31 year old kiwi gamer currently living it up in Scotland as a Malariologist that probably buys more games than he actually plays i.e. an avid consumer. Gen is my SF main. Not sure if that says anything about me? No, probably not.
Dear God, i've wasted my life.
also, video games.
@TheToiletDuck is my twitter, do with it what you will.
I see a lot of complaints about entitlement, how gamers think they are owed something. Disgruntled gamers being told to ďdeal with itĒ when a game is shitty. But you know what? Gamers shouldnít have to ďdeal with itĒ the reason why gamers are entitled to quality is because they are no longer just consumers, they are co-developers / investors.
Gamers are getting shafted at every opportunity. As gaming gets more and more expensive a lot of game developers are looking into ways they can monetize aspects of the development that would normally go out for free. More and more developers are giving people the option to buy in to betas, and sometimes alphas. Itís become so common that Valve has introduced a whole subsection of their store dedicated to unfinished games.
The median wage for a games tester in the UK (according to payscales.com) is about £17,726.
The average wage paid by developers such as Mojang and Introversion Software (creators of Prison Archetict) to you for games testing is -£15. Note, thatís a negative. Youíre paying to do their dirty work. Almost every update to Minecraft lead to something else not working. Minecraft wouldnít have been nearly as big a success if it wasnít for the patience of the dedicated few that stuck by it during the beta. These testers were thanked by being given a $10 bill for this Ďprivilegeí. Prison Architect is a lot more transparent in its beta, they are telling you that the game has bugs and at times is flat out broken. But being told youíre going to be kicked in the nuts, before you get kicked in the nuts, doesnít take away the pain. Just because itís a job that is seemingly quite fun, does not mean itís a job you should be doing for free. These developers are taking advantage of gamers good will by charging them for their labour. Gamers are not deluded with a sense of grandeur. They are legitimately owed something.
Now donít get me wrong, not every developer are crooks and charge for beta or alpha testing. Grinding Gear Games, developers of the Action RPG Path of Exile recently touted the success of their open beta in stress testing the servers, they had 56,700 Ďplayersí working for them on one weekend to make their product better. To make it so more people will purchase their product and that the product was up to scratch when it was released.. 56,700 people that are advertising for them, but receive no monetary gain. No wonder gamers have a sense of connection to these games, itís the least they can get given that if they game is successful they donít see a dime (even though theyíve invested time and money into its development).
Fans of gaming are the best marketing a game could ever get. There's a reason why community managers exist. Developers are of course not unfeeling monsters and like to see their product get love but then to invest actual money into nurturing this with an employee position shows that there is a return on investment in the long run. Think about the last convention you went to and how many dude-Aeriths or Fat-Links you saw? When you saw them, did it make you then think of Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda? Probably. The fans are adding to the product mindshare. They are marketers.
Itís becoming increasingly more common that developers are taking input from the community. The recent success of the Skullsgirlís Indiegogo campaign is a good example. Instead of paying for market research, fans are choosing and paying for the best characters to include in the game. The gamers that invest are given these characters for free, but then these characters become an incentive for other gamers to buy the game. Itís perfect for the developers because itís a guaranteed hit, they are getting development costs, market research AND advertising all for the one buck. Kickstarter is far more explicit evidence for gamers as investors, but somehow itís now called a donation. Thatís a pretty insidious way to run your company.
I would hazard that many of you have been buying games for years, maybe even buying games in one series for years. You're probably loyal to the series, you purchase the games, the soundtracks, the stuffed toy faff. The least the company can do is give you the story/gameplay they've consistently produced in the past or teased for the last few games. But instead you get reboots, such as DmC, or considerable different games, e.g. Hitman Absolution. Sure a company can do what it wants, but you can understand how this might be a bit of a shock to someone that has been so loyal to a franchise and invested so much.
The fact of the matter is that game companies need us, we donít need them. Pre-order incentives such as the Bioshock Infinite deals are good evidence of how desperate they are for our business. At least Irrational Games had the grace to make a game without begging.
As consumers we make or break a company. You are supporting these companies so they can make more and more money in the future. Even when you take money out of the picture you have given the artists a chance to spread their work. A painting locked in a room where no one sees it is pointless.
We are receiving unfinished products and are contributing our time and money to finish them, and finish them well so that they appeal to a greater audience. People forget that game companies are businesses. They are out there to make money. Theyíve found a very good way to make money, by offsetting their costs and convincing people to be charitable to ĎThe Maní.
So stop telling gamers to Shut The Fuck Up when a terrible game comes out. Despite all the support they give they receive little respect in return, complaining is the only thing they can do.
Remember the old cliche that games will one day be like Pixar movies? Despite its simple appearance Thomas Was Alone is that game. Iím not talking about fancy graphics with individually rendered hair. I mean that Pixar can take an inanimate object like a small lamp and give it life. So it seems, can Mike Bithell (creator of Thomas Was Alone).
You play as Thomas, an extremely observant, cheerful but above all lonely AI. He might just be represented in game by coloured quadrilateral but Thomas (and the other characters) have fleshed out personalities. This is achieved through the addition of inspired narration by UK filmmaker/comedian/smartassdudeinAssassinsCreed Danny Wallace.
In fact, the personalities are so fleshed out and the narration so well acted you find yourself actually rooting for the little squares. You want them to succeed and genuinely feel sad when something goes wrong. It just goes to show that even the crudest shadow puppet show can capture your imagination if it is well written and acted. Donít get me wrong though, while the art design is simple the game is very attractive. For example the use of directional light is fantastic and helps guide you through certain sections or subtlety alerts you to your next task.
The goal of each level is to get each character to their corresponding shaped portals. All the AIís have their unique ability which are integral to beating the level in a puzzle like fashion. For example, some AIís have immunity to otherwise lethal environments but cannot jump very high so they may need a boost up a small step. Itís a system that melds very well with the narrative, you find yourself constantly working as a cohesive team to the point that when you see the players together you imagine them as a digital X-men despite them being crude shapes.
Mechanically this game is surprisingly sound. Platforming can go horribly wrong and getting Ďthe jumpí right is extremely important. Thankfully the controls are just right, you have great control of your character mid air and i rarely found myself missing platforms because of dodgy gravity.
Iím not going to lie, the game isnít particularly difficult. I never really got stumped on any of the puzzles but i rarely cared because my reward for finishing the level was an extra bit of story, which is nothing short of delightful. According to Steam i beat the game in 94 minutes, but the game is currently half price on Steam and i really felt like i got my moneys worth.
Itís hard to convey but when I finished the game I just felt nice. The same feeling youíd get after seeing Monsters Inc or The Muppet Movie. I used the word delightful earlier, and it really is the best word to describe this game. I wholeheartedly recommend taking a break from shooting stuff or stabbing arrows in peopleís faces and go enjoy a feel good adventure.
The game is also free on Vita next month for EU Playstation Plus members, so you really have no excuse.
Year Walk is the story of a man on a spirit journey in hope to see visions of the future. Except itís the 19th century, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, pitch black, snowing, he hasnít eaten or drank anything for days, he doesnít really know where he is going and the last person he saw before leaving told him not to go and said it wasnít natural. Oh, and there are creatures from Swedish folklore that are out for blood, quite literally out for your blood.
Year Walk is scary. Sure, it has jump-scares, which is fair to say are pretty cheap thrills, but there is real fear in this game that comes from knowledge of whatís out there. The game pairs with a free companion app that gives you a primer on the creatures of true Swedish folklore (written by a real professor of Ethnology). Itís this knowledge of what creatures are capable of, coupled with the stark emptiness portrayed through the gameís minimalist audio design, that makes it scary.
Year Walk is a puzzle game. You have a panoramic view of your surroundings and you can scroll left and right along the path until you reach points where you venture forward and backwards. Itís a simple control scheme that works quite well and itís quite easy to maintain a mental map of where you are so you never really get lost.
The puzzles are very well designed and quite often have you using ios gestures in ways you rarely do in other games. Think Sword and Sworcery, rather than Fruit Ninja. The puzzles are at that ideal level of difficulty where you find yourself clueless at first but not frustrated to the extent that youíre compelled to consult a gamefaq. You will need to write things down. I guess, to be frank, once you are familiar with the world the puzzles arenít that hard but I donít think the creators, Simogo, want them to be. You always want to be moving forward or else it breaks the tension which so adds to the experience.
I have a love/hate relationship with horror. I donít actually enjoy being scared and to be honest I scare easily. I do, however, enjoy the exhilaration that comes after being scared. This game definitely scratches that itch and at one point I had to switch on the light and take a little break. Even if youíre not the type to scare easily the story is written well enough to stand alone as a short piece of fiction and the ending has left a mark on me.
I highly recommend giving it a go, at the very least download the companion app and learn a little folklore. Youíll be surprised what people used to believe when they were starving, freezing and dying of disease.
SHORTBLOG ALERT I'm putting this here for posterity as it seems this information is not easily accessible and quite a few people ask about it in comments. The current (Season 4, 2012) opening theme of Podtoid is the theme to Metal Arms.
In case you hadn't realised, video game brick and mortar stores in the UK are dying. Ah, i hear your reply "oh but we're all dying since the day we're born" and while that is true i'd like to add and that i mean dying soon and that you're a miserable twat. In Edinburgh, Gamestation has more or less closed down, CHIPS has closed down, and a couple of other independent video game stores have long since bit the curb.
Realtalk. Okay it may not really be happening that soon but it seems eventual and this is a bad thing. People (some good friends) are going to lose their jobs; a significant customer chunk that support the industry are going to stop buying games (i.e. the non-enthusiasts); and the lack of competition in the marketplace is ultimately going to hurt us. I mean, would you rather buy all your games from EA's Origin at full RRP? No thank you. Physical retailers are a necessary evil and it's hard to argue that it's a good thing that they're closing down.
However, certain experiences recently make me think you know what?
It all started many weeks ago when i decided to get excited about a game i really should never have got excited about: SoulCalibur V. Even the great ProfPew called it and said that i wouldn't be playing it in a week. Goddammit he was right, i loved the older games but SCV for me was as fun as explaining to your parents why your socks snap when you fold them. Nae bother, i'll just trade it in. Used games, the last great bastion of the physical retailer.
I stroll into GAME and say "i'd like to trade this in please". The clerk tells me i'll get 30quid, which i think is pretty reasonable for a game i paid 36 for. He asks for an ID and I hand them my NZ drivers license. He then proceeds to explain to me that he is not sure if he can accept that as a valid ID and that he won't go through with the trade. I will need to get my passport. Ah bugger, alright i'm annoyed because a drivers license is a pretty valid ID but perhaps that's the law and i can hardly argue. I go back the next day to the St James GAME store, passport in hand and successfully make the trade. In fact, the clerk made an error and gave me 35 quid. Score! I decide to put 5 quid on a Mass Effect 3 preorder, i RARELY preorder but thought why not since it was free money anyway. What a happy ending.
As you probably have heard already GAME is not doing very well financially and EA refused to give them credit. The end result being that GAME has gone from being the exclusive sellers of the N7 edition to not getting the game at all. As a gesture of goodwill GAME offered customers an extra 5quid store credit. Brilliant, i'll just buy ME3 from Amazon and use my credit to buy Street Fighter x Tekken.
On Monday of this week (my 30th birthday i might add) it was reported that game will no longer be stocking SFxT. Ah bugger, that really threw a spanner in the works. But i devised a plan so cunning that Blackadder himself would go "crikey, that's mighty cunning of you". My plan was to use my credit to buy SSX (40quid) take it to HMV (a music/game store) and trade it in for 35quid store credit. I only lose 5 quid but as that was given to me by GAME for free i haven't really lost anything. Ace.
So i go into the St James store, and ask if they have SSX. No surprise they just sold the last copy an hour ago. I say, okay can i just get my credit back on my preorder and i'll try the other branch. The clerk tells me that i can transfer the preorder to Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City and unfortunately here's where i was inadvertedly a cunt. I replied "ah no that's a CAPCOM game too so i'd rather just cash in my chips and get off this sinking ship". I didn't realise that was a real dick thing to say until i saw their d'aww faces. These people are probably losing their jobs, i'm really sorry about that. Anyway she gives me my credit and my 5 quid extra and i wander off to the other store feeling like a jerk [Maybe they didn't really care and i'm imagining that part but i still felt like a jerk anyway..]
Success! The other store has SSX. Only, the previous clerk failed to tell me that the 5quid goodwill gesture takes 24 hours to process. I got off work early especially to sort all this shit out and now i'm going to have to repeat the whole process in 24 hours while taking the risk that the value of SSX at HMV will drop. Fuck it, i want done with this, i'll spend money to make money (or err to not lose money). I use 5 quid of my own money and get SSX. Done deal, sorry GAME but i'm not having my vouchers be null and void when you go into administration.
Last step is to go to HMV and trade this new copy of SSX into the store. Simple huh? Well, apparently the HMV staff member decided i was trying to game the system and refused to trade in new games. He told me, this is sealed and new we don't trade in new games. Wtf? I said i can open it right now and he replied that i would literally have to go home and play it and i can trade it in tomorrow but he will NOT accept the trade in today because it's new and i may be trying to make a profit. Profit!? i said, i can show you a receipt that says i just lost 5quid and i'm trading it in for a special edition of a game i'll be paying full RRP for. He will not take the trade in, i have to play the game. I'm gobsmacked.
Luckily he didn't call the other branch and i was able to open up the game on the way so i wouldn't have the same problem [speaking of which if anybody needs an online pass for SSX just say so in the comments]. The second branch took the trade in and i asked about pre-ordering the SFxT special edition. I thought i'd preorder to make sure they get allocated stock. He tells me that to preorder i have to register for an HMV pure card which costs 3quid but also that "We don't have the Special edition our system". You have got to be fucking kidding me. So now the final solution is cancel my Amazon preorder, buy SFxT from them and hope that there are still copies of ME3 at HMV available on Friday (which there will be).
What a kerfuffle. A simple trade in turned into, trading in, preordering, cancelling a preorder, buying a game, trading it in, thrice cancelling and reordering amazon orders and generally being treated by retail staff like Typhoid Mary. While online i may not be be able to trade stuff in i do receive texts informing me my order is placed, packaged and shipped to my door. I used to work in a game store, i know how shit works. To be fair the issues with GAMEs creditors is outside the staff's control but what i experienced yesterday was unacceptable customer service. I'm fine with unfortunate circumstances, but don't be either incompetent or outright rude when you explain the situation to me.
Alright, I'll admit i'm just ranting in long form and i guess you could argue that i was doing a bit of swindling but the point still stands that maybe these retailers wouldn't be hemorrhaging customers if they made the whole experience a little less like getting a root canal. I've had a root canal, it actually wasn't as bad as trying to buy Street Fighter x Tekken.
So maybe GAME is dying, and quite honestly I somehow still think this is a bad thing. I'm sad for the people involved but after this experience i think of a phrase my mum used to say
This blog is a response to Randombullseye's blog on piracy. It's very much a train of thought diatribe so please excuse the errors. It's too long for a comment i think so i made my own blog. Random did a great job of inciting conversation on this topic, i disagree with some of his points and it's great to debate. I'm glad he wrote the article and you should all read it. Actually read it instead of this. Don't read this, it's terrible :P
Disclosure two:I may tart up the blog with pictures. If i don't i'm sorry. Animated Gifs ho!!
Disclosure three: No disrespect to Randomsbullseye. He's a standout fella and i'm not saying anything he doesn't already know.
"Piracy is stealing as we define it today"
No, it's copyright infringement. No one has changed the definition of piracy.
"I want people to read my work and make money, but if the choice was to have them read it and not make money, I'd be happy with just that. "
Then you are giving people the right to distribute your work and it's essentially Creative Commons. You still get credit but you've lost your right to claim money off those people that distribute it. It's called divestiture.
"If nobody had ever said it was wrong, would anybody have ever felt the least bit guilty about file sharing at all? "
The guilt is there, and the moral is taught because it does hurt people. It hurts those who's livelihoods depend on receiving royalties from the work they created. It's easy to say that you wouldn't care that The Bonerquest* gets out there because at the end of the day your job isn't to write Bonerquest novels/novellas (let's say it isn't). Sure these days it's not so much individuals as it companies, who obviously want to protect their money makers too (and shake them).
*(on that note, since it's an original idea from Aaron Linde wouldn't you at least need his permission if you were to make money from it? I guess not since he hasn't claimed copywright and has probably at some point waived his ownership of it).
Metallica wasn't exactly fond of people getting their music for free. "How dare our fans share our music! Those assholes!" Lars and the boys of Metallica were not exactly thrilled that people could do this, and made a big stink about it, ultimately making piracy a thing everyone knows about. You boners!
See my point above about protecting their means of income. You have to protect your IP or else you're setting a precedent to allow everyone to use it as they will. It's the same thing with how video game companies stop fan projects. If they don't then it becomes difficult to argue why a 'real threat' such as a SEGA funded Mario game is any different to a fan based project. They lose control of their brand and that's the most valuable thing to a company.
There is no value in every body knowing what you made if you can no longer make money from it.
"If only I could send someone something and let them experience the video games I had, without risking them breaking my shit. If only we had that. Wouldn't that be a good thing? A great thing even? "
Your example is flawed. While the discs that house the video game are the physical media that we receive it's not what we're paying for. You know that licence agreement you sometimes see with software and in game manuals? That's an indication that you're paying for the right to play that game, you do not OWN the content on the disc, you own the right to access it. Go to any university to see this in action. There may be loads of computers in a lab but perhaps only 2 of them have a particular program. If we have the program, why doesn't every computer have it? Because we only have a licence to access that program on two machines. This is taken even further with a lot of advanced scientific software requiring a usb dongle to "unlock" it. This concept is so often forgotten by gamers, especially those that demand that they own content on the disc. You don't own shit, or else all those people that made money making mario clones could claim that they own the code because they bought a copy of super mario once.
What i'm saying is, that lending your games to others is different to letting them have their own copy. When you lend a game you're also lending them your licence to play. You cannot play that game at your house at the same time so there is still a desire and chance that another purchase will be made and the company makes its money. If you give them a copy, then you have removed that limitation and there is no desire for that person to purchase the game except for the guilt you described or the fear of getting caught for copyright infringement. They are vastly different things in the law and vastly different in terms of whether a company considers it a threat or not.
"Nobody gives a fuck about it. You guys do, some of you, but would you buy a dumb book from me? Would you listen to an audiobook version that you've paid money for to have on a CD? Wouldn't you want to hold it in your hands and actually look at it, and turn the physical real pages, not some shitty iOS ap that pretends to be a book, but an actual god damn book"
Companies don't see their product like that. They see it as something everybody wants and everyone will pay to get. Hell, you have to think like that or else who the hell is going to be duped into giving up money?
Steam digital sales, ebooks and itunes have proven to us that we don't all want physical copies. Sure that's your selling point, that's your case for desirability in this case but i'm not sure that's a very good selling point. I DO like crappy ios apps, i love mp3's over cds, i don't want physical media (i moved across the world, stuff is a fucking pain in the ass). You should be selling the content not the product (just like selling the licence, not the game cart).
"And I know how the internet works, the second this thing is out, and if a guy cares enough, it will be online for free, if you really want it for free. It happens. Doesn't matter what it is, if it exists, it will be put out for free somewhere if you search for the right words on the right websites. This is twenty twelve, piracy exists, deal with it. "
Yep, you're spot on. The success stories where people have made money despite this are the cases where they are fully aware of this fact. They are humanizing the creators of the product and I think they are relying on that guilt that a lot of people have when they pirate. They either say part of the money is going to charity (i.e humblebundle) and amplify the guilt of piracy or they show that they are a regular guy and that when you pirate you are taking income from a person not a faceless company (see any comedian)... OR you show the world that you make a great product that doesn't cost much and rely on their sense of charity (obviously this is the best way).
"If I throw thousands of dollars into having a guy make fun of my book, and then sell two copies, to myself, what kind of business is that?"
Yep and that's the risk / reward aspect of business.
[i]"In the interest of everyone having a copy of the book, and knowing the material, I feel like I have to give it away for free. However, in the interest of quitting my job so I can write more, I feel like waiting a year from the physical release of the book and actually releasing it myself in as many formats as possible, in as high a quality as possible. "
Yep and that's the struggle of the artist and the businessman. It blows but i don't think you can have the best of both worlds. Unless you think you have a best seller on your hands (and you should do) you are either going to have to give it away for free (create value by taking away the monetary risk to the consumer) or you are going to have to create something that you believe is good enough that the strength of the content will get it recognition and spread. It's very risky, especially given you might quit your job over it, and it's possibly the reason why we see so many Actors that are just waiting tables until they find the right role.
OH snap, you just said pretty much that anyway. Sorry bout that.
"But I'm none of those things. Not really. I'm just guy who wrote a book, I want to not work a soul eroding job and make people laugh. Is that such a big deal?"
Yup, that's life. But you can't have it both ways. Companies aren't people, they do not care about you. This allows them to make money. There are good companies that don't dick you over, but you can never see that as them being nice to you. It's not, it's just their way to get money out of you.
"People act upset about having copies or clones of their work put out. Why? The archetypes of literature only go so far."
And by that logic there is only so many musical note combinations in the world. Original ideas are tricky thing to hold onto and claim, but hell you have to try or else you'll never make money.
"If we can't grow the fuck up and laugh at everything, how can we ever really share anything with each other? "
I like your idea of a world where nobody has ownership over information. I'd like to visit your planet one day.
"Can you copyright a concept? "
No. You can only copyright the expression of the concept. It can be copied by anyone but not in the same way you've done it. This sounds hazy no? It sure is. Which is why copyright law is so bloody complicated.
"To tape that Generation X TV movie Fox did, then pass that around to your friends to make their own copies of it, isn't that piracy?"
Yep, it sure is. But the reason why you didn't hear of little Timmy getting sued is because you have to choose your battles. Would it be worth the shit storm of publicity for suing a little boy just for the money you'd make from a few cassettes? It's all about scale but no bones about it, that IS piracy.
"So what do we do? How can we stop the greatest thing that ever happened to humanity? "
You humanize yourself and you try to go for human traits like charity and hell, even guilt. You said it yourself you can't fight pirates, they can't be stopped. But you can make money from those that are borderline or those people that have a conscience or attachment to your product because a) you're a really awesome dude (see Valve) or b) they became super attached to your product (Lewis CK)
So yeah, i think you're not struggling with the idea of piracy. You're really struggling with the conflict of wanting your work to be in as many peoples mind sets as possible (i.e. take away the risk of reading it) and also paying your rent. It sucks and luckily it looks like it's something i'll never have to deal with because unlike you i'm not a good enough writer to even think about writing a book. I will certainly be buying a copy when it is released to support you, and you could say a lot of that is because you're part of dtoid and you're the man dawg (you're a person and not a faceless company). And also because it has cock monsters in it and that pleases me greatly.
"Fuck everybody that said you can't just write a book and publish it, I can do that. I can do anything. You can too." - Randombullseye