Friday, February 10, 2012

Four Things To End the Week.


I have a big article about the indie games biz up on Gamasutra. I'm quite happy with how it turned out. Enjoy!


Everyone all justifiably atwitter about how Tim Schafer raised upwards of one million dollars on Kickstarter to make a new adventure game. It's a great proof-of-concept for the whole publicly funded game thing. If Tim Schafer couldn't pull in some coin to make an adventure game, nothing else has a chance.

I think it's brilliant, and it ties well into what I said in my Gamasutra article. The secret power of indie devs is to exploit underserved niches. Expect other Kickstarter-funded games in future. I only hope the results match the expectations.


Heaven forbid that I should be thought to criticize Notch or Minecraft. (I won't even point out that the whole end boss/enchantment/potion/combat system is taking the game in entirely the wrong direction to please exactly the wrong group of people.)

But, about this.

Hey, I wouldn't presume to give them advice. But, after I make my 30 million dollars, I'm not going to rely on Anonymous to finish my games for me. Just sayin'.


Every once in a while, I read someone's critique of OK Go as a band, focusing on the fact that they basically fine and only have one decent single. (Don't click that link. You've seen it already.) But that misses the point. They aren't a band. They're much more interesting than that. They're a meme-generation factory, and really good at it.

So here is my legally mandated one link a year to an OK Go video. Yeah, like you have something better to do with three minutes and fifty-four seconds.

Look for my next link to them in roughly fifteen months, when they play some pleasant and non-threatening power pop by shooting kittens out of a cannon into steel drums, or whatever.


  1. I can't watch OK Go videos, I have to go and read your article.


  2. In Notch's defense, he's no longer the lead developer of Minecraft. He's hopefully at work on the next great thing. But, yeah, bad direction to go, crowdsourcing weak, etc. Backup your current/favorite version, kids.

    Chanting softly... more on D&D, more on D&D...

  3. "Hey, I wouldn't presume to give them advice. But, after I make my 30 million dollars, I'm not going to rely on Anonymous to finish my games for me. Just sayin'."

    But he is not getting Anonymous it finish his game for him. Most games are not ported to anywhere as many languages as Minecraft is because it would be a waste of money. All notch did here was say, I am not going to pay for someone to translate Minecraft to hundreds of languages but if you play Minecraft and want to translate it yourself then do it and I will even make your contribution official.

  4. "All notch did here was say, I am not going to pay for someone to translate Minecraft to hundreds of languages but if you play Minecraft and want to translate it yourself then do it and I will even make your contribution official."

    And all I am here to say is DO NOT DO THAT.

    I mean, seriously, man. Go to the Kotaku page I linked to. Look at the Minecraft screencap. Think about that going out in your name. Then go forth and sin no more.

    - Jeff Vogel

  5. My first instinct was "Couldn't they at least pay for a proof reader?"

    I don't mean one for every language, but someone to look over it and make sure there is no insulting English in an Afrikaans version.

    Having said that, unless you proof read it in every language someone submits you will never know if the translated version is full of insults in Afrikaans instead. That would then render crowd sourcing pointless because you would still need to pay a proofreader. Also it would suck to pay a proofreader for them to say "erm, this person is taking the piss as it's not even a real language."

    It seems the only answer is do it professionally or not at all.

  6. The weird think about the comments on Kotaku about the Minecraft deal were how they ended up being mostly about how the word "about" is spoken in parts of Canada as opposed to being outraged that some dolt decided to pull a rather crappy stunt...

  7. Hi Jeff,

    Have just gone and read your article on Gamasutra. Very cool. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    Have been a software dev for a while now, and have made a couple of simple games .. But now I'm thinking it's possible to carve out a niche by taking what we (me and my family) love from games and build something with it's own personality, it's own life.

    Christmas just gone by my kids and I got talking about making a game. I've got five young'ins, and all of them (even the 2 yr old) love gaming (five computers running five minecrafts .. dude).

    Anyway, we came up with an idea and ran with it. As a tool I'm using the ide my work-work gets done in (Clarion) and Axialis IconWorkshop (because my artistic skills are on par with those of a rock).

    The game is called Ballikin. It's 2d. Very 2d. It's alpha. Very alpha. Built in a business desktop development ide.

    But you know what. Reading your article, and listening to your blog over the years, confirms the joy and wonder I feel in my heart while creating this thing .. That this can work.

    Every single morning when the kids get up and rush to ask me "Dad, did you get anything new into Ballikin last night? Did you? Yeah! Copper Armor! Cooool!" .. That's pretty neat.

    Apologies for rambling.

    Thanks for making your experiences, thoughts and feelings known to the world. You are of great encouragement.

    And if you are interested, Ballikin lives at

  8. "And all I am here to say is DO NOT DO THAT."

    Well I guess we take to different outlooks on this story.

    I see it as crowd sourcing is working. Sure it has its potential pitfalls like all methods but Notch seems to have his method working well enough that even when someone tried to mess with MC it was caught quickly and handled professionally.

    Some testers seeing some naughty words, notifying Notch, and then Notch dealing with it seems like a small price to pay to have MC ported to Pirate (and 55 other languages).

  9. The screenshot and translation was in a snapshot build, not a public build - it was not sent to the general public. This story is nothing more than something bad was done, and then caught in review.

    Minecraft is available in 56 languages - how many games are available in at least 10?

    Would you also say it's bad to allow users to contribute mods to a game as well? I really don't see much difference between allowing users to share language packs and users to share mods, which happens in many games. It's not "finishing the game" its expanding it with user content.

  10. About Minecraft. Last thing I'll say on this.

    When you're a little company, you totally have to look to outsiders for help. For example, I rely on volunteer beta testers. You don't have a choice.

    But when you're big? And everyone knows about you and you have attracted LOTS of attention? Then, the moment you let outsiders put stuff in the game and you release builds (snapshot or not) without checking what they add? Then there are hordes of people on the net who will try to sneak horrible stuff into your game just for fun. (Or "lulz", as some might say.)

    Sure, they caught this one. (Eventually.) That has just shown the malicious that they have to be more clever in the harm they do.

    Hey, we'll just have to agree to disagree. But once you reach a certain prominence, letting outsiders put stuff into your builds is just a way to say, "Hey, kids! Hurt me now! I'm beggin' for it!"

    As for me, no content ever ever goes into one of our builds seen by any group outside the company (no matter how large or small) without being checked by someone in-house.

    - Jeff Vogel

  11. Your comments seem to be general enough assume that you mean that this applies not only to other video games but possibly software in general?

    Is crowd sourcing just completely unviable in your opinion?
    Is Linux a completely doomed idea?
    Is Wikipedia completely unreliable?

  12. "Is crowd sourcing just completely unviable in your opinion?"

    To an extent, yes. All that has to happen is for it to be a tempting target for people who want to mess with it. And then they will. And then you need to carefully check what they contribute, which completely negates the benefits of crowd sourcing.

    "Is Linux a completely doomed idea?"

    What a lame retort. Everything in any decent flavor of Linux gets checked before it enters the kernel. The whole point of the Minecraft situation was that they were trying to cheap their way out having to get people they could trust to check things.

    "Is Wikipedia completely unreliable?"

    Not completely. Any page on Wikipedia that is seldom trafficked enough to not get carefully checked by multiple people is not reliable. I mean, dude. Are you seriously going to plant your flag on the unimpeachable reliability of WIKIPEDIA? Because, if so, this debate just turned AWESOME.

    Don't let your joy at the magical potential of crowd sourcing blind you to certain ugly truths about human nature as repeatedly displayed on the internet.

    - Jeff Vogel

  13. Jeff,

    Loved your Gamasutra article. As a fellow indie developer who launched his first game in the early 90s, I love reading your stuff.

    I love how much positive attention indie game development is receiving lately. I hope there will still be a lot of excitement for it when we have the grand opening of our new game next month (/fingers crossed).

    Here's the url if you're interested:

  14. I enjoyed your article. And yes, it does give me hope for some of my other favorite "dead" genres, if they can only be found by an indie developer or 12 as dedicated as you.

    Vaguely relevant to the discussion in these comments: The eeriest example of this sort of crowdsourced abuse was something I came across on wikipedia a few years ago - about a dozen interconnected pages related to some sort of obscure Indian subcultural identity or dialect. I really didn't understand any of it. The important part is that ALL of the usernames that worked on these pages were related to ALL of the webpages turn quoted as sources/citations for ALL of the material, which in turn only had a couple of names listed as authors. It was basically a miniature but dedicated conspiracy to promote... well, I'm not really sure what their viewpoint was, other than it not being grounded in reality (due to the lack of even ONE source that didn't point back to the person doing this - couldn't they have cited some books that don't actually agree with their viewpoints, like everyone else seems to?). My hard drive failed before I got around to reporting it, and I haven't found it since. I wonder if it's still up there. It's so inconsequential, but so creepy.

  15. Well it could of been as simple as the one writing the article was the highest expert on the matter so there was no other real sources for the article (especially since it sounds like the subject matter was very esoteric).

    1. Jonathon: Nope. They were all different websites, trying to make it look like there were a variety of viewpoints/sources/opinions on the subject, yet if you checked the "about" section, you'd see they were all by the same person or two. And they editted the articles from multiple accounts, all with names that referenced those pages or those people. In any case, it's against wikipedia's rules to add information that is about/comes from yourself to an article since you can spin it anyway you want.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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