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UK Independent Game Studio Explains Why You’re Worthless.

Scott

Scott

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Scott

In what may be the beginning of an ideal flame war to roast my marshmellows on, U.K. based Independent Game Developers PuppyGames released a blog post earlier detailing their thoughts on the current economic landscape for indie developers and why that has tainted the spirit of public relations.

 

In what could be considered a daring move, Puppygames Main Programmer CAS (Caspian Prince) released a blog post a few days ago, which while taken at face value could be seen as insulting towards most of the current gaming scene, may also be shedding a little bit of light on the mentality and insight into what an independent studio faces on a daily basis, or at least for one.

While I try my best to pin-up some of the more important parts of the rant here, some of the context may be lost or misleading, so I do implore you to read the original post before coming to your own conclusions.

There are unwritten taboos on the internet. There are things you Don’t say. There are replies you may not give. There are comments you may not make. There are truths you may not tell, in the world of public relations, for the public are fickle, and behave as a mob. A mob in all its feral, brutal depravity, lacking any and all of the qualities we laud upon humanity that allow us to feel so smug over all of the hapless animals that we raise ourselves over. And we are all, whether we admit it or not in public, under strict censorship of the mob. Even admitting that the mob censors our thoughts and feelings and the expression thereof is risky. Be careful! The mob may notice.

At the beginning we already get a sense of some sort of us vs. them mentality which does seem to haunt the rest of the rant, with the following paragraphs further detailing the B.S. of trolling and the  futility of trying to defend against them in an anonymous climate. Even going so far as to recall the debacle which made Phil Fish, the paragon/recluse he is today, as evidence to the trend of current internet/gaming social behaviour.

Firstly, gamers aren’t very nice people. Yes, you. You are not a very nice person. Statistically speaking. By which I mean, independent game developers get more nasty shit from gamers than they get praise. Right now you are preparing to lecture me about how I talk to customers, or how I deserve to be broke and unsucessful. If you’re feeling particularly sanctimonious you’ll tell me you’re never going to buy any of our games again. If you’reespecially spiteful you’ll also tell me that you were about to buy one of our games (for a dollar! ho ho), but now you’re not going to.

I wonder just how many other creative industries have to deal with customers like this. Then again, maybe all of them do. I just make games, so I happen to know about the games side of things. Maybe a musician can chime in and tell me how shitty people can be. Or an artist.

No matter. What does matter is you’re not allowed to point out when someone is just being a shithead to you because they can. Don’t do that. The internet hates you.

This has probably been the main paragraph I’ve seen, where most readers have been getting hot under the collar for reasons obvious. Along with a few other choice quotes which they seem to cling to this idea of the stereotypical gamer to use as their example target, whether this is a valid dispute is debatable, but I feel the real heart of the rant comes in the next extract.

Once upon a time, back in the early 2000s or so, games would sell for about $20 or so. Some developers did really well at that price point – I mean really well. Most of us didn’t do that well, and made beer money, but we carried on making games anyway because that’s what we liked to do, even if nobody wanted them. When we got a customer we were able to treat them like royalty. Apart from there not being that many of them, twenty bucks is a pretty reasonable chunk of money and you should damned well expect it to work properly. We relied on enough sales going through without problems to come out on top slightly, though the reality was that we never actually did.

Then Steam came (and to a lesser extent, Big Fish Games).

Things changed fast. So fast that in other industries it would have been seen as a cataclymically disruptive event. The upshot of it is, within 5 short years, the value of an independent game plummeted from about $20 to approximately $1, with very few exceptions. Steam is great! You can sell loads of games! But only if they’re less than $10. Technically Valve don’t actually dictate the prices we charge. Actually, they do. Utterly. It’s just not talked about. In fact technically, I don’t think anyone’s allowed to talk about it.

Then came the Humble Bundle and all its little imitators.

It was another cataclysmically disruptive event, so soon on the heels of the last. Suddenly you’ve got a massive problem on your hands. You’ve sold 40,000 games! But you’ve only made enough money to survive full-time for two weeks because you’re selling them for 10 cents each. And several hundred new customers suddenly want their computers fixing for free. And when the dust from all the bundles has settled you’re left with a market expectation of games now that means you can only sell them for a dollar. That’s how much we sell our games for. One dollar. They’re meant to be $10, but nobody buys them at $10. They buy them when a 90% discount coupon lands in their Steam inventory. We survive only by the grace of 90% coupon drops, which are of course entirely under Valve’s control. It doesn’t matter how much marketing we do now, because Valve control our drip feed.

Where does this lead us to?

You are worthless to us.

Where once you were worth $20, and then you might have become a fan and bought another 4 games off of us for $20, you were worth $100. We only had to fix your computer for you once, as well, so the next four games amortised the cost of the initial support. If we were lucky you were a gamer and already had drivers and liked our stuff and bought the lot. Sometimes you’d tell your friends and maybe one of them would buy a game from us.

But now?

Now you’re worth $1 to us. If you buy every one of our games, you’re worth $5. After Valve and the tax man and the bank take their cuts, you’re not even worth half a cup of coffee.

TLDR? The basic gist of this is that in the companies haste to increase the short term profitability over recent years, they may jave actually devalued their own industry and leaving indie developers at the mercy to sell their project at barely of its potential value and possibly crippling itself in the long term. Although this part of the article may be coming more from Puppygames feelings on their own recent financial worries, but it was the one part from the whole rant that really grabbed me and I feel it is something that might be a commonplace thought among other indie developers that have finally got to the stage to sell their wares.

At the end of the day does Puppygames make a sound yet aggressive argument? Are gamers more mature and rational than we’re being given credit for? And what is the value on anything we buy at the moment and  how are we influencing the market for the future?

Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source: http://www.puppygames.net/blog/?p=1574

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  • Superscooter

    It’s still absolutely hilarious to me how they probably expected quite a few people to buy a game of theirs that released through a cheap as hell bundle years ago.

  • Sadistic Dane

    There’s a reason why steam and everyone wanna buy or sell your games for $1, there clones of old games, think of new ideas. And indie games don’t have to be 2D side scrollers, Just make a good game and we’l pay its worth.

  • Prospero

    About 40% of that article is decent, ignorance about 4chan and similar sites aside, none of which are particularly likely to even discuss something like revenge of the titans. There’s a point to be made in any comparison to the android/smartphone gaming market, as something one should desire to avoid.

    If steam users learn to commit their time judiciously and abandon their bulk buying mentality, reasonable pricing will become less of an issue and so will market bloat. Perhaps then you won’t see games people have poured huge amounts of effort into being sold for .80c just to break even. But it’d raise the bar on PC indies in general – some will be left below and drop out completely with the financial resources, expertise, creativity and time available to them. It seems likely these guys would be one of those. But it’s got to be one way or the other.

    In any case, many niche devs are still able to debut their games at very agreeable $15-$20 price points, I don’t believe the situation is as dire as they’re making out, as they’re obviously not the face of every company or sales strategy out there.

    • Nathan Merrill

      How many people are actually buying them at $15-20 at release, though? I almost never do, because I can be assured that they will go on sale for $3-5 within a year. Possibly within six months.

      • Aliana Blue

        Plenty of people are buying them at $10-20 sight unseen even before they enter production (kickstarter). So there is definitely a market for the price point, if the product is right.

        Maybe they need to move out of Steam and rethink their strategy.

        • Nathan Merrill

          I think the Kickstarter thing is because it gives people a sense of importance; buying a game which has already been released at $15, meh. But financially backing a game that hasn’t yet been made at $15 – now you’re important! You’re funding development! What you did matters! You made a difference.

          I think that’s what explains it.

  • Arkana

    “Oops, selling our game for 10 cents was a mistake! Instead of learning
    from our mistakes we’re just going to call you scum for trying to get a
    good deal!”

    In the article they claim to know that the internet is a brutal place, but they still post this article calling consumers worthless. I don’t think insults are a good way to incite people into smarter purchasing choices.

  • Moonman

    of course! your games are so fucking original that you are worth more than you should. jeeeeesus.

  • 33

    Typo spotted.

    “they may jave actually devalued their own industry”

    I think I picked up their game in one of the old indie bundles and I still haven’t played it. Very few games are worth $20, I’ll be honest.

    • Nathan Merrill

      This is definitely true. And another issue with the Indie Bundles and the Steam Sales is that I collect large number of AAA games I don’t even have time to play. I mean, I have 380-odd games in my Steam library. I’m realistically speaking NEVER going to play them all, and yet I STILL buy new games. Why? God only knows, and he’s laughing.

      But as time goes on my standards go up. It used to be, $5 and metacritic score of 80+ meant I bought it. Now, it has to be really interesting or even cheaper than that or something I want to play with someone or something which I want to see the mechanics of for other reasons (Hand of Fate, I’m looking at you).

  • Darth Kilth

    I read this article a few days ago on their website, my only response is that my steam library is filled with to many Indie puzzle platformers/twin stick shooters/tower defence (or other easy to make games) with a retro or throwback art style, they’re cheap to buy, every indie dev is making their own and to be frank they are relatively easy to make.

    And really, those games are worthless to me, I’ve played them plenty of times and their novelty has worn off, you can only dress up the same game play with different graphics and stories so many times before I have had enough of them.

    Indie games are almost shovel ware at this point and I’m not buying it any more, if you want to sell me a game for 20 bucks you either got to have a unique idea setting it apart from everyone else or appeal to a niche (and there are plenty of niche genre’s that can use some love)

    No, I’m not buying your shitty tower defence games, I can play those on the internet for free or one of the dozen ones I already own anyway.

    Puzzle platforms? Got plenty of those.

    Stop making the same shitty games over and over again and I’ll buy them, you’re not entiteled to my money and praises just because it’s hard to be an indie dev and you produce the same trash a dozen other indies are producing.

    /rant

    • Varcolaci

      Glad I saw this beforehand and didn’t waste my money on this crap. “Retro graphics” games in general make me cringe.

  • Rider

    >People who buy my shit are worthless

    Sure, maybe indie games are cheaper now but lets see this guy put his games up for free and see the difference it makes.

  • Dima Wisotski

    Good games are always financially sucessfull in the end. Some more than others, but if your game is good, youll get your paycheck. Especially now, with Twitch and YouTube levelling the marketing field for big and small developers, its easier to get publicity than ever. Heck, look at DayZ – a game that wasn’t even a comercial project, but became so popular they commercialised it. DoTA, Minecraft, Starbound are all proof that what these guys write is bullshit. Gaming industry is competitive, you don’t release mediocre game, and then expect it to make as much money as DayZ “for fairness sake”. Its not communism, its capitalism baby.

  • Anders Stang

    Maybe if they started making good games, they’d sell for more than a buck.

    I was actually gifted a few of their games on Steam, and they’re just not fun. The art style is awful and the gameplay is incredibly tedious and shallow. There’s nothing to them.

  • TheScienceEnthusiast1130

    >”Independent Game Developers”
    >”public relations”

    Sounds familiar and shocking…

  • Dbusterplus

    Growing up, I remember a game developer named Ambrosia Software that made both really good original games (Escape Velocity, Harry the Handsome Executive), and good versions of classic games (Maelstrom, Apeiron and Barrack). They didn’t advertise, but distributed shareware on Magazine CDs and they must’ve had good sales because they’re still around today.

    This happened because they made really good games, the same way that any indie dev that makes good games will usually stay around, Zeboyd Games being another good example. They sold their first RPG on Xbox Indie Games for 3 bucks, I believe. They made it because they made games that are both unique and fun.

    People often don’t realize what kind of true originality it takes to stand out in the games industry. Not to mention it takes only a slight amount of human interaction skill to totally not screw up your standing with most of humanity.

    Fez was successful because it was a fun, unique game. Polytron is suffering because they didn’t bother to hire a public relations person, notwithstanding the fact that Phil Fish is a serially angry turdball who is in dire need of mental help. I don’t sympathize with the guy one bit. It’s one thing to be honest with the public, and it’s another thing to unprovokingly be a berating asshole to anyone who doesn’t kiss your ass and worship your game.

    Mr. Fish claims we don’t deserve Fez 2. Well I honestly think the gaming community deserves better than the likes of Phil Fish. Also, we aren’t the worthless ones, PuppyGames. Quite the contrary. Amid the snarling howls of Social Justice Warriors and the grunts and groans of internet trolls, most of us just want to play a fun game. And I don’t take the argument personally at all, as I know it’s mostly in reference to customers as a whole.

    Without any intention of being a troll, their games all look the same, and a lot of them look to me like games that, if I looked hard enough, could download similar ones on my mobile phone to play for free.

    Simply put, if you make it good, they will buy it. If you can show even the slightest modicum of respect to people who spend money on your game, then you will make it. If you spend more time and effort on shoehorning social justice and trying in vain to shame internet trolls than actually making a game, you will most likely not make it.

    A word I see commonly among the social justice groups in gaming culture are “allies”. They consider people who support them “allies” and anyone who is indifferent or worse is simply lumped into a troll category, which is extremely off-putting. It would do you good to remember that in the games industry, you want to make friends, not allies. Allies are who you fight battles with, and friends are people who will support you.

    If you’re too busy fighting battles, then you’re not making games, and your failure in the industry is inevitable.

    • Nathan Merrill

      Quite frankly, there’s no way he can make Fez 2 because Fez was an experience I had but have no desire to repeat.

      Was it terrible? No. It was actually interesting.

      But what it wasn’t was GOOD. It got super high metacritic review scores but it really didn’t deserve them; it was a game which I don’t regret playing, but I don’t think it was really god’s gift to man either and it certainly doesn’t deserve the metacritic score that it has.

      Making novelty games like that is very hit-or-miss, but their primary feature is that they are, well, novel. If he made a Fez 2, it wouldn’t BE a novelty game, and thus I wouldn’t have any reason to buy it in the first place.

      • Varcolaci

        I wonder if it was just a “gimmick” game, with the 2d/3d effect… And nothing more. I’ll probably never play it. Any small interest I had in it died when Phil Fish started opening his big mouth on twitter.

  • Puppygames

    Arrrgh why do I even bother.

    ” I don’t think insults are a good way to incite people into smarter purchasing choices.”
    “It’s still absolutely hilarious to me how they probably expected quite a few people to buy a game of theirs that released through a cheap as hell bundle years ago.”
    “Maybe if they started making good games, they’d sell for more than a buck.”

    Except one guy actually had enough of an IQ to understand the article:

    “And I don’t take the argument personally at all, as I know it’s mostly in reference to customers as a whole.”

    Except the goes on to draw the wrong conclusions not knowing the facts. Let me enlighten you.

    The post was about the entire games industry, and not Puppygames. We’re included, of course.
    We’ve made a fortune out of our games. $1.5m and counting, ~700k units shipped, in 4 years.

    The article says nothing about our games or financial success.
    The net worth of criticisms laid about the games here isn’t even worth the time it took to read them let alone write them. I’ll say it again. $1.5m. We’re in the top 2% of indie developers. That’s shocking. Think about the poor bastards in the 98% below us.

    Oh.

    Any more questions?

    • Dbusterplus

      I’ll commend you as a developer coming on here and engaging with the comments, and I’ll admit I didn’t have the facts, however I was going off the part of the article where “financial worries” were mentioned and I made an assumption, so I own that.

      Congrats on being in the top 2% of indie devs as well. You’re doing well, and for what it’s worth, I hope the success continues.

      I know its frustrating trying to get a somewhat abstract point across these days, the internet age hasn’t exactly been the Enlightening Period all the Early World Wide Web users like myself thought it would be back in 1994.

      With the kind of convenience that digital delivery has given to consumers, it’s also given them a shopping attention span of nanoseconds. It used to be that you would go to a computer store, and what you had available to you is whatever was on the shelf. You took the time to get out of bed, put on pants, and either drive or walk yourself to the store and look around. Very artistic boxes with tantalizing information on the back meant to get your attention and your money.

      If you picked one, the game was a minimum $20. And there was always a bit of wonder and anticipation taking it home. Chances are you may not have heard anything about it outside of a magazine article for a friend’s recommendation. You took it home, played the crap out of it, and done.

      Now, Steam’s effect on the PC landscape has been bizarre. They have literally thousands of games just a click and a short download away. You don’t even have to get out of bed or put on pants to look at it! And gone are the days of back-of-the-box sales pitches, you can watch an entire Let’s Play video on it before you buy!

      Someone starts to get interested in your game, but at the top, there’s a banner getting your attention saying “AAA publisher sale! Get this $60 game that game out two weeks ago for $15!”

      To compete with these big publisher sales, you have to lower your own prices to make your product seem like a better deal. I understand the economics of it. No one can personally know every person who buys their game, and ultimately games making is a business, and if you wanna survive, it has to be a business first and a passion second. Customers are (almost quite literally) dollars to devs. Every click of that “Buy Now” button is money due to you, money that is required to make sure the paycheck doesn’t bounce and to keep the lights on.

      I guess I simply felt that “worthless” was a strong word usage, and people these days are extremely reactionary, and I don’t entirely discount myself from that group sometimes.

      On the internet, it’s good to be direct, but nice. Most intelligent people won’t take it personally, but I know, especially after years of IT work, I still have to tell people who make twice as much money as I do that the “Any” key does not exist.

    • Nathan Merrill

      98% being worse off isn’t really all that meaningful. The real question is, how much of that 98% actually makes anything worthwhile?

      Probably not much. Sturgeon’s law suggested that back when barriers to publication were a big deal, 90% of everything was terrible. The lower the barrier to publication, the more garbage gets through. What percentage of games on Steam are even worth playing? 2%? 5%? 10%?

      I doubt it is even 5%.

      Your games don’t have very pretty graphics. The whole retro-indie thing is actually incredibly damaging to indie games. Why? Because games with 8-bit graphics look cheap.

      And that’s because they are cheap. It was cute when people first started doing it, but now everyone and their dog is making cheap 8-bit games with poor graphics and all I have to think is “If the people who made this game care so little about its presentation, then clearly it isn’t a very valuable game.”

      And I’m right. You know it, I know it. Sure, some games are made with retro graphics for legitimate reasons, but most of them are made with retro graphics in order to be cheap.

      And cheap is bad. Really bad. Because it indicates a lack of care about quality. 8-bit graphics games are cheap to produce and push out and ergo are going to contain the dregs of content.

      It isn’t just 8-bit games – there are all sorts of ugly games out there which are terrible. Ugly graphics means a bad game, the vast majority of the time. And a lot of indie games have ugly graphics.

      Some don’t. Some are pretty. You’ve got your Bastions and your Transistors. Even something like Valdis Story at least tries to look decent. One Finger Death Punch is at least visually pleasing. And Astebreed made me sit up and take notice because it looks nice.

      A modern game should look nice, or else look retro for a specific reason, such as Megaman 9, which looked retro because it was imitating the old NES Megaman games and didn’t pretend to be anything OTHER than an old NES Megaman game. And it was fun because Megaman was fun. But while I played Space Invaders back in the day, I have no need to relive that.

      You may say it costs more money to produce a game with decent graphics. It does. But it shows that you’re willing to invest in your product – that you really believe in your product. Pretty graphics go a long way towards convincing me that you’re on the up and up.

      Otherwise, you just look like yet another guy with a computer who thinks he’s a game designer.

      You have to get past that assumption to get at my wallet.

      I’m willing to pay for a good game. I bought Portal 2 at release for full price. I never regretted it. I bought Starcraft II at release for full price. I never regretted it. I bought Diablo III at release at full price. I regretted it. And it means that I didn’t buy the Diablo III expansion at all.

      You’re not looking at it from the correct point of view. Your issue is that you’re lacking in empathy. You refer to “trolls”, but someone who leaves a poor review for your game is not a troll – they’re a dissatisfied customer (hopefully, anyway, given piracy rates).

      I leave negative reviews for bad games all the time. I have high standards. But when a game impresses me, I’m happy for it. And I’m happy for myself because yay, good game.

      • Puppygames

        You are blinded by survivorship bias. It should come as no surprise to you that 99% of everyone do not like or want our games. If they did we’d be multimillionaires by now, and the same goes for 99.9% of all development studios. We’re not an abnormal case.

        FWIW, our games do have very pretty graphics – highly critically acclaimed graphics with a lot of fans. You’ve doubtless not actually really looked at them further than a passing glance or you’d see why. Do you really think anything from the 8-bit era even looks remotely like them? 16-bit? PC-DOS era? Do you even think that a free Flash game looks even remotely like them? Of course not! Each frame is composed of maybe up to 8,000 individually animated sprites in full 24-bit colour at 60Hz in high resolution. It requires an awful lot of GPU horsepower to even render them – nothing older than about 2008 can really cope.

        • Nathan Merrill

          I freely admit to having never played your games. All my impressions of your games come from your website.

          And I see pixels.

          You are quite correct that these are not 8-bit games, and aren’t even 16-bit games. But they’re made to look rather retro; I see pixels in the video, and I see pixel-heavy text in the Revenge of the Titans trailer, which suggests to me that it is a pixel-art based game, and the actual gameplay, with the lack of perspective and the very old-looking roads don’t suggest that it has particularly pretty graphics. You also have pixel text in Destroy All Droids, and the game itself is pixel art – to be fair, it isn’t super grainy pixel art, but it isn’t super high-resolution either. Titan Attacks has fake pixel art – which is to say, you’ve taken pixels, and then done shading on them to give them a strange sort of art style. There are still pixels all over the place, but they’re not “real” pixels but artsy pixels. Likewise with Ultratron.

          Now, you are correct in stating that they are not truly 8 or 16 bit pixel graphics, but meant to be evocative of them. They are still pixel art, or at least it looks like somewhat grainy pixel art from the videos, but it is less grainy than it appears at first glance. Your entire website uses a very pixel-heavy font, as do your videos, which further drive home the idea of it being retro, though you are correct in saying that they are not truly retro graphics, but more like lending them the veneer of such.

          They are not what I would call “very ugly”. But they are far from what I would call beautiful, and Revenge of the Titans IS rather ugly looking, from what I could see in the trailer (which, I’ll note, exists to try and sell me the game). None of the others really impressed me with their art.

          As for not running on a computer prior to 2008 – that’s really kind of sad, if that is the case, and doesn’t really impress me, because the graphics don’t actually look all that nice – one common complaint about modern software is poor optimization, which saves money but also makes things much bulkier than they need to be.

          I wouldn’t call the games beautiful or pretty or say that they really convince me that these are awesome things that someone spent a great deal of love making.

          I’m also confused by why you’re invoking survivorship bias; I was referring to Sturgeon’s Law, which was an observation made by Sturgeon many years ago in response to someone claiming that 90% of speculative fiction was terrible. He noted that it was absolutely true, but it wasn’t meaningful, because 90% of everything is terrible – only a small percentage of creative works are really any good. The fact that you are doing better than 98% of studios, therefore, isn’t really all that meaningful of a statement, if we assume that an enormous percentage of indie developers make garbage – no one cares about people who make bad games and go out of business as a result. What people don’t want is people who make great games going out of business.

          Or to put it another way – the fact that all of your games are only worth half a cup of coffee to people means that the gamers have no more reason to care about you than that half a cup of coffee. It goes both ways, after all.

          • Puppygames

            We’ll have to disagree on the subjective nature of graphics. Suffice it to say they’re not pixel art, and mostly done in 3DSMax and Photoshop at high resolution as opposed to actual pixel art. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.

            As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, we’ve been doing just fine, selling over a million bucks worth of games etc. but we’re now in a quandary, along with most of the rest of the industry, which is that we are no longer able or even willing to offer support as the margins involved have effectively ruled it out (in our specific case we’ve had to actually make our support guy Alli redundant at the end of next month as we can’t afford to pay him any more – all hands to the pump while we make a new game).

            Survivorship bias invoked to remind you that just because you are not impressed by our games doesn’t mean that there are plenty of other people that are. Your personal viewpoint starts from the perspective of someone who doesn’t see value in our games and assumes that everyone else thinks like you. And you are almost right – about 99% right. But the critical percentage is the 1% that do, not the 99% that don’t, but you’ve discarded that sample as insignificant in your thinking.

          • Nathan Merrill

            Ah, I see what you’re getting at here. Makes more sense now.

            Yeah, I know that my tastes aren’t universal. Goodness knows that I’m not overfond of most of the Michael Bay movies, and that guy makes bank. It is good that you have an audience who appreciates your games, even if none of them are even worth a cup of coffee at Starbucks. 😉

            But I think the perception of “pixel art” as being “cheap” is a very real thing and I think it is one of the reasons why the bottom has fallen out of the indie game market – I see a lot of cheap-looking pixel art games, as well as some games with poor 3D graphics, and it just makes me incredibly skeptical of all games with such graphics. And I ENJOY some old games which are very low-res by modern standards, and I’m old enough to have played on an Atari 2600, let alone a NES or SNES.

            I not infrequently see games being sold on steam for less than a dollar now; there was a time when that was crazy. I think I picked up Super Hexagon for something like 33 cents at one point.

          • Puppygames

            Yeah, just remember we did it first, dammit! (Actually we really did – I think we hit upon the style back in about 2005 and no-one’s actually managed to really copy it yet)

            We evolve the style every game and it gets more and more complex… Battledroid is about as far removed from pixel art as it’s possible to be with all kinds of crazy shader magic doing bump mapping and cleverness and all at arbitrary scales.

            It’s a huge bummer that world+dog with crappy art skills have come along and made a mockery of pixel art though (“I can’t draw! Buy my game anyway!”) and we’re drowning in a sea of shit knocked out in hours instead of years. Hence, moving on.

        • NeoTechni

          Its polite, don’t worry
          I just wanted to say I disagree with your “worthless” blog post

          I wasn’t planning any of those things you mentioned. I do the opposite. When I see games I like being insulted it only makes me like the game more. Defend it more. I’ve made friends with the devs of retro city rampage and redshirt because of the negative comments. I’ve bought multiple copied of rcr because people said it wasn’t worth getting one (I got them on different platforms) and I only got redshirt cause of the harassment the dev got for something silly. My friend Tom N. I met because he liked GTA for GBA when it was getting bad reviews, and it told me his tastes matched mine. I’m friends with the dev of freedom wars, though I haven’t seen that game get harassed. I just wanted to let you know we are not all like that hypothetical gamer you invented. I like defending games rather than insulting them, as I have a huge superman complex. I wouldn’t harass you just cause you insulted me, instead I’d be hurt. And that’s all you did, you made a comment that’d only offend the mean people and the nice ones would leave. Its a self fulfilling prophecy like that which caused gamergate.

          Ironically I’m more likely to buy a game of yours as I did redshirt cause you’ve made me feel guilty over something I’ve never done and feel a need to make up for it. So you win.

    • Mr Stabby

      Hey there Puppygames, it’s been a while. I had no idea you were based in the UK at all, I always figured you guys were in the states or something. Ahh well, I’ve learnt something new.

      I’ve always gotten so much enjoyment out of playing your games, Especially Titan Attacks and Ultratron because they’re quite unique spins on some great arcade classics, which Puppygames have always been good at making because I feel that it is something the industry lacks nowadays. As most games now are becoming more story-centric and try to engage the players with characters and complex personalities, they’re less about beating your friend’s high score for bragging rights. I love those kinda games as they can be played from any length of time, they offer something new for the player like your library of games do, they are also needless to say… Fun. I should know because I bought them, even when they weren’t on sale at the Steam Store. If I could I would walk up to you and put the money in your hands and forgo the middle man just to avoid Steam’s bullshit tax cuts for every sale, which is something that annoys me when I use their Marketplace for DOTA2 items too. (Seriously, what the hell)

      Let me tell you a little something about human nature. People are ALWAYS wanting to get the next biggest deal. It’s not just video games though – everyone wants something on the cheap. The advent of the Steam Sales probably had something to do with it, along with the Humble Bundles that came out because it just seems like a chance to save up on the AAA titles while also grabbing some smaller indie titles to boot, which seems at a glance like a good opportunity for a smaller developer to get noticed. However, when something as diverse and enormous as the Indie Dev scene it does seem like it’s pretty hard to stand out from all the others. It sounds daunting for an indie freshman to try starting out with his first game.

      It does actually concern me that right now, as a gamer I mean very little to an indie company I’ve grown so fond of over the years. That I’m worth ‘less than a cup of coffee’. While I don’t really take it personally that I am just someone who buys a product and is just another notch on the wall and who the hell cares, right? It does make me wonder what will become of Puppygames in the future? Will you guys keep making games despite the fact it doesn’t seem fruitful anymore? Will you throw in the towel and just leave?

      Whatever you decide is best for you, I will have always enjoyed playing your games. They’re fun, and that should at least count for something because in my opinion, it’s worth more than Sterling. I know it doesn’t make sense in a business sense and frankly you probably don’t even give a shit, but I just want to let you know something – Gamers care. They care a fucking lot.

      • Puppygames

        We’re still making games, though we had to “fire” our support guy Alli because we couldn’t justify keeping him on a wage any more.

        Followup here: http://www.puppygames.net/blog/?p=1579

    • Aliana Blue

      “Any more questions?”

      Sure. Why do you think you (as in “you, the games industry”) are special? The 98% poor bastards, as you call them, exist everywhere. Games. Books. Movies. Gizmos. Heck, go to the nearest dollar shop and look at the piles and piles of $1 and below plastic crap. How many aspiring actors/actresses are making ends meet working in Starbucks? Do you think everyone who makes a product succeeds?

      Complaning about how it’s hard and a struggle to make a living at $1 or 10cents misses the reason. A lot of the 98% is crappy shovelware. The majority. In fact, I wonder how many of those 98% devs (who are usually gamers themselves) purchase or play games of the 98% quality.

      Your 700k units shipped and $1.5m is besides the point. You’ve locked yourself in a race to the bottom. And I wonder if the indie devs just don’t understand the internet, and are simply using it as if it was the old paradigm. They see angry birds and think “hey, I want a piece of that pie too!”, and off they go to make a cheap, simple game they hope will be quirky enough to hit the magical combo and go viral.

      Tell me the vast majority of that 98% isn’t dreck of that calibre. Go ahead. Problem is, that’s an anomaly. Fifty shades of grey sold ridiculously well too. It’s a shit romance novel the likes of which can be found by the thousands, but that one stroke lucky (and had good marketing too). Trying to be the next 50 shades would be a pointless endeavour. It will eventually happen, but you’ll be hard pressed to figure out why that next big thing made it when similar drecks festered at the bottom of the barrel, untouched and unloved.

      In the age of the internet, you’re better off catering to a niche, not racing to the bottom of the quirky iOS-like game. You may have heard of Kickstarter. It’s not the only way, but it the best way to exemplify the new paradigm. Projects, small and large, have been funded through it, by catering to the niches the big AAAs aren’t willing to invest in. It’s done more for gaming than the thousands of shovelware indie titles. You mention you’ve been around for 4 years, so you’ve seen Kickstarter for a while now. If someone still can’t understand why it’s been so successful, and insists on making dollar-shop quality games and shove them to the overstuffed Steam or Apple bargain bins, there’s nothing we can do to help.

      Yes, it’s sad that many people can’t make a good living doing something they like. But it’s not limited to game makers, it’s a fact of life. Adapt or die. Deal with it – we all do.

      • Puppygames

        We are dealing with it; we’re figuring a way out of this market. Along with mostly everybody else in the not-too-distant future.

        Followup: http://www.puppygames.net/blog/?p=1579

  • Jaedrik Cobalt

    Boy, I’m sure glad that the market caters to the consumer rather than greedy people who think their stuff is worth more than what they could sell it at. . . Right?

  • Nathan Merrill

    I think all you have to do is look at the reaction of people to the rioting in Ferguson to see that people are just kind of bad all over. Gamers, at least, don’t generally actively riot and set things on fire, they just yell and scream and whine and complain.

    So, it could be worse is what I’m saying. And it is not as if other entertainers are always beloved – Oprah, Justin Beiber, Michael Jackson, and many other public figures have been the source of public controversy and ire, corporations are regularly ranted about by people for how evil they are (just look at all the nonsense directed at Monsanto), and of course politicians are despised.

    Frankly, I think he just has a front row seat to the Internet Hate Machine and doesn’t realize that everyone prominent gets flak – he just isn’t used to being prominent.

    I don’t think gamers are particularly nasty by overall internet standards. I do think that he isn’t used to having nothing between him and his ego. If you work for HP, you probably don’t see all that much feedback on what you do personally from the public; if you work for an indie company, you’re too small to have any real insulation from the world around you. I never even looked up any of the products I worked on at HP; for all I know, they could be god’s gifts to printers or people could curse the day they were made. Because it didn’t affect my job, because it wasn’t my job to deal with PR or sales or any of that stuff; I was doing science on their behalf. What they chose to do with my results was out of my hands.

    As for the rest of it – the whole “race to the bottom” thing is actually something people have been warning about in the video game industry for years and years now. Indeed, Nintendo was worried about this when they made the Nintendo Wii – they were afraid that the companies were racing towards destruction with ever-rising costs and not ever-rising sales. And then they made gigantic piles of money by not going head to head with them.

    People have been worried about mobile, but I think mobile, while a “big deal” in one sense, is also forever limited by the nature of the medium in another, meaning that while you have trouble charging all that much for a mobile game, on the other hand, charging all that much for a mobile game is questionable to begin with given what most of them are. If you put a good game on mobile, people are apparently willing to buy it at $40. You just have to actually, you know, have something that is worth $40, which pretty much means Nintendo has to make it.

    The real danger is akin to the video game crash of the 1980s – basically, as the ease of entry into the market increases, the average quality of games decrease. Because the average quality of a game decreases, the average value of said games decrease. Because their average value decreases, that makes it less likely that you will spend much more money on any game which you don’t already know is good, especially if you’ve been burned several times.

    And there are tons and tons and tons and tons of awful indie games. They’re cheap and they’re not even worth the little people pay for them. And that’s a problem! If all your competitors produce garbage, then your similar looking product will appear to be garbage and cannot charge more than you charge for garbage.

    Looking at Puppygames’ games, I can already tell you why they can’t charge anything for their games:

    Because they suck.

    It doesn’t matter how good or bad they actually are, their games LOOK cheap. The whole retro indie thing is actually just an excuse to make shoddy, low-quality games on the cheap, quickly and easily. And that’s great, except we aren’t in the days of the Atari anymore. If you’re releasing a NES game today, that’s terrible – most NES games aren’t worth playing anymore. They literally aren’t worth our time. Heck, most of them were never all that worth playing, but now they’re worth even less by comparison to the other things we can do.

    Bastion was beautiful and well-received and as a result they actually got people to pay more than a dollar for the game. A lot of people bought their newest game on the basis of “We bought your previous game and it was great, so this one we’re more willing to risk our money on up front because we have a reasonable expectation of quality from you.”

    And that’s really what it is all about – risk. Most indie games aren’t worth buying. Indie games with 8-bit graphics are almost never worth buying, with very few exceptions. Several of their games couldn’t even manage four reviews on Metacritic and, unfortunately, the dire state of the gaming press means that even metascores are only so useful. I’m just not willing to take a risk on most games. I wouldn’t buy their games even for a dollar because the reviews all say to me “This game is not worth the time you’d spend playing it.” “This game contains nothing new.”

    And the fact is that when you present a game as being worthless, then you should expect the consumer to treat it as such. They don’t look like valuable games. They don’t look like precious things. So why should I give my money to them when they don’t even respect the games enough to give them decent graphics?

    Graphics may not be the end-all, be-all but the fact of the matter is that the appearance of caring about your game is important; a game which looks pretty is, at least, something that someone cared enough to put the effort into to make good. If a game doesn’t even look pretty, what are the odds that they bothered to actually make a good game?

    If Metacritic doesn’t tell me otherwise with a very high score from a lot of places, I’m just not willing to take that risk. There are plenty of other games out there which I can buy.

    And frankly, there are much better games than theirs which I can buy for a few bucks during sales, or if I get really lucky, in humble bundles.

    • Puppygames

      Another groan.

      Of course they don’t suck. They’re all good, solid games. The graphics in them are far nicer than you make out – they’re not even remotely 8 bit. Or even 16 bit. Chaz is an artist the likes of which most studios would kill to get ahold of; he as a subtlety in use of colour and an attention to detail beyond doubt. We have unique, original recorded music, not chiptunes. And our gameplay is tuned for literally months and months and months on end. There is a vast amount of effort in each title – but you’d only know that if you’d sat down, paid $20 for one, and actually played it.

      The crux of it though that you’ve gotten bang on is “when you present a game as being worthless, then you should expect the consumer to treat it as such. They don’t look like valuable games.” This is where we have a problem.

      Except we’re not allowed to price them differently. But that’s a story for a different time.

      • Nathan Merrill

        To clarify, as I noted, I haven’t played your games. I said that they “suck” not because I know that they actually do suck, but because looking at them, they look kind of cheap to me. Not as cheap as something like Cthulu Saves the World, but comparing to something like Bastion or Transistor, it doesn’t look like those, either.

        I do agree that the “race to the bottom” is problematic, but on the other hand, that’s the nature of the economics of supply and demand. A game like Bastion or Transistor is worth $20 to me; a game like Portal 2 or Starcraft 2 or Arkham Asylum is worth $50-60. On that scale, how much is a game like yours worth to me?

        That’s the issue, really. I could be playing any of those products instead of your games, and those games drop in price over time; I haven’t bought Transistor yet not because it isn’t worth $15 to me (IIRC its present price on Steam), but because I know it will drop to $5, and I have so many other games which are deeply discounted that I can afford to wait because I have an enormous backlog.

        And the thing is it is only logical for companies to lower their prices over time, both because the game getting older means that it is not as awesome as whatever the latest and greatest is (at least, presumably), but also because it allows them to pick up more of the long tail sales – I wouldn’t buy most of these games for more than $5, but I’m willing to risk $5 on a random AAA title with a metacritic score of 80.

        So what you’re really looking at is competing against literally every game which has ever come out, ever, which can be run on my computer and can be bought from Steam or Origin. That’s… a lot of competition.

        I mean, the sad thing is, your game probably isn’t even realistically worth anything to me, because I would probably get more enjoyment out of doing some other activity (such as, say, writing, art, TTRPG design, roleplaying, ect.) than I would get out of playing your game. Even if your game was free, there’d be a not unreasonable chance that I would never play it simply because I have other, better things to do with my time.

        I’m not saying that your game is literally worthless, but I think there are a large number of economic factors involved which are what are leading to the extremely low prices of modern indie games. The ability for people to sell out of their back catalog endlessly for free on Steam is incredibly powerful but also is very unpleasant for the indie games community, who is going to have to forever compete with the fact that they probably aren’t making a game which is as good as Batman: Arkham Asylum, but you can buy that game on steam for $20 until the end of time. If they haven’t played Batman: Arkham Asylum yet, then they’d be better off buying that game than anything which is worse than it but costs the same amount? And that’s ignoring the fact that it goes on sale for $5 several times a year.

        And it isn’t even irrational for the people who own that game to charge so little because it is, at this point, free money for them, and indeed helps to promote the latest Batman game which they’ll probably pay full price or closer to full price on.

        Steam fixing your prices is a bit problematic, though there’s some tension there between concerns about monopolization (Steam owns the PC gaming market, though Origin, GoG, and to a lesser extent some of the bundlers compete with it) and the fact that it IS their store and thus, ultimately, they’re within their rights to say that they won’t carry a game at a certain price point. Indeed, they may well see themselves as protecting the consumer from being ripped off by a game pretending to be worth more than it is, because Steam would then have to deal with said ripped-off customer, which they obviously don’t want to do.

        • Puppygames

          Well… yes… but as you’ve established that the games are not for you there’s not really much point in using you as a data point is there?

          It should come as no surprise to you I’m a game player myself and yes, I’ve got 200 games in my Steam library and yes, 150 of those have never even been downloaded let alone played, and yes, I suspect that 100 of them “suck”, IMHO, and yes, there are a significant number of AAA games in the list which I could be playing instead of a $3 indie game but the point is that games are generally unique.

          You can’t just decide that Portal 2 is “worth” more than, say, Papers Please. They’re absolutely incomparable. So it is with our games – there’s nothing else like Titan Attacks on Steam believe it or not, which is why it’s our second best selling game for example. Nothing else scratches that itch!

  • JackPoint

    A daring move? In this industry? In this climate? LOL no. No, it’s par the course. Insult the consumer. Insult the opinions of anyone not in your little clique (even whether they coincide with your own or not). Blame everyone but yourself for the failures of your product, and never think beyond this quarter’s earnings (in every aspect of your life and your job.) This is only going to get worse.

  • ZackRoyer

    I think someone is just spitting in their own food…
    Calling your consumer “worthless” is not a smart idea, don’t forget that those “worthless” gamers that paid less tan $5 to you were WILLING TO PAY FOR YOUR GAME in the first place, don’t try to be like justin bieber insulting and spitting in her fans.
    Congratulations Puppygames, you entered my developer blacklist for insulting your own consumers. That means I’m not paying $5 for your game, happy? also I’m not paying anything for your games and I’m not going to play them even if you pay me to do so, I hope you enjoy people not-playing your game.
    If your consumers are worthless gamers, then this make you a worthless developer, to finish, as we say here on brazil: vlw flw.

    • Puppygames

      Good, we don’t wan’t people like you as customers. No-one wants people like you as customers.

      • ZackRoyer

        You mean people who do not like to be insulted?
        Good luck then, let’s see how much you survive in the industry.

  • HaakonKL

    I think that they have a point. A pretty damned important point too.

    However, it’s a bit too bitter to win over people. It’s a shame, because there’s a discussion worth having in there, about how much a game is worth.

    I’m willing to pay $20 for a game I think will be fun. I paid about that for How2Survive, for instance. I’ve played that game for so much it’s ridiculous.

    The problem is that in order to get this blog post to be any good they need to talk economics. Why they don’t price their games at $20 anymore, because of competition would be a good start.

    I think another problem is that people are afraid to stand tall and say “I price the games at this price, because this is what I need to do to make money” or something to that effect. Just be honest.

    See what this guy is doing is just ranting. He has a point but it’s lost in the bitterness and anger. A damned shame.

  • UndrState

    I’m late coming to this conversation, but I really only have one word for this guy’s ranting: FTL
    You don’t have to buy it on Steam; I got it for a reasonable (in the most universal sense of the term) price; I still play it, and probably won’t ever not play it, now and again.

    While I’m at it, what about Dwarf Fortress? Those guys live off the donations of their well deserved fan base.
    I don’t see how, if you play video games, you can’t to a cerain extent feel insulted by this guy’s assertations – but on the other hand, I also think he’s gotten far too much attention.

  • NeoTechni

    My reply to puppygames is:
    Its polite, don’t worry
    I just wanted to say I disagree with your “worthless” blog post

    I wasn’t planning any of those things you mentioned. I do the opposite. When I see games I like being insulted it only makes me like the game more. Defend it more. I’ve made friends with the devs of retro city rampage and redshirt because of the negative comments. I’ve bought multiple copied of rcr because people said it wasn’t worth getting one (I got them on different platforms) and I only got redshirt cause of the harassment the dev got for something silly. My friend Tom N. I met because he liked GTA for GBA when it was getting bad reviews, and it told me his tastes matched mine. I’m friends with the dev of freedom wars, though I haven’t seen that game get harassed. I just wanted to let you know we are not all like that hypothetical gamer you invented. I like defending games rather than insulting them, as I have a huge superman complex. I wouldn’t harass you just cause you insulted me, instead I’d be hurt. And that’s all you did, you made a comment that’d only offend the mean people and the nice ones would leave. Its a self fulfilling prophecy like that which caused gamergate.

    Ironically I’m more likely to buy a game of yours as I did redshirt cause you’ve made me feel guilty over something I’ve never done and feel a need to make up for it. So you win.

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