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Subject: A call for change! rss

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Noble Valerian
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Please go to the link and read the article carefully, and share if you agree with what I am saying. It's important!

http://www.noblevalerian.com/1/post/2013/06/the-dice-tower-t...

Let me also say, this article isn't really about Tom. It's simply a comment Tom made that triggered, what I feel is, a need to start talking about the industry and asking for change.
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Clem Fandango
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NobleValerian wrote:
Please go to the link and read the article carefully, and share if you agree with what I am saying. It's important!

http://www.noblevalerian.com/1/post/2013/06/the-dice-tower-t...

Let me also say, this article isn't really about Tom. It's simply a comment Tom made that triggered, what I feel is, a need to start talking about the industry and asking for change.

This is a very similar debate that writers have. "why do we come up with all the ideas and do all the work and the publishers get 90% of the money?"

Kickstarter and self publishing along with technology changes seems the answer, although the danger with crowd-sourced funding is rubbish with a good buzz can get through much more easily and discredit the hobby. With a publishing company their reputation and checking processes theoretically give added security that the game has been tested and is good, and that the componentary is tried and tested (but I know we can find contrary examples here)
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LudiCreations
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Interesting post. Perhaps the whole paragraph comparing board games to movies could have been skipped, along with the "perceived value / markup on other products" part.

But yes, otherwise ok. Agreed, game designers can and should be able to make money for their efforts, enough to support them. That's quite subjective of course, but that's a moot point, given the market conditions.

As to the share of the earnings between publishers and designers, this also depends on market conditions and the assumption of risk. Luckily there is now Kickstarter, so presumably designers have less need of publishers.

Perhaps trying out the publishing thing might show you first-hand what publishers have to deal with.
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Patrick Brennan
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The lumberjack analogy is off because they're producing goods essential to survival. Boardgames aren't. They're a luxury. A more apt analogy might be with painters or sculpters, who similarly produce luxury goods. The market will pay what the market can bear, but there's no obligation to pay anything (unlike there is for essential survival items).

As such, if someone wishes to produce items for a non-essential luxury market, and they want more money, make items that are more attractive and sellable. You can complain about the size of a slice of a pie, or you can increase the size of the pie.
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Melody
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What about a co-op? Kickstarter is a great tool to help designers self publish but the problem is that these designers have no idea what goes into getting their game published. They usually under estimate their time frame, how much everything will actually cost & whatnot. A co-op like farmers have would have the connections & experience to help new designers through the production & financial (kickstarter or some such) process. Self publishing sounds so rosy but the realities can be quite staggering but if designers pooled together it could really take off. This is just an off the cuff opinion of course.
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Tommy Occhipinti
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A consistent pattern is that financially successful designers (WOTC, Vaccarino, etc.) spend a lot more time on game development, rather than just design. I think most designers don't do much developing because developing is less fun than coming up with new ideas and running off and making something else. This exactly shows that for most designers (not the successful ones mentioned above) it is a hobby. People at work don't say "I'm no longer having fun with this TPS report, I will just put send it in as is."

On the other side of the coin, I have never heard of anyone recreationally sourcing blue cubes from China or any of the other awful stuff that publishers have to do. To me, the current distribution makes perfect sense.
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Noble Valerian
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I think designers having access to the knowledge and resources to get their games to market is exactly what is needed. And I have no idea what the best way to do it is. I just know the current system isn't cutting it.
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J C Lawrence
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I design games.

I confidently expect and am happy to make a net loss on all of the games I design.
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Noble Valerian
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Suggesting successful designers consistently spend more time developing their game is common sense to me. I think any job can be enjoyable when it presents a challenge, so I really don't think a designer stops working on a game because it's not fun anymore, though that would be one of the best indicators of whether or not it's a hobby for them.

If you are suggesting that the current model is acceptable because publishers develop game designs more completely than the original designers, then I understand where you are coming from. If major video game publishers gave the kind of time tabletop publishers give, then they could take just about any independent video game and make it more "complete" as well. There is a reason small studios don't want to go through those channels, and it's the same reasons independent tabletop designers don't want to go through those channels.

Btw, I agree no one finds recreation in sourcing materials, but I am not sure how that applies at all since a designer wouldn't be doing it for recreation anyway.
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Noble Valerian
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And I fully support you (or anyone else) making games as a hobby. I would even be interested in playing games from a hobby designer. Any links?
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Noble Valerian
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And to be perfectly honest, I think it's irrelevant. Anyone can improve on a good idea, but actually conceiving something new and interesting is far more challenging and I think it's still worth the lion's share. This article may be about tabletop design but designers in most industries seem undervalued to me.
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Megan Smith
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If you feel strongly enough about this, send $10 to the designer each time you play a game.
But even in your ideal situation of the designer making as much money as the publisher, worked out at a $/hour of work on the design, it could never be enough to fully support the designer.
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Noble Valerian
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My ideal situation is quite a bit more complex than that. That's only one small part of it. That I think you might be right about that $/hour scenario is the main problem.
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Isaac Shalev
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This isn't about how a large pie gets cut up, it's about how a small pie gets cut up. That designers don't get paid a big chunk isn't a matter of unfairness, its just the realities odd supply and demand. There are tons of designers who would love top get published, so buying games from them is cheap. As those designers get proven they can earn better deals, but at the end of the day we are taking about a low volume low margin business with lots of labor and capital requirements. It's tough to make lots of money that way no matter who you are, designer or publisher.
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Mike at Smartacre
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Here's my experience with things..

I have been an online game creator for 15 years. I have been approached several times about taking my games "offline" (still CPU based). The proposals have been pitiful, and I've turned every one down with little hesitation. But I understood why they offered what they did, and I'd have done the exact same thing had I been in their shoes.

Creativity is, to me, the holy grail. Still, if you don't know how to monetize your ideas, they're still just that.. ideas. Most people here would likely agree that Apple didn't "create" the idea of buying songs for a small price; the majority of Napster users I knew would have happily paid an acceptable fee for songs a-la-cart had they been given that opportunity. Yea.. the whole iTunes to Pandora to Spotify to the "the artists doesn't make a fair cut" argument is a good one. I agree that creativity is grossly under appreciated and, generally, under compensated. Still, some guys like Jonathan Coulton have figured out the "new artist paradigm" and are doing just fine...

Long and short - as a game creator, you gotta do what makes sense for you. Producing physical games is an extremely risky business. So if you aren't willing to "sell out", you have to be willing to put your neck in a noose and hope to "hit it big."

Stinky? Totally. Do I wish it were different? Of course. But nearly every game creator has to decide which avenue they prefer to take for themselves.

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Michael Iachini
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I'm trained as an economist. So, keep that in mind as you read this.

Things are worth what the market will pay for them. The market does not seem to value game design all that much. The market seems to value game publishing somewhat (but still not all that much).

This tells me that the people making the buying decisions don't particularly value game design in general. Sometimes a fantastic design breaks out into a big success, and I believe that can lead to good compensation for a designer (especially if multiple publishers start competing to bring out that person's next design). But I think this is the exception rather than the rule.

Should designers get more of the rewards from game sales? Sure, that would be lovely. But in a market economy, I don't see that happening because good design isn't what the market seems to value the most. This is probably in part because the supply of good game design (good, not necessarily great) is pretty large, which means that publishers don't have to pay as much for it. If a designer demands too high a level of compensation, a publisher might just say, "Forget it; let's work with someone else."

Any "worthwhile" profession that is seen as underpaid can be looked at similarly. It stinks that the market doesn't seem to value teachers as much as it "should" for instance, but that's the way markets work.

As a designer, I'm at peace with this. I have a day job that I enjoy, and I design games on the side - not to pay the bills, but to find fulfillment, and ideally, to bring in some extra money someday.

Michael Iachini
Clay Crucible Games
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Noble Valerian
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I am somewhat familiar with economics, and at face value that kinda sounds right. For starters, supply and demand is only one basic fundamental of economics. For all I know about economics, there is far more that I don't. I do know the market doesn't dictate what teachers get paid, though I agree teachers are incredibly undervalued. The market does however pay for "higher education" which is incredibly overvalued.

I list quite a few things in that article that are overvalued. Value is complex. No one. Not one person on this planet wants to pay, or agrees with, the price of soda at the theater. The thing is, you aren't allowed to bring your own drinks. Still, no one in their right mind would say those prices are what soda is worth. Especially while that exact same product is being sold in the next building at 1/5th the price. On the flip side, we purchase things all the time that we would have gladly payed more for.

I don't think the majority of the market knows much about games at all. If they knew more sophisticated games existed, I think there would be a larger demand. The market changes all the time and I think education is a big part of that. Everyone wants to save money, and everyone wants to spend as little as possible. I don't want people to feel cheated like they do at the theater but all these comments about things just being the way they are is utter nonsense. A publisher WILL work with someone else as long as they know someone else won't value themselves appropriately.

I am not really asking if there is a problem with the way things are. There is. I am not saying I know how to fix it. I don't think I do. I am just saying I think it's time for a change. And I don't think Kickstarter addresses anything I am concerned about. I think the biggest thing is letting people know board games are awesome, because I don't think most people realize that anymore. When was the last time you saw a commercial for a board game? The people who can afford to reach out aren't even trying! Maybe I am naive, and maybe I have more faith in this industry than others. In this age, with all this technology, I still enjoy playing tabletop games. I still enjoy genuinely interacting with people in a way that video games doesn't allow. And I do it as often as I can.
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Steve Bauer
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NobleValerian wrote:

I don't think the majority of the market knows much about games at all. If they knew more sophisticated games existed, I think there would be a larger demand. The market changes all the time and I think education is a big part of that.

I don't think this is true, people know board games exist they just aren't interested in playing them. By education I have to assume you mean marketing and marketing is very expensive and not likely to be very effective out side of the existing customer base for what is and will always be a niche hobby.
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Noble Valerian
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I respectfully disagree on all accounts. Though, to clarify, I have no doubt people know board games [in general] exist. I don't think people know what kind of board games are out there or what to expect from modern board games.
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Derry Salewski
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The most sucessful American publishing companies (Wotc. Ffg. Wizkids? Dechipher back in the day?) Seem to use a lot, if not exclusively, in house design. And then companies like GMT seem to have close working relationships with many of thier designers. And it seems like the big Euro Publishers push hardest stuff by popular designers, who all are making at least part of a living.

So where exactly are these great game designers and devolpers getting cheated?

What industry can you break into at a profit without a ton of hard work?

What do you want to reward? Every mediocre kickstarter game? Please don't.

You said that ideas are more valuable than fine tuning. No. Just no. The 'great ideas' you see are there to be seen because the fine tuners weeded through all the crap and probably changed the idea a bit too. For every great screenplay/painting/novel/boardgame/videogame/tech idea/whatever there's thousands of crap ones.

How do you see things not innovating? Aren't there a lot of good new ideas coming out all the time?

Anyway, aren't you a few years late to this argument? Hasn't crowdfunding pretty much let anyone who wants to put in hard work to start a small game publishing business do it?

But no. I don't want to pay more for games. I make so much money. I can spend so much of it on hobbies. How does making everyone like me (everyone) able to afford less help anyone?

How can you raise the percieved value of something? I mean, I'm pretty sure the only way any other industry does it is by creating snobbery and elitism. (And enforce it with price fixing and monopoly.) Mall clothing chains, fine dining, Nike, Apple.

I guess I just think designers of race for the galaxy, agricola, twilight struggle, war of the ring, key market, antiquity, magic . . . whatever other games I really like . . . were probably compensated fairly for the design of their great game!

Do you think they weren't?

Okay I'm done with my mostly disagreeing questions for the moment.



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Noble Valerian
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Good points. I am late to the argument. I think people should get paid instantly without having to work. Ideas are less valuable than refinement because bad ideas exist. No one gets taken advantage of on the business side of game development. What am I missing? Oh... "part of a living" is, of course, more than adequate for designers. Sorry you had to waste your time opening my eyes to the truth of the world.
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Derry Salewski
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NobleValerian wrote:
Good points. I am late to the argument. I think people should get paid instantly without having to work. Ideas are less valuable than refinement because bad ideas exist. No one gets taken advantage of on the business side of game development. What am I missing? Oh... "part of a living" is, of course, more than adequate for designers. Sorry you had to waste your time opening my eyes to the truth of the world.

Ah. I was confused about you wanting to actually have a conversation here.

Thos questions were one hundred percent based on what I've seen and read, all of which is from more credible sources than you.

I'd call you a name but I might be bored and need to post tomorrow night.

No one asked you to be sarcastic.

Jerk.

I lied.
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Noble Valerian
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Quote:
How can you raise the percieved value of something? I mean, I'm pretty sure the only way any other industry does it is by creating snobbery and elitism. (And enforce it with price fixing and monopoly.)
By all means, share the credible source for this. You are right, though. I was a sarcastic jerk about it. Someday, I will always take the high road, but I am still young
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linoleum blownaparte
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ChaosAndAlchemy wrote:
Things are worth what the market will pay for them.

Nah, things will sell for what the market will pay for them. That's a tautology.

The most commercially successful games are some of the worst ones (Monopoly, Battleships, LCR, UNO...).

What does the designer bring to the table?

- making the game a high quality playing experience
- making the game "innovative" (which is mostly only interesting to people who play lots of games)

These two factors don't seem to determine whether a game will sell, so it's quite reasonable for publishers to pay designers less. The art, the theme, the marketing, and the license are all more important.

Publishers don't need quality design or innovative design to make a successful game. Look at Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, it is lucrative even though it's typical FFG kludge (search your feelings, you know it to be true) pasted onto an underlying design that came out the year before Caylus. Ya can't argue that X-Wing is some kind of highly-polished gem or an innovative breakthrough. It's a decently playable game that comes with accurately sculpted minis and succeeds at giving you a "Star Wars feeling."

FFG didn't need to go search out a designer to make a great design. They made a "good enough", I daresay barely good enough, design in house and sold the game on the basis of the license. And it worked.



Quote:
Luckily there is now Kickstarter, so presumably designers have less need of publishers.

HA! The top 11 most funded KS "boardgames" are all miniature games. In other words, Kickstarter is proving that publishers have less need of designers.


KS isn't the solution to this problem, it's an arena for rehashing the same issues. The campaigns with the best art, theme, marketing, presentation, and license will make bank regardless of the underlying quality or innovation of the game design. Kickstarter is not really for designers, it is for publishers who want to exploit the drool reflex that gamers exhibit when shown cool shiny bits.
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Greg
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My reply to this ended up being its own blog post.

Which essentially means I've written a reaction to a reaction...this is one of the worst things about the internet.

I want to summerise here for people who don't click links, but I kinda had a lot to say. I guess the main two notes I tried to hit that didn't really get covered in the thread are:

Making a living wage out of game design should require working full time hours. Have you tried working full time hours for months on design day in day out? There are a number of obstacles to it (availability of playtesters, designing faster than production)

Is there a place for ethical consumerism here? What happens if we start sticking a logo on games that essentially means "We paid the designer fairly for their contribution to this product". The beauty to that is that there's no need to get buy-in from people who don't already agree and it can't hurt people that do it.
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