Thursday, November 29, 2012

Transatlantic Yoggity

Yoggity is off on its way to Bochum, Germany for the Hippodice competition.  The game cost me $20; shipping was $30, and the entry fee was 10 Euros ($15 after Paypal fees).  Entering these contests isn't cheap, even though it sort of seems like it is when you get started. Of course, the Hippodice fee is very reasonable for the hassle they go through hosting the contest, and the rest is just my costs.

Regardless, I'm happy to do it; Hippodice gives useful feedback, which I haven't found to be the case for many of the contests I've entered, and I really like the way they have the contest set up.  Looking over Yoggity again, I was very grateful for Jason Greeno's terrific artwork - I think the game is great, too, but his art and design really makes it much more fun.

Probably won't hear anything until next year - but I'm glad to have the opportunity.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Yoggity makes the cut at Hippodice 2012-13!

I just found out yesterday that the folks at Hippodice have requested Yoggity for their second round.  That means I have to get a physical copy to Germany, which is a challenge, but it should be fun to see what they say.  They got 150+ entries; I'm not sure how many made this cut, but I assume it's no more than 50 or so, maybe 20-30, because they have to play them all.  Pretty neat.

Kickstarter a no-go for stores?

Via Tom Vasel at GameSalute, Gary Ray at Black Diamond Games has put up a pair of posts (here and here), where he says he's not going to support Kickstarter projects for his retail game store any more.  He says they just don't sell, at all, so that seems like a reasonable business proposition.

It's also a different criticism than Kickstarter game projects usually face.  Normally, the knock on them is that they are incompletely tested and of lower average quality than traditionally published "mainstream" games.  In this case, Ray suggests the problem is that Kickstarter just works too well.  Everybody who would buy a small indie game has done so already on Kickstarter, and often has received special funder awards and bonuses.  Nobody goes looking to a game store for such a project.

I think there's a distinction between true indie projects, that is, one-off titles where the creator funds just one game through Kickstarter, compared to companies that use Kickstarter to generate interest and funds for new projects (e.g. Tasty Minstrel and GameSalute).  My guess is that companies still have pretty significant testing and development filters in place, and their games are likely to be (on average) of higher quality than the one-offs.  However, Ray's point is that it just doesn't matter - because neither of them sell - and his stated policy is now that he won't stock any game that says "KickStarter" on the box.
That's an interesting policy, for a couple of reasons:

  1. It seems like a broad stereotype; some Kickstarter games can and do have broad appeal, and probably do sell to markets beyond the Kickstarter/game enthusiast audience.  But I've done enough work in my shareware business and with large organizations to know that sometimes you need a general rule because the simplicity far outweighs the marginal benefit of making exceptions.  That might be the case here, and Ray is in a better position to know it than I am.
  2. It sounds like it would be pretty dumb to put "Kickstarter" anywhere on a box.  That really rings true for me.  Anybody who funded your game on Kickstarter already knows it was funded there, and for anybody who doesn't, it's either neutral or negative.  In Ray's case, it's negative because he won't buy it. In other peoples' cases, it's negative because there's a perception, right or wrong, that Kickstarter games are inferior to traditionally-published games.  So, there's no upside to indicating that on the packaging.  Unless maybe the fact that your game made it through a successful campaign some how says it's quality?  I doubt that influences many people.
So, is leaving it off dishonest?  Not really.  People who read reviews and do their legwork (and this probably includes most store owners like Ray) will know that it's a Kickstarter game, but they'll also likely know whether it's a good game or a good fit to their tastes.  Casual browsers will buy it or not for the same reasons they do all other games - does the art look good?  Is the box copy convincing? Does it look cool?  So, I think leaving off the Kickstarter is probably just good business sense.  

Also, other companies don't tell you the source of their funding, which could be more cockamamie than Kickstarter.  I've seen published games that totally suck that seem to be entirely self-funded, and they don't have that on the label.

Interesting stuff to ponder, anyway - the game market does seem to be splitting between the traditional route (which is growing and expanding on its own) and the Kickstarter route (which is growing and expanding tremendously).  I'm not sure where game stores fit in, but I know I love going to them, and I'll often buy something.  I'd hate to lose that in a sea of Kickstarter projects, even though I've bought and enjoyed several Kickstarter games already.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Great software design and visualization - Space Sniffer

OK, this isn't game related, but I just found a really great disk profiler.  I realized last night that my SSD is filling up on my main Windows computer, and I was trying to delete things to make more room, but I couldn't find much to delete that made a difference.

Today, I figured, there must be some kind of software tool that shows you how your drive is laid out, and I did a search for something.  I found Space Sniffer.  It quickly scans a whole drive and maps it out for you. On the diagram at right, the beige areas are folders and the blue areas are individual files.  Each zone is sized according to its size on the disk, and the hierarchical structure is maintained.  Each folder is clickable, and then the program displays the folder's contents in the same way, so you can descend fractally down into your data.  The authors say the visualization technique was developed by a professor named Ben Shneiderman, who apparently also invented the highlighted textual link.  I will honor his work by linking to him:  Ben Shneiderman

Really neat program, and free.  Of course, I still didn't find too much to delete - the whole left-most rectangle is games I still play, and the other stuff all seemed important.  You'd understand if you saw my basement.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hippodice entered!

I've entered two games in the Hippodice competition this fall - Horde and Yoggity.  We'll see how I do - I've made the second round once but never their top 10.  I gather it's very competitive.

A user named Yort over at BGDF looked at my stuff and commented that it might be more polished than they were looking for.  I got that impression when they looked at Diggity a couple years ago - one of the reviewers said, essentially, "why are we looking at this?  we're only supposed to look at prototypes."  Of course, it was a game prototype at the time, just printed up nicely via TheGameCrafter, and well within the Hippodice rules which indicate less than 100 total copies.

We'll see how I do - these competitions are always a little unpredictable, but I really respect Hippodice for its organization and standards.