Cautionary tale for indies.

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Musenik, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. Musenik

    Original Member

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    Today I was informed by Big Fish Games that they have dropped my game after a week on their site.

    Apparently they were getting too many complaints about the following 'scene'.

    [​IMG]

    I assume, during their testing this was found and okayed. It is a choke point in the story which is required for a later confrontation. Players have to deal with this situation to continue the game.

    Having lost the distribution of the largest portal basically means, I will not recoup my expenses. Until then, it had been climbing the top 100 every day. During that time, it's climb was hindered by two things. One was an anti-virus checker's false positive, due to their wrapper. The other was the warning they added to the game's description: "This game contains scenes that some players may find of a controversial nature."

    On their forums, there was an early outcry against the original description. (They changed it and added the warning after one day.) A few complaints continued, but as people began to play the game, more and more members came to its defense on the forum. However, complaints kept arriving at their customer service department.

    Consider this tale as a benchmark for content that went too far for one company.

    Your mileage may vary.
     
  2. Jeff

    Indie Author

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    Maybe you can make a special BFG version of the game that is lighter or something.

    However, one of the whole points of being independent is that you can make whatever you want without having a publisher telling you what is or is not kosher. It would suck to be bullied by BFG into changing the story of your game.
     
  3. SteveZ

    Indie Author

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    I agree, a portal version. Just something to keep in mind when a game has to appease to a mass consumer base. Personal note, I think I made a portal version for Cactus Bruce for RA/Yahoo. Had to do with evolutions or something, been a while, can't remember - but, my website still had the original version.
     
  4. SteveZ

    Indie Author

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    To bring another point, what is more important? To stick to your gun and label yourself "independent" or to be more market savvy and strive for more financial independence. Of course a couple developers can achieve both, like Cliffski, but I'd rather take the latter.
     
  5. papillon

    Indie Author

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    Ouch!

    I saw some of the 'outcry' on the forums. It's surprising how worked up they got at the mere mention of bullying, without even bothering to play the game.

    I know I've gently pushed the envelope a few times and gotten away with it... It's hard to know what exactly will set them off. I was personally quite startled by the opening of, say, Heartwild Solitaire... I mean, who expects THAT from a solitaire game? (The content wouldn't have made me raise an eyebrow in a serious adventure game, but it was very strange in a card game, especially for being smack in the face at the start of the game.)

    Is it really gone completely, or just pulled from the main listings? I can still get to the game's page and download the stub. I know Laxius Force (which contained sufficient questionable content that I'm surprised they took it onboard at all) was available on BFG but not findable through the general browser or ever listed in the new games list, you had to know it was there and jump directly to it.
     
  6. KNau

    Original Member

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    That sucks. If it's any consolation you now bear the scars from the battle so many other Writer's Guild members face - "Dumb it down for the masses!"
     
  7. Maupin

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    I'm actually surprised they accepted DHSGIT with that (rape aftermath?) scene included.

    Reading through their forums, apparently the original description mentioned "bullying" and just seeing people's kneejerk reactions to that topic - having not even played the game - gives me an idea what BFG customer support was up against. :(
     
  8. Jeff

    Indie Author

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    There's a fine line and it's a personal choice. I mean we are all selling our games, right? They're not free. Of course money is a large factor. This thread is a testament to why it can be bad to rely on a single publisher though.

    You're right though, if it's a choice between freedom and going bankrupt, it's a no brainer.
     
  9. Chris Evans

    Moderator Original Member

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    Being independent doesn't mean every portal has to accept all aspects of your game. BFG has to be accountable to their audience. Being independent means you can choose whether you want to adjust your game to their audience or not. Unless BFG is your publisher, they can't force you to change your game.

    You just have to decide what's in your best interest. But if BFG is your main distribution channel, then it might be a good idea to make them a custom version.
     
  10. PoV

    PoV
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    I guess this means you're eligible for a "director's cut". ;)
     
  11. Musenik

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    In my mind it was a rape prevention scene. It's the moment, after a chase sequence, you catch up with the person who abducted one of your girls. But it's presented ambiguously, and could be interpreted as having arrived too late and are taking vengeance.

    The ambiguity of the scene is part of its strength. That's my opinion.

    Ambiguity is one of the features of linear narrative that doesn't translate well to interactivity. If a player is allowed to choose what happened, they are resolving ambiguity. Here ambiguity is used to press the player's button, not the other way around.

    Sorry, got a little sidetracked. Although I was hoping Big Fish would give the big bump that recoups my expenses, it is still selling on Wild Tangent, a few Mac sites, and now Amazon. I worry more about other portals who were considering the title. Will they take a pass now because of Big Fish?
     
  12. Dave TZ

    Dave TZ New Member

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    I'm currently playing (and enjoying!) your game, but I do agree that it contains some scenes of a controversial nature. I haven't got as far as the scene depicted in that screenshot, but there's been a few other cases that would require a few warnings. That one seemingly innocuous scene mxing medications for the pharmacist could technically cause the game to be refused classifcation in Australia.

    I'm still in the early setup stages for my adventures into indie game business myself, pondering what my first title will be about, but I'm steadily coming to the opinion that I should be aiming for PG or less purely to avoid the hassle of this kind of controversy. But I'm not a writer, so it's an easier decision to avoid the sort of darkness in content that may be needed for a good story.
     
  13. JGOware

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    "Having lost the distribution of the largest portal basically means, I will not recoup my expenses."

    Sadly, you should not have relied on them (or any portal) to recoup investments. Any portal sales at all should be looked at as a bonus and not the primary revenue generator.
     
  14. ChrisP

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    So I take it you're not going to make a dumbed-down-for-the-portal version? (If they'd even let you change the game after release.) It sucks to have to do that, but on a pragmatic level it doesn't seem like it would be that hard. Even just changing the text might be enough. Remove the bit about Varsity Boy's pants being down, maybe keep the victim conscious and struggling, and replace shooting him in the head with whacking him with a stick until he runs away (+ is never heard from again), and the scene suddenly becomes a lot less explicit... Perhaps that would be enough to appease people?
     
  15. Game Producer

    Moderator Original Member

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    Turn this into your advantage: make a promotional campaign telling how you are the first casual game that got BANNED by BFG.

    That should get people talking and walking... and going to your site & buy stuff.

    This could be the best promotional thing ever happened to you :)
     
  16. desmasic

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    Won't this also drive away all audience who found this game controversial from all his future releases as well? I mean, they are going to avoid any title if they start thinking that this developer will try to "squeeze" in such stuff in every game (if the impression they get from this banning is that even BFG wasn't familiar with the content in the middle).

    Or maybe not..
     
  17. cliffski

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    this is a PR gift. You need to use it.
    If this happened to me, I'd be emailing everyone everywhere and getting them to write about it.
    You should also let BMT affiliates sell your game. I'd love to have it on my site.
     
  18. Desktop Gaming

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    People are far too easily offended these days. Its almost as if being offended by absolutely anything is a moral obligation. :rolleyes:
     
  19. JoKa

    Indie Author

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    This is ridiculous. BFG aims at a more mature audience featuring games with killers and deadly ghost in a creepy atmosphere and now THIS?

    Reminds me of the world-shaking Nipplegate scandal in a country with the largest XXX-industry and tv shows like J.Springer, where the protagonists are paid to undress their opponents and slap each other right into the face ;)

    Heads up, try to sell them a "portalized" version and use this alternative promotion opportunity meanwhile...
     
  20. jcottier

    jcottier New Member

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    Well, I don't think they are aiming at a more mature audience. It is the same audience: women between 30 to 60 years old.

    I don't think this audience as problem playing a creepy game... they are adults.

    Here, we are talking about the main protagonist whom just shot a guy and enjoy it (she kisses the smoking gun). No artwork just text, making it even stronger. I don't think this audience wants to play some kind of psycho killer girl...

    It is sad for you that they removed the game, but to be honest, I'm surprised they took it initialy with this type of content.

    JC
     

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