I hate “Free to play”, it’s dishonest and stupid.
I liked Farmville, right up until I found the pink flamingos… and saw that I HAD to pay money for them. Zynga still has my pink flamingo hostage, I refuse to pay its ransom. Although if they had phrased it like that, I might have payed.
Notch sums it up nicely:
But… I’ve made a game… people like playing it… you can play it here… for free… but how am I going to pay my rent?
Here’s a clip from futurama where that image came from:
Tim Schafer / Double Fine have made a lot of money from this business model with Kickstarters help. Props to them and the other people doing this. But… what happens in a years time, when a large percentage of those Kickstarter games aren’t finished, or worse, they suck. If you are one of the 11,530 people who donated $100 each to double fine for a special edition of a game that doesn’t exist yet… how pissed off will you be if you receive nothing?
I think crowdsourced funding is fantastic, and people will get rich from it, but I think even more people will be burned by it.
So what am I going to do with Ironfell?
I’m funding it myself. By freelancing, spending my savings, and keeping the costs as low as possible. No investors, no partners, no crowd sourced funding. Keeping everything lean and under my control.
A huge cost saving could be to open source the servers. And let people host their own servers, like Minecraft does. The drawback to this is that people would be playing in separate universes, or if the servers are connected, one person could spawn unlimited resources on their server, and take them to battle on someone elses server. There’s ways to design around these things, but it’s all compromises.
Advertising in the game, on loading screens, menus and on the website will help a little bit. T-shirts and stickers, definitely, buy merchandise needs a certain level of scale before it becomes profitable. Those might buy me a beer or two, but won’t pay for the servers.
An iPhone/iPad version would be soo coooool, and also crazy expensive to build. I can’t afford to pay for it until the game is popular. I could find a partner to build it, but they’ll be stupid to do that unless the game was already proven and popular.
My original plan was to let people buy custom realms. Let users customize the terrain and give them Trees and Iron Deposits in their newly purchased realm. For example a 64×64 size realm, 4096 cells, could cost $6. A 256×256, 65,536 cell realm $50. New realms are what use the most server resources, so paying for new realms nicely supports the server hosting costs.
And then there is directly paying for resources… Would you pay a dollar for 10,000 Iron?
At first I was totally against this, thinking that it would cause a few rich people to unbalance the game. But in the end game, resources don’t really matter, and its about your strategy, and how much time you can spend clicking on your army which counts.
Several people have asked to buy resources already. Usually they’re in the middle of an epic raid, and they run out of Wood. They could wait a day to get gather some more, but they want to keep fighting. So dropping a dollar in my tip jar in exchange for a huge pile of wood is something people already want to do.
The biggest issue I have with it is that people might be victimized by other players for paying for resources. But people who pay are directly supporting Ironfell and paying my rent. I’m not EA and I drive a beaten up Toyota. People who pay need to be respected, rewarded and looked up to. They’re the reason I can make this game.
One idea I’m toying with, is for every dollar you spend, you get a vote on what my next priority is with developing the game. Something like the sliders on the humblebundles, so you can choose to vote for Guilds, Resource Trading, GM and Griefing tools or more units and terrain.
I totally understand that some people don’t want to pay, that’s okay. Everyone adds to the game world, the more people play, the more everyones experience improves. I promise to make every game item and resource available in the game without a payment. I might go one step further and make it so you can buy each resource… except Uranium, which will be uber-rare, and ONLY found in the game.
I want to make a fun game, played by nice people.
But it needs to pay my rent, or I won’t be able to make it.
What do you think?