more positive note, it’s rumored that Steam will begin allowing users to sell their games back to Steam (at a reduced price, of course). Presumably, their logic is that players who can sell back bad games will be more willing to buy new ones (i.e. there is less risk involved since they can get back some of their money if they don’t like the game). Even if it doesn’t immediately result in more sales, it makes their customers happier which keeps them coming back. Funny how companies seem to be moving in opposite directions. Also, I don’t really expect used-game/software sales to disappear anytime soon. GameStop is bringing in $1 billion per year from used-game sales, so they’ll spend millions to block any disruption of the used-games market.

* Footnote: I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of Autodesk. They have a tendency to buy up their competitors (e.g. Maya and SoftImage), in an apparent attempt to prevent meaningful competition in the 3D Modeling world. This allows them to charge higher prices.

Random Game Ideas: AI Personalities and Technology

I’ve been kicking around two ideas on the game lately.

The first one is that I’d like to create some better defined personalities for AI players. Maybe some AI personalities would be easy AI players, while others would be expert AIs. For example, maybe one AI player could be bold and swift. He tends to leave fewer defenders around when he goes for an invasion, choosing to rely on “the best defense is a good offense”. Maybe he feigns attacks, and then attacks elsewhere. A different AI personality would be more cautious and chooses to attack when he’s got his own territory well protected and he’s very likely to succeed in an invasion. The idea is that each the AIs personalities would have more defined styles of play.

At first, I thought maybe there would be some “best” AI personality. And why not use the best one all the time? For one thing, that’s not very exciting because it lacks variety. If there’s one excellent AI and two good AIs, it might be good to add all three of them to the game. Even the uncertainty over which type of AI you’re playing against could put the human player at a disadvantage because he doesn’t know exactly which strategy to use against them, and can’t anticipate what types of moves the AI will use. From that perspective, not only would a handful of AI personalities be more interesting, but the mixture might make it more difficult for human players to win the game, as well.

Players who are setting up scenarios could even set different nations to use particular personalities – to mimic the historical situation. (Example: I want the leader of this nation to be cautious. I want the leader of that nation to be daring, quick, and unpredictable.)

The second idea I’ve been kicking around lately is an idea about redesigning the technology system. (I’ve actually been kicking around this idea for a long time, I’ve just never implemented it.) Right now, players upgrade along a predictable path from unit A to unit B. But, what if there were a whole bunch of technologies with levels. For example, what if there was an “armor” technology and an “engine” technology and a “cannon” technology? Players could decide to create a new type of tank. They’d spend some time and money on a new tank design, and they’d be allowed to specify what types of attributes they wanted it to have. For example, they want a heavy tank with good firepower. Or maybe they want a light, fast tank that is cheap to build. They’d then spend some money, and based on their nation’s technology sophistication and some randomness, they’d have a new tank design a few turns later. The tank design might vary in quality and price. Maybe it performs badly in certain types of terrain. Maybe it’s a very good tank for the level of technology that player has. The player could then decide to build it. The key thing here is that tank designs would vary in terms of their attributes. Players would have to decide whether or not the design should be used or scrapped.

Because other players are doing the same thing, each nation has units of different quality and attributes. Players have take that into account when going to war against other nations. It would also mean that players have to adapt their strategies to the current game. They might’ve had good tanks in the last game they played, but poor tanks in this game. Or, they might’ve had good tanks 50 turns ago, but technology in the game has progressed, and they haven’t funded their tank technology enough to keep up with the latest designs.

I could see this system being used with all the different units in the game: infantry weapons, tanks, aircraft, etc. Maybe the player could get a chance to research some anti-armor weapons and they’d come up with something like an RPG. Maybe the player needs to field test some designs to see how well they work in actual combat. I could imagine some of the attributes being things like: attack/defense numbers, movement rate, movement rate on different terrains, movement range (for aircraft and missiles), production and resource cost, maintenance costs, etc.

It might also be interesting to vary the costs and research time of technologies each time the game is played. Players would have estimates of the time and cost of researching a new technology, but it’s not exact. Some technologies in the real-world seem like they’re not far off, but they never seem to arrive. (Example: Fusion power.)

It would be nice to add tactics into the system as well. For example, some technologies are good for a while, but your opponent learns some new tactics and reduce its valuableness. Or maybe some of your technologies are given a boost because you learn tactics that improve its usefulness. Tactics are something that would be improved and refined through combat experience. Maybe if the player has military academies, they learn new tactics more quickly. The longer a war drags on, the more time the enemy has to learn tactics that mitigate your technologies.

Hard Drive Blues

Blue screen of boredom

I had more hard drive problems this week. This time, I was having problems with files getting corrupted. I ended up spending all day yesterday reinstalling windows and my applications on a new hard drive. It takes forever to get things up and running again, mostly because of slow installs and slow updates. So, I got zero “actual work” done. At least I’m being a little smarter about things now: I’m redesigning my backup system, and I cloned my hard drive after reinstalling everything. Now that I have a clone, it will only take me about 30 minutes to get everything up and running again on a new hard drive.

Google Adwords

A few weeks ago, Google sent me a coupon for $100 in free adwords advertising. Adwords is their text-ad service. When you search for a term using google, some text-based ads appear in the right panel or on the top of the search list with the words “Sponsored Links”. I was curious about it, and thought I’d give it a try. I bought ads on the searchwords “Empire” and “Wargame”. Surprisingly, my click-though rate (i.e. the percentage of people who saw the ad who actually clicked the link) was better with “Wargame” than “Empire”.

I don’t have very good sales-tracking data. My publisher gives me monthly totals, but nothing more fine-grained that that. This can make it very difficult to track any effects from any marketing that I do. However, I did set something up so that I would be notified if someone updated their game from the purchased version. This isn’t a great method for measuring sales – since it can give false positives and false negatives, but it’s better than nothing.

Google charged me around 30 cents per click. I got about 30-50 clicks per day, and spent their $100 plus another $30 over 8 days. In total, I saw 383 clicks – i.e. visits to the game’s website via Google Ads. As far as I can tell, I really didn’t see much effect in terms of sales – maybe one or two extra sales. That wasn’t enough to justify $130 in advertising (had I actually been paying for it). While it’s hard to tell for sure (since my sales data is shaky), I think Adwords would only make sense if it cost about 1/4th as much as I was paying.

Battlefront said they spent a lot of money on Google Adwords a while ago, and didn’t see much to justify their advertising costs. I also talked to a friend of mine who said he had tried Google Adwords. He said that a few years ago, when Adwords were first available, it was worth the cost because you could see results from your marketing dollars, but he didn’t think it was worth the cost anymore. At this point, I don’t see enough benefit from Adwords to justify spending the money.

It’s kind of disappointing because I’m increasingly having trouble finding ways to advertise the game that actually make sense fiscally.

Games As Art

One of the questions that seems to be coming up a lot in the past few years is the question “Are games art?” or “Can games be art?” I have to admit that it’s not really a question I’m all that interested in. I like games. I enjoy games. That’s enough for me. It seemed to me like the “games are art” people were looking to get more respect for games by getting them classified as “art”. On the other side were people looking down on games, and dismissing them as “not art”. It’s almost as if people are looking to gain respect or denigrate games based on whether or not they can successfully categorize them as “art”. My own feeling on this is that games can be art, and there are some existing games that could be classified as art, but, at the same time, it seems like we’re raising the status of some existing games to higher respect than they deserve by calling games “art”. I also hate the whole mind-game of saying X is in category Y, and objects in category Y should be treated with [ respect / disdain / insert whatever emotion you want ].

Nevertheless, here’s an interesting talk by Kellee Santiago, of thatgamecompany giving a pretty good TED talk:

( via PennyArcade )

Charging for Demos?

I just thought this was pretty ridiculous. It would’ve made a lot more sense if this story came out on April 1st:

Crytek co-founder Cevat Yerli tells Develop that you might be paying money just for the privilege of trying Crysis 2 before it comes out. Yerli calls free game demos an antiquated “luxury” that have become “prohibitively expensive” to produce. The result: many studios will either stop releasing them or try to charge for an early test of the game. EA has already brought this idea up as “pre-launch DLC,”

Yerli says his company hasn’t yet decided whether there will be a demo for Crysis 2 or not, though he thankfully admits that a paid demo should be “something more than a small demo released for free.” Takeaway is the same, regardless: because of the development cost of building a giveaway level or two before launch, Yerli says the days of free demos are numbered. (Source: Joystiq)