Category Archives: Thoughts and Opinions

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Book review time.

Today I read Tribe by Sebastian Junger, and it resonated with some of the thoughts I’ve been having about modern life and how technology is carrying us further away from the way we evolved to live. The premise of the book is that hunter gatherer tribes offered many advantages to mental health that modern societies lack. As a member of a tribe you were around many others at all times. Everyone shared their resources and relied on one another. Class distinctions could not afford to exist, people were judged purely by their contribution to the group. Life was less complicated and one spent less time working overall. People trusted each other and worked for the benefit of the group. Liars and cheats were dealt with harshly.

Skip forward to the future, and for all of our material wealth, rates of depression, PTSD and other mental illnesses are on the rise, presumably due to the loss of such communities and the support they offer. People now spend much more time alone, often rely on the government instead of on each other, feel utterly unneeded when they are unemployed, and have less shared experiences that they can relate with. We have strangers looking after our kids and grandparents. We seek individual wealth at the expense of others. We talk contemptuously about others instead of trying to understand them. We let political leaders turn us against each other over small differences, even though most of us agree about most things.

There’s a lot to sift through there and the solutions aren’t obvious. But in general the message is to strengthen family and community bonds, focus on the many things we agree on, and to be vigilant against those who try to take advantage of the group – bankers, frauds, polarising political speakers and others. I feel like these issues will grow in severity as technology leads to more unemployment and more isolated lifestyles.

Anyway. Tribe is quite short and is an accessible read, but if you don’t like reading you can also get a gist of it from this interview with the author.

There’s a lot of food for thought in there.

Thoughts About Patreon (part 2)

This is a continuation of my previous post, where I explained why I’m considering making a Patreon. No one seemed to have any major objections to me setting up a Patreon, as long as I stuck to the rules I outlined there.

I’ve spent the day researching what other creators have done with Patreon, and I’ve come up with this list of reward tiers. I’d be interested to hear what you think of these:

Supporter: $1 per month
• Get early access to buggy, spoiler-full, alpha versions/demos that otherwise won’t be released to the public until they are finished. Over the next few months this will include the entire EBF5 world map, and a boss fight demo.
• You also get the “Supporter” role on the EBF Discord, making you a trusted user who can post links and images in any channel, and gives you access to the “Alpha Discussion” and “Alpha Bugs” channels for discussing the content mentioned above. (You still gotta follow the rules!)
• And finally the loyalty program: With your continued support, you can request a Steam key for any of my games for every $15 you’ve given. (you can give extra keys to your friends or use this as a way to pre-order future games)

Super Supporter: $4 per month
• Same as the above, but you get the “Super Supporter” Discord role, which does nothing besides letting you show off.

Wall of Thanks: $8 per month
• Get your name listed on the “Wall of Thanks” on my website, KupoGames.com, letting visitors know that you’re kind of cool!
• This lasts as long as your contribution does, and can include a link to some profile or website of yours. (subject to my approval, maybe contact me with your details first!)
+ Includes Super Supporter perks
(100 slots only)

Thoughts About Patreon

Lately I’ve been thinking about making a Patreon, but just bringing that up makes me feel a bit dirty. I don’t want to start double-dipping or locking people out of content that is free at the moment, so I’m writing this blog to discuss my thoughts.

Here’s some perks to me having an income on Patreon:
• My income would be a bit less volatile month to month and year to year. Currently in some months I get 30x what I get in others. I’m used to this but it does make financial planning a bit complicated, especially when working on a project over many years.
• It gives people another way to support me. I get asked about donations, preorders, kickstarters, etc. every once in a while, and Patreon makes more sense to me than any of those.
• Most game stores take 30% of my earnings, and some take even more than that. So it would be a more efficient way of getting money straight to me for those who are concerned with that. (Patreon only takes 5% as I understand it)
• It gives me a way of releasing demos to a small group of people, which would be useful with spoiler-full stuff. For example, I’d like to get a bunch of people to test the entire EBF5 world map, but I don’t want to release that publicly cause it’s obviously full of spoilers.
• I’d get more money overall, which you may or may not think I deserve. I don’t *need* more money, but 2017 is shaping up to be my worst year in a while, as I haven’t published any games in a few years now.
• I’d be able to make some smaller free games again without needing to worry about a sustainable income. Games that on their own probably wouldn’t be worth buying. (And with Greenlight gone I could easily put them on Steam as well) (alternatively it could lead to free updates for EBF5 post-release)

Here’s some perks for patrons that I’ve thought about:
• Early access to spoilerific demos or very early and buggy stuff. Anything that I wouldn’t want to release publicly for a while.
• Requests for little favours that I’ve thought about doing but haven’t quite gotten round to. For example, releasing a blog post on a specific topic, releasing some existing artwork as a wallpaper, releasing bits of source code, etc. This stuff I’d also make publicly available later, so I’m not doing it just for the patrons.
• Some little perks on the EBF Discord, such as having a colorful username and the ability to post images on any channel. (still within the rules, of course)
• Using it as an alternative payment method for buying my games. (not sure how well this would work, but if someone’s sent me enough money through Patreon I can send them Steam or Humble keys or whatever)

What I’m NOT going to use Patreon for:
• Letting patrons influence my games’ content in any way that isn’t available to everyone else.
• Giving out perks that would use up a lot of my time on things that aren’t game development.
• Locking stuff that would normally be free behind a paywall. I would only put stuff on Patreon that I’m currently not releasing at all.

So that’s it I think. Of course what I would do with Patreon depends on how much support I get on there, and what people would find most beneficial. But first I want to hear from fans; Does this sound okay? Are there any perks you’d like to see? Are there any concerns you have?

Ads are bad

Hey guys, I recently took down all ads off this website and closed my Google AdSense account in protest against Google and the ad model in general. I only made a few hundred dollars per year off ads, so it’s not a massive sacrifice, but I feel like I’m doing my part.

Lately I’ve strongly felt that the ad model is doing serious harm to the content that is produced on the internet. It encourages safe, mainstream click-bait instead of high-quality, honest content. Some examples include:

• YouTube is de-monitizing any videos that could be considered controversial to appease advertisers, including video-game violence, swearing, and discussions about the news or politics. A lot of videos are also flagged falsely. For example a video providing help for suicidal people would be flagged as controversial as it’s related to a controversial topic. I’ve noticed that even harmless fail videos are censoring swearing. This is a bad direction to be going if you want a diversity of content to be produced (which I’m assuming YouTube is no longer interested in, despite this being a major advantage it had over TV).

• News websites are printing any garbage that will get clicks. They produce the most addictive headlines and site layouts, keep users outraged over petty nonsense, and do whatever it takes to keep users on the site longer to see more ads. I feel like this is doing major harm to public discourse as the most outrageous articles will always get the most exposure.

• Many ads are just outright scams or otherwise malicious. There’s obviously no quality control going on when ad space is being purchased. I often see ads like “Get Minecraft for free!” or “Try this new bullshit health supplement!” and other obvious scams. I’m assuming these are effective otherwise they wouldn’t be appearing.

So my recommendation would be to use an Ad Blocker (like uBlock Origin) for your own safety, but also to discourage platforms like YouTube and Facebook from bending over to the demands of advertisers. F.B. Purity is also a good chrome extension to block most of the garbage on Facebook.

If you can afford it, throwing a few dollars at your favourite creators on Patreon will do them more good than watching hundreds of ads will. Free stuff is great, but I feel like a couple of dollars isn’t a high price to fight back against the harm that ads are doing – and also to save you the time wasted on them.

And a final note: Short, high-quality content in particular doesn’t do well under the ad model. Stuff like animation or well-researched videos. Those don’t get a lot of clicks relative to the amount of work put into them, and it’s most important to support the creators of works like these through donations.

That is all. Thoughts?

The Big Journey

I’d like to take a moment to shill a mobile game that I actually like: The Big Journey!

As you’ve probably heard me mention before, I think that most mobile games are nothing but endless time wasters filled with micro transactions and horrible psychological exploits. (I blame casual gamers who don’t want to pay up front for anything)
But I like this one, so I’m doing my part to promote something good. It has actual level design, and no mobile bullshit. I also really love the art style and music, to the point where it might inspire the cartoony cutscenes in EBF5 a bit.
It’s not a masterpiece or anything, it’s just really good by mobile game standards, in my opinion. Also Sushi Cat is in it.

Anyway, it’s on iOS and Android for like $3 and takes around 2 or 3 hours to beat.

Rise of the Robots

I recently read “The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment” by Martin Ford, and even though I’m already quite familiar with the topics covered, it was sobering to have all of the information together in book form.

Until now I’ve read a few books about the singularity and the threats posed by super-intelligent machines, but that’s all still in the fairly distant future. Rise of the Robots discusses major problems that will arrive within the next 10 and 20 years, and in many cases are already happening: Automation will soon put a huge proportion of the population out of work permanently and create wealth inequality like we’ve never seen before.

The important take away is that the production of goods is starting to rely only on capital and not on workers, meaning that anyone with a lot of financial resources can set up a factory or a datacenter and produce tons of goods and services with very few employees. This is easily visible when you look at the tiny amount of workers employed by tech giants like Google and Facebook – most of their infrastructure is already automated and requires very little human oversight. It’s very important to remember that the number of new jobs created by automation is a tiny fraction of the jobs being replaced, and not even engineering and science degrees will guarantee a decent job anymore.

One particularly relevant point to me was that the internet itself –  ”the great equaliser” - is a great source of inequality. The new digital jobs being created: eBay seller, blogger, YouTuber, indie game developer, etc… are extremely unequal, with only a tiny number of people actually making a decent living doing these. It’s a winner-takes-all situation, but the platform owner always gets his cut.

The book also sold me on universal basic income, as I don’t see any other way things can turn out well once 30% or more of the population is unemployable through no fault of their own. Fast food and transport industries are upcoming targets for automation, and they currently employ a massive number of people. Those jobs are over, and the economy as we know it can’t function without money in the hands of consumers.

Anyway, I strongly recommend the book, especially if you don’t follow tech news and don’t yet realise how for automation has advanced in recent years. It’s an easy read with clear explanations and is not overly technical or longer than it needs to be. There’s a many more eye-opening examples in there that I haven’t mentioned here.

RIP Flash

As many of you have probably heard by now and started to panic, Adobe has announced they are phasing out Flash by 2020. As ya’ll should know, all of my games are still made in Flash.

Adobe is only discontinuing Flash in browsers, meanwhile it will still run fine as standalone AIR apps on Steam and mobile, so there’s no chance of Flash games suddenly disappearing. And Flash on browsers will still be around til 2020 anyway, so it probably won’t affect EBF5 much. Even if this turns out to be a problem, I can always release free/demo versions of my games on Steam instead.

Adobe has also announced lots of new features for Desktop AIR in the upcoming years, including more resolution options and GPU support. So who knows, maybe EBF5 won’t run like shit once these new features come out!? It would be a miracle!

Either way all this news is a great relief for me. Adobe has been quite quiet about the future of Flash and AIR for a while now, and it’s been driving me crazy. It’s good that they’ve finally revealed their plans. If things go well, I may even keep using Flash after EBF5 and work on some small spin-off games again. I really miss being able to pump a game out in 2 months. I would like to try that again.

Anyway, I’m going on holiday for 2 weeks. Bye.

A Rant About Social Media

I think social media has become a literal addiction for me, in the sense that it’s actually hurting my well-being by wasting hours of my time and overloading me with information about things that don’t matter. I’ve installed a browser extension to limit my Facebook and Twitter time to 20 minutes a day, which is just enough time for me to make my blog posts and read the comments I get. It’s not stopping me from procrastinating overall, but I’m spending more time looking at games and animations on Newgrounds and 4chan, which I think is a much better use of my time than reading about petty outrage on Twitter. So it’s been a positive change so far.

I’m also trying to be more mindful about digital distractions in general. Before I compulsively open a new tab, or look at my phone, I ask myself: Do I really want to be checking what pointless notifications I got in the last 30 minutes? Or is literally anything else a better use of my time?
I’m not great at it yet, but I’m making some progress.

I used to love technology, but it feels like lately a lot of it has been engineered to be so psychologically exploitative that I just want to get away from it. All social media seems to encourage the most outrageous, low quality, click-baity posts in an effort to make you stay on the site longer.

On YouTube half of what I get recommended is shit like “10 reasons why Final Fantasy 7 is the worst one!”, and “7 times Richard Dawkins went beast mode on idiots!”. They figure out what I’m interested in, and then show me the lowest quality content possible. What an age we live in, eh…

Maybe I’m a bit naive and nostalgic here, but I used to feel that social networks were a useful tool that you were in control over. You followed people who’s posts you were interested in, you searched for content you liked, and you were notified of important things like replies to your comments.

Nowadays the social networks are in charge of what I see. They show me posts that are “liked” by people I follow, when no one ever asked for that feature. They don’t allow me to turn off many types of notifications that I don’t want to see. They disguise advertisements as regular posts. Posts and comments aren’t ordered chronologically anymore, but instead by some secret algorithm. Algorithms predict what news you want to see, instead of showing you news that’s actually important.

It’s all a big waste of time really, and I wonder if the net affect of social media is even a positive one at this point. It was nice being able to keep in touch with friends and find cool people, but I think more traditional messenger apps are better suited to that now, as they don’t come with all the extra distractions.

Oh, and I forgot to even mention the mobs of self-righteous bullies that thirst for public shamings on the internet. Apparently these days it’s acceptable and often lauded to ruin someones career and livelihood over a few distasteful Tweets, or some other petty nonsense. Try saving the outrage for actual criminals who deserve it, ya twats.

Anyway, I just wanted to rant a bit about this. Do you agree or disagree?

Humble Bundle Results

So this blog is a few months overdue…

Back in January Epic Battle Fantasy 4 was invited to take part in the Humble “Overwhelmingly Positive” Bundle. EBF4 has been bundled before, but it was a few years ago and in a very small bundle (5K sales), so that barely counts. Back then I didn’t expect to EBF4 to have such a long sales tail, so I figured there was no harm to be done by bundling. But it turned out that EBF4 would be selling well for years after release, thanks to Steam’s Discovery update which does a lot to recommend the game to Steam users. I told myself I wouldn’t bundle EBF4 again until the sales dried up and I was invited into a more prestigious bundle. It’s quite flattering being a new Steam dev and getting tons of bundle offers, but one quickly realises that most of them want to bundle your game with garbage and devalue it.

So a long time later comes along Humble Bundle asking to sell EBF4 next to games like Shantae, N++, and Day of the Tentacle. I hadn’t played these at the time but I knew they were very popular and well rated, and also not as old as EBF4, so I was definitely bundling up rather than down with this lineup. Another major stroke of luck was that the Steam review system was changed shortly before this offer, so that reviews from key activations don’t count towards the review score. EBF4 has a Steam review score of 98% (overwhelmingly positive), which is why it was included in this bundle, and this change meant that opening up the game to a more general audience was unlikely to hurt it even if a lot of them didn’t like it. It would have been rather embarrassing if EBF4 lost this high rating during the bundle, and being the somewhat niche Flash game that it is, I would have absolutely expected that to happen.
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The bundle ran for two weeks, and with EBF4 being in the $1 lowest tier, it sold 135K copies. Around 92K of the keys were actually activated, and the amount of user engagement was incredibly low, as expected from a bundle. Very few of them left reviews or posted in the forums, and the ratio for players to owners drastically decreased (the bundle more or less doubled the number of owners on Steam). Success! This is the best result I could have hoped for: Free money for almost no work! No user complaints to deal with! Though it did hurt a bit that the other games got more attention for being in the bundle. (I lurked Reddit to see which games people were most interested in) (also the few reviews EBF4 got during the bundle were around 75% positive, so definitely much worse than usual)

Overall the bundle almost doubled my income for the year, and with Brexit plummeting the value of the UK pound, the incredible exchange rate boosted my earnings further, making last year my most profitable year ever! And I didn’t even release a game that year! Being self employed is weird.
(note: the UK tax year ends in April for reasons unknown)

The only real question left is whether or not bundling EBF4 hurt its long term sales. It’s hard to say. Sales have been a bit lower after the bundle, but they were already slowly going down, and the Steam autumn and winter sales shipped a lot of units shortly before the bundle too. EBF4 has been on Steam for over 3 years and hasn’t been getting any updates, so it’s still doing remarkably well either way. Today it still more than covers my living expenses, which is all a developer could ask for really.