Because We May Sale Makes Indie Games Cheap(er) for a Week

Because We May

Independent game developers have at their disposal a wide variety of methods for trying to boost sales. Some of these include banding together with other indie titles to generate publicity, as seen time after time with the Humble Indie Bundle and its many imitators. The latest such scheme doesn’t actually package unrelated games together or sell them at any price the buyer decides (as is the case with the HIB), but it is eye-catching in that there are a ton of indie games available right this very moment at heavily discounted prices.

The promotion, Because We May, runs for the last week of May (May 24 through June 1) and features games from Steam, iOS, Google Play, the Mac App Store, and the official websites of computer game developers. There is a wide array of titles available with more still being added, and none of this accounts for games that are on sale right now outside of the promotion (like Infinity Blade II, Grand Theft Auto III, and many of EA’s titles).

It’s always nice to see indie developers supporting each other, even if doing so also helps to attract attention to their own games. Some developers have gone so far as to make their games free during Because We May, and while that may be closer to a more appropriate price for some, there are some quality, standout titles.

Gravonaut is one such game. It’s an old-school platformer very reminiscent of VVVVVV and is well-suited to iOS. It gets around the usual problems with touchscreen buttons in a platformer by functioning like an auto-runner, leaving the player to only flip the gravity back and forth to make it through levels. The music becomes tiresome over time and I never like it when platformers don’t allow you to see where you’re supposed to be jumping to, but anyone who is a fan of grinding through difficult platformers would be well-served to check it out.

Gravonaut

Anodia is another free game more than deserving of your attention. It may appear to be a fairly standard Breakout-style game, albeit a nice-looking one, but to leave it at that would be doing it a major disservice. Aside from the inordinately satisfying sound effects (there’s something about the ball bouncing around that just sounds so much better than most other brickbreaker games), the levels are much more inventive than other games’. Rather than finding different ways to arrange standard bricks, each level offers something different — light bulbs rotating around in a circle, brightly-colored circles that slowly move around the level (including into your paddle), colored targets that can only be taken out when a switch is turned to the corresponding color, and so on keep things fresh from level to level.

Invader Zurp also fits into this category of freebies demanding to be checked out. Imagine Boom Blox on rails and you’ll be on your way to understanding this game, which has you shooting missiles at various buildings and structures made out of bricks. This becomes a challenge because each structure has turrets which will shoot back at you, forcing you to find a balance between protecting yourself by shooting down incoming missiles and going for hidden blocks. The game isn’t without its faults, as I wish the structures collapsing provided some sense of feedback (there’s no crashing noise or anything) and at times I feel like I’m shooting at whatever the game wants, not what I’m actually tapping, but the way the game is structured — you seamlessly move from one structure to the next — makes for an addictive experience.

You’re not taking much of a risk by downloading any of these free games; bandwidth and time aside, there’s nothing to stop you from checking them all out for yourself. Doing the same with all of the games that still cost money would prove to be somewhat costly. While it would be impossible to evaluate them all, below are some of my favorites (outside of the big-name titles like Braid and Super Meat Boy) that are worth checking out at their original prices, let alone at their Because We May prices.

Anomaly Warzone Earth

Anomaly Warzone Earth (iOS, Steam, Android, Mac): What started out as a unique take on tower defense on PC — you’re in charge of managing the units moving along the path, not the towers — is an even better game on iOS. The removal of a physical character you control takes care of the only potential issue with playing the game on a touchscreen, and it looks great, especially on the new iPad. There is enough content here to justify the original $10 price on Steam; now for $4 (or $.99/$1.99 for the iPhone/iPad and Android versions) it would be a mistake to skip it.

Canabalt (iOS, Android): It may lack the depth of other auto-runners like Jetpack Joyride, which remains my personal favorite, but there is something to be said for how straightforward it is. There is no fluff whatsoever, only tight controls (it still counts as “controls” even if you only tap to jump, right?) and a great soundtrack. With new features possibly on the way, this is a perfect opportunity to start practicing for some multiplayer action.

Edge (iOS, Steam, Android, Mac): Another platformer that works well on iOS by not resorting to a virtual d-pad or joystick. Edge has a very minimalist look to it and is easy to pick up and get right away, although what I appreciate about it most is the replayability of each stage. Having prisms to collect and shortcuts to find gives you a reason to go back and play a level over even when you think you’ve managed to make it to the end in good time. Plus, any time you can play a game that makes you think about Tim Langdell and giggle, you have to do it.

Jamestown

Jamestown (Steam): A gorgeous top-down shooter, Jamestown’s graphics and soundtrack would be its most noteworthy features if not for how good the game itself plays. Cooperative play makes for an even more entertaining experience than playing solo; my only complaint is that multiplayer is local-only, though that should not stop shoot-em-up fans from checking it out.

Trainyard (iOS): While directing trains to their destination initially seems like a far-too-easy task, the difficulty in Trainyard quickly ramps up. The ability to have two pieces of track on each tile adds a great deal of complexity, as it opens up the door for requirements like not allowing two trains to touch one another. It also requires you to pay attention to the order in which trains will go, as the tile will swap between tracks as a train drives over it. The rules are slowly taught to you over time and are not difficult to comprehend, although that doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself scratching your head as you search for a solution.

By Chris Pereira

Amazon Introduces a Value-Priced Android Tablet: the Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire

Along with a set of three new, more traditional-style Kindle e-readers, Amazon today revealed what we all knew was coming: the Kindle Fire, an Android-powered tablet that may have just single-handedly killed off every other Android tablet on the market.

The Fire sports a 7-inch, multi-touch screen with a 1024×600 resolution. It measures in at 7.5 inches x 4.7 inches x 0.45 inches and weighs 14.6 ounces. The iPad, by comparison, has a 9.7-inch screen with a 1024×768 resolution, weighs 1.33 pounds, and measures in at 9.5 inches x 7.31 inches x 0.34 inches.

One significant difference between the Fire and iPad is that the Fire will run on a heavily-modified version of the Android operating system, though it will still have access to Android apps like Pandora, Netflix, Facebook, and so on. The Fire doesn’t have a camera or microphone, and its only physical button is for powering it on and off (i.e. changing the volume won’t be as convenient as it could be).

The Fire will, for now, be Wi-Fi-only. A version with a larger screen will reportedly be released in 2012.

Other noteworthy aspects about the device is its fairly small 8GB of storage. That might be an issue if you wish to load up on your own content, but any and all Amazon digital content will be stored in the Amazon Cloud. The web browser uses Amazon’s new Silk technology where web pages are pre-loaded on Amazon’s servers, making them faster to load on your device. (The browser also supports Flash, one thing the iPad can’t say.)

Kindle Fire

What really sets the Fire apart from other Android tablets is the price: it will cost only $199, far less than competing tablets and a full $300 cheaper than the lowest-priced iPad. The low price is possible because Amazon is banking on users taking advantage of the content it can easily provide — books, movies, TV shows, magazines, and music. Included with the Fire will be a 30-day subscription to Amazon Prime, the $79-per-year service that grants free two-day shipping on anything sold by Amazon as well as access to its Netflix-style movie and TV show-streaming service.

With gaming being the most popular use for tablets, it’ll support plenty of games — we’ve already seen Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, Peggle, and Plants vs. Zombies among the games available for it, and there’s a great deal more waiting on Amazon’s Android marketplace. Assuming the device catches on — and at $199, that seems highly likely — support from game developers will continue to be there.

The Fire can be pre-ordered now and will be released on November 15 in the United States.

By Chris Pereira

Rockin’ Android Releasing Qlione Evolve on PS3



Fresh off the release of Crescent Pale Mist, Rockin’ Android is prepping another release for PSN; this one a bundle containing Qlione and Qlione 2 (via Siliconera).

Originally released for PC, Qlione and its sequel are 2D shooter that take place in “liquid space.” It may remind PS3 owners of the watery puzzle game Flow, with geometric shapes similar to those found in the likes of Tempest.

The bundle is Qlione Evolve, and will be available December 7.

By Kat Bailey

OP-ED: Netflix’s Failures Highlight Steam’s Strength

Netflix subscribers will find their movie selection gutted tomorrow, as the service removes thousands of movies and TV shows due to the end of its contract with the premium cable movie network Starz, which, while providing only around 5% of the overall Netflix library, just happens to offer some of the more popular content.




The same thing happens to online game providers, from Netflix-like streaming services like OnLive, to more traditional digital distribution platforms like Xbox Live or Steam. With all this uncertainty one might be tempted to simply stick with physical media, but despite what its ardent defenders will tell you, the physical media sold by normal retail channels comes with a finite lifespan. Regardless of whether you stream, download, or buy optical discs, no game you purchase will last forever, and any streaming service will face periodic mass delistings like Netflix as contracts change every few years. Meaning downloadable game services may offer you the best chance of playing your favorite game thirty years from now.


Though OnLive hasn’t shaped the way we play games in the same way that Netflix changed the country’s viewing habits, the game-streaming service will one day have to cope with losing valuable content like Netflix. The value of the service to customers changes with every contract signed or partnership ended. While the same could be said of more traditional digital distribution services like Xbox Live Arcade and Steam, which allow users to download their purchases, those platforms utilize a set of robust policies that minimize damage done to their users — when a title disappears from either of those providers, those who previously purchased the game can still download it at will. Some may choose to wash their hands of digital distribution all together, but data degradation on physical media may very well render your disc-based games unplayable long before they’re removed from Steam’s catalog.


The ever moving pace of technological development turns the simple act of playing an older game into a trial. How many players purchased Chrono Trigger in 1996 and still have their SNES ready and TV connected? Does anyone still keep a 5.5-inch floppy drive connected to their machine just in case they just so they can play the original version of The Secret of Monkey Island at a moment’s notice? In principle, purchasing games stored on physical media means that one will have access to that game anytime and anywhere in perpetuity. In practice, it means hunting down the right hardware in the attic or basement (assuming you still have it) and overcoming numerous other challenges like how to hook a SNES or Genesis up to a modern TV. Even after one goes to all that trouble, the media, be it cartridge, disk, or CD, which stores the games has a very finite lifespan. Most NES cartridge batteries died years ago, along with most floppy discs, and a good portion of CDs or DVDs. Steady and perpetual data degradation cannot be stopped. A small number of hardcore gamers may choose to jump through the hoops necessary to preserve game data and maintain hardware, but most won’t. The troubles don’t justify the gain when we live in age where five or six dollars will allow you to play most (but by no means all) classic games on modern hardware via digital distribution.


The systems worked out to serve Origin or Steam customers after a delisting may not function for every title. In all likelihood, our collective Steam libraries are unlikely to make it to the end of the decade or beyond without losing playability on a handful of titles, but the convenience is worth re-buying old favorites on the cheap once a decade or so. Though critics of digital distribution make a fuss about the ability to play a game indefinitely, standard industry practices already place a de facto time limit on all games purchased. Meanwhile, the supposed “long-tail” of streaming services is subject to the whims and desires of individual publishers and their relationship with service providers. Maybe you won’t be able to download the same purchase of Dead Space 2 from Steam in twenty years, but will you jump through the hoops of finding a non-red ringed 360 capable of interfacing with a futuristic 4320p display, or track down whatever streaming service happens to host the game for the time being and subscribe? Players shouldn’t be forced into making a decision like this, but the business realties of the industry are more than enough to surpass any pro-consumer idealism, and they heavily favor downloadable digital distribution.

By Ryan Winterhalter

Despite the ESA’s Stance, Not All Game Companies Support SOPA

SOPA infographic

An official list of supporters for the much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act, better known to many as SOPA, shows that the videogame industry is in the bill’s corner. That’s not to say every company in the industry has come right out and said as much, but many of them do at least support it by proxy as members of the Entertainment Software Association, the game industry’s trade association. The ESA has made it official that it supports the anti-piracy bill which many fear, if passed, will censor the Internet and stifle innovation.

The bill’s name might make it sound noble enough — stomping out piracy is good news for everyone except those who illegally download and distribute copyrighted content — but there are numerous reasons why opponents believe it should not be passed. Among the most important of these is the vague wording with which the bill is written, a serious problem for a piece of legislation. There are countless articles, videos, and infographics devoted to the subject, but at its most basic level it threatens to result in sites being shut down, startups facing potentially unfair legal action, and pervasive censorship as websites — including social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook — seek to prevent their users from sharing anything that the website in question could be held accountable for.

Access from within the United States to certain websites could be blocked, but as a means for stopping pirates this would be ineffective as sites could still be reached by typing in their IP address. More seriously, an intellectual property holder would, if SOPA passes, suddenly have the power to shut down a website’s advertising and payment processing far more easily than many feel is reasonable. With this power, websites could easily be crippled, and the sort of freedom we’ve come to expect from the Internet — which has become an essential tool for education, communication, commerce, and political action — would be greatly diminished. And that’s not to mention the steps search engines would have to take to “disappear” offending sites, among many other aspects that the bill’s adversaries say are simply not right.

The Entertainment Consumers Association, a non-profit group that advocates the interests of gamers, has summed up some of their significant complaints about SOPA:

It strips current laws by now making Internet companies, which used to be immune, liable for their users’ communications. This means that Facebook, Youtube, WordPress, Google and more are now on the hook for what you post.

It gives the US Attorney General, with court order, the power to seize websites that possibly infringe or partially infringe copyright. There would be no due process and no chance to defend yourself before the seizure. The mere accusation can get a website taken away.

It violates Net Neutrality by ordering internet providers, advertising companies and payment systems to block accused websites with technology that just doesn’t exist.

It threatens users by imposing fines or jail time for posting even derivatives of copywrited work(s). A video of your karaoke, playing the piano, video game speed trial would now all be punishable if a copyright holder decides to enforce it.

Needless to say, many find the videogame industry’s support of the legislation disconcerting, as the ESA represents Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo of America, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Capcom USA, Sega of America, THQ, and more than two dozen other companies (Activision being one notable exception). Piracy is undoubtedly a major concern for the industry; publishers argue it has harmed software sales and used it as the reasoning for why they ignore certain platforms at times. Piracy’s impact has led to many games becoming more online-centric, even if that isn’t always identified as the reasoning for that shift.

“As an industry of innovators and creators, we understand the importance of both technological innovation and content protection, and do not believe the two are mutually exclusive,” the ESA said in a statement regarding its support of SOPA. “Rogue websites — those singularly devoted to profiting from their blatant illegal piracy — restrict demand for legitimate video game products and services, thereby costing jobs. Our industry needs effective remedies to address this specific problem, and we support the House and Senate proposals to achieve this objective. We are mindful of concerns raised about a negative impact on innovation. We look forward to working with the House and Senate, and all interested parties, to find the right balance and define useful remedies to combat willful wrongdoers that do not impede lawful product and business model innovation.”

While the latter portion of the statement suggests the ESA would like to see the bill modified, its name nevertheless remains on an official list of supporters (PDF) of the bill in its current form. Destructoid notes this is the same ESA that called for support from gamers in the Brown v. EMA/ESA case that made it to the Supreme Court last year. Many it feel it is hypocritical, to say the least, to ask gamers for support when the industry was under fire but then to openly support a bill that would hurt those very same gamers not even a year later.

By Chris Pereira

Minecraft Developer’s Upcoming Game Exemplifies the Best of the Game Industry

Most games take years to develop, but Minecraft developer Mojang plans to make one over a single weekend. Announced on Wednesday, Mojang intends to livestream a new game’s creation over 60 hours and is partnering with the Humble Bundle team to raise money for charity. This latest announcement follows in the footsteps of other innovative Mojang projects which could only take root in a field as open to creativity as the game industry.


Starting Friday, February 17 at 10 A.M. Central European Time (1 A.M. US Pacific Time) Mojang will begin work on a brand new title. The company will answer questions via Twitter and promises “silly incentives” for reaching donation goals. Eager fans can even get involved now and vote for the genre and theme of the prospective game on Mojang’s website. “Of course, you?ve always wanted to play a Shoot Em?Up Dating Simulator with a Candy Land World War II theme. Choose wisely!” warns the company.


From the very beginning of Minecraft, when the company literally consisted of just one man, Mojang reached out to connect with their fans in novel ways. As Minecraft’s popularity exploded, rather than pulling back and becoming a more traditional developer Mojang pushed ever further. They created Minecon, continued to update Minecraft while simultaneously working on smartphone and 360 versions, and used Minecraft to help renovate Sweedish public housing. The 60-hour game project comes less than a week after Mojang founder Notch reached out to Double Fine’s Tim Schafer about a possible collaboration on Psychonauts 2.


Only in the game industry could a single company as small as Mojang reach out and engage other developers, their community, and fans in such an effective manner. Seemingly every project it undertakes exemplifies something special about games. Only the game industry would tolerate, let alone encourage Notch to reach out and offer to help an older and more experienced game maker — traditional media tends to focus on older artists aiding up-and-comers, likely to avoid embarrassing the more experienced talent.


How could a film or book allow public housing residents to design neighborhood improvements? Mojang allowed fans to design replicas of their areas on special Minecraft servers, and then allowed residents in to redesign everything from parks to road placement. Only a game could so effortlessly engender community participation in a large project like that. Traditional media would have relied on posters, radio and TV ads, cost tens of thousands of dollars, and produced minimal citizen involvement — Mojang did better for the cost of a handful of servers.


Time after time Mojang exemplifies the best and most exciting elements of this industry. The small developer’s uncanny ability to foster a sense of community and then use it to accomplish something unexpected — be it a massive convention or small charity drive — shows that, despite what common wisdom on internet message boards holds, the game industry still allows its best and brightest to express their creativity more than any other medium.

By Ryan Winterhalter

Grand Theft Auto III to Cost $5 on iOS and Android Next Week

Grand Theft Auto III iOS

In just over a week’s time, one of the most influential games of the last generation of consoles will be playable in its entirety on your phone.

As previously announced, the 10-year anniversary of Grand Theft Auto III’s release (it came out on PS2 on October 22, 2001) is being celebrated with the release of it on iOS and Android devices. Only more recent hardware will be capable of running it, at least at launch — additional support for other devices could come later. For the time being, you’ll need one of the following to play it:

  • Apple iOS Devices: iPad 1 & 2, iPhone 4 & 4S, iPod touch 4th Generation

  • Android Phones: HTC Rezound, LG Optimus 2x, Motorola Atrix 4G, Motorola Droid X2, Motorola Photon 4G, Samsung Galaxy R, T-Mobile G2x
  • Android Tablets: Acer Iconia, Asus Eee Pad Transformer, Dell Streak 7, LG Optimus Pad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, Sony Tablet S, Toshiba Thrive

Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition will go on sale on both the App Store and Android Marketplace on December 15. It’ll be avilable for $4.99, half the price of what you can expect to pay for it on Steam on any given day.

Grand Theft Auto III Android

Visually the game appears to look just as it did in 2001. The obvious catch is playing the game on an all-touchscreen interface doesn’t sound like the most ideal way to play, particularly when there were complaints about the shooting aspects of the game when it was played on a controller. We’ve gone hands-on with it and Rockstar seems to be doing what it can to deal with the issues (one solution: only displaying buttons when they are needed), but your miles may vary when it comes to dealing with the controls yourself.

As of yet GTAIII is the only old GTA game confirmed for iOS and Android. While there would be a “technical challenge” in porting Vice City and San Andreas, ports of the two have been deemed “very possible” by Rockstar. I wouldn’t mind seeing GTA2 as well — Chinatown Wars showed an overhead GTA game can (mostly) work with touchscreen controls, and the Zaibatsu aren’t about to help themselves.

Grand Theft Auto III Android

Screen 1 from iOS version; 2 and 3 from Android version

By Chris Pereira

Grand Theft Auto III Ported to iOS, Android for 10-Year Anniversary

Grand Theft Auto III

It was ten years ago this month that Grand Theft Auto III was released. It was preceded by two games and two expansion packs, yet it wasn’t until III that the series became the influential juggernaut it’s known as today. Its open-world action led to countless clones and essentially started a new genre; now you’ll have the chance to play that monumental game on your phone.

Rockstar has announced it plans to bring GTA III to a select number of iOS and Android devices. On iOS, only iPad 2 and iPhone 4S will be compatible. Supported Android phones include the Droid X2, HTC Evo 2, LG Optimus 2X, Motorola Atrix, Samsung Galaxy S2, while Android tablets include the Acer Iconia, Asus Eee Pad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. These are only the devices that will be supported when the game launches later this fall; more may be added later.

There is a Grand Theft Auto game on the iOS App Store already, Chinatown Wars, but that uses the top-down perspective seen in the first two GTA games. To think we’re at a point where a phone can play a game my PC used to struggle mightily with (unless I kept the camera pointed at the ground at all times) is incredible.

The only potential problem here is mapping the controls to a touchscreen interface. Rockstar did as well as it could with Chinatown Wars, but controls were an area where the DS and PSP versions were decidedly better — it was no fun having your finger slip off the virtual analog stick or missing one of the buttons because of the lack of feedback you’d get with a physical button.

Assuming this sells well enough, hopefully we’ll see Vice City, San Andreas, and the other GTA III series games end up on iOS and Android, too.

Grand Theft Auto III Claude action figure

In addition to the GTA III port, a limited-edition action figure is being released of GTA III’s silent protagonist, Claude. (His name is never mentioned until he makes an appearance in San Andreas, a prequel, though a reference to it can be found in GTA III data files.) You’ll get his standard cargo-pants-and-bomber-jacket outfit and the prison jumpsuit he starts the game out in, as well as a variety of weapons to slide into his hands like a bat, knife, sniper rifle, assault rifle, and grenades.

The 1:6 scale action figure was created by Sideshow and is priced at $149.99. Rockstar Social Club members can sign up here by October 16 for a chance to win one for free.

The GTA III port hasn’t been priced. Chinatown Wars currently goes for $9.99.

By Chris Pereira

Star Command Demonstrates How Quickly Kickstarter Funding Can Disappear

Star Commander

Kickstarter is all the craze these days, though Double Fine’s adventure game was hardly the first game to turn to it for funding. Star Command, an iOS game described as a cross between Game Dev Story and science fiction, was seeking $20,000 last September. It easily surpassed that mark, ultimately bringing in $36,967 for developer Warballoon. Since that’s nearly double what was being asked for, one might expect money to be no issue. As a new update posted on the Kickstarter reveals, however, that money can disappear in a hurry.

The update provides a look at how that money has been spent since the Kickstarter came to a close on October 6. Immediately about $5,000 of it was gone; $2,000 didn’t come through because of problems with funds being transferred, while $3,000 or so went to Kickstarter itself and Amazon, whose Amazon Payments system is used to pledge money to projects. That means the nearly $37,000 you might expect to be spent on game development is now $32,000, and after prize fulfillment that figure drops down to $22,000.

As with many Kickstarters, among the rewards for pledging were various digital items that are fairly easy to distribute. But there were also physical items, including posters and t-shirts, that present more of a problem. While you may pledge $100 toward a project, it’s not as if a pile of t-shirts (or whatever the prize may be) is sitting there waiting to be handed out to people who walk up. They have to be designed, manufactured, and shipped. That costs money and takes time to do. “If we had to do it again, we would have probably had the price point a bit higher for the t-shirts and posters, as those turned to be a very large expense,” the update stated. “We also would have included the cost of a 3rd party fulfillment house – we just aren’t equipped or skilled in that area, and it was (still is) something that we struggle with.”

Of the remaining $22,000, $16,000 of it was spent on things like iPads, a PAX East showing, poster art, and music. As the other $6,000 wasn’t spent, about a third of it ended up being taxed as income, something other Kickstarter projects are encouraged to avoid having happen. This resulted in about $4,000 being left over, although it’s generous to even say it’s that much as the above figures fail to account for smaller expenses.

The question becomes, with the benefit of retrospect, what would they have done differently? Part of that $16,000 went to attorneys, an accountant, and startup fees; the attorneys were specifically identified as one possible area that money could have been saved.

“We got a little nervous after we received all the Kickstarter money and wanted to make sure our business was set up correctly. We registered our LLCs, got operating agreements etc, but in hindsight a nice piece of napkin paper probably would have done just as well. You plan for the worst (we all start hating each other and people start leaving) but if anything the team has gotten closer, so it seems like a lot of wasted money. If we could take it back we would.”

As a lesson for others, it’s also noted that rewards can be deceptively costly and time-consuming. “We just didn’t fully appreciate the cost of printing 200 posters, shirts, and more than anything shipping. Shipping is a) expensive b) a pain in the ass when you have tubes and c) time consuming. None of those things are productive. We don’t resent having sent that stuff off – we think the posters and shirts are awesome and we are super proud of them and it seems like everyone loved them, so that’s great. But they were a lot of work.”

Even having far surpassed the $20,000 they wanted, the developers have taken on debt — to the tune of over $50,000 — though they are still thankful for Kickstarter helping to make the game possible. “We’re extremely confident were going to hit our summer release date and that never would have happened without you guys. We have made a game we’re really, really proud of and you guys should be too. We have always felt an obligation to make your investment worth it, and hopefully we don’t disappoint.”

This is an interesting look at the actual process of using Kickstarter and how a goal being surpassed doesn’t guarantee those behind it will be swimming in money afterward. Unlike most game-related projects, none of the rewards included a copy of the game itself. This was done to ensure that, when released, the game would stand a chance of making it to the top of the App Store and Google Play sales charts. Doing so will expose the game to new customers, hopefully leading to a purchase. It probably also doesn’t hurt that the 1,167 backers will all be likely to buy a copy of the game at launch, helping to offset the debt that has been accrued during development.

Other Kickstarters can’t look forward to those (presumably guaranteed) sales as a result of handing out to the game to backers, but they are also less reliant on an initial wave of sales to push the game to the top of a sales chart (except, of course, other iOS/Android games). But they, too, may face similar costs and challenges in turning to fan funding for their games. The lessons learned by Warballoon and other Kickstarters going on now are sure to be taken advantage of by future projects, although these problems may still prove to be part of the reason why Kickstarter is unlikely to ever become the be-all and end-all for getting games funded, even in the case of smaller, non-blockbuster titles like Star Command.

By Chris Pereira

Gamers Reflect on What They’ll Miss Most About the Old Days

Gaming is rapidly changing. Whether we’re talking about things becoming more digital or new business models or whatever else, the industry already looks a great deal different than it did 10 or 20 years ago and that’s only going to continue in the coming decades.

As with anything in entertainment that changes, people are going to yearn for the way things used to be (while also worrying about what the future will bring). For me, one of the things I miss most is the sort of manuals games used to come with. What I looked forward to most when first buying a new game, regardless of what it was, was opening the box up and flipping through the manual before actually trying the game out. And I’m not just talking about spending time devouring the pages of a manual (or whatever other paperwork a PC game would come with — keyboard shortcut cards, tech trees, etc. — as it installs); console and handheld game manuals had to be read cover to cover before the game went into the system. This wasn’t a matter of preparing for games with no tutorials, as I treated those with in-game instructions no differently. I specifically remember reading the entire manual for Mario Party 2 — Mario Party 2 — before I would even stick the cart in my Nintendo 64.

Manuals

More recently I’ve found manuals to be far more superfluous than they used to be as it’s not often that you play a game that doesn’t start out with a tutorial and follow that up with a good deal of handholding. Even so, I find it hard not to be upset when I open up a brand new game and see a two-page manual filled with nothing but legal warnings and other stuff that’s of no use to me. Then again, my Vita collection makes even that seem preferable because at least it’s something.

I’m not the only one who misses manuals. Responding to a question we posed on Facebook, Andrew Corne noted, among other things, he misses “full color instruction manuals and game inserts that weren’t only for special edition copies.”

Between those sharing their thoughts on Facebook and the 1UP boards, one of the most popular relics of the past was the arcade. Especially in the west, arcades are not anywhere near as common as they once were, much to the chagrin of those who enjoy being in the company of other quarter-wielding gamers.

“Arcades died more and more as consoles became more popular, and now with all of the social aspects of online connectedness, there’s not even as much need for the social element of an arcade anymore,” wrote Coarse_Limely. Lukerum2 remembered the “epic arcade battles that got so heated they drew a crowd,” while UltramanJ added, “I miss the days when the arcade scene was thriving, and the latest arcade titles were well beyond what the home systems were capable of. There was always a tremendous amount of excitement when a favorite arcade title was announced for the home systems, and the question was always how close it came to the arcade version.” Eric Wittbrodt is also on the list of those bemoaning the loss of arcades: “No next gen console can replicate the experience of being in a packed arcade with Journey blaring in the background.”

arcades

Another common complaint about where the industry is headed — and this is a more contentious issue, at least in my mind — had to do with downloadable content. UltramanJ chimed in again, writing, “I miss the days when publishers and developers saw consumers as valued customers rather than wallets. Back when games were packed with extra bonus content that’s now held off in the interest of squeezing more money from us.” Stefan Markovic felt similarly, saying he misses “unlocking characters and levels by simply playing the game,” not through DLC.

“But the biggest thing is how much of a commodity the gaming industry has become,” wrote PizzaBagel. “In the past, we never worried about what DLC we would get, or this current war against second-hand resellers. … Games felt like complete, unique experiences.”

“I miss when games used to come all together at once,” stated MyKillOwSki. “You didn’t have to pay extra to get full online functionality, you didn’t have to pay for DLC content… I miss getting a brand new PS1 or PS2 game and getting to play it all the way through, and not worrying about having to pay more money to get more of the game. Not to say that DLC is a bad thing, it just shouldn’t have to get paid for. If I’m paying for the game, I want the whole thing. If they update the game, I want the update for free, not to pay for it.”

That last comment is why I actually find this to be an arguable complaint or bit of nostalgia; I really like developers having the ability to release new content for their games without resorting to the old $40 expansion pack model. It goes without saying that I’m not a fan of extras (costumes, for instance) we would have gotten in the past being sold to gamers as DLC. But I appreciate the real content developers come up with — and I certainly don’t think they should have to give away anything they make which costs money beyond the game’s budget. Besides, it’s not as if DLC is being forced on anyone.

By Chris Pereira