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AtypicalAlex

An interesting poll...

26 posts in this topic

I''d like to hear everyone''s opinions on Episodic Gaming. Meaning you release an "episode" of your game for people to purchase (usually via download). Then, when you finish developing the next episode, you put that up for sale. It''s an interesting concept that has been floating around a bit. Any opinions on this? Alex Atypical Interactive www.atypical-interactive.com
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I don''t like that idea, mainly because the games are, more often than not, the same except for changes in weapons/characters/sounds etc.
So you are essentially buying one game for the price of two.

I''d rather buy an expansion.

The_Minister
1C3-D3M0N Interactive
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It''s not a bad idea, but some people could get annoyed because they finish one part and cannot play the next. I suppose you could argue it keeps the suspense and that if they don''t like the first episode then they don''t have to spend the money on the rest. I dunno, I''d have to see how a product that used such a system did.

-Mezz
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I think it is a good idea. If you were to develope a hugh game, and no one bought it, you would lose a ton of $. but, if you did it in episodes, you wouldn''t have lost as much because you only paid for a piece of the game so far.
Episode games should be cheaper per episode than the whole game would be, so it would endup being about the same amount of cash overall, maybe just a little more.
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Yes,thats the spirit i am working on my game,an isometric RPG.I think i will seperate it in "Episodes",ie different quests for the hero but based on the same world.That''s not about money as the previous poster pointed(Drakonite),but i am working alone on this and by giving only a part of episodes to the public is much faster to finish than trying to complete it.Anyway i make the game freeware so the user can download, anytime he finishes an episode ,the next episode(s).
Maybe i will change my ideas in the meantime,but that''s my spirit right now.
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The place this really shines is in free games. If you can lure people BACK to your download site by having the free game in installments, you can get more hits. More hits = more advert money. Well, it used to, anyway.

I intend on releasing a game this way pretty soon.

Also, you can apply game+ here. Sell contiguous chapters or overlapping games, where the player doesn't NEED to buy anything else, but is rewarded if they do... A few games do something LIKE this. Armored Core, for instance. But it would be great to see someone go all the way with it, using the other games to change character behavior, event order, game difficulty, easter eggs, etc. Just as a reward for having the other games.

Edited by - Landfish on 5/7/00 3:44:44 PM
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Episodic games is a great Idea. LandFish''s commented that the approach would work well for freeware games, I think how well the concept would work for Commercial Games. Because the games would be shorter the would be cheaper. If the games retailed for about $8 an episode(thats basically the cost of renting one new release movie) you have a greater chance of people buying your game than you do if the game costs $69.95. Also because the game is episodic the game designers could also use player feedback to design the next installment, making the game into what the players want from the game. Companies could also give away the first Epidsode of the game to get the name out in the market and then start charging for the games without losing to much money. Also if the games are cheap Enough people are less likly to pirate the game.
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You know, I like the idea of episodic releases, but doesn''t the majority of the work go into the FIRST episode? Work like the engine and gameplay decisions. Wouldn''t the extra episodes be the fluff? Good fluff, I''m sure. But basically it''s just new levels/monsters/quests. Indeed, good for freeware, but you would think that you would definately want a bigger chunk of cash for the first episode, since the most work went into it.

Take care,

Req
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vtrequiem made a good point: For some games, 90% of the work has to be done before you can even produce 1 playable level. I think this system would work well for an RPG, though.

I think that one thing you would have to do is make it very easy to purchase the next episode. For example, if you''re selling it online via credit card, you could keep their card info on file after the initial purchase (is that legal?), and then they could just click a button to get the next episode.
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Distribute the game engine with the 2nd and subsequent episodes. I know this destroys the whole idea of separate episodes, but why limit your hard work to only those who bought the original? No-one likes to have to buy a prequel just to play something. Just make it clear that there are previous episodes to buy too, if desired.
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People are complaining about playing the same game over and over. Can I just say, First Person Shooter? Talk about the same game! But then again we have Half Life. With it''s mod options. Counter Strike, Team Fortress Classic and Action (plus the other thousand you can get). I believe it all come down to game play. It doesn''t mater how similar games are if'' they are fun, people play them. (just as a small side note did ANYONE actually buy the rest of the Wolfenstine series?)

As Mr Cup alwase says,
''I pretend to work. They pretend to pay me.''
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Most commercial games already put out free demos of the first section of the first episode of a game.

This already has the engine and features in it. All you need to do is add the rest of the episode. Security for this kind of thing would be interesting though.

E:cb woof!
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Talking to some people in the industry it looks like a lot of games may be going a similar way. Not necessarily episodic but smaller releases for less £.
The industry is realising that a lot of people never actually play the games through from start to bitter end, so the extra work that went on for the last few bits is wasted. If the games are made smaller they
1) Cost less and 2) get released quicker so this could be quite good.
This is very much like the whole episodic idea you buy the first part and if you get really hooked you buy the next bit, those people who like the first but get bored don''t have to fork out the rest of the cash for the bit of the game they weren''t interested in...

(it really costs $8 to rent new release movies over there, jese.. that''s one thing we get a bit cheaper here then... about the only thing.......)

Check out my shadows page
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New Release movie rentals only cost $2. And new computer games only cost $40-45, not 70. The most i have ever seen is $50.

As for episodic release, almost 90% of the work goes into the first as someone already pointed out. So it coud end up being a large loss of money if people buy the first episode and dont like the game and thus dont buy and more episodes, where as on the other if you sold the full game and as many people baught it you would make more money. Its kind of a gamble, you have to make sure people are going to buy the next several episodes that come out.

You also have to consider the buyers and how people buy games. Most people go to a store to purchase a game, and if they are browsing a store shelf and see a $15 game and all the rest are $40+, what are they truelly gonna think when they see a cheap game? They are gonna think "Man, this is one cheap and thus probably one heck of a crappy game, and oh look, it says here on the box they will be releasing more ''episodes'', fuck them, they want me to pay this low amount and I bet it will only be 1/10th of a reall game and then I will have to buy 10 more ''episodes'' to just to get a full game, and that will end up costing me more then one of these other full games on the shelf"

I know that is I what I will be thinking. I could go out and purchase a full $40 game, or i could get a full episode game with 4 episodes at $15 each = $60. Thus in my mind its still better and cheaper for me to purchase a full game, and I believe lots of others will be thinking this exact same thing when determining which computer game to buy next.

Just my $.02
Possibility
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It might be important to make a distinction.

EPISODIC- Means that it is a contiguous story from start to finish, using the same characters and setting as other stories. Star Trek is a good example of an Episodic format (not making any judgement of the quality of that particular series) as is any TV Sitcom.
In games, this would mean that it is a full story, from start to finish, and you can buy another game with same characters and setting but different plot.

Then there are cliffhangers, like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. These things are blatant crap, no matter how good the content is (and I DID like the content...). It's commercialism at it's most evil. I do NOT advise anyone releasing a game where the plot does not meet some kind of(even partial) resolution unless you buy the sequal. It's dishonest, and crappy... unless of course, it's the above mentioned scenario where it costs nothing to get the rest of the story.

I don't know if that clarifies anything.

Edited by - Landfish on May 8, 2000 5:07:50 PM
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I like the ideal.
There was a game on the Amiga, I can't remember the name but I think Peter Molyneux was one of the designers... When the game booted it would display an image that had puzzle pieces and the caption was "An Interlocking Puzzle Game" (or something like that). The ideal was that the characters that you created could be brought into the next games. I like this concept and I think, this is the way you could pull off your episodic games.



David "Dak Lozar" Loeser

Edited by - Dak Lozar on May 11, 2000 12:41:27 PM
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Didn''t everyone rush to download/buy a copy of Wolfenstein 3D shareware? I liked that game, and eventually bought a copy to knix nazi''s. The concept isn''t new, just being revisited.

My friend has a friend who tried to innovate on a game in a commercial environment and eventually was let go because he was programming in C++, and ''no good games are written in C++''. He was happy to leave since the office became so political, that the guys boss got sacked before him. Anyways, the game bombed. Getting to the point of the story, the episode release system is a good way for independent and small game developers to avoid the political BS found in ''big'' industrial games and put food on the table. It allows for the small fish to innovate and try non-cookie cutter game development.

How many people have fired themselves for trying to innovate?

Just my 1 mil worth.
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I like the idea. While it is kind of like Shareware, each episode can stand on its own. You don''t necessarily have to play the free episode 1 and then purchase episode 2-3.

I think it is a new model that works well w/electronic distribution via the Internet [and not really appropriate for stores, except maybe episode 1 in the same way as Shareware].

Here''s an example of Episodic releases: Digital Tome (i haven''t tried it yet though)

It''s good that you can get feedback while developing Episode 2. Make tweaks to the engine/UI, and know how many people are interested in the next episode.

- n8



nathany.com
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Hi

I agree with the previous post that its an interesting concept, especially for freeware or low cost games developed by small teams.

But I must add that I myself would be al little sceptical to start playing such an episode game. Especially if I had to pay for the first episode, but even if it was free.

It might be a great game and on the website they would promise ''10 more episode to download comming soon!. Next one due in XXX months...''. But nothing would guarantee that the promised episodes will ever be completed. Maybe the serie would suddently stop in the middle of everything just because the game wasn''t popular enough/the developer got another job/a real ife ect., then I would feel kind of bad having wastd my time and possibly my money on a product which was never completed.

My point is, that for this to work you have to inspire enough trust in the consumers that they will take the change and play (buy) the first episode.

Regards

nicba
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Yeah, it could be like playing a great game that was set up for a sequel, but one was never made because it didn''t sell well. Except this would be even worse cause you wouldn''t even learn how it ended.

If all episodes are freeware (or at least the first) I wouldn''t think of it as a waste of time, though. I mean, a game is a game, even if you don''t see the end. Studies show most people don''t finish most games anyway.

But chances are I would only play an episode game where I had to pay if it was made by a credible and very big company. That would at least give me some assurance.

And also, if a company charges $9.95 for each episode, I''m assuming there will only be about 3 episodes. I mean, if there were 10 and I liked the game enough to buy em all I''d end up paying nearly twice of what a normal computer game costs...to me that goes against the whole POINT of episodic gaming.

ah well, more food for thought, I guess.

Alex
Atypical Interactive
www.atypical-interactive.com
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well... hows this for an idea.. episodic distribution using the same plot but different genres.. eg., say the first episode is an adventure game or an rpg.. it ends with, lets say, the hero finding a space ship that he needs to return home. the next episode is a space flight sim, ending in our hero returning home and recovering his nearly lost title of head honcho of a tribe of goat herders (whatever).. next episode is a strategy game where you conquer the neighborhood village or whatever. now, since the premise is following the story line and anticipating the next episode or whatever, the actual game quality does not need to be all that good - as long as the gameplay is consistent. hell, you could sell a tennis game under this premise as long as it fits into the scenario.

come to think of it - hey, i wouldn''t mind assembling a team of experienced people to work on this as a shareware type thing.


--
Float like a butterfly, bite like a crocodile.

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The two main problems with that are:

1) For every genre you need TOTALLY new art and a new ENGINE. People expect subsequent episodes to be released quickly ... this might not fly.

2) What are the chances that a single gamedev team could develop a good and fun game that includes so many genres? What are the chances that an RPG-veteran can make a sports game?

I know where you''re coming from, though, and in theory it is a good idea.

Alex
Atypical Interactive
www.atypical-interactive.com
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I think the key thing here is trust. If you don''t have the consumer''s trust, nobody will buy the game. I think the best (but not the only) model for epesodic gaming would go like this:

Create a freeware game in three to five "Chapters". Have them all finished (or at least more than one) before distribution. The player should no there''s no financial obligation, and that the entire series already exists.

The only reason to make it episodic in this model is so the consumer will return to the site, allowing you to build a loyal player base and make more from banner ads (well, not so much anymore with the ads.) I know this seems like it isn''t much, but if the download site includes info on commercial products for the same team, or a newsletter for the team''s releases... well, can you say "Permission Marketing?

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I think the only way a game such as this would realy take off is if it were a really killer app. The game would need to be AT LEAST as immersive as Everquest, and probably more so. The real survival rate of a game of this type would also only be good if each episode was genuinely unique. The repetition is what kills most series: i.e. Wing Commander vs. Final Fantasy. Wing Commander was a good series when it started, but over time the repetition just became to much for the average gamer. Final Fantasy on the other hand has enjoyed extreme success because each new entry in the series is much different from the one prior. I think this same concept would work well for a serial game. Keeping the users in suspense is probably more helpful than anything though: look at Stephen King''s "The Green Mile". That book was able to sell millions of copies of each part because it kept the readers interest and had them wanting to find out what happens next.
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