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Diecast #68: Twitch, Crytek, Yogventures

By Shamus
on Wednesday Jul 30, 2014
Filed under:


Double thanks to Jarenth and Krellen for filling in at literally the last moment. If it hadn’t been for them, there wouldn’t be a Diecast this week.

Instead, you get two! The second half of this conversation will appear later in the week.

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Josh, Shamus, Jarenth, and Krellen.

Show Notes:

1:30 News: YouTube buys Twitch for $LOLOL dollars.

11:00 Crytek’s ongoing financial problems.

We glossed over a point that I wanted to talk about in more detail: As Jarenth said, Crytek is known for making “really pretty” games. Or game engines. But we’re so far past the point of diminishing returns that their skills are basically moot. Think of it this way: Imagine the programmers at Crytek could suddenly make all their graphics run 50% faster. You can just hand-wave it and say a wizard makes it so that when running Cry Engine games, graphics cards have 50% more power.

I maintain that this benefit – even though it’s a complete miracle – would be of very limited business value. Homefront flopped, and that had nothing to do with its graphics. (In fact, I’m pretty sure the graphics were the only thing they got right. Which makes it even more mysterious as to why CryTek would bother with it.) When was the last time a game really sold on the basis of its graphics alone? AAA graphics are like pizza and sex: Even when they’re way below average, they’re still pretty great.

27:00 The Yogventures Kickstarter did not end well.

And here is the related mailbag question:

Dear Diecast

I’m wondering how you feel about well funded corporations resorting to crowd funding, in specific I was wondering about your views of Steam’s recent Crowd funding of their DOTA 2 international prize pool given that only 25% of the money donated went into the actual prize pool?

Random Internet Lurker

The Yogventures story is so sad. Half a million bucks, and very little to show for it other than a lot of rumors and finger-pointing. Contrast this with how the Unrest kickstarter turned out. This is not to rub salt in the Yogventures wound, but only to point out how important it is that these projects are transparent so that we can all learn from each other’s mistakes.

Comments (121)

  1. Henson says:

    Well, Homefront may have been absolutely terrible, but it is apparently still valuable enough to be bought by Deep Silver. Which I guess I can see; America being invaded by North Korea may stretch believability, but at least shooting dudes on home turf suburbia is novel.

    Deep Silver Buys Homefront

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Dear diecast,how do you feel about potato salad?

    • krellen says:

      I am generally in favour of that use of Kickstarter.

      Like, Potato Salad is the “core Kickstarter” thing; it’s the sort of thing Kickstarter was doing and for long before all us gamers knew about it.

      (Seriously, I found “we want to make cookies” and “buy me a steak dinner” Kickstarters back in the archives, both like two or three years ago.)

      EDIT: The aforementioned Kickstarters were successful, raising about $50 a piece.

    • Shamus says:

      My blog is basically one big batch of potato salad. “Hey, I’m going to be writing this software. Do you want to watch me do it? Here’s my Patreon page!”

      Experimental software that never gets released isn’t much more useful than potato salad you’ll watch someone else eat. I got no room to complain.

    • Chris says:

      I made a typically Chris-length post about it on my Facebook page way back when it started (if you think I’m annoying in comments, imagine an entire Facebook feed with this stuff. I should really just post to Tumblr or something).

      In the interest of brevity, I’ll just try to sum up the sentiment. I’m not angry at the dude for doing what Kickstarters are designed to do. Kickstarters are, in a very real sense, the actual product you’re buying, not the end result. The updates, the countdown to success/failure, the ever-growing (or stalling!) total counts. They’re an entertainment package onto themselves. You back it to feel good, you back it because the idea of it makes you laugh, you back it to see how high the total might go, you back it because it’s a political statement. Or you don’t back it because you hate it, or want to see it fail, and rail against it on social media and angry blog posts. In this case people are backing it because… well, because “lolz,” and that’s as good a reason as any to spend money on something. Hard to feel angry at the system working like it should. Hopefully everyone who kicked it $5 got $5 worth of entertainment out of the idea of a $50,000 pot of potato salad.

      That said… I’ve seen people (i.e., Rutskarn and other indie devs) use Kickstarter to scrape together what little funds they can. I see writers on Patreon – people putting out work that I think is super important or powerful – earning an extra $100-$200 a month. They don’t do this because “lolz” they do it because it’s the only way their work will get funded. I turned to Patreon myself because it was the only way I’d break even continuing to produce ES, and definitely the only potential route for making it a more full time thing. And so you have people on these services looking for money because they have no place else to go and it’s literally how they support their work, and it’s also a place where internet memes generate money because Kickstarters are their own entertainment.

      The best analogy I can think of – and it’s a shitty analogy; but digital issues rarely lend themselves to meaningful real world counterparts – is that there’s this community of Buskers all peddling their arts downtown for whatever change people have in their pockets. Then some jerkass shows up and plays the most hilariously, intentionally bad/minimalist/atonal songs possible and people give him tons of cash because at least he made them laugh. The other buskers can’t be mad at that guy, really – hey, he made the system work for him – but at the same time it’s hard not to feel like it’s sort of a collective slap in the face when Wackypants McGimmickface gets more money on a half-hearted farce than you’ll see in a year of hard work? And then you start wondering if the problem isn’t Wackypants McGimmickface at all – maybe the problem is a system that requires a bunch of artists to panhandle for cash. *shrug*

      …. That wasn’t as short as I intended. Oh well.

      • Shirdal says:

        Why aren’t you making posts to Tumblr, or something? I’d read it, and I get the impression that there are plenty of other people who would.

        Back to the topic at hand, I understand the frustration of creators working hard to make something only to be completely dwarfed in popularity by some half-assed work because of reasons. It’s just the nature of the audience. If people want Wackypants McGimmickface, then that’s what they’ll get, much to our frustration. I don’t think the system is to blame for that.

        Crowdfunding sources like Kickstarter and Patreon may not work well for everybody, but they offer a solution where once there was none. From what I’ve seen on Shamus’ Patreon page, the amount he gets from Patreon now far exceeds the amount he got from ads, and I don’t think he had any other alternatives on the table (correct me if I’m mistaken).

        • Tizzy says:

          This guy is the top-grossing stand-up comedian in North America. Every time I think about it, it pisses me off, not really because I don’t like his act, but because so many of the comedians I like eke a living on the edge, never get the attention, let alone the money, that their work is worth.

          But what can you do? You can criticize the way the media can control what gets in front of people’s eyes, but if the audiences are willing to get their asses in theater chairs to see that show, the guy’s definitely earned it.

          I can’t argue with the crowd when they put their money where their mouth is. All I can do is sigh at the disconnect. But I do weep for all the people out there working their heart out making elaborate content, who see clowns and cheap gimmicks rake in the dough!

        • MichaelGC says:

          I guess one happy disconnect in the analogy is that the folks who are firing up Patreon to contribute to the creators they appreciate are unlikely to be distracted by Wackyface McGimmickpants. “Wow, I’ve spent many happy & instructive hours browsing the archive of this guy’s site but screw that! This other guy’s making coleslaw!!”

          Put hopefully a better way: the reasons one might contribute to e.g. Spoiler Warning or Errant Signal are likely to be so different from the reasons one might fund potato salad that I would guess they barely interact, much less compete. I doubt they have much more than the delivery system in common.

          PS And panhandling for cash, whilst not a happy thing in itself, perhaps has its proper contrast in “panhandling for a nano-percentage of Google’s cash,” at least for the moment. Clutching at straws perhaps, but given current realities I’m not sure there isn’t something … well … a little bit noble about panhandling via Patreon.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But caching in on a funny,if simple,idea is just as artsy and honest.As opposed to those that try to abuse the system,that use fakes just so they could cache in and run.The wall street pricks of kickstarter.

      • MichaelGC says:

        I guess one happy disconnect in the analogy is that the folks who are firing up Patreon to contribute to the creators they appreciate are unlikely to be distracted by Wackyface McGimmickpants. “Wow, I've spent many fun & instructive hours browsing the archive of this guy's site but screw that! This other guy's making coleslaw!!”

        Put hopefully a better way: the reasons one might contribute to e.g. Spoiler Warning or Errant Signal are likely to be so different from the reasons one might fund potato salad that I would guess they barely interact, much less compete. I doubt they have much more than the delivery system in common.

        PS And panhandling for cash, whilst not a happy thing in itself, perhaps has its proper contrast in “panhandling for a nano-percentage of Google's cash,” at least for the moment. Clutching at straws perhaps, but given current realities I'm not sure there isn't something … well … a little bit noble about panhandling via Patreon.

      • Benjamin Hilton says:

        I think in the end it just shows what people like to spend their money on. Things like potato salad aren’t taking money away from “real” serious business kick starters, because they are different demographics.

        Example: The number of people who would just give to charity is x
        The number of people who would give to charity while watching others devolve slowly into madness due to sleep deprivation is x+n.
        Therefore: Aunty Paladin.

      • postinternetsyndrome says:

        That buskers thing actually happens sometimes and it does annoy me. Like you sometimes see videos of some famous violinist masquerading as a poor street performer and it’s all gravy but some people actually need that money and now you’re turfing them out. I’d not call it immoral, but it might be a bit inconsiderate.

        • Tizzy says:

          And sometimes, you have famous violinists who perform in the street because that’s how they make a living. The line is not that clear cut, most of these people are not salaried, they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from, let alone when it’s coming…

        • silver Harloe says:

          I only saw one video like that, and the guy did it *once*, to see if people would notice he was playing awesomely on a Stradivarius

      • djshire says:

        To give a real world (and very relatable) example of this: Pewdiepie screams like an idiot getting scared at Slender and other such games and has ridiculous amounts of people following him. In contrast, people like you and PushinUpRoses make very good LPs and reviews and analysis and such have a very small following (in comparison).

  3. Traiden says:

    I am glad you are bringing back the news segments even for this single Diecast. I have been missing the discussions these and the views provide. I hope you can do more with the regular cast too. I am sorry that I do not have much more to add than that. I am even breaking my self imposed silence on the comments section to say this.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Youtube definitely doesnt need to be so aggressive about copyright.Blip and twitch have proven that.

    So I do think a lot of money exchanged hands for this.Or,maybe not hard cash,but political clout.

    • Chris says:

      Twitch is gonna start locking down now that they’re owned by YouTube, you can bet on that. Might take a year or two, but it’ll happen (probably more quickly for the archives than the streams, but eventually both).

      Blip.tv has avoided copyright issues primarily by locking their content down. They’ve purged a significant number of channels and opening up a new channel requires the approval of admins. DMCA notices are still possible against stuff on Blip.tv, but since they trust most of their producers it requires a real DMCA notice, not those YouTube style takedown requests that give all the power to the studios. As a result you get waaaaay fewer takedowns.

      • rabs says:

        There is a recent story about Twitch DMCA takedowns in France, because it turned off the channels of a big video game news website (Gameblog) and Playstation France.
        http://www.gameblog.fr/news/44613-playstation-france-et-gameblog-bannis-par-twitch [in french, I didn’t see english articles about it yet].

        They where streaming a let’s play “The Last of Us Remastered” just after the NDA decided by Sony ended.

        Twitch wasn’t able to sort it out quickly, and a said it was Naughty Dog that issued the DMCA notice, as they have the tools to do that.
        So there was a miscommunication somewhere, and the channels where turned back on later.

        In the mean time, Gameblog continued his streaming on Dailymotion… and plan it to be their main streaming channel now.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Bulletstorm also had a lot of dicks,like fdgzd pointed out last time.

  6. hborrgg says:

    TUG: “The Untitled Game”

    Aside from that I’m afraid I don’t really know much about what the game’s about. Apparently all of the code and assets from Yogventures were also sent over to the TUG devs which seems sort of odd to me, does anyone know if that’s a thing that makes any sense?
    “I see you’re working hard on a game there, here’s a whole bunch of partly finished character models and stuff from a completely different game than what you wanted to make.”

  7. hborrgg says:

    On a somewhat related note, Yogventures wasn’t even the only big piece of news putting yogscast in the hotseat these past couple weeks. Does anyone have any major thoughts they want to share on yogdiscovery? In short, if the yogscast covers a particular game, they get a portion of any boost in sales for some period after the video comes out.

    NerdCubed and some other lets-players I think have already weighed in rather harshly on the idea.

    • syal says:

      Sounds very corporate. But they can only do that if they have a contract with the owners, so whatever. It’s money for an ad campaign, if it works it works.

    • James says:

      I am totally cool with youtubers doing paid promotion work, things like Battle Royales Polaris has done, special series of x game.

      BUT it must be stated clearly, if not for legal reasons but also because of transparency, New Media is supposed to be New and its also supposed to be us, we should be better then the old guard then the stuffy guys in suits. additionally the idea of an opinion being changed because they have been or will be paid, that’s a very personal thing, do you trust the Yogscast to present an honest opinion in the game they are being rewarded for doing videos on, i for one do.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I should totally start a tautology kickstarter.If you raise a million dollars for me,then I will have a million dollars.

  9. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I’m not ready to believe Google would go as far as creating a system like their content ID thing without the pressure Hollywood put on them. Pretty much everything they’ve done is built on harnessing free-flowing information. With this move they are choking themselves.

    Hollywood has a long long history of evil. Google has a short history of being mostly good and actually contributing things of value that change the world in ways that should make Hollywood weep bitterly from jealousy.

    And maybe that’s why they lean on Google when they can. Because Google has changed the world more than Hollywood could ever hope too. Google put them in their place.

    • RandomInternetCommenter says:

      I don’t call forced surveillance on everyone nor evading billions of taxes “being mostly good”. But then, I’m not American so my opinion on privacy and social responsibility has no relevance… It sure is great when huge corporations use their power to stomp on different cultures.

      • Volfram says:

        Google has a short history of being mostly good before they started the tax evasion and forced surveillance.

        They’ve been openly violating their company motto of “Don’t Be Evil” ever since then.

      • Klay F. says:

        Are we really gonna start calling paying the least amount of taxes you can within the bounds of the law evil now? Seriously? I know this is veering dangerously close to politics, but REALLY?

        • Volfram says:

          Without trying to get into politics, I’ve had people argue to me that any technique for paying less taxes is taking advantage of people who can’t use that technique and is therefore abusive.

          • Paul Spooner says:

            Both parties believe they are doing the right thing. People who trust the government as the highest authority will want everyone to pay their fair share of taxes because it is the right thing to do. People who trust some other ultimate authority won’t mind screwing the government (as long as it doesn’t get them in trouble) because this will let them use their resources elsewhere. These disagreements over the nature of “evil” exist because of differing fundamental assumptions about the role of government in society.

            • RandomInternetCommenter says:

              Indeed, and in some countries the system is based on high government involvement. If you don’t pay appropriate taxes for your revenue then you’re just leeching on the public resources you use and dragging everyone down. Let’s keep in mind we’re talking about a huge corporation making billions of revenue, not the working man living from paycheck to paycheck.

          • syal says:

            Are you saying the government is going to take an additional $X billion from the general populace because Google used a loophole? I’m pretty sure Google paying less tax doesn’t affect the tax rate for anyone else.

            • ehlijen says:

              It does in a way. It means that there is less tax money to be spent.

              It might mean some roads don’t get fixed, leading to accidents. It might mean less teachers get hired, not enough to replace retirees. It might mean cops will have to go a few years longer with old, now unsafe, cars than planned. It might mean less veteran benefits for former soldiers who are too wounded to work. It might mean a lot of things less done with the missing taxes.

              So the government isn’t taking the extra from other people, but it will be left unable to spend that money. Less money spent by the government tends to hit those who can’t dodge taxes more than those who can, so in a way, yes. Google took that money from where it could help others.

              • syal says:

                The US government at least has been spending more money than they take in for a while now, so them going over budget doesn’t affect anything.

                More to the point, they’re the ones that made the laws, and the loopholes, so they don’t get to complain that people are following the laws the way they wrote them.

                • Humanoid says:

                  These loopholes often involve laws in multiple countries, so it’s a bit hard to unilaterally close them without international cooperation. And often it isn’t in the interest of said other countries to close the loophole.

                • Wide And Nerdy says:

                  I hate to take the pro tax side but even with as much as they spend, the government doesn’t function as though it has infinite money. There is a debt ceiling and while they have been raising it, that does put at least some resistance on them just jacking spending up to infinity. At some point those billions cost somebody something they were promised. The real argument is whether or not those promises should be made in the first place.

                  That said, its not like road maintenance is the first thing to go. Plus, most people rely on locally maintained roads in their day to day life for most things.

                  If we’re going to step away from rampant spending its a long term project. Our economy couldn’t afford to abruptly go from the spending levels its at to the spending levels guys like Paul and I would like to see.

                  • Paul Spooner says:

                    Agreed. Though it’s not like overnight change is even possible with the massive organizational inertia of governments and major corporations.

                    Which brings us back to the original point. Google is (in some ways) very similar to a government. People object to its Orwellian leanings in the same way that they object to any overbearing massive organized cultural group.

                    But, as with governments, Google has responsibilities that it can’t just give up without revolt and collapse. Providing data services is what their business is built on. So, yeah, I think pressure from Hollywood (and the government) was a major factor in the implementation of Content ID.

                    On the other hand, being able to identify video content is super useful for user profiling… and we don’t know how widespread its use is for things other than copyright infringement. Maybe flagging IP protected material is just a side benefit of a system that already existed to gaze into the minds of YouTube users. This would provide incentive for Google to keep YouTube running, even at “a loss”, for the same reason they provide free e-mail.

                    In addition, once people trust Google completely, they will be able to subtly alter history to suit their whims. It’s essentially flawless electronic double-think. There is no reason to believe this isn’t happening already… And now we’re back to 1984.

                    Welcome to the wonderful terrifying future. It is every bit the nightmare our fore-bearers feared, and every bit the dream they dared to hope.

            • Volfram says:

              Actually I was the one coming up with ways to take advantage of every situation they came up with to illustrate how “wrong” it was to pay less in taxes and generally annoying them by refusing to get properly upset about the inequality-induced class war.(This was when Warren Buffet was in the news for noting that he paid less in taxes than his own secretary)

        • RandomInternetCommenter says:

          Evading billions in taxes that would help the people when you’ve got dozens of billions to spare definitely does not qualify as “mostly good” in my book.

          There’s room between “not being mostly good” and “evil” and I haven’t mentioned the word evil.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Guys,you should all definitely play shovel knight,because one level has a great joke about kickstarter.Also,because shovel knight is heaps of fun.

  11. Tychoxi says:

    I’m a little annoyed with people’s view of Kickstarter (and crowdfunding in general). Kickstarter is not about buying a product, it’s about backing a project. Projects can implode, fail, explode, change drastically, etc. If the project fails or you trusted the wrong people, you have no-one to blame but yourself, especially when you didn’t sign a contract.

    In the case of Kickstarter specifically, there’s some liability if the Project Creator doesn’t deliver, but it’s aimed mostly at creators who have acted with malice or didn’t put a good faith effort.

    I have backed projects that died and I was really annoyed to see people demanding refunds. I agree with Shamus that releasing the sourcecode should be the basic courtesy if it goes crashing down, but getting refunds should be for when the Cretor didn’t put a good faith effort. If you are old enough to have a credit card you should take responsibility for what you throw money at.

    • Avatar says:

      The courts are pretty clear – if it looks like a sale and works like a sale, it’s a sale. If I give you x moneys in exchange for y product, that is a sale; the fact that you don’t actually have y product in your hand doesn’t change the nature of the transaction. Kickstarter doesn’t get to rewrite the laws regarding sales because it’s inconvenient for their business model.

      In point of fact, since Amazon’s running the whole thing, it’s only a matter of time before someone actually drops a class action suit and brings Amazon in as a defendant. Of course their claim is that they can just collect the money without assuming any of the liability, but again, just because they have a disclaimer on the site doesn’t mean they aren’t still part of the transaction. (Of course there may well be limits to their liability, but “we took orders for this product, shaved ten percent off the top, then handed the money to a dirty hobo and forgot about the whole thing” is not going to look sympathetic to a judge. And surely Amazon has more ability to vet potential projects, being an umpty-billion dollar corporation, than the individuals dropping in their money?)

      Ironically, none of this would affect Kickstarters that don’t explicitly promise “merchandise in exchange for money”. Potato salad is still okay, even if the dude did not actually make any potato salad.

      • syal says:

        Hey, that guy promised a bite of potato salad. And hats.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Except you arent giving x moneys in exchange for y product,you are giving x moneys in exchange for a WORK on a y product.So as long as the person you are giving money to is using that money to work on the project in question,everything is legal.Even if the work they are doing is subpar.

      • venatus says:

        except does it really look like a sale or work like a sale? I don’t know of many things besides crowd funding that operate off of getting people to throw their money into pools and if they make enough they can improve the product regardless of if you personally paid more or not.

        exactly what happens when a crowd funded project fails is something we still need to hammer out, but I really hope the “it’s a sale” mentality doesn’t stick, the parts that get me excited for kick starter come with risks. and I doubt even unrest would have gone to crowd funding if they were required to refund everyone if the game failed.

        • Avatar says:

          You certainly CAN structure your Kickstarter so that it is not like a sale. “Hey, please donate your money towards making a game! If we get enough donations we will sell it cheap!” That would be fine.

          However, “Hey, please donate your money towards making a game! Donate $10 and you will get the game!” is fundamentally “you can buy this game for ten bucks”. Not unsurprisingly, most Kickstarters are structured like this, because people are more likely to give you money if you promise goods in return.

          It’s not like this is the first attempt anyone has ever made to define something as “not a sale” when it’s fundamentally a sale. Courts are often skeptical of that kind of definition game.

          We don’t need to “hammer out” what needs to happen in the case of a failed Kickstarter – the law has long covered this kind of situation. To the extent that you have losses caused by nonperformance, you can go to court. If it’s possible to demand specific performance, such as “you promised to deliver widget A, you have some widget As in your warehouse, pony up a widget,” the court can order that to happen. Obviously if you don’t have any widgets the court can’t force you to cough up, but it can certainly order that you pay back the money.

          That said, exactly how that goes down is going to be highly dependent on the specifics of the situation. If you, Some Random Dude, sets up a Kickstarter, promises to deliver stuff, takes the money, and fails to deliver, then you are definitely liable to each person who donated the money but did not receive the promised goods. You may be partially protected by the fact that court action is unlikely for recovering twenty bucks. But if your donors club together and bring a class action suit, well, this kind of situation is why we have class actions. You may be protected by being flat broke, and thus not worth suing, though theoretically they can still get a big judgment against you and ruin your finances more or less forever that way.

          If you set up a corporation and run the Kickstarter through that, you’re more likely to be able to cut your losses – they can sue the corporation all they like, but if it has no assets, there’s nothing to get out of it. (But they can go after you directly if they think that you set up the corporation just to duck liability… and sometimes it works, so even that’s not for sure.)

          The reason the class action is attractive in this respect is that they can plausibly bring Amazon into the game. Joe Failed Kickstarter probably doesn’t have any assets worth mentioning. Amazon has, by contrast, all the moneys. If a judge finds Amazon to be liable for having trusted you in the first place, they would have to pony up – and you can bet that “goods for x donation” kickstarters would disappear the next day…

          • venatus says:

            the thing is though your still looking at this like it’s a modified sale. when most people don’t view kick starter that way, it’s not what kick starter was meant to do, and insisting that it is will serve not to protect the donors on kickstarter but solely to hamper any creativity and innovation crowd funding can come about.

            crowd funding has more in common with venture capitalism then it does a standard retail sale, obviously it’s not exactly either but if you want a rule set to run from you’ll have better luck looking at that investment model and then modifying it to fit the situation.

            the crux of our disagreement seems to be how viable each of us think it is to label a kickstarter pledge as a sale (and yes kickstarter labels them as pledges and every kickstarter I’ve seen refers to them as pledges or donations). but having supported a number of kicksters (including both shadowrun returns and unrest.) the only way I can see to interpret as a sale and not “please help us make this” is if you skipped the pitch video, skipped the description of the project, ignored the big heading labeled risks and challenges, and somehow only saw the tall box on the right that lists the pledge tiers and then still interpreted that to be the equivalent of a retail sale or contract.

            I’m normally pretty big on consumer rights and I do think kickstarter needs to do a lot more to ensure some sort of accountability from the people who run projects. but anyone who interprets crowdfunding projects to be the same as a sale, should not be using crowdfunding.

            • Trix2000 says:

              And if there’s enough crackdown to which their current system BECOMES just like a sale, either the system will crash (because people are afraid of failing, knowing they HAVE to refund) or they’ll modify it to fit the original purpose again – donations/pledges to see a product come to light.

              I suspect it’d mostly end up with rewards getting shafted entirely, or at least cut down significantly.

      • Tizzy says:

        I was with you until the end, because if you really mean that “Ironically, none of this would affect Kickstarters that don't explicitly promise merchandise in exchange for money”. Because, all of a sudden, its become about semantics. Any promise of a product can be rephrased into promise of a product if such product ever sees the light of day.

        I have yet to hear of a Kickstarter project that succeeded but failed t ship to backers. That would be a completely different level of egregious abuse, though, technically, one imagines that, if it hasn’t happened yet, it may happen soon.

        As for Amazon vetting the projects, it’s cute, but wouldn’t it defeat the whole purpose of KS in the first place?

        • Avatar says:

          You’ve got it exactly backwards.

          You don’t get to make sales by calling them “pledges” and then say “well, I said they were pledges, so I don’t have to obey any of the laws regarding sales.” You can call them pledges, you can call them donations, you can call them offering worship to the God-Emperor, but if you take money and you promise goods, and you end up in front of a judge, he is going to say “I don’t care what’s on your paper, it looks like a sale to the law.” There’s no magic formula you can put on the paper to turn an exchange of money for goods into something other than a sale, as far as the law is concerned.

          (obviously simplifying there, but there’s plenty of legal precedent. Case in California where Microsoft was suing someone who was reselling OEM software – Microsoft said “by buying the software he’s agreeing to adhere to our contract etc. etc.” and the judge said “you took his money and he got a box with your software in it, that is a -sale-.” They call ’em end-user license agreements for a reason, heh. At any rate, if judges are willing to tell Microsoft that a sale is a sale, they are not going to hesitate to smack Joe Kickstarter.)

          You can get around it by not offering anything, or at least nothing that can be called merchandise; if you promise to build a house with the money and give it to charity, and then don’t do that, or if you promise to put up a video of you dancing to the oldies, and then don’t do that, the donor would still have a tort against you, but laws regarding sales wouldn’t apply.

          Look, I like Kickstarter, I’ve participated in a couple, and I got my stuff just fine and would do it again. But there really is a significant liability issue here, mostly masked by the fact that a lot of Kickstarters succeed and deliver (and thus everyone is happy!) or fail but are small enough that nobody bothers with the court case (because lawyers are expensive, the potential payoff is not that big, and yeah, a lot of people don’t feel like piling on when someone’s given it a good try and just couldn’t come through.)

          And on top of that, though I say that Amazon -might- be jointly liable, that doesn’t mean a judge is going to agree; there’s going to be some uncertainty about how the law treats the situation until someone actually brings a case or passes a law dealing with the topic directly. It would probably depend on exactly how much Kickstarter-the-company was involved – certainly if it’s a project that they pushed in an e-mail newsletter, they’d be much more likely to land in the soup rather than “just another one of a hundred thousand automated entries”. Can they say “hey, why don’t you give this a look?” and then claim to the court “we had absolutely nothing to do with this project”?

          Trix is 100% correct in that if a court WERE to find Kickstarter (and thus, Amazon) liable for a failed project, you can bet that concrete promises to deliver goods for set levels of donations would disappear overnight. I’m not saying that would be a good thing; certainly there are a lot of happy creators and customers because of successful Kickstarters. But the law is how the law is, and the courts aren’t going to tear it up just because it’s inconvenient to Kickstarter’s business model.

          • Zukhramm says:

            The law is simply wrong then. The backers are aware that failure is possible and choose to take that risk when backing. There doesn’t need to be an issue here.

            • venatus says:

              I doubt the law would consider it a sale either. I talked with my father who has workednin sales all his life. And my younger sister who is about to start her last year in law school. Both agreed that a court probably wouldn’t consider it a sale

  12. Groboclown says:

    I love this mis-hearing of the podcast:

    Shamus Young: “The KOTOR comes first.”

  13. Retsam says:

    As someone who is just recently considering backing Star Citizen (got a chance to try the pre-alpha recently, and it seemed pretty sweet); that last sentence was not the sentence I wanted the episode to be split on.

    • Shamus says:

      Even worse: That conversation trailed off and didn’t happen. We don’t mention Star Citizen at all next episode. Maybe we can get Josh to elaborate next week.

      • evileeyore says:

        I’ve a friend that Kicked Star Citizen as well, his main complaints are that it feels like it’s “going the way of Shadowrun Returns”, ie they took in way more money than they needed but aren’t going to put the majority of that extra money towards what it came im for, namely that game. Also “promised” bits are being dropped because “the devs claim those bits aren’t working out”.

        I didn’t back Either SRR or Star Citizen, so I don’t pay a whole heap of attention. All I know is that Wasteland 2 is on track and looking good.

        • krellen says:

          I’m not sure what your friend thinks Shadowrun Returns was supposed to deliver, but the stretch goals delivered were the stretch goals promised. They promised multi-platform support; we got multi-platform support. They promised more localisation; we got more localisation. They promised Riggers and Physical Adepts; we got Riggers and Physical Adepts. They promised a great mission editor; we got a great mission editor. They promised a second campaign; we got a second campaign (and everyone that backed to get the game got the expansion for free (copy for copy; I got three, for instance.))

          Really not sure where your friend is getting his news; best I can tell, Harebrained Schemes has used the Kickstarter money exclusively on Shadowrun stuff. We got exactly what we were promised.

          (Golem Arcana, their other project, was a separate Kickstarter, which wasn’t nearly as successful, but still hit their stated goals.)

          • Humanoid says:

            I’m also happy with what was delivered, but I do think that it had the issue shared by many of the earlier game Kickstarters of overemphasising the physical goodies and other high-cost extras and therefore barely gaining any *net* funding for the game itself from the mid-tiers compared to the base digital-only ones. More recent Kickstarters have generally had notably less “generous” physical incentives and would therefore have had a greater proportion of funds raised to pour directly into development.

            • Tizzy says:

              Kickstarters would do well to make sure to price physical goods appropriately, and so to research the cost beforehand. And obviously, that cost should be reflected in the project’s budget, and resist the temptation to treat this as a cash advance!

              Instead, many KS projects look like they’re making stuff up as they go along whenever the initial goal is met.

            • krellen says:

              I was at a tier where I was getting most of those physical rewards, so I probably view it a bit differently (the anthology, for instance, was definitely worth having; very good writing in there.)

              • Humanoid says:

                Oh I was the same, got the book, the shirt, the erm, USB dogtags, and I’m happy to have them (the flimsy box and Doc Wagon card less so). But looking at the tier structure, it took only $60 for instance to get the T-shirt (and they only charged $5 international shipping for it, which would be far short of the actual cost of shipping it to Australia). Someone pledging at that tier internationally would probably actually be contributing less to the game development budget than the $15 basic tier, frankly.

                Just saying that if they had their time again, I’m sure they wouldn’t have been so liberal with the trinkets at their respective price points.

                • Ranneko says:

                  The Shipping Problem is something I do think is an issue with the way that Kickstarter is set up.

                  Ideally any given tier should be bringing in more money to support the project, and hence contributing towards the ability for it to be completed and contributing to any stretch goals.

                  But money for shipping (unless they are overcharging for it) doesn’t.

                  So if 2 people are backing at the same tier from different countries. One with a free shipping cost and the other with a $20 shipping cost. Their effective contribution towards the project overall is roughly equal, but the person paying more for shipping moves the project closer to its funding goal.

                  • Trix2000 says:

                    To be fair, a number of projects do ask for extra to cover shipping outside the US (assuming that’s where the project originates). Not the same by any means, but it does represent their factoring this cost in for some cases.

                    • Humanoid says:

                      Don’t think that’s what he’s saying. Take a Kickstarter project, two people back it at the same tier, $20. One is an international backer and has to pay an extra $10 for shipping. That’s fine and reasonable. Kickstarter however now displays $50 as the total amount raised instead of $40. It may be sensible for Kickstarter to not include amounts added purely for shipping to the headline amount as not to distort it too much, and ensure the number more closely reflects the actual budget available to the project.

                      Take an extreme case, it may mean that for example, if the total goal is $300,000, at one extreme there’s the full $300,000 available for development. At the other end, only $200,000 is available. Yet Kickstarter will consider both cases as a successful funding drive and place the same obligations on the developer regardless of which of these is the case. It makes far more sense if a project starter is able to say “this is the amount of money we actually need available to us to succeed”.

          • evileeyore says:

            The wibble-wobble on Astral Space (and it eventually getting nixed while Netrunning is a bare “it’s there but almost totally skippable”), there was a post at one point where the guy in charge admitted they were taking some money from the “surplus” pile and funneling to another project, that SSR is a pretty lackluster game (Dragonfall is somewhat superior of a storyline, tighter focus, better use of various abilities, expanded Smart-link, more integrated (but still unessential) Netrunning, etc).

            Don;t get me wrong, I vaguely enjoyed SSR (more so Dragonfall), but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone I knew, unless they were rapidly fanatic in their love and devotion to Shadowrun and desperately needed a computer game fix.

            • Ranneko says:

              Where did they say that they weren’t using all the funding for Shadowrun Returns? I can’t find anything about that anywhere.

              I did see in Update 41, and in this gamasutra article that the budget of the game (set by the kickstarter after the fees and reward costs were subtracted) was just under $1.2 million.

              Not seeing anywhere where they discuss using the kickstarter money for anything other than Shadowrun Returns.

              Similarly, seeing literally no point at which they discuss astral space in the kickstarter save for something in the written pitch that I feel pretty much fits the magic system that they delivered. Certainly nothing about astral projection.

              This is not meant to be me objecting to you not liking Shadowrun Returns much, just not sure where you are getting your information from.

              • evileeyore says:

                Scroll up a bit to where this digression began: “I’ve a friend… his main complaints are…”

                I said I didn’t follow these Kickstarters [SSR and Star Cit] as I didn’t fund them. I just hear[d] all his complaints.

                Though I do/did read every post he linked to (the Astral Space thing went back and forth (as in “Yes we’re doing it” and “Oh no, we can’t get it to work right, sorry”) I think in the comments section – no I am not wading through that long list).

                I also distinctly recall his long rants about the “Next City Poll”.


                Like I said, the few Kickstarter I’ve backed have either stuck to their promises and so far delivered very well (Wasteland 2) or so remarkably awesomely beyond expectations (Reaper Miniatures) that I’ve no complaints about the things I’ve Kicked.

                • Ranneko says:

                  Fair enough. I guess I just don’t really know what your friend was expecting and frankly it doesn’t sound like he was working with particularly accurate information.

                  Definitely sounds like he was not happy about a number of things over the course of the development, which is a pity.

                  I was quite happy with the game myself, but I am definitely biased and probably a little over invested in the whole thing. It scratched my itch for a well written Shadowrun game.

                • krellen says:

                  You know, the proper acronym for Shadowrun Returns is SRR, not SSR.

                  There was talk of doing Astral Space early on, yes, but they did let us all know that it wasn’t working out and they were dropping it; most people didn’t have a problem with that.

                  Not sure what his problem with the “Next City Poll” was, though. Maybe he didn’t get the choice he wanted, or his choice lost? If he was really invested in something besides Berlin winning, I could see how it might sour him on the whole project.

                  (Incidentally, for the record, I’m largely disappointed with Wasteland 2, because I wanted Wasteland 2, not Fallout 2.5.)

                  • evileeyore says:

                    You sure? I thought it was the (U)SSR… :P

                    Where is Wasteland 2 going into Fallout 2.5 territory? I admit freely I’m only briefly dipped my toe into the Beta, but so far it’s looking very much like a “modernized” Wasteland.

                    • krellen says:

                      Wasteland was pastel. Fallout was brown. Wasteland 2 is brown.

                      Wasteland allowed you to heal over time. Fallout required items to heal. Last time I checked the Wasteland 2 beta, items were required to heal.

                      Wasteland levelled skills with use. Fallout tied skill increases to levels. Wasteland 2 ties skill increases to levels.

                      Wasteland was top-down. Fallout was quasi-isometric. Wasteland 2 is quasi-isometric.

                      Wasteland had super-simple graphics. Fallout had graphics approaching 3d-models. Wasteland 2 has actual 3d models.

                      Tonally, nothing I’ve seen feels like Wasteland. It’s all Fallout.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      I think this is the first time Ive seen someone complain about a game looking like original fallout*drink*.

                    • evileeyore says:

                      He’s complaining it looks like Fallout 2…

                      And yeah, all his complaints are pretty legit. Geuss I liked Fallout 2 enough I didn’t notice he listed them out…

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      First of all,I was somewhat joking.

                      Second,when I say original fallout,I usually refer to both 1 and 2,because while some mechanics were tightened in 2,overall the two were mostly the same.

      • Jarenth says:

        Don’t tease the audience like that.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      My guess is that Star Citizen so far delivered a buggy glitchy showroom for spacecraft that you bought for real cash, and space toilets in them despite being funded more than GOD. On the other hand Elite I think had a lot less funding and they at least allready gave their backers acess to a significant amount of starsystems and most of the basic gameplay mechanics like combat.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Keep your money. Don’t fund Star Citizen. Don’t fund Elite. These “games” are for rich people with more money and nostalgia than sense.

      If you really want to see movies of awesome unique space ships flying around, commission a 3d artist to make you a model and animate it for you. You’ll get a more unique product, and one that you can actually use later however you want, unlike these IP-laden, DRM-bound, mass-produced video games.

      But, full disclosure, I’m a 3d artist, so I’m obviously biased here.

      • Mephane says:

        Keep your money. Don't fund Star Citizen. Don't fund Elite. These “games” are for rich people with more money and nostalgia than sense.

        You can get both of these games for normal retail prices once they are finished, when they are finished.

        And at least about ED I know that it will be entirely DRM free. Obviously you need a server connection for the online portion, but the offline mode will be like a traditional singleplayer game with no online activation, installation limits etc.

  14. kanodin says:

    For anyone who’s curious here’s how Dota 2’s tournament funding works: The International has been held every year during the summer for four years now. The first two had a prizepool of 1.6million dollars with one million going to first place.

    Now most tournaments in Dota 2 have a 1-10 dollar ticket that let’s you watch those games in client, with streaming on twitch free for everyone. Valve always lets everyone watch the International free in-game since that’s free advertising. Starting last year they introduced an in game item called the Compendium people could buy to support the tournament instead of an in game ticket. For ten dollars, one fourth of which went back to the prizepool the players got, you get this booklet that’s full of info about the tournament and had, for lack of a better term, minigames like guessing tournament results and collecting trading cards of the players participating. This compendium also had stretch goals for small cosmetic items and other neat but not necessary stuff.

    That was last year, this year Valve basically turned the Compendium into it’s own free to play game. This year the compendium had it’s own leveling system, with numerous free ways to level up, but you could also pay 2-10 bucks for 5-24 levels. as your compendium levels up you get a lot more stuff, more in game items more exp for their other leveling system, basically more of everything free to play games always give you for spending or grinding. The stretch goals they gave out were also tied to your compendium level, so while everyone gets the base reward promised if you get level 50 you get the gold version for example.

    My point is while The International and it’s compendium seem like a big company crowdsourcing a tournament to someone on the outside, it’s really more about that big company making the tournament into a revenue source. Putting a fourth of that revenue into the prize of the tournament is good for the players, but it’s also good for hyping up the fans and getting outside attention.

    Edit: And yes I wrote all that because of one offhand mention that wasn’t even part of the main discussion.

    • Jarenth says:

      Huh, that’s pretty interesting. I briefly looked at the Compendium while we were casting, but I couldn’t really make heads or tails out of it. Thanks for the overview!

    • Ranneko says:

      Also, given that Valve covers the US-taxes on the prize income for players, more than a quarter (but probably less than half) goes back into the prize pool.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      So it was more like an online ticket sale (for online audience), part of which went into the prize pool.
      That doesn’t sound as bad. It’s always a question of labelling, I guess. Would have felt differently if they had actually set up a Kickstarter to fund the prize money and then only used a quarter of it…

      That said, I don’t think giving 63% of the entire pool to the winner alone is a good idea. This means that you can walk away happy if you make maybe the top five, but after that the balance between the costs of taking part and the money they make will be negative for the players. So very few get lucky and rich (I’m not very familiar with DOTA but I’m sure there’s a bit of luck involved at tis level of play), and the rest … don’t.
      I’d like it a lot more if there was somewhere on the order of 20% to 50% difference from one place to the next. Means the winner still has a big incentive but the rest don’t need to worry as much about having their financial existence on the line in a tournament. Well, actually, that threshold will always exist, but it’d be nice if the transition between “work in fast food and train at night” and “be super-rich and famous” was a bit softer.

  15. Zukhramm says:

    I would have no issue with any of the Kickstarters I’m backing. The risk was a part of the decision I made when I decided to back them. I do have an issue “we failed the projects off but that’s a good thing lol”.

  16. Tychoxi says:

    This just in: Crytek sold the Homefront IP. They bought the IP in January 2013…

    I had heard something about Crytek’s woes but I didn’t know how bad they had it. All I can say is that if they are moving away from games-as-engine-demos I wish them some luck cause I appreciate the effort.

  17. modus0 says:

    Goblinworks did a Kickstarter for the upcoming Pathfinder Online game that (at least at the Paizo forums) had a bit of negative reception in the beginning.

    They had to explain that New Company = No Money, and in order to encourage investors, they needed a tech-demo of the game to show that it would be worth backing. But in order to create that tech-demo, they needed people and money. So they went with a Kickstarter campaign to raise that money.

    They could have used some of Paizo Publishing’s assets, but since Paizo is still a fairly small company, they don’t exactly have the funds to safely spare.

    • ? says:

      Glad to see Pathfinder Online mentioned. While MMORPGs are not my thing and I have not checked how that project is going for quite a while, but it seems interesting Kickstarter case. Once they got their tech demo they got investor funding and after that they did… another kickstarter. They set their goal at million dollars, and stated that while they have the money to make a game and it will come out whether this campaign succeeds or fails, but extra cash would shorten the development time by a year and allow them to add some extra features. I have no idea how they are keeping up with that promise and how the project is going, but I sure liked that transparency and honesty in crowdfunding.

  18. Matthew Melange says:

    Josh, you should talk about star citizen. This guy at my work who is getting promoted to a manager position absolutely loves that game and won’t stop talking about it. He’s obviously in love with the possibilities of the game and not what’s going to happen. He’s basically the fan that believes what Peter Molyneux says. And I know nothing of star citizen, so I don’t know how to engage him on the topic.

  19. 4th Dimension says:

    When Crytek was expiriencing problems with funding there were even rumors that Wargaming (makers of World of Tanks) were looking at the situatuin with interest, because they were considering bying a share in the company.

  20. Smejki says:

    Homefront 2 was started by THQ, a publisher and IP owner. As a publisher they should be the one paying the development bills. But they got bankrupt and it is possible that the developer, Crytek, did not receive some significant money they should and they invested some of their own in order to not pause or cancel the development. So that might be the reason for them to buy the IP. They would lose money otherwise. So they bought it. And quite cheap ($200k I think), probably because it was burdened by the possibly existing debt of THQ towards Crytek. Also I am pretty sure Homefront wasn’t a fail selling numbers speaking. It sold about 1m copies I believe. That’s quite good IP if you develop it not like a drunken millionare. That’s why it was a fail because it was expensive to develop due to incompetence (it is said to have costed about $80m). So I am not surprised Crytek bought the IP. It makes sense. Make a good a game for reasonable money and boom, they would in black numbers. And then there’s the new story with mismanaged development in new studio so they rather sold the IP in order to not make the trouble worse.
    BTW Homefront’s multiplayer was well received as it was good and very Battlefield-like. So it wasn’t a terrible game.

    H.R.Giger is Swiss German, therefore he is pronounced [Gi:gr] not [Gaigr]. I was suprised myslef, even though knowing how to pronounce German words.

  21. Friend of Dragons says:

    On the Dota 2 thing: Valve were offering $10 ‘compendiums’ which offered a pile of content for interacting with their International 4 tournament and other goodies, and basically let a chunk of the proceeds go to the prize pool. While it did have some elements of crowdfunding (I think they had stretch goals to add content to Dota 2 if they sold enough), it was still pretty much them selling a product, rather than them asking money for something they needed additional funds to create.

    • Ranneko says:

      And also (not sure if this is pointed out in the podcast itself) the US-Tax on the prizes are covered by Valve, so the prize pool increasing by $2.50 takes more than $2.50 out of the $10. Still think that the lion’s share is going to Valve though.

  22. postinternetsyndrome says:

    I have a request: Could Shamus stop interrupting the others? I don’t have anything against what he has to say in itself, but several times during this episode (and it’s happened before too), someone begins a sentence and then Shamus jumps in and says what they were (probably) going to say for them, cutting them short.

    I don’t want to be rude and I know lag is a thing when you communicate via voip, but this is a recurring thing and it’s extra disappointing when it’s semi-recurring hosts who we don’t get to hear too much of anyway. Also, to be fair, Josh does this too sometimes, and probably everyone to an extent, but it’s maybe something to be mindful of. I do like the show, but sometimes I just sit there and think “just let them finish”.

    EDIT: Too much recurrsion in this post I think… Recurring is recurring.

    • krellen says:

      I don’t know that Shamus interrupted us much at all, really. I was happy to let him talk; firstly, it’s his site and his show, and secondly, him talking means I don’t have to talk. I don’t know if you’ve watched too many of the hangouts the crew has done that I hopped in on, but I just don’t talk a lot in group settings (unless I’m in charge, like when I’m running a tabletop RPG session, but that’s different.)

      In my experience, Jarenth is also pretty quiet (although admittedly the last time was because he was having mic problems and we all asked him to turn it off please.)

      • postinternetsyndrome says:

        Fair enough if you don’t feel it’s a problem yourselves. It can be uncomfortable to listen to though, at least for me. I don’t know if it’s been brought up before. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive.

      • Jarenth says:

        I’m also quite happy to let Shamus talk, because in my experience, most anything that Shamus has to say beats the pants off of my is-it-seriously-already-five-AM-and-we-still-haven’t-started-yet sleep-deprivation commentary.

    • Helios Apollo says:

      I’ve brought this up before as a complaint in Spoiler Warning, but Josh replied back saying most of that is simply due to lag.

      • Josh says:

        Lag is at least a contributing factor, which is just something we can’t do anything about, short of paying for the whole cast to physically sit in a room to do the show every week.

        The problem is probably amplified with Spoiler Warning though, at least in the case of my interrupting the rest of the cast. Thing is, I usually can’t pay full attention to the discussion going on because I also have to drive. I’m often quite surprised at what I missed when I’m editing the episode together and able to pay attention to what’s being said.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “short of paying for the whole cast to physically sit in a room to do the show every week.”

          And thus,spoiler warning kickstarter was born.

        • Naota says:

          I learned this the hard way recording the Unrest commentary video. In an hour I didn’t say nearly as much as I should have for someone who took all of the content I was playing through and put it into the game engine. Gaming takes concentration, and it’s often kind of amazing that you guys can have some of the conversations you do whilst simultaneously dodging bloodthirsty Draugr Death-lords and stockpiling ammo for the Incinerator.

  23. Paul Spooner says:

    One reason for buying companies, which no one really brings up, is to reward the people who built them while letting them move on to other things. The Twitch team may be interested in letting Google handle the mechanics of running the business now that it’s working well. They could be looking for a new challenge, perhaps in a totally different field. Sometimes buying a company is about rewarding competent people instead of screwing someone. For example, IIRC the Paypal guys are now building rockets.

    Of course, it would be nice if the reasons for the exchange were transparently available to the public. It’s not necessary of course, they don’t have to, but it would help to quell public fears if the parties involved were more forthcoming.

  24. SlothfulCobra says:

    I could start talking about how sketchy Google is and go for a week. It all just sums up like this:

    Google is a company built on collecting and dealing oodles of information. They collect LOTS of data, they read your emails, they start up social networks to get in on Facebook’s scheme, they keep all your search data, they started up a service which they’ll use to collect more of your data, and they even illegally harvest wi-fi data from their trucks that take pictures of everything along the road. That’s a ludicrous amount of data collected in one place. Yet, Google itself is incredibly secretive about itself, and it seems to do everything it can to keep its head down and out of the public eye.

    It’s just creepy and weird.

  25. dustDevil says:

    Hello all,
    Just here to point out that Giger rhymes with “eager,” or at least it does according to just about every ALIEN book that I have read (which now that I think about it is criminally large).

    Merit badge-earned.

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