When should I make the game freely available?

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 17:10 -- BlueWinds
Immediately
1% (1 vote)
End of Year
25% (19 votes)
Supporter rewards completed
13% (10 votes)
Promised features are ready
28% (21 votes)
Both features and rewards done
33% (25 votes)
Total votes: 76

So, question for supporters. I value feedback from other people as well, but you'll have to provide it in a comment rather than as a vote. I don't promise to follow the results of this poll, but I definitely want to know what you think.

When should I release the game for free? It has always been my intention and plan to do so - there is no "never" option! Here's a more detailed description of the options:

  • Immediately: As soon as I have some free time.
  • December 25th: This is the current plan. I'll also give out the the back-exclusive story (though I may run a separate poll to see if people really want it to remain exclusive...)
  • Supporter rewards: I have a lot of supporter rewards left to implement still. This would be later than December 25th. There is a lot of content to deliver still - Hilde is only the first of two girls, there are several major NPCs still to introduce, I'll have to compile that PDF (which I new regret promising).

  • Promised Features: This would take longer still. In the Offbeatr project, I initially promised 12 months of story, 6 girls and 3 buildings. I currently have... 2 months of story and 3 girls and 1.5 buildings.

  • Features and Rewards: A combination of the above two. Wouldn't take that much longer than just features, but still a bit more time.

Even if you aren't a supporter, please feel free to leave a comment on the subject. I should mention that comments will likely carry more weight in my mind than another vote on the poll - especially leave one if you have strong feelings on the matter.

Comments

BlueWinds on

So, here ore some thoughts I didn't want to put into the main post. Full disclosure: I voted for Dec 25th myself.

I'm torn between two desires.

First, I like Free Software (and Open Source, though it's a weaker term). I hate seeing anything locked behind walls, even my own work. I also want to share my hard work with the world, not just those wealthy enough to have disposable income and interested enough to give it to me.

Second, I feel like I owe those who have supported the game. I was in rather dire financial straits before the Offbeatr campaign. Now I have other money, but still, I would have been in trouble if not for you all. So I want to give you something valuable, even those who just gave $10 and didn't get any creative control.

Thus, Dec 28th. End of the year. I can give the whole world a holdiay present, and have presented backers with an exclusive 3.5-month period of access.

ptwist on

All I care about is supporting the project and seeing progress. No skin off my back if non-backers get it earlier, later, whatever..... though end of the year does sound like a good compromise for those backers who would be upset if it was made available too early. I'm impressed you're asking the community for input though, always great to feel involved in the process :)

alrick on

alricht, here is my though of it, you've raised some fund, so i think your supporter deserve to be first served on everything...

But i'm not really into that, so here is my second though, just update the demo version for free, and keep the most advanced feature to your supporter, unless they want it freely available before they get their rewards and all those thing...

 

so for me it wouldn't be the same thing for backer/supporter, chose a beta version for demo, but do your supporter reward first, they deserve it.

 

 

BZ (not verified) on

Once you release the game for free, you will generate more interest, which can be helpful for identifying bugs and adding content (pictures, storyline ideas, etc.)

brian phillips (not verified) on

I personally agree with the December 25th release. That is what was originally planned and the expectations set. I dont think the game should be release any earlier than that

On I personal note I am not a contributor to the game; I think you could just put a beta or something on the other site so that people who have donated would have the same access to the actual game, while non contributors would see a stripped down version? That seems rather fair. I would just make sure the game isn't a very early version of beta that you release for noncontributors; you never know when people choose to support in the future or spread the word to other people, so trying to promote good publicity is always in your best interest!

Cheerio and goodluck!!

Anonymous (not verified) on

In my honest opinion?

Not until you're done.

If there's one thing I learned in my life, is that people tend to be very selfish and ungrateful. If you release the game while it still has bugs, people won't just point out these bugs. They will point these bugs out, say they make the game unplayable, say that a monkey could do better than you and point it out as a complete dissapointment.

... Okay, I'm kinda exagerating. HOWEVER! The fact that this game is not freely distributed makes it so it has expectations over it. It makes people curious and eager to play it. If you release a finished product, it will be better polished and less buggy, which will more likely attent to the expectations. However, if you release it while it's still on beta, not only you'll fail some of these expectations as people will also start to report over and over the same bugs (even if you make a post listing them) so much that this will just annoy you.

Just think to youself: would you rather have part of what you want now or wait a little and have it all?

BlueWinds on

I don't think the game will ever be "done" per-say - I'll be adding to it, adjusting, tweaking as long as I maintain interest. Beta or not is more or less an arbitrary divide.

Also, bug reports are one way I maintain interest - they show me that people are playing the game and care about what I do. I do have occasional commentors (mostly they use the contact form, rather than show ill manners in public) that are demanding, inconsiderate and rude - they generally just don't get a response at all.

Anonymous (not verified) on

I see. When I talk about the game being done, I mean mostly the "main" stuff, you know? Things like features and layout and plotline. I say this because, one of the things I see many times in any area of internet products (like mods or small games) is demanding people. As a friend of mine once said, "the internet is full of idiots".

But I understand what you mean about interest. This is something that happens in every area of long-time work, be it game programming, or writing, or drawing or whatever. I, in particular, suggest that you still keep things the way they are, at least until the game reaches a upper stage (something like 0.8 or so). This is just a guess and I may be saying bullshit here, but your sudden question makes me think that this desire to release the game quickly is recent, no? I say that because something like that already happened to me. If that is the case, my advice is to keep your original goals in mind; sudden decisions tend to be problematic.

Anyway, I do suggest you to at least NOT set up a date. If you want to release it, make it so you release it when you think it is a good time, and don't announce it. From the moment you announce something at a certain date, people will expect it at this certain date, and that does not mean that what you would want to do is done. Setting up a date will limit you - do not do it. If you want to release the game, do so when there's nothing left that you want to add to it before release to be done.

Scott S (not verified) on

First off, I'm not a backer.
Second, my vote would be for delaying the release, if you think you can have a significantly better release version by mid to late January. If not, release as planned. You want your initial release to be a product that will drag people in. (see further down about Steam pre-releases)
Pre-completion releases can go all over the place. A few key ones to look at when making a decision about how to release your game. (Not just initial release).
Corruption of Champions (and likely the same model for TiTS once its out) - tons of updates, but most are fairly small. While I enjoy the game, and would point to it as a model for development and use of donations/incentives, the release schedule is ridiculous. If you want to know what has been updated about the game since you last updated, you have to scan through dozens of posts. And if you check the page regularly, it can be difficult to decide when is a "good" time to download the latest version and try out the new content. If you plan on regular updates, please please PLEASE only do an actual new version available to download every 2-4 weeks.
Most Steam pre-releases, in my experience, horribly bungle their release plans. Typically, these games are in alpha or early beta (or play as if they were). Large core pieces of content are missing, but the game can be "played". This is akin to if you were playing a game of Basketball, except that the actual hoop hadn't arrived yet. On top of that, updates aren't well announced by Steam, so the players/testers/backers are often left with an incomplete experience that may deter them from trying the game out again until much, much later (which hampers them sharing it with friends).

This is why I say to wait on the release until *you* think that the game is worth playing and replaying. If it isn't, there will be people who find the game, try out the "released version", and dislike it due to lack of game content, lack of girls, or whatever. And they'll never return.

Vestrina on

Hmm, that's a tough one.  I'm not too worried about having special access, other than I would hate if you were to open it up and get bombarded with garbage feedback that slows down overall completion.  Not sure how likely that is, since I figure most (?) of the people who are interested probably contributed.

BlueWinds on

I have some experience in that regard - remember that this is version 2, and the first version was open to all. Garbage feedback was a small issue.

Empirically, most people who are interested have not contributed. Each release of this game gets downloaded several hundred times. When I was working on V1, it was double that number, for a game with less polish and less content.

Vestrina on

That's good to know (well, about the feedback, not the lack of contributors!).  I'm probably a bit skeptical on feedback at the moment, as I've been reading a lot of Playstation 4 related articles/posts lately, and there's trolls everywhere. ^_^

CheshireShade (not verified) on

First hand I would like to apologize if this is the wrong place for this comment i just found this and don't wish to wait to post a comment for fear I will for forget the URL in my sleep. I can't say that I am well versed in matters of marketing and so I don't want to give my opinion on a subject I am not well informed on. However I can say that from what i have seen of the game it is not only quite enjoyable but realistic in personalities and opinions of each girl while the options are diverse enough for strategy yet simple enough to enjoy without having to save every day. The game is fun and the hints of story I glimpsed left me itching for more. This is a time when I really wish I had the capability to support a designer in more monetary means, however I would like you to know this a great game that you deserve credit for. Good people willing to put in the effort to make great products are more of what the human race needs. I wish you luck

benryher (not verified) on

I'll say upfront that I was not a supporter of this project (having just found out about it a few weeks ago). In my opinion, it is best to release a free version of a game only when it is a "full experience" on its own. I have in the past been moved to support developers of free games online only when the game when I played it was impressive and felt like a full package at that time (Epic Battle Fantasy 4, for example, which I beat completely before paying any money for, and which I never even looked at again after paying for even though paying for it unlocks some extra stuff). Most people who don't pay money for the game ahead of time will play it in the first form they find it and likely never return to it again, possibly even if they find it to be impressive, so I would actually suggest pushing back the release for non-supporters until you have a version where every component of the game that makes it fun works and there is a complete story of some sort. Unless you're looking to sell the game in the future, the first free version you release will likely be the last version the vast majority of people who see the game play, and so that will be a huge determinant of how many people become long-term fans and supporters of your work. Personally, I would hold out until you have the "12 months of story, 6 girls and 3 buildings" completed, and probably even until you "introduce" all of the major NPCs.

BlueWinds on

Very well argued. Thanks for taking the time to type that up.

I'm not too worried about getting more supporters in the future - my financial situation is pretty stable right now, so an extra $10 here and there isn't super relevant. I do like introducing people to bitcoin though, and your point about showing off a polished game is good.

The current demo is tiny enough that people understand it's nothing more than "proof of concept," and not really a game (most of them, anyway).

The_Ripped on

Hey, Bluewind - I like the idea of Bitcoins too, but the recent news - like the wild upswing in their worth - is making it a little hard to support the format. Plus, the US may or may not be weighing in shortly, and that's 4 level jitters right there. Add the hacking of virtual wallets, and they look dicey. Not saying "don't accept them" - just saying "get them converted to a more stable form soon." Or not - this could well be my paranoia.

BlueWinds on

Not particularly interested in arguing this point anymore, so I'll just respond with a single point: In five years, a bitcoin should be worth either $10k+ or $0. Any value in between these things is an estimate of the probability that it will succeed.

It's time to stop talking about bitcoins and start talking about mBTC (.001 BTC). They're currently worth 74 cents, up from 54 cents a couple of days ago. Sounds like a much more useful form of money, doesn't it? I expect we'll need to switch to uBTC (.001 mBTC) soon enough.

You can comment here more if you want, but I won't respond again in this thread. Let's save arguing over if bitcoin is "real" and how I should handle my finances for Hacker News, Reddit, or the New York Times comments section instead of a porn game blog.

The_Ripped on

oh - sorry. I was just reacting to the fact that they had doubled in value this week, more or less. nothing speculative. I'll shut up.

Dorllanen on

I voted for the "end of the year" option. I think it's a good time (Christmas presents~) and making it open to the general public might increase traffic a bit. Although, it's better to wait a bit if most of the core features aren't implemented (i.e. release the game when it's not bug ridden and there's some content).

The_Ripped on

I voted for "finished features" - while I understand some people wanting to get the content they paid for through the campaign, I think you've shown that the content IS coming, and we are mostly satisifed that you are good for the "debt."  Having said that, I'd much rather you get the base game out the door - all of the initial loan repayments, and the main NPCs and events - and then get the backers the "super spiffy ultimate hyper pornination extraveganza" [2 whole extra walking scenes! XD ] version afterwords.

Either of those are for the future.

Now, seeing as you want to release a free version by year's end, I think I can safely assume it won't be a complete version by any stretch. Ergo, it'll be a beta version that people can playtest and get excited about some more. I like that idea, though the way you stated it on the poll is a bit misleading, since it sort of reads like "the only free release" as opposed to the "next free release." :) If it were me, which I freely admit it isn't, I'd release a new free version once I nailed down the events of three months, and thus have 4 free releases in total (assuming that the people whose cargo we lost aren't in this game and representing part 2 of the campaign (-.-;) ). 

That doesn't touch on the matter of backer versus free play, and that final tally can be counted next year, when we are closer to actually having a finished game. for now, go with your heart on this, and let them have a very cool holiday gift.

HypnoKitten on

I wouldn't necessarily say you should go by any of the above poll options honestly.  My two-cents is this - release the game once (1) there is enough content that someone could play for a significant period of time with minimal noticeable repetition, and (2) you have gotten in the habbit of releasing updates at a specific and consistent interval.  

The reason for (1) is that with a lot of people you won't get a second chance at a first impression.  You have to hook them right away, get them in a good headspace, get them enthusiastic about 'what happens next?!', get them invested in the experience... then you can leave them waiting on the sequal.  Hentai Highschool for example - the new HHS+ has been in development forever and a day and there has been a lot of work done it... I'm sure... I think....  I only ran back across it by accident after my first experience with it, then months later same thing happen.. it took maybe a year before I figured out that there was just little early-game content and I needed to spend more time on it (and I only figured that out because of a post I ran across talking about stuff I hadn't seen).  Ashford's version of the game?  Much less work, only one person, but it grabs you right away, lets you know what's going on, lets you play with a lot of toys, the scope changes at a relatively even speed (as you keep playing the game 'advances' quickly), and you're hooked.  Sure, it doesn't have as much under the hood, and it is just one person... but it has all the important things working right and early.  So my advice, release when you feel your game packs a solid punch, you are doing the right thing by keeping the 'proof of concept' to early supporters (who by nature tend to be easy-going on alpha-projects)

The reason for (2) is that the supporters on here are enthusiastic about your project and happy to give you lots of leeway.  Once you lower that draw-bridge though you may find some trolls waiting to set up shop underneath (so your enthusiasm better be high to start - we'll do our best to keep it that way!).  Worse yet, even if you have them hooked people get distracted very quickly these days.  If there is a steady 'shiny' every week, every two weeks, even on the 1st of every month, they'll remember to check.  If they don't know when the next one will appear they won't bother trying to keep up.  Oglaf comic only releases once a week but I check it regularly.  VG Cats is very well done but I only bother checking on it once every 3-4 months because most of the time there is nothing there.  (There are a bunch of psychology reasons and studies behind this but that's not important).  

Anyway, just my thoughts, do as you will :D

BlueWinds on

#2 will never, ever happen. I am not the sort of person who can handle schedules like that. Put a due-date on something and I will miss it, even if I'm already almost done and have months to finish. (><)

I suppose that might be too strong - never is a long time. Perhap in ten years, if I'm a completely different person. But probably not - I never could get my homework in on time even in elementary school. :P

Zavien (not verified) on

I have been on board since Brothel S.im 1 was just coming out and would've loved to contribute to your creative process, but the money wasn't there (and still isn't :p) and I hate the idea of being...uhh, penalized not the best word (considering the fact that I kind of just sit around waiting for free content to entertain my horny desires), but nonetheless, I can't really side with one side or the other... I think my best answer would be the end of the year mostly based on the fact that backers have had plenty of fun by themselves, having the game to themselves. It's a little hard to justify more then 3-4 months of exclusively bottled content on the premise you threw a few bucks at it(no matter how meaningful they were to the creator or meaningless to the giver, mileage may vary). Mind you, I understand the idea that they gave money, so they get rewarded, but in the end, the money, pooled together from several people (ultimately) went towards the possibility for them to a) have a game created they thought was relevant to their interests and b) be able to tag along for the ride and give feedback/enjoy the little moments no one else would. I wouldn't say the game is anywhere near people's idea of completeness, but it's starting to look like a game, and that's what the backers really tried to contribute towards. It's even harder to justify holding the game to themselves when it really hurts no one (or does ever so insignificantly so) to allow people who have been checking in every few days on the website to get a glance at the progress, anticipating the seemingly distant release of a game they've been waiting for forever. I think I just rambled on pretty heavy, at least in text form, but I feel the faster I get all this down, the more truthful an opinion it is... So, yea.. that's all I have to say. :p

BlueWinds on

I deleted your duplicate on the other post. hope you don't mind. No worries about that, it happens. :)

Valkieria on

I think you should wait until all features and rewards are done. This puts you in a rare situation to make both the regular Joe and the before launch backers happy without stepping on toes, except for the impatient people of coure. :P

Espguarde (not verified) on

I personally would love to get the game ASAP; the end of the year seems pretty realistic.
I was following your game prior to your Offbeatr, and I was definitely planning on backing. However, I ended up just missing the deadline due to some emergency events. Even though I had been a previous fan, I'm still not comfortable linking my banking account for a one-time $65 purchase, so I lost interest in your game and have only been popping into your blog once a week or so.
Nonetheless, the people who paid you deserve to get their money's worth. I think that it would be more fair if you waiting until the game is fixed first.

Dasanko on

I think a hybrid release would be a good way to approach this situation.

Let's say that, by the given date, the current game version is 0.90... you could just publish that as is for the general public, while keeping further updates (until the winning poll option's condition is met) private, for contributors only.

Leo Omega (not verified) on

but hybrid releases are harder to do so needs a strong reason. here's my suggestion, more or less as dasanko said but offer full version to those who report bugs also. this leads to a better product sooner for sponsors also because the bugs are found sooner by other players, it also keeps complete leechers out for a bit to give sponsors a feeling they got something. Though not as exclusive, it should result in a better product for everyone and those who report bugs contribute in their own way anyhow. Btw the reason they kinda could use the full version is so they can test it as well. 0.9 to 1.0 can have over 1000 bugs. Not bashing your skills but i'm a programmer too so i know from experience

BlueWinds on

A hybrid release is not on the table at the moment - as you say, it's harder to do and I'd need a good reason to take on the extra burden. When the game goes free, it's going free all the way and will stay that way.

How would I offer a full version to those that report bugs? All the bugs I'd be interested in hearing about are in the full version rather than the demo.

Rawrtasticallytastic (not verified) on

To be honest, I was following this game and it's development for a while since I saw it on Offbeatr. I came back every so often to check on things, but not for like three months now. There's no reason to check back if you haven't supported anything new for the people who didn't give funds, no real progress to actually touch/feel/see. I'm guessing there are a lot of people like me who might have been interested and just stopped looking around here because there still isn't a version of the game that they can play besides the early-early release. Don't get me wrong, I'm still reasonably excited about the game...But I really think you should release something for the people who have kind of lost interest.