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#117790 - 03/24/05 11:16 AM Publishing independent adventure game developers
Azariah Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 01/05/04
Posts: 13
Loc: Knoxville, TN
I am an independent adventure game developer. About three years ago I released my first graphical adventure game, The Key; since it was relatively small (150 megs) I posted it on Winsite as freeware. The game was fun to put together; people downloaded it and enjoyed it, which is what I was hoping for.

After finishing my first production (a four-year process) I began work on my next game, Final Destination. I wanted to create something that was of much greater quality than my first title, so I put a lot of effort into making it as good as I could. When I completed it I ended up with a game that looked great but was 450 megs.

Since it was so large I wanted to release it on a CD but CDs aren't free. I looked around for a publisher and was able to get a contract signed, but unfortunately things did not work out. These are hard times for small publishers (think of all the small adventure game publishers that have either folded or been acquired recently) and the one I signed with ended up backing out of the agreement, leaving me stranded and wondering what to do. Retailers are not as adventure-friendly as they used to be; 3d shooters have just about taken over.

At first I had an idea. I'm also a writer; I've co-authored a series of eight science fiction books. Getting them in print is easy: there is a site I can submit my manuscript to that will make the book available on their site free of charge. Once the book has had 100 preorders they charge the purchasers, print the copies, and mail them out. It has worked out pretty well: I can write exactly as I please and get the books out to my fans at no charge to me and still retain all rights to the book.

I thought aha: surely there is something like this for computer games. I can just submit my game to such a site for free and supply the customers; they will handle printing and shipping and orders and I can just relax. Only - I couldn't find anything remotely like this.

This seemed a great pity. How many developers have ran into the same problem I've had? It's expensive to manufacture retail-quality CDs (especially in boxes); something like what I can do with books would come in handy.

Since I couldn't find anything quite like this I decided to start it myself, to give other developers like myself a chance to release their game for free. The idea is simple enough: game submissions (adventure game, preferably) are posted on the site, and once they've preordered 150 copies the title goes to press and customers are billed. When the copies arrive they are shipped out and royalties are paid to the developer; at that point the game stays in print. The developer retains all rights and the agreement is non-exclusive and can be cancelled at any time. Submitting it costs nothing since printing costs are covered by the initial preorders.

I've set up a website about this at:

http://cms.cyragon.com/

I don't know if other developers have run into this problem or not; my goal is simply to make it easy for developers to release their adventure games, professionally done, to their fans without the cost and hassle of printing, accepting orders, shipping, and so forth. It's hard enough to create the game in the first place; getting it to the people who want to play it shouldn't be an expensive pain.

One thing I don't know is whether there is any demand for this sort of service or not. I'm trying to find out how many people (if any) would be interested in this sort of thing, and if there are any suggestions as to how to make this friendlier to developers. There are so many good independent games out there: if I can help make them available then that is what I'd like to do.

--Jon Cooper
http://games.cyragon.com/

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#117791 - 03/24/05 12:43 PM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
Nameless Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 32
Something like this is surely needed, although I'm not entirely sure how you have set things up is ideal for independent developers. There are two issues I'm not clear on.

First up, why not simply use Cafepress (like Future Boy!) to publish, or use a CD-on-demand service through registration companies, such as RegNow, Plimus, etc.?

They typically charge anywhere from $5-$10 per CD-Rom, which is a bit more than it would cost to simply burn them yourself, but it isn't so bad. They sometimes also have jewelcase/professional printing options. And you wouldn't have to worry about reaching a level of pre-orders either.

The other issue is royalties. If I read correctly, I think you'll offer 10%-20% royalties, which is certainly fair, if you were a normal retail publisher. But why wouldn't a developer simply choose to publish using Cafepress, and make closer to 30%-50% royalties? All it would take is a website, CafePress (or Regnow, or whatever) account, and that would be about it. Such services handle all ordering, credit card purchases, CD-Rom duplication, and shipping.

Now, for cheaper items (under $15), your royalty rates begin to look a bit more fair, especially if the developer wants something fancy. But for the majority of folks they may be better off simply publishing themselves, using one of the above services, or simply burning CD-Roms on their own.

If your company/service gained a large enough audience (such a Real Arcade, Oberon Media, etc.), then it would make sense for a developer to use your service. I'm just not sure why it would be ideal for most, as things stand now.

I'm also not trying to be overly negative here with my comments, as I do think the concept is a very good idea. I am just looking at things through a critical eye, and offering suggestions as to what I think developers may want.

Michael

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#117792 - 03/24/05 02:07 PM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
JonathanBoakes Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 10/14/13
Posts: 623
Loc: Saxton
Quote:
Originally posted by Azariah:
It's expensive to manufacture retail-quality CDs (especially in boxes);
Hi Jon,

I didn't find self-publishing particularly expensive, per game unit. Obviously, stationary and printing needed to be carefully sourced to maximise profit, but the overall costs were satisfactory. Postage (globally) was also surprisingly affordable.

Times are changing, but I also feel this genre does benefit from hardcopy distribution. The trading communities need something to sell (although developers don't profit directly, but it does generate interest), and many like something solid to show for their $'s.

I did research online distributors as a possibility (back in 02), but 20% royalties didn't seem appealing compared to 100%. (Also, at 20% I would expect the games to be on shelves, commercially published).

As an independent, I found the process of dealing with gamers directly a bonus, rather than a hindrance. Word of mouth, and post-play feedback was the most encouraging aspect when publishing the first title.

The plan you have does sound suitable for small demo-style games, which would be reflected in the price, but I would worry that pre-orders (paid in advance) would be hard to accomplish, given that the buyers have no means of sampling the product. Demos could be offered, but wouldn't that defeat the aim of the enterprise?

Lastly, a 450meg download is large, but not unheard of. A recent demo download for Lego Star Wars clocked in at 250megs, for one 5 minute level. Splitting the gameplay into chapters, like the developers of Agon, may also be a possibility.

Jonathan
_________________________
The ghosts are waiting, in the dark places, the forgotten places. Waiting for you: Darkling Room Games

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#117793 - 03/24/05 03:00 PM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
CBSection31 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 499
WARNING: Long post ahead!

For Lifestream, I was in the same predictament as you, Azariah, trying to determine exactly how to go about releasing the game. I looked at every option, from finding a publisher to burning the CDs myself.

The simplest option seemed to be either self-burning or going with a CD-on-demand site, such as PayPal. However, the former would have taken LOTS of work and time (not to mention it wouldn't have looked professional), while the latter was way too expensive (around $8 per CD!).

In the end, I decided to get the game duplicated by a CD duplication/replication service. I bought CDs in bulk, and it ended up costing only $4 per CD, including the case and artwork!

I learned quite quickly that PayPal, while it can be annoying at times, is definitely your friend. Creating an online store is quite easy using PayPal, and it allows you to sell your games yourself!

To me, this was - by far - the best option, as it allows maximum profit (which is NEEDED by indie developers to stay in business, considering expenses!) while allowing me to stay in touch with the community, which, like Jonathan, I considered a plus and an honor.

Now, aside from all of that, I was actually in the process of developing something VERY similar to what you are, Azariah. I didn't want to announce anything until everything was prepared, though, but oh well.

I've planned on offerring "publishing" to indie developers, like you, for about two months now, preparing all the paperwork and such. The difference would be in how it's handled. I'm planning on asking the developers to submit their game to me for evaluation, and if I feel it's worth publishing (just to filter out the 10% that are not), I will go ahead and get around 100 copies of the game and sell it on my website, giving the developer 50% of the sales, once duplication fees have come back. So, if you decide to go this route, I suggest giving the developer a bit more than 20%.

The last thing I'd like to say is that, so far, I have not found an interest in this type of service, and I have been discreetly asking around. The problem is, all indie developers seem to want to sell their games themselves and establish themselves as their own "company" or business, so to speak. I can't say I blame them, as I have done the same thing with myself, but it makes me question whether a service such as this will be used.

Sorry for rambling on like this. These are just thoughts that have been going through my head as I've been preparing for this type of service, and so I wanted to let you know what I'm thinking so that you can make a better choice for yourself. If you've read this far, I thank you!!!

If you do decide to go with this, then I support it all the way! The indepedent game developer community could use a centralized publisher to make it easier for gamers to purchase indie games. Good luck with this endeavor! laugh
_________________________
Indie Developer

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#117794 - 03/24/05 03:31 PM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
tigger Offline
Graduate Boomer

Registered: 04/02/01
Posts: 15679
Loc: England
Thank you all for letting us players/consumers see this side of your creativity. What you do we enjoy and love, the dilemmas you face we never see. More adventures to play, more experiences to seek we all want, but I guess we Need to see how hard it is for you to put it out there too.

Jonathan, I remember scrimping and saving so I could buy Dark Fall, it was probably as tough as it was for you to make it available. I regret I had to trade it away too as we needed the cash. At least I owned an original at one point smile

Hugs

Tig wave
_________________________
A bounce a day keeps the doctor away!!
Playing Sims2, Sherlock, Phantom of Venice
Reading Storm Breaking

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#117795 - 03/24/05 10:36 PM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
Melanie1 Offline
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 01/11/04
Posts: 5041
Loc: Bay Area, CA
I also really appreciate this conversation. It's a realm most players don't ever get to explore and very interesting.

I'm sure this information will be helpful to new game creators also.

From a consumers point of view, I see a possible drawback though. I would have to question how many retail customers would be willing to wait for 150 copies of an unknown gamemaker's game to be sold before recieving their copies.

I think I would rather have a really good game in a less professional package for less money as an option to replace a huge download rather than waiting for a long time to get the professional package. Just a thought.

I'm for anything that encourages talented people to publish their games.

Melanie
_________________________
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Mahatma Gandhi

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#117796 - 03/24/05 10:56 PM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
JonathanBoakes Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 10/14/13
Posts: 623
Loc: Saxton
Quote:
Originally posted by CBSection31:
The indepedent game developer community could use a centralized publisher to make it easier for gamers to purchase indie games.
I would say they already exist, if the product shows commercial promise, and gamers would be interested, a publisher would be happy to distribute. Profit, is profit.

Tigger, was it a silver disk, or the rather creepy looking 'disks of darkness'? There were 259 of one, and 1456 of the other. All were sent personally, with a stamp licked in confusion. Something to do with the glue I am told.

Scrimping!? What a wonderful word. I haven't heard it since Scunthorpe. Thanks.
_________________________
The ghosts are waiting, in the dark places, the forgotten places. Waiting for you: Darkling Room Games

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#117797 - 03/25/05 01:23 AM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
mulawa1 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 664
Loc: Queensland, Australia
Like Jonathan I'm very happy that I went down the self-publishing path. It is a very special joy to have managed to take a game from an embryonic flicker in the mind's eye to a professionally produced CD.

In retrospect, the most frightening part was ensuring that the master CD was bug free before sending it off to be replicated thousands of times! I still recall the trepidation with which I placed the first copy of "Xiama" in a PC.

But best of all is the personal contact with so many of the players. Some of you will know that some of us are about to celebrate Magnetic's Second Birthday (yes "Second"!) by playing along together during April.

The hardest part about self-publishing is getting the word out about your game - we indies would be lost without the wonderful support that we receive from most of the Adventure Game web sites.

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#117798 - 03/25/05 10:53 AM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
Diamond Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 09/11/02
Posts: 538
Loc: Yorkshire
This is an excellent thread. I'm afraid that I'm going to have to go down the publisher funding route if I'm to do my own games. All my ideas involve lots of characters who all have to be animated - not something that's my stgrong point. smile

Quote:
Originally posted by mulawa1:
The hardest part about self-publishing is getting the word out about your game - we indies would be lost without the wonderful support that we receive from most of the Adventure Game web sites.
Ron Gilbert has some interesting things to say about marketing over at his site:
http://grumpygamer.com/1230269
_________________________
Steve

Steve Ince, Writer-Designer
Steve on Twitter

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#117799 - 03/25/05 11:09 PM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
BeaSong Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 01/30/04
Posts: 2956
Loc: rural Oregon, USA
I would be interested, if/when I can get my ideas off the ground. Sounds like a great idea.
_________________________
B~
"Come Watson, the Game is afoot!"
www.tiotucan.com

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#117800 - 03/26/05 12:37 AM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
CBSection31 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 499
Quote:
Originally posted by Dark Fall Game:
I would say they already exist, if the product shows commercial promise, and gamers would be interested, a publisher would be happy to distribute. Profit, is profit.
Jonathan, I'm curious: For Dark Fall, did you contact the publisher or did they contact you? If you'd prefer not to answer that, I understand. smile I'd just like to know if I should be actively contacting companies for my upcoming game.
_________________________
Indie Developer

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#117801 - 03/26/05 03:44 PM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
JonathanBoakes Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 10/14/13
Posts: 623
Loc: Saxton
Quote:
Originally posted by CBSection31:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Dark Fall Game:
[qb]For Dark Fall, did you contact the publisher or did they contact you? If you'd prefer not to answer that, I understand.
Not a problem. I've always tried to be as informative as possible.

I was contacted by various publishers while distributing the first Dark Fall game, and continued discussions while working on the second game. It was important for me, that both games were included in potential contracts, so it was a case of ironing out legal technicalities.

It would be a good idea to actively seek publishers, the genre (at present) is less appetising to those that make decisions. So, any tools/means you have should be fully employed.

Jonathan
_________________________
The ghosts are waiting, in the dark places, the forgotten places. Waiting for you: Darkling Room Games

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#117802 - 03/27/05 08:52 AM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
CBSection31 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 499
Thanks!!! smile
_________________________
Indie Developer

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#117803 - 03/27/05 10:46 AM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
Kickaha Offline
GB Special Events Reporter
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 03/27/01
Posts: 2431
Loc: Cambridge, England
Good topic. I hope the various independent game developers can help each other on such things as publishing, technology, game design etc. They may be more receptive to advice coming from others in the same position.

I would class myself as a hobbyist - my second gamelet isn't big enough for a true game, and I'm doing it to amuse people not to get anything back (some of the software I use is for non-commercial use anyway.) One of these days I wouldn't mind trying to do a game with other people - that'll be the only way I could do a game of any reasonable size.

Nonetheless this thread is of interest to me - assuming I 'complete' my next gamelet it's going to be perhaps 100 MB in size which does create distribution problems. I don't have a real answer to that.
_________________________
Used to answer to "Peter Smith", now answers to "Peter Rootham-Smith"

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#117804 - 03/28/05 11:05 AM Re: Publishing independent adventure game developers
mbc841 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 03/29/01
Posts: 368
Loc: Alexandria, VA USA
This is certainly a fascinating topic!

Chris, I was contacted by a publisher, as opposed to me going out and searching for one. Word-of-mouth about my first game resulted in that contact, although unfortunately, it didn't quite work out. Maybe next time ! smile

As far as self-publishing, I chose to do it ALL myself - from printing the CD's to packaging, to mailing, to self-promotion, all. It's a lot of work when the game first hits the market, but gradually recedes from there.

While I do like the one-on-one customer interraction with self-publishing, I could really learn to live without having to individually produce each and every game. My computer printer certainly gets a work-out printing out the cd covers for the plastic dvd shell I send the games out in.

Jonathan, I don't know HOW you were able to produce so many games without going insane! smile

Mike
_________________________
Developer of The Arrangement and HARVEST

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