World of Goo dev lays out indie headaches

GDC 2010: 2D Boy cofounder Ron Carmel kicks off this year's Independent Game Summit with an introduction to his all-star investor squad, Indie Fund.

Who was there: World of Goo developer and 2D Boy cofounder Ron Carmel kicked off the Game Developers Conference Independent Games Summit program with a half-hour talk on the relationship between indie creators and publishers called "Fixing a System That Never Worked."

Carmel hopes Indie Fund will provide a more structurally sound bridge for downloadable games on their way to consumers.

What they talked about: Carmel started out by talking about the problems that have arisen from the way digital distribution developers and publishers have tried to apply the retail publishing model into this new field. He said publishers tend to give too much money to developers to make their titles but take too much in return. The end result is that developers don't get anything in terms of royalties and wind up living project to project, where the first time they stumble in obtaining a new project, they go under.

The system where the publisher pays for everything and reaps the largest rewards makes sense in the retail space, Carmel said, because the publishers are taking all the risk upon themselves. But with digital distribution, there's less risk.

However, Carmel said despite taking on less risk, the publishers still take most of the rewards. One of the reasons for that is a simple lack of alternatives. Because pretty much every publisher will ask for basically the same terms, there aren't many other options available for indie developers. It also doesn't help that there's very little transparency about how well digitally distributed titles sell, so developers don't actually know whether or not they're getting a good deal.

On top of that, Carmel said the systems for getting games to consumers can be terribly inefficient. When it was time to get World of Goo on Steam, the legal and tech work required amounted to less than a week. For Games for Windows Live, the total time was four months.

With outlets like Steam taking some of the distribution duties away from traditional publishers, Carmel said it was now important to provide indies with funding. That brings up Indie Fund, a program Carmel is working to start up with an all-star panel of other independent developers (including Braid's Jonathan Blow and Flower's Kellee Santiago, among others) to invest in new games.

The idea behind Indie Fund is to provide developers with a transparent submission process and publically available terms so that they can comparison shop and know when they sell their game that they're getting a good deal. Creators funded through the program won't need to relinquish control or ownership of intellectual property.

Quote: "It's very easy to fall into the trap of saying I know what's better for your game than you do. But if I do know what's better for your game, then we probably shouldn't be funding you."--Carmel on why Indie Fund won't be seeking creative control over developers' projects.

Takeaway: Carmel's brief presentation served primarily as an introduction to Indie Fund, laying out inequities with the current publisher-developer model of digital distribution and offering his own endeavor as a possible solution.

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Discussion

43 comments
Get_Shorty
Get_Shorty

Thanks for the "Takeaway" I didn't want to have to read all that stuff.

Gen007
Gen007

I wish them well because inequities with the current publisher-developer model seem to get worse as the gaming industry grows. It seems like nowadays the only way to survive is to get bought by EA or activision.

brian_13un
brian_13un

Yes They really imply there creativity on the World of Goo hope they did something like that again

AnelZukic
AnelZukic

I was always sorry for Indie devs, I really like indie games, and mostly those great games are better then most "big" games, I really hope this Indie Fund will help them since I want to see more of games from them and enjoy them :)

DrEvilKoala
DrEvilKoala

Just a day ago ModDB announced that it will be launching a digital distribution platform with a focus on indie games and mods. Looks quite interesting. It's a shame how many fantastic games never catch the attention of the average gamer because they only appear as a digital download on the developers website. Hopefully we'll be able to do something about that in the very near future.

ChamomileBaths
ChamomileBaths

There are about 15-20 games available on Games for Windows. I guess I now know the reason.

Skargamer
Skargamer

I really liked the world of goo game. it was really cool to play. hope they make more, like world of goo two.

Rahnyc4
Rahnyc4

is it true they made nearly 5 million dollars alone on world of goo on the wii? i mean zomg. i use to see that game always at #1 on the top 10 wiiware list.

bgres077
bgres077

World of Goo was great, keep 'em comin

wiidsduelpack
wiidsduelpack

That is life 2D boy. The big fish will eat the little fish. What are you complaining about. You guys are still not Square Enix/Activision/EA/Nintendo. Your pride is rising up quickly?

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

I hope this last long, because a good game is not necessarily the same... following the stream & "copycat" each other, developers must have an idealist, vision & able to pour their passion, in the games they make... something hard to find when developers following the publisher!!

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

Pubs-Devs really need to settle on some ground rules for digital distribution. For crying out loud if they can't sort the details out between them how can they sit there and dare to charge consumers anything and think it's fair?

serieus
serieus

@zomglolcats You're right, but don't you lose out on the community. I think that's what makes Steam reign supreme so far is the huge community that's involved. But you're right you just log in via a website, no 3rd party software required for Impulse.

Shiftfallout
Shiftfallout

The game industry brings in more revenue than the film, tv and music industries combined. Do you realize how much money that is? Think, a good director on a movie will get paid millions just for one project. A good creative director on a video game will get paid, if hes lucky, more than $130,000 per year of that project. Developers get paid beans and rocks, compared to how much money is actually being made. The cause is that you have some really good studios constantly having to fire and rehire, never allowing the same great teams to stick together to create the same great games. Blizzard and Valve are the exception, but they are also drastically different and self sustained. Publishers force many developers to sign clauses that state that a developer cannot work on any project, on their own, anywhere (even at home) on their own time or else it belongs to the publisher. This keeps developers in a cage, literally. Its sick.

bmac1994
bmac1994

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

lamprey263
lamprey263

this article reminds me of a couple years ago when Gamecock Media Group was making a name for itself (before its games were horrible and nobody cared anymore)... anyhow, their corporate philosophy as far as being a publisher was concerned was actually quite revolutionary, they basically wanted to give their developers complete control over keeping their intellectual property and tried staying out of the developers' affairs, I was hoping they'd make a big name for themselves because it could have changed the developer-publisher relationship if they'd been successful, making developer-publisher contracts more competitive amongst publishers... but they kind of failed and got bought out by South Peak, don't know how things go now but it was a worthy try

VXLbeast
VXLbeast

Very cool, the guys from World of Goo, flower, and Braid? Thats awesome!

Bobzfamily
Bobzfamily

So what they're saying is that the publishers are playing it too safe when it comes to giving a partnering game developer(s) leeway?

lamprey263
lamprey263

it's interesting what they had to say about the relationship between publishers and developers, how publishers take all the money and developers take all the risk, and when you think about things developers put all the creativity into creating new IPs and in the end the publishers are the ones that end up controlling them, and I think everyone can see that when developers fail to please publishers expectations they end up out of a job, it's true, they basically make a living "project-to-project" I think it'd be interesting to see if there's some anticompetitive activity in the gaming industry, since they mention that every publisher offers the same terms, it'd probably be worth looking into whether there's been any price fixing involved amongst publishers in how they contract with develoers, probably up to the ESA to do something like that but the ESA already works for the publishers on the lobbying side, but they should also be looking out for the interests of the developers as well

zomglolcats
zomglolcats

"For those of you who don't like 3rd party programs or being online nonstop (even though for most games you have the offline option) well, it's the wave of the future so get used to it now or forever lose your gaming abilities." Interestingly, Stardock's Impulse doesn't require any program to be running in the background like Steam. In that regard it's better, but I like both.

Jak_Napier
Jak_Napier

Interesting, yet this game does look promising

-Saigo-
-Saigo-

It's not even something you tend to think about but it makes sense. I'm glad someone's finally stepping up and making the issue known. Only good things can from it!

serieus
serieus

Games for Windows Live has less than a dozen products being offered. I tried it out last month and sucks. EA has a digital distribution too, and boy did that suck too, couldn't even activate some old games I still have. I tried Impulse from Stardock and found it lacked quality, as far as GUI and all. It has a lot more games than Steam, but just didn't find much in their system, though it definitely is #2 in my mind of digital distribution services. Steam, well steam is just the best because they've been doing it the longest. The fact that you can have a friends list, right click there name and join their game on the correct server is too cool. it's a perfected service. For those of you who don't like 3rd party programs or being online nonstop (even though for most games you have the offline option) well, it's the wave of the future so get used to it now or forever lose your gaming abilities. I'm glad to hear that Valve is user friendly as well to the developers and not just the users. I just wish I could activate more games that they offer for which i have cd keys. Their list of games you can activate via CD keys is fairly short. Oh yeah and then there's blizzard's new digital distribution which is a fail in my book, since it's only blizzard games. I think steam and blizzard's battlenet should mix at one point, but that's just me, that would be cool.

Megamanx266
Megamanx266

@Adman_the_Nerd You don't have to be online for all the time, I believe its just for the games with online capabilities.

jedikevin2
jedikevin2

@ adam_the_Nerd. Steam allows you to play single player games while not online (offline mode). Games that don't are ones with special drm features "sigh at assassin creed 2".

jedikevin2
jedikevin2

@ adam_the_Nerd. Steam allows you to play single player games while not online (offline mode). Games that don't are ones with special drm features "sigh at assassin creed 2".

squidracerX
squidracerX

hospital is always because check back in....

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

2D Boy: Congrats. I think Steam is a great service, but it kinda sucks I gotta be online and have my games updated just to log on and play.

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

k0r3aN_pR1d3
k0r3aN_pR1d3

Because of Steam, baddy MS wants to revitalize Games for Windows. But it's too late for MS. Long live Steam and may hardship befall MS's efforts.

Willy105
Willy105

2D Boy are artists and gentlemen, and they need to do their games.

ben151
ben151

I almost forgot about Games for Windows LIVE until they mentioned it. Seriously, what a failed service. The only thing it has going for it is the fact that you get gamerscore for achievements

Just-Adam
Just-Adam

This sounds very promising ..

Shardz7
Shardz7

There needs to be an alternative to greedy corporate publishers and exclusive-only sites like Steam. Digital distribution is quickly becoming the preferred way of obtaining games for a lot of people as the stores thin out stock, but then you have Steam that basically splits the industry into two halves and leaves one half in the cold. I'm always excited to hear about hot Indie games as the community is usually much closer to the developer and can offer input directly. I hope this works out and provides an alternative to the Big Two way of doing things cause I'm getting tired of having little options these days. Seeing big titles like Supreme Commander 2 being Steam exclusive makes me very irate cause I don't support Steam and never will.

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

Makes sense, developers would be able to retain IP ownerships, which is a huge plus for successful games, as well as allowing the reduction of contract based negotiations that limit their release structure to which console they are limited to, because of publisher trends towards a specific console. Hopefully it is a valid business plan that works out and takes off.

drewciferpike
drewciferpike

If this takes off and remains self-sustaining, gamers might get some great product(s) in a few years...