9 Mar 2001 futility   » (Master)

I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them fall away - Tool


I was having an irritating conversation today with someone about a certain project that I quite respect. This person dismissed the project as "vapour", which puzzled me, then got me thinking. The project has only been going (as far as I know) since last August; only 8 months or so. That's a pretty short time in the world of game development, and even shorter for indie game creation. Why this tendancy to dismiss any project that isn't immediately productive as vapour?

I think the problem is that people are subconsciously applying the standards of professional game development to free software products. Proprietary, mass market games have limited marketing funds, which need to be used in the immediate pre-release phase to build a crescendo of hype to coincide with the actual release of the game. As a result, mass market games usually have little information available initially (to build anticipation) and then more and more information is available as the release date gets closer. Free software, on the other hand, doesn't suffer from this market-driven pathology, and maximum information is available throughout the life of the project.

The result is that we react to information the way we've been trained by the marketers and their hype cycles. We see all the information available about a free software game and conclude that its release is imminent. The project isn't released (after all, it's just beginning), and we feel cheated and become resentful.

What's the solution? As with most problems in the free software world, the solution is Smarter Users. We need to educate the willing-to-learn that game releases in the free software world don't follow the same patterns as those in proprietary software. We need to develop thicker skins towards the unwilling-to-learn, and hope that they evolve or move on. Finally, we have to work hard to keep the hype to an absolute minimum.

Something rules, something sucks

This is good: This is a very funny guy. Advocacy is a terrific game.
This is lame: Whaah! No new Tool album until May 15th.

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