Tropes vs Women

Here’s a video. Watch it. I have commentary about it below.

Yes, I know what a damsel in distress is.

Yes, I know that many old games used this trope.

Yes, I know that Nintendo keeps using it to this day.

Your only modern examples come from Nintendo? The king of lazy and non-existent storytelling? No, remakes don’t count.

Those last 3 minutes seem to be the only worthy thing being said in the whole damn video.

Aaaaand the talk about modern games using this trope will go in the second episode.

Wow.

That’s it? That was all you had to say about this trope in 23 minutes? You are not gonna even entertain the thought that different cultures have a different relationship with it? I mean, I can’t say much about that because I haven’t investigated it, but I’m not the one that got 150k to do so. Here’s a hint: Look up “japan” in google, see what you find.

I’m really, really disappointed by this documentary. After seeing the enormous amount of money it got, the great level of attention it attracted and the unbelievably huge clusterfuck that a community of imbeciles caused* … I was expecting SOMETHING to be said other than “here’s this trope, here are a few examples, this is bad, we shouldn’t do this”.

Look, I don’t have much to say about this trope; I haven’t read much on the subject but here’s the first thing that came to my mind:

Maybe, just maybe, this trope has more to do with lazy storytelling than with any gender issues. What’s our demographic? Males. Do they care about the story? Not really. Done! Use whatever tropes that you think appeal to boys.

It’s a crutch, it’s a trope that everybody is familiar with and so anyone could come up with a story like this. There are so many old games that use this trope precisely because the ones doing the story were the programmers and not professional writers. The problem arises when an otherwise intelligent story uses the damsel in distress trope without having anything to say about it, without doing anything with it, without exploring the ramifications or even just subverting it at the last moment as a wink to the audience. That’s a problem.

——————–

*You can read about it in this Tropes vs Women Kickstarter update and then this other one.

Kickstarter & marketing stupidity

Kickstarter is a wonderful thing for reasons that I’ve already touched upon. It lets game developers finally do whatever they want as long as they can find the funding. It lets indies be indies and for some of them it eliminates the need for a publisher. Publishers cease to be the almighty gatekeepers of the industry. Kickstarter is a net positive for the games industry, no matter how you look at it.

But there’s a problem. A problem that I’ve seen in almost every single videogame kickstarter campaign. To put it simply: Developers are misusing backer exclusive updates, and in the process failing miserably at marketing.

Now don’t get me wrong, backer exclusive updates are actually good when used properly. That is to say, when used for developing a conversation with the people that are invested in your product. It’s an awesome tool for refining the final product, but of course it’s being used in a very misguided way. Basically, some developers have turned it into the proverbial carrot at the end of the stick.

What's inside the mystery box? Pay us and find out!
Ooohh, what updates could be hidden inside this box? They sure look mysterious … I must know! HAVE MY MONEY!

It’s stupid. It’s stupid in oh so many ways. My best try to condense the stupid in a single sentence is the following: You are wasting money/time developing a marketing strategy that is being exclusively directed at the people that have already bought your product. All in the hopes that a mysterious promise of exclusive updates will push someone out there from not-buy into yes-buy.

It’s incredible that a company like Double Fine would hold a documentary ransom when they could just as well release it. Look, Double Fine, you are not going to get more people to buy your game if you don’t tell people anything. It’s been radio silence since you released the first episode for free. That is possibly the worst type of marketing: no marketing at all!

If you, dear reader, haven’t payed money to Double Fine yet and you are waiting for them to release ANY information as to what is it going to be apart from an “adventure game” I’d go as far as saying that pirating the documentary is your best option.

Yeah, let that sink in for a moment.

The kick that won’t stop

Remember my last post about Kickstarter? Yeah, when I wrote that I saw nothing unusual with only linking to 5 or so game projects. I mean, that’s what I was expecting: A few new projects venturing into this new model of funding. Some will be successful some will fail but everybody will agree that this new thing is a good thing. Games that were previously doomed to only getting shunned by publishers now have the possibility of seeing the light, of getting into into the players’ hands.

Five is the perfect number that reflected what I was expecting.

….

Right now I feel like the alternate reality Bill Gates that actually said that 640K ought to be enough for anybody.

As it turns out, there were a vast amount of industry veterans just waiting for the chance to work in the project of their dreams under their own conditions. Silly, silly me. As always, hindsight is a b*tch mean lady.

So, in an effort to give a little more dimension to this whole Kickstarter thingy, I’m going to proceed and link to every single game-related project I find.

Let’s start with the already funded game campaigns:

  • Starlight Inception. A classic space combat game in the veins of Wing Commander, X-Wing, etc.
  • Nekro. An action game in the style of Diablo.
  • Bionite Origins. A First-Person Shooting action with Real-Time Strategy elements. Kind of based on Battlezone ’98.
  • Shadowrun Returns. A 2D turn-based game with tactical combat. Think of the original Fallout but with a different setting.
  • Grim Dawn. An action role-playing game being created with the tools and technology used to build Titan Quest.
  • Jane Jensen’s Moebius and Pinkerton Road Studio. Basically a kickstarter for a game studio that will make one adventure game with the money pledged and another one under a more traditional publisher model.

To put things into perspective, in two weeks time we went from only six games funded counting the Double Fine adventure to a total of 12 games now. That’s a 100% increase in games funded, so I’d say we’re off to a good (kick)start.

But wait! I’ve yet to link to the not yet funded game campaigns:

  • Storybricks. It’s a … a …. a game kinda like Storytron? But more restricted, not as grandiose and with 3D graphics? Just watch the video above.
  • Republique. A stealth/survival game for iOS and PC. Even with the wide coverage this game will get funded only at the last minute it seems.
  • Battle Chess. You know, like that other Battle Chess but this time it’s the official developer with the actual rights to the “franchise” (a one game franchise up until now).
  • Carmageddon Reincarnation. Another Carmageddon game? That was unexpected, though not unwelcome.
  • Xenonauts. A strategic … turn based? 4X? I seriously don’t know, but it looks as dense as concrete (in a good way). [EDIT: Woops! Funded while I wasn’t looking!]
  • Two guys SpaceVenture. From the guys that did the Space Quest games, a comedic adventure game in  space! Kinda like Space Quest! Shocking! Seriously though, this is nothing but awesome.
  • Haunts: The Manse Macabre. An almost black & white turn based horror game with grid-based movement and isometric view. It lets you play as the dangerous denizens or the intruders.
  • Diamond Trust of London. A Jason Rohrer boardgame for the DS that is already done and only seeks funding for publishing.
  • Redux: Dark Matters. A shmup for PC, XBLA, PSN and … Dreamcast???? Wow.

So … 9 more games, huh? That makes it all a total of 21 game campaigns I’ve seen on Kickstarter…. that’s a lot more than five isn’t it? More than four times as much. Thank you for making me look stupid, internet. Really. Thank you.

Seriously though, this is nothing but great news, especially when almost every single game has been easily funded. We’ll see how all of this goes, because this is quite literally the beginning. Some of these games won’t come out. Some of them will inevitably be victims of development hell, and unlike the traditional publisher model, the developers can’t easily ask for more money with the promise of actually finishing the game this time.

Imagine the PR disaster that Duke Nukem Forever would have been if the funds of its 10 year development came from the customers instead of a publisher.

Kickstarting the impossible

As expected, the success of the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter campaign has motivated a ton of people to attempt to fund their projects through the website. This is both, awesome and maybe not so awesome after all.

As I see it, there’s not that many people willing to pour their money into this type of funding, especially so for the niche projects. So seeing a lot of projects come up practically at the same time kind of worries me a little. It means that money will be spread more thinly and that some more ambitious projects might not make it.

At least so far, these are the projects that I’ve seen after the double fine explosion; most of them already successfully funded … the last one not so much for now.

  • The Banner Saga, a “role-playing game merged with turn-based strategy, wrapped into an adventure mini-series about vikings”
  • Idle Thumbs, a videogame podcast
  • Wasteland 2, a sequel to the now classic original
  • Auditorium 2: Duet, an indie game about creating music by bending rivers of light and color
  • A remake of the first Leisure Suit Larry Game

 

The 3 million Adventure

Grim Fandango Boxart
You've been upstaged son!

I’m more than sure that everybody out there already knows about this little bit of news, but just in case some of you haven’t heard … well, the guys and gals at Double Fine started a Kickstarter campaign to fund an Adventure game. The reasoning behind it was that people want adventure games but publishers don’t (because they think that not enough people will buy the game to cover the costs and make a profit on top of that) and so adventure games are no longer being made because nobody will pay to make one.

The only possible solution was to cut the middle man, so Double Fine has asked the people for 400,000 dollars to fund the game and what they got in return was more than eight times that amount ($3,335,325 to be exact). As Tim Schafer put it, that’s even more than the funding behind Grim Fandango*.

I wouldn’t call this a victory for adventure games, but rather a victory for this type of funding. There’s always been a need for an alternative to the traditional publishing model, and now it has become clear that the Kickstarter model is the way to go for many previously unviable projects.

*though that’s not a very useful comparison to be honest.

Humble Indie Bundle Part 3: Open sourcing

I’ve already talked in great detail about this bundle, I know, but things are getting more and more interesting as time passes and expectations are blown out of the water.
The major news is that the Humble Indie Bundle has reached a million dollars, 319,658 of those going to charity (Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child’s Play), the rest to the developers. Due to this fact, not only have they added 3 more days to the timer, but they’ve also kept their promise made in the video at the 1:17 mark: As of 5/11/10, Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru HD, and Penumbra Overture pledge to go open source.

I love indies.

At this moment, only Lugaru’s source code is available since this kind of thing requires some preparation, but the others will probably follow suit shortly thereafter.

The numbers right now are:

  • Total raised $1,030,205
  • Number of contributions 113,797
  • Average contribution $9.05
  • Average Windows user contribution $7.95
  • Average Mac user contribution $10.18
  • Average Linux user contribution $14.54
  • Windows users contributed 54% of the total raised
  • Mac users contributed 22% of the total raised
  • Linux users contributed 24% of the total raised

Every single average went up, but one has to consider that the big contributions some people did might have something to do with the high averages:

  1. Anonymous    $3333.33
  2. Anonymous    $1337.0
  3. Anonymous    $1000.0
  4. Anonymous    $500.0
  5. Muhammad Haggag    $500.0
  6. Anonymous    $400.0
  7. Anonymous    $327.67
  8. Phil B.    $313.37
  9. Manuel Calavera    $281.0
  10. unsigned char    $255.0

Confirmed: Programmer and internet humor are  always present wherever you look. I’m kind of surprised nobody contributed the sum of 80085 dollars.

Humble Indie Bundle Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Alright, I didn’t expect this, but the Humble Indie Bundle just got humbler. Jeffrey Rosen sent this in an email:

This morning, I was talking to fellow indie studio Amanita Design. They wanted to donate to the Humble Indie Bundle too — but in a unique way. They decided to donate their award-winning, cross-platform game, Samorost 2, to the bundle!

So… now it’s 6 games in one “pay what you want/can” bundle? That’s … that’s just humbling (alright alright, enough with that word), I don’t know how can anyone pass up on a deal such as this, even if you already own half of the games.

Onto the sales news of this bundle, I’m happy to say that in 4 days the money raised has been quintupled. The curious thing is, that the Mac and Linux users are paying quite a bit more than the Windows users, and when the wolfire blog pointed this out, the average payment went up all across the board. Competition can do wonderful things, don’t you think?

At the moment of this writing, the numbers are:

  • Total raised $624,706
  • Number of contributions 74,236
  • Average contribution $8.42
  • Average Windows user contribution $7.22
  • Average Mac user contribution $9.72
  • Average Linux user contribution $13.97
  • Windows users contributed 52% of the total raised
  • Mac users contributed 23% of the total raised
  • Linux users contributed 25% of the total raised
  • For further number crunching and other interesting data, go visit the wolfire blog

Anyway, there’s only two days and less than 2 hours for this bundle to expire, so… you know, hurry up.