11 February 2015
The Manifesto of Value
Also known as: "Why Sinking Feeling Isn't Free"
(I originally wrote this as an article, but it became so preachy and self-absorbed that I decided to go the whole hog and turn it into a manifesto. It's in part a response to the position we find ourselves in when we are asked about (or criticised for) our work not being free. The majority of gamers and colleagues have been very supportive and understand our approach and that of many other indie studios. Shout-outs to the people on the TouchArcade forums for being really supportive during the Toast Time and Sinking Feeling releases - it's meant a lot to us.)
This is an in-house philosophy, a formalisation of how we approach what we do. We're sharing it because it's been on our minds a lot lately, mostly due to the following:
Games studios who are - intentionally or not - ripping off customers through over-promising and under-delivering, diminishing the trust between the studios and the public.
PR firms and consultants who regularly approach us and encourage us to treat players like cattle.
Gamers who want things for free (and why wouldn't you when there is so much other stuff available at that price?..)
There are three core rules:
1) Value your work.
2) Value the people who might play your work.
3) Value the work of people who maintain rules (1) and (2).
Some work can (and should) be free. The undeveloped jam games, the experiments, the sketches, but a more substantial piece of work, that has taken time and which you believe distinguishes itself in some form or another to its siblings, has value. Price your work according to this value.
(Communities making free online games are awesome however, they are a hotbed of talent and learning. It is where we came from and where we still go to. These types of places are exempt, what we are talking about is the marketplaces that we rely upon to try to sustain ourselves.)
Trust is important. People will tell you that it isn't, that there are so many players now that no matter how much they are cheated or scammed they will keep coming back for more. Whether that's true or not, it's not a particularly fun world to inhabit.
Trust others and encourage them to trust you through your actions. Words mean nothing I'm afraid, Mr Molyneux.
Short term gains are always secondary to long term stability (thanks Toyota). Figure out a way to make your game development sustain itself while you improve your craft and gain a reputation for quality. If you're in this business for a quick buck then you are The Problem and I'm sure none of this will mean anything to you.
Confronted by a marketplace in which short-term gains are so heavily favoured it can be incredibly difficult to maintain a longer, more sustainable approach. Clones and throw-away cash-ins proliferate wildly. This is bad. Don't contribute to this problem.
Happiness is more important than money.
The medium is more important than happiness.
Adverts are bad. I don't need to tell you why.
Free games are the obsfuscation of the transaction between developer and player. Whether using ingame advertising, IAPs or promotional materials, someone is paying to have your attention because your attention has a financial value associated to it. We believe that an honest, clear transaction is always preferable to the harvesting of eyeballs en masse.
Don't sell promises. If something is unfinished, price it like it's unfinished. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow.
Do your best work.
When someone is playing your game you have a power over them and thus a responsibility to them. Believe in games, in their ability to be life changing and habit forming. As with any creative medium they can be very easily abused.
To respect your players you have to respect your game.
All marketplaces tend towards entropy. Don't let this alter your judgement, that's short-term thinking.
Love everything about what you do, you are blessed to be doing it. (This does not apply if you're working 70 hour weeks at someone elses behest).
When things get bad, vultures will circle. They will play on your fears, tell you you are doing it all wrong, that you need to take their advice for a small price… show them the door or a photo of your arse (and then the door).
Digital marketplaces get manipulated by people with money on a grand scale. Whether it is download farms, review farms or overactive PR departments who data mine users reviews in order to target those who have a propensity towards positive reviews (yeah, that one was a suprise to me too). The list is long and ever-changing. There's not much we can do about this other than put pressure on the platform holders to create systems that nullify this behaviour. Bear in mind that nothing the platform holders do will work for very long as they are up against very smart people with a lot of money at stake.
People who don't live by these rules are still nice people.
People who do live by these rules aren't by definition nice people.
It's ok to be an idealist, just be prepared for it to lead to financial ruin...
"The Manifesto of Value" - revision 0.0.1.
- Force Of Habit