Electron Dance
30Mar/188

Discussion: Moths

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Thus every time I hear the future is multiplayer, I have a sense of dread. But usually that dread is tempered by the knowledge it is air as hot as horseshit. Multiplayer-first titles were a risky business, at the mercy of a curious chicken-egg syndrome: if no one is playing online, then no one is going to play online.

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  1. Did you add Subnautica so many times in order to give it all the hearts it deserved?

    I have felt in the same way about RPS. I was lucky to discover it in 2008 and loved it dearly for long. It gave me a lot (for example, it’s what led me here). Like you, I repeatedly felt what you aptly describe as growing pains, but every time RPS seemed to quickly regain its place for me and maybe even get better (like when they hired Adam). It’s certainly a pity they lost him and Pip so close to each other, but Matt seems a nice chap and who knows who’ll get onboard. Though, well, I don’t like much the new ownership either.

    Also, enjoying the new ouroboros series, but I haven’t had time to delve in the comments yet. As usual, I’ll arrive a year later or so :p

  2. “Yet for the briefest moment I thought: gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to start your own little RPS, try and do something properly.”

    What you need, you see, is a hosting service for massive off-topic comments. You don’t have to pay anyone and you don’t really have to worry about editorial oversight!

  3. Thanks for validating my conflicted feelings about RPS changes, and more importantly, for introducing me to the Aperture Science Sokoban Testing Initiative!

  4. ^That was me. :)

  5. I’ve felt this way about RPS for a long time. It’s a long way now from its beginnings with Jim, John, Kieron, and Alec each writing about their own particular interests in games in their own particular style.

    It’s growing pains perhaps, but the pains came as they pursued growth beyond the original plan—a business they all owned that would support them all—and as their interests in other things than games needed more attention. The changes were bound to come, but more than just the writers changed: the purpose of RPS changed too.

    Chasing the news cycle was the first sign of this. Perhaps necessary to get a bigger audience and more ad revenue, but it changed the tone of the site irreversibly.

    I stuck around for a long time, with my monthly Paypal subscription (since long before there was an official subscribers thing). But when they sold the company, I knew it was time to stop. It’s no longer [two of] the people owning RPS who are running RPS, and—well, even before the sale most of the regular writers had no ownership either—but now it’s just another outlet. Editorial control may still be in the hands of the ex-owners, but even that will change with time, and as the corporate owners sell to other corporate owners. Such is the lifecycle of a small business under capitalism I suppose.

    Vale RPS.

  6. Fede

    Hello! I added Subnautica to the playlist many times because I was playing way too much.

    RPS is still a place that points me to the occasional gem but I just don’t read it any more. We can also blame the firewall at work for this but it is no longer a role model for me. I don’t want to be RPS any more.

    I think Ouroboros will run for a while yet! I’m not spitting out the articles every week, so I can see the series dragging on into the summer. I’ve just added another episode to the series (although it isn’t on the index page).

    Matt

    If I could monetize that, it sounds like it would be liquid gold.

    MrBehemoth

    Yeah I think there have been two major turning points in the spirit of RPS. One was when they moved towards a news model (as Andy D notes) and posts suddenly came thick and fast. There was no more reading everything they published, which I used to do. This was a killer blow to comment discussions, which now tend to cluster around articles more likely to generate attention.

    The other is when they were sold. I couldn’t point to anything tangible that says “omg selling out did that” but something has changed. I was spurred on to mention this due a result of a separate private chat about RPS earlier in the week.

    Andy

    I ***really*** miss how the site felt in its early days. God, that was an exciting time. That’s where that fanciful idea came about of making a new venture, to somehow capture RPS in its foundational days.

    Indeed, RPS changed over the years as they worked towards the site paying for itself, but I always got the feeling that while the gang of four were proud of it, it was just so much work to run. I think that’s the trap of making your own site: writers wanna write but having to manage, editorialize, businessize– how long do you really want to do that for if that’s not your actual calling? Every now and then the manager’s chair is pushed towards me, but all I want to do is create code at work, not take charge. I’ve never taken it.

    Ah well. I am still a subscriber for now. For now.

  7. I also think indies will pick up the slack where narrative games are becoming too expensive for AAA. All you need is ink, or a twine-like thing, or some homebrewed system, some art portraits and a lot of time for writing and you’re basically done. I’m sure 80 Days was a huge endeavour for Inkle as a tiny studio, but its budget must have been a drop in the ocean compared to the latest AssCreed.

    On RPS, and indies getting bigger: yeah, but I think the root cause is capitalism really. The problem is always “how can I get this to pay for itself”, which in my mind, at least when it comes to my own projects, is just a mutated version of “how can I make enough money to live while also doing this”. Having a site or a studio pay for itself is one way to do that, but if you have another income stream (like you, Joel) then that isn’t a problem. I think that this, financially speaking, is why RPS is where it is (they keep needing to grow to be more secure but that means they need to hire more people which means their margins shrink etc), and why ED is where it is (you’re happy doing your own thing, have your own income stream and are not interested in doing this fulltime). Capitalism is, as far as I’ve been told, a system which requires continual growth for anything to keep up any kind of momentum. A year in which an economy has 0% growth is classed as a failure year. A business which has 0% growth is seen as dead in the water.

    Which is my way of saying: hey, if creative types didn’t have to worry about starving if they don’t work, we might get a lot more RPS-type stuff, and less IGN-type stuff?

    On a side-note, I’m very interested in people like Alexis Kennedy (who is mentoring me, disclaimer). Alexis started out small, made Fallen London, got bigger, made Sunless Sea, got bigger and realised he was doing 95% management and 5% game design, so he left the company and struck out on his own with a Kickstarter for a tiny esoteric project. His team is currently himself, his fiance (manager and producer), a UI/UX guy whose name I forget, and he employs freelancers now and then to do art and music etc. (ie. a little above the bare minimum you really need to make a quality game) But he’s very clear that he actually does NOT want to grow: he tried that and he found himself king of a kingdom he wasn’t interested in running. So it’ll be interesting to see if his tiny studio has a different trajectory to the tendency of most to just sort of balloon out into whatever void the invisible hand creates for it.

  8. Hello James!

    I would agree that growth for growth’s sake is undoubtably a problem in much of our corporate culture. I’m not sure I can completely lay the blame there, though, because I’ve seen plenty of situations where rich cash cows have stunted change and any attempt to improve.

    There’s always the fear that someone else is going to steal your lunch and guarding your successes usually involves staying ahead of the competition – or at least learning from it. Malignant corporate growth is one unfortunate outcome of this. To the AAA publishers they have to keep moving forward, making bigger and better spectacles because someone else is going to. They all breathed a sigh of relief when we had that new console lull after XBOX 360, as the technology war went into a cold period. Naturally, this reduces into “if you’re not growing, then you’re dead” but focusing explicitly on growth is meaningless and causes harm. But if you’re on the stock market, then that’s all investors care about. They don’t care about dividends other than as an indicator of growth.

    There are two types of indie goals that mask real problems. One is to just make a great game and cash in: what could possibly go wrong? (hello Aztez) The other is go humble and just aim for enough money to pay the rent… but that’s not enough. You need to have enough to provide security and stability. What if you want to buy a house? If people want to start a family or have funds for seriously rainy days, living month-to-month means, one day, they’re going to have to quit and get what we unfortunately term “a proper job”. Such jobs don’t really guarantee as much as some might suggest, but stability is easier to come by. (Freelance work can also function, we’re not necessarily talking permanent roles.)

    So indies who want to survive beyond a few years need to go past something that makes just enough into that which makes more than enough. And that often means growth of some kind. This is not to say that is Alexis’ position who I’m sure after the successes behind him is not looking for a hand-to-mouth existence: I’m just trying to put conjure up some of the complexities.

    Like the RPS situation. I don’t know the ins and outs but it’s well-known that ad revenues have declined. It’s a mixture of advertisers realising they’re not getting as much out of a deal as they were once sold; audience resisting ads, with many invoking ad-blockers. This had the effect of reducing ad rates. Eyeball requirements to earn serious money have been increasing. This means whatever you were doing yesterday you have to do better at tomorrow. All ad-funded websites have to deal with that.

    None of this contradicts your final point: if creative types didn’t have to worry about starving, we might get a lot more personal, loved stuff rather than cookie cutter megasites. (I think that delivers us into a different problem but that’s wayyyyy beyond the scope of this exploding comment.)

    I would add that I would loooove to go full-time with Electron Dance, but it would be the equivalent of an asteroid hitting the planet known as My Wallet.

    Oh and congrats on the mentoring, I had no idea!


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