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Old June 22nd, 2015, 12:55 AM

Voidhawk Voidhawk is offline
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Default Re: What makes this game worth $40 more than any other roguelike?

This is a game I hadn't heard of until recently when someone on one of the forums I frequent mentioned it while we were discussing another indie game that bears a similarly minimalist aesthetic alongside a hefty price tag. Understand that I have been an avid gamer for over 25 years, and by "avid," I mean that I'm the sort of gamer that keeps certain things on his radar religiously. Granted, with the recent golden age of indie, keeping up with everything that interests me has been considerably more difficult; but for something that's about as custom-tailored for my gaming preferences as a game can possibly be, the fact that AI not only slid completely under my radar, but has managed to hover there for nearly half a year with me none the wiser... Well, it concerns me. I thought I might be slipping. And so I consulted the infinite knowledge of Google.

Turns out Google doesn't know much either. There's a bit about the Kickstarter. A place to buy it. A couple of months-old early look editorials. Couple of positive reviews on a couple of obscure gaming sites. RPS touched on it back in February. Not a great deal of info out there. Well. Okay.

Onward to Youtube, then! Let's filter by upload date! Let's see... 5 months ago. 6 months ago. 8 months ago. Wait, what? Has the publisher issued takedown orders on all the LP's? Was the IP sold to Nintendo? It's 2015, where are the LP's for this newly hatched indie roguelike game? Punishing roguelikes are all the rage with the youngsters these days, what gives?

My initial conclusion: This game must suck, and it must suck so bad that it's not even amusing enough for adolescents to make fun of how much it sucks. Because if it was at least amusingly awful, I could rest assured that there would be dozens of annoying videos online to show me precisely how awful it was. Ah, but there's a demo! Just like the days of yore! Ye Olde Trye Before Ye Buy! Let's give that a shot!

Less than an hour in: Fantastic! Instantly familiar yet unique. Shades of Prospector, yet entirely its own experience. Compulsively playable. Quite possibly a game that will someday be spoken of in the same reverent tones as NetHack and ADoM. Instant purchase for me. Forty bucks? Ouch. That's unusual.

Hold. DRM. DRM? Limited activations. Certainly nothing as heinous as TAGES upon closer inspection, but a bit too reminiscent for my liking nonetheless. Limited downloads? Hm.

And here I am, stuck fast right at the end of Hm.

The fact of the matter is, this isn't just about the price point, and it's not just about the comparatively tame DRM, and it's not just about lack of a competitive digital consumer solution. It's about this whole series of barriers between you and potential customers. None are insurmountable by the most determined roguelike fan, but it's likely that most everyone else will just spend their 40 bucks elsewhere.

Am I going to buy it? I'm not sure. Probably, but it's not in my budget this month. I've had nothing but love for Shrapnel since day one, and I'll always be a fan and supporter of my favorite hometown publisher. I hope you guys will humor me. Tough love, no hate.

First and foremost, the DRM has to go. Regardless of how non-intrusive and harmless it may in fact be, it is an unnecessary potential burden upon customers and the mere presence of it fosters bad will. Whether or not it's warranted is of no consequence. It has given this title bad buzz, and considering the dearth of positive buzz surrounding AI, this is a Very Bad Thing. I am not an anti-DRM zealot. There are pros and cons when it comes to DRM, I'm not here to debate that, and I will not respond to either side of the argument on these forums. I am simply stating my stance based upon my own feelings and the observations I've made as they relate to this particular title.

Consider implementing solutions that devalue the pirated product. Valve has built an empire doing exactly this, as I'm sure you're aware. In the indie realm, Factorio's auto-updater is a fine example of being able to offer your honest customers just a little bit more than the thieves can easily obtain. Pirates really, really hate that. Hit them where it hurts: The content. If they love your game, they will buy it for the support. If they don't, they'll just find something else to steal. And if they don't love it, we don't want them playing anyway, do we?

Most of all, rely on building a fanbase that wants to pay you for your hard work. This should be especially easy to pull off considering the genre, as most of us who share the roguelike passion are... well... pretty darn passionate. At least as passionate as all you crotchety old grognards.

Toady still gets a nice dinner from me now and again, just because, and Ascending a seventh Tourist is still high up on my bucket list.

Please consider alternate avenues of distribution for this amazing game. Keep the boxed editions priced firm at $40 USD and promote them as the limited CE. The people who buy these are your fans and your loyal Shrapnel family. Lease your DRM-free executable on an established digital distribution platform at a price point of $14.99, with a 10% discount for the first week. Get your game into the hands of the players and let them take the promotional reigns from there.

I strongly feel that people are not covering this game in the media because average gamers (those that are even aware of its existence) are not taking it seriously at the current price point. The roguelike iron is hot right now, and there is absolutely no other good reason why a fully realized indie effort like AI isn't generating plenty of live streams, LP's, and editorial pieces.

Sorry for the wall o' text. If I didn't care, I really wouldn't have bothered.
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