More FAQs; or: On the Folly of Giving Money Directly to Developers

Some recently Frequently Asked Questions:

“Why do we have to wait two weeks to buy a game which is already done?”

As you may have noticed, Valve has some kind of a Summer Sale thing about to go… although I don’t see a formal announcement yet, people have started talking about it so I guess the cat is out of the bag. Anyhow, we can’t put Dredmor up during the Summer Sale, so you have to wait until it’s over. Sorry, folks.

“How will Linux users be able to pay for their copy of Dredmor?”

I hate to say it, but selling games for Linux is hard. (My former employer found this out the hard way, and went bankrupt.) We’re still working on this. As an interim solution, I will likely put working binaries in the Steam builds for both Windows and OS X users, similar to what the Steel Storm guys did. That way, at the very least, this helps the dual booters. We are also opening the floodgates and talking with some other Distribute-y people. There *will* be more distributor announcements.

“If I buy a Windows copy of the game, do I need to buy a new copy of the game for Linux or OS X?”

I certainly hope not, and this is certainly our goal. In an ideal world, if you buy Dredmor, you buy Dredmor.

“I don’t like Steam! Why does the game have to be a Steam exclusive?”

Dungeons of Dredmor is not a Steam exclusive. We’re just launching there first. This has everything to do with us being a small company, and needing to focus our resources on getting one distributor set up at a time. We are considering other alternatives, but we haven’t gotten there yet. Steam will certainly end up being the best place to buy Dredmor for awhile, anyhow.

“Will the game be available on the OS X App Store?”

This is a priority, yes. All that this is really waiting on is for me to find the time to package and upload the submission. Also, I think we have to pay a hundred dollars, and I don’t think any of us *have* a hundred dollars…

“Why can’t I just give you money directly and download a .tgz file or a ZIP or something?”

This one is a little more complicated to answer. Basically, it’s for our protection.

When I say protection, I’m not talking about the game having DRM or not having DRM. For what it’s worth – and I cannot speak for the rest of Gaslamp here – my take on DRM is that it prevents very low-key, casual piracy (at the level of, say, your grandmother giving a copy of Dredmor to your Uncle Mitford, neither of whom are technologically literate enough to operate a non-rotary telephone never mind a Bittorrent client); it does nothing to prevent systematic, institutional piracy and it is also very effective at alienating your end users. So I feel your pain.

In an ideal world, we would ship with a DRM free copy of Dredmor, and would rely on having a frequent stream of updated content available for users with legitimate registration keys to encourage people to have legitimate copies. I haven’t seen a scheme that works as well as this, so this is basically what we’re going with. If you want to have an anti-piracy solution in place, you have to have some sort of game function on a server somewhere, and the best we can do for a single-player gaming experience is to put the updates on our server and force you to give us a legitimate registration key before we can hand out Sooper-Fun Bonus Content. This is the “drinking from the firehose” method of piracy deterrence.

This is also why nobody makes single-player games any more: single-player games are perceived as being impossible to secure against piracy, so nobody makes them. Instead, we get Free to Play stuff, and multiplayer games, and things in your browser, and all kinds of stuff where gameplay decisions take a back seat to being able to execute code on a company-controlled server in order to provide an authentication measure. Sad, really.

That said, this *isn’t* what we’re talking about when we’re talking about our protection. If you really feel that you can’t shell out five measly, stinkin’, lousy dollars to play Dredmor, well… there’s not much we can do about that, other than possibly feeling sorry for you. When we’re talking about our protection, we’re talking about our financial protection. Running our own financial processing and transaction engine leaves us exposed to a number of problems. As a very small company, we cannot afford to find ourselves in the same situation that both Notch and Project Zomboid have found themselves in. Paypal, Google Checkout, Amazon Express, The Fiendish Guild of Gnomish Banking Interfacers – all of these institutions can, and will, freeze a seller’s assets; all of these institutions could completely, and utterly, destroy our company and we would be powerless to do anything about it. Anybody who has ever run afoul of Paypal or Google knows that it is next to impossible to find an actual human being to talk to. Consequently, these services are not really an option for large-scale game sales.

The next best alternative is that we set ourselves up with a credit card processor and run our own storefront-based, money-taking web-solution. This assumes you have a credit card, which can also be a bit iffy in this day and age. It also exposes us to the problems associated with running an in-house electronic commerce system; we have to build a system that is secure enough that you feel comfortable giving us your credit card number, and we also have to ensure that it is secure enough from our end that the money ends up in our bank account and not sent to the First International Bank of Lulzsec. Again, if anything goes wrong, it could destroy Gaslamp. Writing your own software solutions for these things is dangerous; again, look at Project Zomboid, who built a clever cloud-based updater system only to realize that pirated copies were slowly bankrupting them. We don’t want to be in that situation, which is why we’re using third-party publishers and distributors.

A final option is something like BT Micro; a service that handles all the credit card processing and transactional downloading for you. This isn’t a bad idea, although it does leave the problem of providing you with updates.

Anyhow, that’s our thought process. For those of you who want to give us money directly – we love you, but we really, really can’t take it. I hate to say it, but waking up and knowing that you still have a company in the morning and that your accounts haven’t been frozen is worth a slice of your revenue stream.

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor, Gaslamp | Tagged , , , , , , ,
22 Comments

22 Responses to “More FAQs; or: On the Folly of Giving Money Directly to Developers”

  1. Fumarole says:

    FYI, the Steam Summer Sale just launched.

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  2. Gungnir says:

    Ah so thats why it on July 13…

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  3. wid says:

    Thanks for the write up! I am sorry for all the noise I made, in the end I’d have bought the game anyway (and BTW, I do have a Steam account).

    Services like BMT Micro are often used by indies, and I haven’t really heard anything bad about them. Unlike PayPal and Google, as you pointed out. Fact is, I really don’t know if their revenues are as huge as Notch’s. As for the updates, take a look at the way Arcen Games manages them if you haven’t already. Bigger installers on Atomic Gamer, Gamer’s Hell, etc. plus a private (or rented?) server. Their frequent beta updates should be hosted on that server, but they are smallish in size. IIRC they had some problems getting their games on Steam, though, so that could be a reason for their solution. Nowadays their top selling game is on Steam too, but they didn’t drop their original way of distributing.

    And finally, is there a way to get the Steam DRM working on Linux? Otherwise the binaries could just leak around. Granted, I don’t think most of the Linux userbase would be so keen on pirating your game, but one can never be too sure.

    Again… Sorry if I have ranted a lot, I will surely buy your game and I’ll happily buy it again and again if and when other payment methods come out, for 5$ it’s a damn steal! Thank you again and I wish you good luck with your game.

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    • getter77 says:

      Ditto to this in large part—the likes of Arcen Games and Soldak Entertainment have about the most simple to update and direct slate of doings among all the Indie entities I’ve dealt with, the former with auto-updates and the latter with the classic “download and extract in the same place”

      Everybody be sure to hang onto at least a $5 sum post-Steam sale—-STAY STRONG!

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  4. stants says:

    just opened a steam account cos i want this game so bad….you guys have just played a major part in my gaming history :) if another download option comes along in the future i shall buy again…roll on the 13th, Big love

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  5. d32 says:

    I’m just spending money in the steam summer sale, but I’m sure going to save $15 for you guys. :)
    Also, when talking about pricing and Steam, one thing leaves me worried: What will be the euro cost of the game?
    Real world $5 equivalent (3.5 euros), or Steam world $5 equivalent (5 euros)?

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  6. Seriously look at BMT Micro, Plimus, etc. – you can create a custom form to get additional customer information (if they are interested!) to push out updates, etc. Plus they have built-in affiliate services so you can let other websites make you money. And best of all, you get to keep your customers – they don’t belong to Valve, etc. This means that selling Dungeons of Dredmor 2 would be 10x easier.

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  7. customer says:

    I hate to say it, but waking up and knowing that you still have a company in the morning and that your accounts haven’t been frozen is worth a slice of your revenue stream.

    As opposed to waking up in the morning and discovering that the external sites have decided to delist your game all of a sudden?

    Remember the guys who were making good sales on iphone until someone complained to Apple and their game was suddenly shut down overnight with no recourse?

    Or when DHSGiT was suddenly kicked off BFG because of a few customer complaints about content that wasn’t even in the game? (Customers got the wrong idea, raised a fuss that it was an ‘adult’ game, game was removed from sale despite the fact that it wasn’t true…)

    Sure, as long as you’re not publishing exclusively through Steam you’re not quite as screwed, but relying on publishers is just as uncertain as relying on paypal. You have no protection from their whims.

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  8. Eigen says:

    Thanks for clearing things up, really happy to hear that Dredmor won’t be a Steam exclusive as I’ve feared. Looking forward to news about alternate methods of purchase. Again, congrats on the release.

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  9. skavenhorde says:

    Project Zomboid is a very good example of how not to release a game. However that example does not fit at all with your game. They tried to sell a game before they had anything to download. Basically they were asking for donations. Which is all well and good, but Google and Paypal don’t do that and that is why they froze their account. Your situation and theirs are completely different.

    With that said I don’t really care what distributor you use. I have a bunch of Steam games as well as Impulse, GamersGate and GoG. I prefer GamersGate and GoG, but Steam will do for now. If you release it yourself in the future I’ll buy it again just so I don’t have to wait for Steam to patch the game. It takes them forever and a day to update their games once a patch becomes available.

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  10. Pips says:

    Notch has proven that doing the paypal works out in the end. I also think they’re aware of smaller start ups raking in money by now as well.

    That said, I’m happy Steam is going to sell your game. I buy everything through it, so I’ll happily wait for it.

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  11. winterwolves says:

    Sheesh, your motivation for not selling directly are pretty weak. You’d really give up a lump amount of cash for those reasons?? I don’t have any game on Steam or Mac appstore and my direct sales are 99% of my income.
    And I never had any problems (using BMT micro) or don’t live under a bridge :D

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  12. Lipsore says:

    I really wish there was an option besides Steam. I like Steam and it’s service, but I live in Germany and my credit card address is in America and they won’t let me give them money no matter what I try!

    I’d gladly paypal you $20 for a Steam activation code or a direct download. I’ll send a check too if that’s better.

    It’s shitty because I’ve got plenty of money and really want to pay and support good companies. Yet I know I’ll see this pop up on a release site and really really want to play, but not have the option to pay.

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  13. embarrassing says:

    Fastspring is significantly better than plimus and BT micro. Has great customer service too.

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  14. Mordekaiser says:

    Ok , so you cant release your game while steam has their Summercamp sale but others can?

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  15. Worthstream says:

    Can’t you just provide a “donate with Paypal” under this blog post?
    I do feel that $5 it too little and would like to donate the same amount to you directly to fund new games/new content or really just a couple of beer to say “thank you” for having given the roguelike genre the much needed attention it deserved.

    Just some little thing at the end of a single blog post, so it will not make you appear unprofessional or anything. Just like Shamus Young did here:
    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=10767

    Think about it, it’s easier than the other option: take a plane to Italy and let me offer you those couple of beer in person ;)

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    • AdminDaniel Jacobsen says:

      We’ve actually considered internally such things as a Paypal donate button or even a “donate beer/coffee” button… (I think there was also talk of lutefisk? …not really sure.)

      We really, really appreciate your patronage and of others who have asked us about this in the past. Our current thought is that we are – first and foremost – a game company, and we feel like taking money without giving you some game-related thing is not really what we’re here for.

      As we’ve said before, we hope that if you like our work enough to want to contribute more, you’ll consider giving the gift of Dredmor to one of your friends.

      Also, if we ever find ourselves parched in Italy, you’ll be getting an email =P

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      • Goat says:

        Don’t use the donate button. That’s what got Zomboid into trouble. Unless you’re a non-profit that actually takes donations, you can’t use it.

        You need to treat it as any other purchase. You could have a “buy nothing” button.

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  16. Gungnir says:

    5 more day…

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  17. Napkin says:

    Pity – at least for the moment there is no Linux binary in the Steam package. And in Wine I can’t choose a proper Window resolution without making it crash (3728×1152 is definitely not the way I’d like to play a game in windowed mode).

    Help? :)

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    • Napkin says:

      Actually, the crash bug seemed to have happened in some versions of Windows, too – but was fixed lightning fast!

      Unfortunately, it only presents me with 3728×1152 as an option. Wish I could enforce some resolution via cmdline or config-file..

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