I know, there was no post this week. Don’t look so shocked. Here are some links instead. This week:

  • What’s a good plan for indie marketing?
  • What are the seven questions you should ask every Kickstarter?
  • Why is it time to stop calling games ‘indie’?
  • Should we tune down the hype for No Man’s Sky?
  • What happened with Julian Assange’s autobiography?
  • Who creates content?
  • If you had to file form W-8BEN-E for UK limited companies, would you just file it with the trash?

Please find your seven click escapes below.

Click to Escape

“A Basic Marketing and PR plan for Indies” – Daniel Griliopoulos

PRs are expensive and best placed when dealing with large numbers of large visible media targets who don’t move around much. Their careful mixture of quartermaster and pimp is appropriate given the industry’s origins in wartime propaganda departments. They’re best when using their extensive contacts or cold-calling relevant media to place stories. Using them for an indie campaign is like building battleships when you’re fighting insurgents.

“Seven Questions for Every Video Game Kickstarter” – Evil as a Hobby

Given that Kickstarter’s policy pushes responsibility for project evaluation onto pledgers (“people ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it“) it’s clear that pledgers should be a lot more diligent in picking the projects they choose to financially support.

“It’s time for us to stop calling games ‘indie’” – Jamin Warren

Be honest. Fez is nothing like The Unfinished Swan is nothing like Among the Sleep is nothing like Star Citizen, yet all would fall under the moniker “indie.” At the very least, indie rock had guitars. Indie games, conversely, have nothing of the kind.

“Will No Man’s Sky offer more than facile tourism?” – Shaun Green

On release in 2008 Spore proved… divisive. If nothing else it suffered a degree of Molynitis, a condition that affects some high-profile game designers and producers. The promise of that talk and that prototype video was raw and untamed, and the process of converting something visionary into a product fit for mass market often involves a lot of compromise.

LONG “Ghosting” – Andrew O’Hagan

The charade of Julian Assange writing a book finally came to an end at one o’clock at Cigala in Lamb’s Conduit Street. It was 159 days after Jamie had arrived at my flat to lay out the plan, and he came into the restaurant the same guy, not much defeated, and ready to go for another 12 rounds. During that time, Egypt and Tunisia had won a questionable freedom, Libya had gone to war, I’d toured Australia, my father had died, I’d given up smoking, and I’d managed to say nothing about the fact that Julian Assange had asked me to help him find his voice and then asked me to help him unfind it

“Creating Content” – AJ

The reason for that is the real content creators are the developers. The rest of us just feed off them. Sure, as critics we can turn people on to good stuff and we can also dissuade people from buying rubbish (or in my case encourage people to watch piece of shit films like DOA: Dead or Alive). At the end of the day we rely on the real producers to exist.

“Form W-8BEN-E for UK limited companies” – Alan Hazelden

The subject matter is the oh-so-fascinating US tax form W-8BEN-E, which has taken what used to be a 1 page form and turned it into a terrifying 8 page monster.

Small Print

Some of these links are sourced from recommendations and apologies for not acknowledging where they came from. I throw scores of links into Instapaper every week and I have no record of their origins.

Also, if you get really bored, the Weapons of Progress Twitter account slowly dribbles out links which may or may not be related to my not-gonna-be-finished-for-a-while book on videogame economics.

Download my FREE eBook on the collapse of indie game prices an accessible and comprehensive explanation of what has happened to the market.

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12 thoughts on “This Link Drag is a Content Parasite

  1. Any time I see a game hyping the procedural generation angle I want to throw Subversion into the conversation.

  2. At least the folks in charge of NMS aren’t named Delay.

    But Shaun, I read your piece originally right after HM’s walking simulator piece, and I thought — isn’t it OK if it’s just the promise of exploration? Maybe it’s going to be the space equivalent of a walking simulator. I would love me some space Proteus if that’s what it is.

  3. @matt – that’s a completely reasonable observation, and I can see that there’s a fun game in the concept.

    My main concern with NMS is that procedurally generated environments are largely dull and repetitive because there are only so many axes around which variation revolves. My main *issue* with it is that a huge amount of hype and excitement has been built up despite, or perhaps because, we really know very little about the game. It is less a game-like object and more a repository for hopes and dreams about what a perfect game might look like.

    (Brief aside as the author attempts to locate a clip of “my perfect Sunday” from Hot Fuzz, but fails.)

    I think Proteus gets away with it because it features a number of authored experiences within whatever procedural generation uses, because it is aesthetically somewhat impressionistic and allows much room for imagination and interpretation, and because it is ultimately a shortform game – whereas NMS looks like one of many modern AAA open-ended games that would proudly announce on its box that it has 100+ hours of gameplay. (I would’ve loved that selling point five or ten years ago; today it is almost a kiss of death.)

    But yeah, far be it from me to shit on kinds of game that other people want. 🙂 That article mostly came about as a response to all this excitement, my observation that it was based on very little info and just a couple of teaser trailers, and the fact that I was replaying Spore six years after it came out, and the whole situation rang a bell.

    Thanks for the link here, HM, and also for AJ’s piece on creating content!

  4. (I am being unfair on PG’d environments with that remark; there are tonnes of exceptions. Minecraft remains wonderful to explore. Don’t Starve also combines PG with authored experiences folded in, and is very engaging. And so on. Perhaps my remark is better directed towards games that are designed to be long experiences, and thus suffer much more from repetition, peeking behind the curtain, and from large amounts of time between whatever more noteworthy authored experiences happen to crop up. I dunno – I’m sure there’s further discussion here.)

  5. “It is less a game-like object and more a repository for hopes and dreams about what a perfect game might look like.”

    It’s a fair cop; I’m looking at that and thinking “Hey those environments look really cool boy it would be great if it were space Proteus” when there is no evidence that it is. (Didn’t the Proteus team originally plan for it to have RPG gameplay?) For me what would be the kiss of death is if it gives you this gigantic world to explore and makes you do it all; then I think the forced repetition would be likely to expose the seams. But if it’s just something where you can explore as much as you can, put it back down, and pick it up again…. OK, I’m fantasizing again.

    I was just playing NightSky again and being sad that I’ve played it all and there isn’t any more. But of course that’s authored up the wazoo. Never played Spore. One of my pie-in-the-sky goals is to try to work up some procedurally generated text that doesn’t clunk the way it always does, because I’ve seen too many repetitive games where the hand-authored text just disappears after a while. (Strange Adventures in Infinite Space and anything on StoryNexus.) So I’m impressed with even impressive demos.

  6. “For me what would be the kiss of death is if it gives you this gigantic world to explore and makes you do it all; then I think the forced repetition would be likely to expose the seams.”

    Hello there, Elder Scrolls!

    Fair point re. putting something down. My problem is that I suffer from that common gaming affliction, the desire to see/experience everything a game has to offer. Unfortunately with sprawling ‘epics’ this tends to mean I force myself through a lot of boring stuff that has ceased to be fun. It is of course entirely my fault, not the games, but…

    I kind of know what you mean re. StoryNexus (I love Fallen London but there is inevitably a lot of grind to progress, which seems contrary to what the game’s strengths are) but not sure I agree with SAIS. After a time you’ve seen a lot of it before but there are some events buried deep in that game. I’ve played scores if not hundreds of games across the series and there are still plots I’ve rarely encountered (e.g. the stars going nova on a beeline toward Hope), and events I’ve only read about or run into once (e.g. have certain artefact and encounter certain aliens). But yeah, further development in the area of developing PG’d text would be great, even if it’s just to add a better impression of flavour.

    Realistically, I think that kind of PG relies on pulling the wool over players’ eyes for as long as possible. Playing Spore in the Galactic Stage and having to talk to aliens gets maddeningly dull quickly. Oh, you’re all about spreading the word of Spode are you? You and approximately 20% of the last hundred species I met.

  7. Well with SAIS I was complaining specifically about the flavor text. I agree about the new situations — I just took out a Tan Ru Decimator with a fleet that had no defensive upgrades, which I think was the first time it happened (Multi-Missile Launcher plus Sardion Optimizer, and I sacrificed Slasher and Moon Marauder flying off to the side so my flagship didn’t get any Particle Vortex Cannon hits) — but those tantalizing glimpses of a story, I used them up a long time ago. Not that this is a big deal at all, it’s kind of like complaining that the flavor text in Magic the Gathering stays the same every time you play.

    But I was saying to myself, self, wouldn’t it be cool if you could get glimpses of a story that was different every time, so you were discovering bits of the story instead of just getting stuff to do stuff and score points? Again, a different game, but one that could be cool! Except I really need to put up on some procedural text generation and see, hmmm, maybe how long I can pull the wool over the players’ eyes.

    I don’t think it’s your fault that you’re forcing yourself through boring stuff, at least I think the games are largely at fault too. When I thought of putting stuff down and picking it up again I was thinking of a game that was really open-ended, so there was no temptation to exhaust the content. Imagine a Proteus that was a hundred times larger; you wouldn’t want to explore everything all at once, you’d just play until you were tired of it and then start playing again when you weren’t tired of it anymore. Ideally.

    Anyway as you point out there’s no evidence that NMS is like this beyond my own personal dreams.

  8. I do love the combat in SAIS and Weird Worlds (the new title is still rough around the edges). I tend to lean towards hard-hitting long range weapons; the best is the energy ball that pulses out and strikes targets multiple times, including fighters it passes near. Still, it’s so easy to overestimate your hand and see your ship eradicated. Delicious.

    That’s a lovely summary of SAIS at Gamasutra, by the way.

    On the original topic, I do agree with you on that. It would be much cooler if the game kept generating new tidbits that suggested a sense of mystery – and was able to sometimes deliver further on those tidbits, so the entire thing didn’t feel like a sham. You’d need to be unaware that the game was doing this for it to work well, though.

  9. I would like to report that I just destroyed the Yellow Kawangi in face-to-face combat without the… ah, I guess I’d better ROT13 this for spoilage.

    jvgubhg gur Puebzvhz Tbat be nal qrsrafvir hctenqrf ng nyy. V unq tbg gur Yvzvgrq Inphhz Pbyyncfre rneyl ohg qhr gb vanovyvgl gb thrff jurer gur Xnjnatv jrer jnfa’g noyr gb jvcr gurz bhg orsber gurl tbg gbb pybfr gb Ubcr. Ohg V unq n Cnegvpyr Ibegrk Pnaaba, n Fneqvba Bcgvzvmre, naq unq n Gvzryrff Onhoyr gung V unqa’g hfrq lrg…

    …ng guvf cbvag V fgbc pbatenghyngvat zlfrys n ovg orpnhfr V ernyvmr V fubhyq’ir whfg jvfurq sbe gur qhzo tbat…

    …fb V svtherq, V arrq gb pngpu gurz ng Ubcr naq qb n ybg bs qnzntr snfg orpnhfr gur Xnjnatv pna ercnve gurve uhyy. Fb V jvfurq sbe n Abin Pnaaba, juvpu V yrnearq fbzrjurer vf gur anzr bs bar bs gurve fhcrejrncbaf (gur bar gung sverf bar uhtr obyg). Zbba Znenhqre jnf zl bayl nyyl, fb V frag ure nebhaq gur bgure fvqr bs gur Xnjnatv naq fgnegrq qevsgvat va. Gur Xnjnatv’f svefg Abin Pnaaba fubg zvffrq gur Znenhqre naq ol gur gvzr gurl tbg gur frpbaq fubg bss V jnf chzcvat Abin Pnaaba naq CIP obygf va cerggl snfg. Jvcrq bhg gurve fuvryqf vafgnagyl naq gubhtu gur uhyy xrcg gelvat gb gvpx onpx hc gurl jrer tbar orsber gurl pbhyq trg nyy gur jnl nebhaq gb snpr gurz.

    Eat shit, Kawangi motherfuckers! You just got owned by a ship with a Structural Gluon Shield!

  10. Damn, dude. That’s awesome.

    I always forget about the TB. I think I’ve only used it once, because I usually assume it’s just another inactive artefact.

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