Indie Steam

Discussion in 'Feedback Requests' started by mot, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. mot

    mot
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    Crazy idea, yes. Also expensive. So what is it? A single place to go
    get and download and buy indie games. Easy and universal way to install,
    remove, possibly update games. A review site, online shop, user accounts,
    possibly highscores and achievements. Lots and lots of bandwidth and
    a fair way to split expenses.

    So.

    There already is an indie game review site, right? Gametrove. Could start with that.

    User accounts? Like, registration, forgot password form, forum avatar? Easy.

    Online shop? A shopping cart, wishlist, send as gift, multiple payment options. Not so hard.

    Download and install mechanism. Aha, here comes the hard stuff. But wait,
    what about RPM and other package management systems from Linux? Aren't they
    exactly what is needed? Resolve dependencies, download what's needed or
    tell the user they cannot play that one. Ideally after downloading and
    installing it makes the game appear in the standard Windows Installed programs
    menu too.

    So take one of the package management systems, get it to work under
    Windows and add some special kinds of Dependencies, such as minimum RAM,
    OpenGL support, shader support, mouse, etc. those can then be used in
    the package declarations for each game.

    Download manager that takes care of picking the right download mirror,
    pause/resume and perhaps bittorrent support (STEAM does that too, doesn't it?)

    Client app that puts it all together. A HTML window showing the
    online review site and the shop, it's all HTML, installed games,
    games being downloaded, purchased/demo, forums.

    Lots of stuff can be postponed or just left out, such as in-game voice
    chat support, matchmaking etc.

    I'm not saying I'm going to do this, oh no. It is just an exercise -
    what would it take. My point is that it comprises of things that have
    already been written and the main task would be to put them together
    in a nice way.
     
  2. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    Let's assume you got a few people together and actually made this. How is it going to change the market in any significant way?
     
  3. mot

    mot
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    I was only thinking about the technical side of things, not marketing or impact.

    Changing the market, I don't know. Focusing the attention of people who want indie games
    into a single icon on their desktop, maybe.

    If some indies published their games through it, people might get used to it and start using it as
    a source for (cheap) indie games that work without hassle. Knowing that the games will work
    and uninstall without problems and the purchase process is easy and unified.

    It would absolutely have to be free. Peer-review to add games, maybe, but no % of sales, no monthly
    payment. Pay for the bandwidth that your game generates, possible ad income goes into infrastructure.
    If anyone charges the developers for anything, it won't work.

    I'm still not suggesting someone should do this, but it's an entertaining thought and I'm getting
    more and more ideas just as I write this.
     
  4. ManuelFLara

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    If you expect someone to do all this big amount of work "for nothing", it won't work either.

    Another possible solution from a technical point of view (just of a small part of the system, of course) would be to use Subversion as the deployment and auto-update technology. The problem is that it generates extra data on the client's hard drive, but considering today's computers HD capacity and the average indie game size, it wouldn't be much of a problem.
     
  5. Nexic

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    The point is, something like this is hard work. Even with a few people it's bound to take a few months, and then there is a lot of working updating the site, maintaining the server, adding new games, reveiwing submissions, advertising etc. You will need at least one person full time, probably more when you get decent traffic. These people need to be paid. Sure, you could use ad revenue but it wouldn't be long before the owner(s) of the site starts to think "hey, I could make a ton more money if I took a % of sales". Like it or not, almost everyone in the world is motivated by money, especially starving indies.
     
  6. Bad Sector

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    There have been 4-5 similar discussions about an "Indie Steam". So far only the TIGdb-based alpha version of "TIGBox" has been released as actual working code. Its a simple and small program that connects to the TIGSource's indie games database that contains both free and commercial games, with reviews, rating, etc. I can't say i like the interface, but i belive it will improve.

    In the comments section there are mostly positive responses, something refreshing since frontpage comments are usually ridden with flames and naysayers.

    Also its only a few days old and yet it contains more than 500 games :p
     
  7. Spore Man

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    You could build a system that works EXACTLY like Steam and you'll still face a mountain the size of Everest. Steam succeeded thanks to the success of Half-Life -- It came bundled and required in order to play Half Life 2, which was a hugely anticipated game. You just can't buy that kind of distribution without that kind of huge leverage.
     
  8. Hideo

    Hideo New Member

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    I support this idea. Certainly there IS a viable solution. Who wants to be Teh Messiah of independent games? :)
     
  9. Mephs

    Mephs New Member

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    I think an "Indie Steam" could and probably will be a viable way forward. It will take a bit of leap of faith from someone, but it wasn't that long ago that the thought of an organised games portal seemed like something that would never happen and now the web is full of them!

    I suspect the issue wont be whether or not we see an indie Steam equivalent at some point, it will be whether or not people unite under a single (or as few as possible) attempts at such a project that determines whether it takes off.

    That's just my 2 cents anyway... I'll probably be eating my words at some point in the future though ;)

    Cheers,

    Steve O
     
  10. hippocoder

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    Well,

    Portals kind of do this to an extent. Look at real arcade, you download and play stuff from within their funky little app.

    I think that if it were fairly easy to get users to put something like steam on their computers, a few companies would have followed suit by now. What with changing attitudes, I don't know how it'll fare. Steam (as suggested above) succeeded because of the sheer muscle behind it.

    If we were to try that I would be curious how it is different from visiting a portal website. Instead of the browser you have this app called IndieSteam or whatever?

    As none of us are particularly stinking rich, I think bandwidth, payment providers, irate customers etc could well throw many spanners in the works. Steam had a big big company behind it to help through all these issues.

    I will wait and see what people come up with.
     
  11. ChrisP

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    As a programmer at heart it pains me to say this, but: You're doing it backwards.

    Clearly the tech is feasible (albeit expensive as you mention). What's not clear is what benefits it would bring if the system was adopted in widespread fashion. More importantly, it's unclear why customers would jump through the extra hoops required to use this hypothetical service, why developers would do the same, and therefore how you're going to bootstrap it without it falling in a heap.

    Come up with thorough, convincing answers for these questions first and then you can start discussing tech. Doing it the other way around is a recipe for wasting your own time. Rationale first, design second.
     
  12. vjvj

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    Interesting, we haven't even come close to a market/industry impact analysis on this subject, yet and we're already talking about The Messiah of Indie Games (and since when did Valve become non-indie?). There was already a huge thread on this a few weeks ago. Steam is more than just engineering and a store front. It's a COMMUNITY. That is a huge deal and a massive amount of work.

    If you're thinking about the engineering now and the marketing later, you're going about it backwards IMHO. Without a community, this is pointless; and you need some serious marketing work done to identify and engage that community.
     
  13. Aldacron

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    Rather than using a single, downloadable client like Steam that provides so many features, it might be more viable to bundle a shared library (DLL/so) with each game and narrow the focus. Forget managing game installs and community events and just focus on updates and sales. The library could provide an API to standardize updates and interface in-game with an online store where the player can download demos and purchase new games. Sort of an indie game connector where participating developers provide exposure for each other. The downloads need not be hosted in one location, either.

    I mean, I already have installed Steam, Impulse, and the Direct2Drive/FilePlanet Download Manager. Others may have more. What compelling reason is there to install yet another such app from a bunch of indie developers? And if it is to be Steam-like, how are people to trust that they'll still be able to play next year any games they buy today? Valve at least has built up a bit of trust and confidence. I don't see how any single indie, or a collaboration of indies, could provide the same service Steam does (with activation and such) without that history.

    So bundling it as an API directly with each participating game increases the distribution and avoids the stigma of installing yet another game download client. Narrowing the focus to updates/sales, making it clear that the game is not dependent on the service to play, reduces the development/maintenance costs while also avoiding the issues that would arise with a full Steam-like service.

    It might even strike a chord from a marketing perspective to form a non-profit Indie Coalition to run the store.

    These are just thoughts that came up while reading the thread. Take them as you will.
     
  14. mot

    mot
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    At least not as expensive as it seems when someone says "ooh, well it's impossible to get to Steam and making something like an Indie Steam would be IMPOSSIBLE". My whole point was that it's not impossible and doesn't have to be THAT expensive.

    The rationale for having an Indie Steam at all may be wrong but as I said I just enjoyed thinking about it this way. I know it's backwards.

    Some of their great games, perhaps, and an easy way to buy them?

    I like that idea.

    Anyway, even just the UPDATE part would be a huge win. Linux had the update problem solved from the beginning, Mac has Sparkle, Windows has nothing (ClickOnce doesn't count, because it has a weird install procedure and requires .NET)

    The Subversion update idea was already used by Oddlabs in Tribal Trouble but I think they had the advantage of using Java so they could actually get rid of the 2X disk space requirement for a SVN working copy by creating a custom class loader. A standard C/C++ game might have a problem with that. But perhaps another versioning system could be used for this.
     
  15. Nexic

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    That's the thing, generally speaking most players don't see indie games as 'great'. Half-life 2 is the kind of game that people not only want, but anticipate and get excited about months before it's released to the extent that they'll happily pay $50 and download an application to play it the second it's released. You almost never get that kind of anticipation for an indie product. Even if you could get everyone to know about it, who the hell gets excited about another retro remake or casual clone? Even if it's techically good, nobody is going to be that desperate to play. You need something really special, and let's face it only a handful of people ever make special titles.
     
    #15 Nexic, Jan 14, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2009
  16. mot

    mot
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    I agree with everything you say. Guess that won't rid me of the "Indie Steam supporter" badge anyway.

    From the business and marketing point of view only the auto-update part seems to be really useful.
     
  17. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I'll grant you it's possible. Most of the techie stuff wouldn't even be that hard to the right people. I bet Cas could do the whole bag of mashings.

    My only problem is that it's already been done. Go here for an existing indie steam service.
     
  18. Jack Norton

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    Well I think they talk about a really open indie service where there isn't a single entity deciding what is great and what suxxx :D
     
  19. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    And therein lies it's downfall. I'm fairly sure the average joe punter won't want to go to a service that's full of shit because anyone can upload anything to it. We have that already too.

    In the other thread it did seem a bit odd that certain players (cliff etc) were being ignored by the Steam people, but I see no middle-ground between having a vetting team like Steam and just letting any old shit get uploaded without being checked out.

    User Reviews will only get you so far and most of the public will say a game is shit just because it's an RPG and they dislike RPG's for example.
     
  20. Jack Norton

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    Yes I know what you mean. But I believe there should be a middle way. Doesn't take much to understand the difference between an amateurish game and a good one.
    Another criteria could be that the company should have at least 1 game released on portals, or already known.
    I wouldn't like to create something where anyone can upload a tetris/pong clone.
    But as long as the gfx and sounds are at least decent, I think anyone should have the right to upload it. Maybe a sort of pre-approval?
     

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