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Greg Rice

Episode 15: Evergreen Games

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The sales are pretty in line with my own expectations. I think the launch was a bit mishandled, both in terms of PR, and the simple fact that, even at launch, the full game is still not available. I suspect this will get another nice bump when Part 2 comes out, but it's never going to sell as much as if it launched with both parts at a time when the project had the most heat.

But it's making enough that they're paying for production and making a tidy if not earth-shattering profit, so that's good. We'll never really know what could have been, but I hope it's enough to convince Double Fine that it's worthwhile to make an adventure game every now and then.

We've got an amazing year for adventures in 2014. Like insane, 90s levels of awesome adventure games. And I just hope that that isn't just a last hurrah.

My thoughts here. You could tell the DF crew were laid back but not enthusiastic at the end of this episode. I really do hope they do something like this again with everything they've discussed in mind.

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The sales are pretty in line with my own expectations. I think the launch was a bit mishandled, both in terms of PR, and the simple fact that, even at launch, the full game is still not available. I suspect this will get another nice bump when Part 2 comes out, but it's never going to sell as much as if it launched with both parts at a time when the project had the most heat.

We also shouldn't forget that 90.000 backers already had the game: most of us would probably have been part of the group of early adopters if there hadn't been a kickstarter, pushing the game to the top of the Steam charts for a longer time, generating more buzz and sales. If Act II gets good reviews (hopefully even better than Act I), I think it could get a bigger spike in sales, especially when they come out on launch day this time.

I'm also surprised that the release of the DFA Documentary hasn't gotten any press coverage yet. I would think that some good reviews of that, could help generate some more buzz about the game as well.

Anyway, great episode as always! I loved the openness about the sales figures and expectations: I didn't expect we would get an insight into the exact numbers.

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Thanks for the update. Looking forward to playing part 2. Keep up the good work :exclaim:

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The sales are pretty in line with my own expectations. I think the launch was a bit mishandled, both in terms of PR, and the simple fact that, even at launch, the full game is still not available. I suspect this will get another nice bump when Part 2 comes out, but it's never going to sell as much as if it launched with both parts at a time when the project had the most heat.

We also shouldn't forget that 90.000 backers already had the game: most of us would probably have been part of the group of early adopters if there hadn't been a kickstarter, pushing the game to the top of the Steam charts for a longer time, generating more buzz and sales. If Act II gets good reviews (hopefully even better than Act I), I think it could get a bigger spike in sales, especially when they come out on launch day this time.

I'm also surprised that the release of the DFA Documentary hasn't gotten any press coverage yet. I would think that some good reviews of that, could help generate some more buzz about the game as well.

Anyway, great episode as always! I loved the openness about the sales figures and expectations: I didn't expect we would get an insight into the exact numbers.

Yes I know what you mean, I would personally be happy if Double fine released a public "best of" the documentaries so far.. Who knows it might get other non backers to feel the love and care that went into the product and boost sales. Imagine if IGN and Steam, GOG etc allowed a lengthy post of it (say a 1hour special) .. it could only help sales.

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Yes I know what you mean, I would personally be happy if Double fine released a public "best of" the documentaries so far.. Who knows it might get other non backers to feel the love and care that went into the product and boost sales. Imagine if IGN and Steam, GOG etc allowed a lengthy post of it (say a 1hour special) .. it could only help sales.

Well, the documentary (up to episode 14) is up for sale publicly since a few days, so I hope some major outlets are going to write about it (not only because of Broken Age sales, but also because it's a terrific documentary in itself). I'd expected some announcements in the press already, but maybe they'll go straight for a review, which may take a while, because it's a lot of content to get through.

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speaking of the puzzles, yeah, the major part was really simple and I didn't had to think much to find the solution, but there was also one I got really stuck and didn't found fun at all, it was the riddle to get past the door right before fighting mog chothra(or whatever its name is), I got stuck because I missed the peach back in the clouds and couldn't figure out the riddle, maybe because as a not native speaker I missed some word plays, or the riddle was really difficult I don't know, but I found that puzzle not only hard but annoying, I did not had fun doing it, and while I agree the puzzles could be harder,I hope they find a middle ground between too hard and too easy

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This episode makes me kind of sad. Seeing that Broken Age only sold 71k in two months, less then the 87k that they made with the Kickstarter Project in one month, really brings me down. :down:

I kind of hope that the situation will get better once Act 2 ships, but I'm not overly optimistic..

Also, I think they should have shortened the beta period, especially after the embargo snafu. While I totally understand Oliver's point of view, the proportions of the beta group and the "end user" group were just not right: 90k backers vs. 2k or 4k buyers on day 1? A shorter beta period wouldn't have affected a lot of people. (OK, they probably expected/hoped for more people to buy/play it, and I think they never published how many of the 90k backers played BA within the first day/week; still, I'd expect that number to be higher then 2/4k)

A final thought about the difficulty level: I think Tim is spot on with this. BA was one of the few adventure games (perhaps the first adventure game?) that I was able to finish on my own without outside help. That was something I hugely appreciated. (And I play adventure games for 25 years now...) I find it funny that, even in the "the puzzles are too easy!" crowd you can find some people who googled for help... ;-)

Look at "Monument Valley" at iOS right now: common complaints right now are: it's too easy, it's too short. Yet, still, it is a hugely rewarding game - and a hugely successful one as well. Perhaps Broken Age Act 1 will do similar successful with the iOS crowd? So, there's hope left! :-)

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Things I learned from this episode:

1.) Tim can't take criticism.

2.) Tim doesn't understand publicity and he underestimates people's attention span. Having reviews go up 2 weeks before something is out is not going to hurt sales. I'm certainly not going to buy a game on release day if there aren't any reviews available.

Hype and word of mouth only build over time. This is one of the reasons why Disney (if they feel they have a special movie on their hands) and in particular indie movies release in limited theatres for the first couple of weeks. Oscar films are screened early for critic to generate buzz months in advance. No Oscar contender is going to be screen a day before the deadline.

Let us not forget that most games are not released worldwide at the same time and this does not affect sales in other countries.

You only have to fear early reviews when your product is bad.

3.) DF are still trying to deny the fact and retcon it out of existance that backers backed an OLD SCHOOL POINT AND CLICK ADVENTURE GAME. Not a modern one. Not one "as if they have continued to make adventure games since GF".

4.) The incestous relationship between the game industry and reviewers is deeply disturbing. But we already knew that, it was just interesting witnessing it first hand behind the scenes.

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One part I do agree on the above comment was the denial when Tim says apart from a few hardcore adventure gamers finding act one too easy, the rest found it fine... The way he down played it all a small minority I personally found a little insulting.

I mean, I am sorry how do they arrive at that conclusion? I have not seen a single review out there where it being too easy has not been an active criticism.

Even on our own forums 82% found it too easy* and was disatisfied with the difficulty level... Now that is a big percentage where people felt Double Fine simply got the difficulty level wrong, especially for the price bracket they were aiming for. It did worry me therefore on the video how dimissive of it all Tim was about this fact, seemingly taking the impression it was only a few yapping hardcore adventure gamers.

For me as my previous posts attest, I love the game and really enjoyed playing it, with the story humour, writing, voice acting absolutely sublime. I even liked the minimalist control interface having no problem with it. The only issue I had was the difficulty level and a few lock before key puzzles.. and a few I even solvied before I knew the solution. I fondly hope Act 2 will resolve this, but to do this the first step is to accept the difficulty was set wrong on Act One and look at ways to rectify it.

For me the best solution would be how Broken Sword does it with a hint system. (maybe be do a combined directors cut) That way for those that like a brain twister and being stuck can keep away from the hint system, where as the casual gamer more interested in the story can hint away to their hearts content and get a similar experience to how Act One currently is.

I hope people don't feel I am being too dismissive, I do love the game and want it to be a huge success as I want to see Double Fine do well and see more Adventure games. But part of that is casting a critical eye, identifying what was both wrong and right and looking to address the areas that weren't quite right.

* http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/12348/

Too Easy: - 82%

Easy - eveyrthing was obvious (too easy!) 292

Slightly Difficult - made me think (not hard enough) 127

Difficult - struggled a fair amount (enjoyable, but harder please!) 2

Just Right: - 15%

Easy - everything was obvious (just the way I like it!) 14

Slightly Difficult - made me think (just right) 59

Difficult - struggled a fair amount (just what I wanted!) 5

Very Hard - got stumped for hours (yeah, baby, bring it on!) 1

Too Tough: - 3%

Slightly Difficult - made me think (not easy enough) 12

Difficult - struggled a fair amount (would have liked it easier!) 2

Very Hard - got stumped for hours (evil! take it away!) 1

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Oscar films are screened early for critic to generate buzz months in advance. No Oscar contender is going to be screen a day before the deadline.

All of them have review embargos.

Let us not forget that most games are not released worldwide at the same time and this does not affect sales in other countries.

Because other countries have their own press in their own languages, which writes reviews suited to their release schedule?

3.) DF are still trying to deny the fact and retcon it out of existance that backers backed an OLD SCHOOL POINT AND CLICK ADVENTURE GAME. Not a modern one. Not one "as if they have continued to make adventure games since GF".

And some people are trying to retcon into existence that they explicitly backed an old school point and click adventure game THAT'S EXACTLY LIKE THOSE LUCAS ARTS USED TO DO IN THE EARLY 90s. Example: Broken Sword had no verbs at all, and as a 1996 release it fits any sane definition of "old school" (and I'm sure it couldn't have been the first).

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I think this might be my second post (First reply was back on EP1) since I registered and I have to say this episode was amazing. I'll be pretty bummed when this is over and I don't have new episodes to look forward to. I've come to feel like I know the people of DF even though I've never meet any of you in person. I'm hoping with all my heart that sales explode when Act 2 releases and the studio gets to where it deserves to be.

speaking of the puzzles, yeah, the major part was really simple and I didn't had to think much to find the solution, but there was also one I got really stuck and didn't found fun at all, it was the riddle to get past the door right before fighting mog chothra(or whatever its name is), I got stuck because I missed the peach back in the clouds and couldn't figure out the riddle, maybe because as a not native speaker I missed some word plays, or the riddle was really difficult I don't know, but I found that puzzle not only hard but annoying, I did not had fun doing it, and while I agree the puzzles could be harder,I hope they find a middle ground between too hard and too easy

I thought I was the only one :') . Yes it took me an extra hour to figure out what to do and it was pretty frustrating TBH. That ending made it worth it to me.

PS: Costume Quest 2 OMG!!!

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2.) Tim doesn't understand publicity and he underestimates people's attention span. Having reviews go up 2 weeks before something is out is not going to hurt sales. I'm certainly not going to buy a game on release day if there aren't any reviews available.

Hype and word of mouth only build over time. This is one of the reasons why Disney (if they feel they have a special movie on their hands) and in particular indie movies release in limited theatres for the first couple of weeks. Oscar films are screened early for critic to generate buzz months in advance. No Oscar contender is going to be screen a day before the deadline.

Let us not forget that most games are not released worldwide at the same time and this does not affect sales in other countries.

You only have to fear early reviews when your product is bad.

Pretty bold statement. I'm curious how you come to this conclusion. Are you in the industry or in marketing? Is there some sort of expertise or career field that might qualify your statement? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just curious how you came to that conclusion.

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Are you in the industry or in marketing? Is there some sort of expertise or career field that might qualify your statement?
Must be. Seems to know more than the guy who has been in the industry for decades and the guy whose job it is to quantify these sorts of things.

Some of us are edge cases, though. Me? Unless I'm really psyched about a game, I'm on at least a 6-month delay, if not more, before purchase. I wait until things go on sale. Deeply on sale. But discounted though it may have been, in many cases it's a game I wouldn't have purchased otherwise. I think games naturally have a longer tail in the digital distribution era. Old games don't have to compete for shelf space with new games anymore. They still have to compete for "front page" exposure, but it's so much easier for an old game to get exposure in a sale, or on the page for the sequel or a related game, or by seeing it being played by someone on your friends list. (Yes, most of these reference Steam, since that's how I buy and play games now.)

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Fun pills and sleds for everyone. Great episode, 2PP.

Smiles

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I was absorbed in my own work this year, so I just watched the last two episodes back-to-back. It was a good arc to see all the trepidation before launch and the relief after. It is good to hear a confirmation that the sales are doing fine. Broken Age was somewhat briefly in the Steam Top 10, looked like it was #1 for a day there but had some stiff competition from Day Z and RUST, which both had a constant boost from their multiplayer focus. Based on the recent indie partnership announcements it seemed like Double Fine wasn't as strapped for cash as they have been, so that is good.

Looking forward to more documentary episodes and of course Broken Age part 2.

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2.) Tim doesn't understand publicity and he underestimates people's attention span. Having reviews go up 2 weeks before something is out is not going to hurt sales. I'm certainly not going to buy a game on release day if there aren't any reviews available.

Hype and word of mouth only build over time. This is one of the reasons why Disney (if they feel they have a special movie on their hands) and in particular indie movies release in limited theatres for the first couple of weeks. Oscar films are screened early for critic to generate buzz months in advance. No Oscar contender is going to be screen a day before the deadline.

Let us not forget that most games are not released worldwide at the same time and this does not affect sales in other countries.

You only have to fear early reviews when your product is bad.

Pretty bold statement. I'm curious how you come to this conclusion. Are you in the industry or in marketing? Is there some sort of expertise or career field that might qualify your statement? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just curious how you came to that conclusion.

He's almost certainly wrong. One only has to use a little imagination. The people that letting the reviews out earlier would have affected most is a certain kind of fence-sitting buyer.

They'll be someone who:

1) Would be interested enough in buying Broken Age on impulse but not so interest that the interest will be sustained over a longer period of time.

2) Either aren't interested enough to pre-order, or averse to pre-ordering in general.

It's silly to assume that everyone who is going to buy the game is going to be as psyched about the purchase as us. Some people will read a review, see that it sounds cool or whatever, go and see if they can buy and play it now, and just the fact that they CAN'T do that is enough to cool them on the game a little.

It's not rational or logical that they should be less interested in buying it 2 weeks after reading the review than when the review hit, but it happens all the time. The reason that publishers want reviews to hit as close to the actual release as possible is not to mask negative reviews (it can be, but they embargo all games), but to make sure that they don't only catch the excited, was-gonna-buy-it-any way types, or the ones who are made excited by the reviews, but also the more ambivalent fence-sitter types.

The game sold about 70k in 2 months on Steam. If you can imagine a guy who might have bought it after reading the Polygon review there and then, but later, on reflection, 2 weeks later, decided 'eh, I'll pick it up on sale', and then either does that or forgets about it and doesn't... then you can imagine that there are probably thousands of similar people. So that's at least less revenue from people waiting for sales, and at most lost revenue from some people never ending up buying it in the first place.

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Even on our own forums 82% found it too easy* and was disatisfied with the difficulty level... Now that is a big percentage where people felt Double Fine simply got the difficulty level wrong, especially for the price bracket they were aiming for. It did worry me therefore on the video how dimissive of it all Tim was about this fact, seemingly taking the impression it was only a few yapping hardcore adventure gamers.

This is the part that confuses me the most about Tim.

Maybe "outside of the most hardcore part of the audience" means "outside of the people who have already bought Broken Age"...?

He seems to be engaged in a process of rationalizing the #1 biggest problem with his game. He needs to look hard in the mirror and decide whether he wants to be a game designer or a cartoonist.

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Even on our own forums 82% found it too easy* and was disatisfied with the difficulty level... Now that is a big percentage where people felt Double Fine simply got the difficulty level wrong, especially for the price bracket they were aiming for. It did worry me therefore on the video how dimissive of it all Tim was about this fact, seemingly taking the impression it was only a few yapping hardcore adventure gamers.

This is the part that confuses me the most about Tim.

Maybe "outside of the most hardcore part of the audience" means "outside of the people who have already bought Broken Age"...?

He seems to be engaged in a process of rationalizing the #1 biggest problem with his game. He needs to look hard in the mirror and decide whether he wants to be a game designer or a cartoonist.

Like it or not, he isn't actually wrong. Of the reviews I've read (which are considerably many), not all of them mention difficulty. When they do, a lot of them only mention it in passing, very few mention it as a major concern for the game and several pass comment on some of the puzzles being obscure.

These are the reviews from, and speaking to, the majority of people who aren't big adventure game fans. The people who hang around on this forum are far more in the category of people who are used to adventure game puzzles, and we are in a strict minority. We really are.

This isn't to say that I don't agree the game is too easy - I've made my opinions clear on that, but I also don't see a problem with the general approach so far provided that the second half does provide puzzles with more layers, which I think is really what we're talking about here.

I actually think that this started to happen at the end of both stories in Act 1: In Shay's story, for example, in order to get into space, you needed to cut the oxygen supply, fix the problem with suffocating, then fix the problem with getting caught by the grabby arms. The problem with it, and I think one of the main problems with the difficulty over all, is that it was a bit over-keen to hint me the answer, before I'd had a chance to think it through.

So there you have a puzzle where you have to do A, B, C. If in part 2 they have a few puzzles where it's A, B, C, D, E and without so much handholding, I think that'll be fine.

I certainly don't think it's the biggest problem with the game (I think the biggest problems right now are the early game storytelling with Vella, which I hope will get fleshed out, and as for interfacey stuff, I'd sooner have a look button than harder puzzles, if I had to choose between the two). And you're not going to win fans on the DF team by saying deliberately abrasive things like "He needs to look hard in the mirror and decide whether he wants to be a game designer or a cartoonist." It's your aim for them to take seriously the task of making harder puzzles, right? Good. Mine too. I'd like that, and I've found that when I talk to them about it like they're human beings, the conversation immediately becomes less dismissive. I know, tone-argument and all that, but I really think some good points are being missed because you're trying to psychoanalyse and second-guess the developers instead of just engaging with them.

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I think, as it stands, Broken Age is a good game. I am one of those people who liked Adventure Games growing up but often left them unfinished when I got stuck (or asked friends for spoilers to finish them)... so I was happy that Broken Age eased me into it because I was able to finish it myself without outside help.

What I've learned from the documentary (and heard from others) is that you CAN set out to make a specific game but then you end up with those terrible movie-tie-in bargain bin games that you hear horror stories about from the developers who worked on them and had their creative souls crushed in the process. If Double Fine has failed... it was in trying to say what kind of game they were making before they started making it.

One thing that I hope Double Fine has realized is that if they expected to sell a certain number of copies they need to have subtracted the 90,000 copies we bought as backers... we were their entire pre-order/early adopter demographic... from here forward they can only win new purchases on the merits of the game they've made... (which is one of the reasons I think that there will be a lot of fresh interest when the second half comes out).

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I think this was the bravest episode to be released so far. As anyone who has ever created a game/film/album etc. will know, the release date is when you feel most vulnerable. The project goes from being 100% in your control to almost 100% out of your control. You can't *make* people like what you've done, but you certainly hope they do. I'm impressed with the honesty of the Double Fine workers opening up about how they really feel in that moment. After all, that's what making the documentary has been about: to show game-lovers how games are made.

I don't think the game's difficulty would have caused so much discussion if the game had been released in one part. People would have just said, 'It was a bit easier at first, but then the difficulty ramps up as it goes along.' And we all know the reason DF had to split the game up, because they showed us in the awesome documentary! So it seems like the kind of conversation that will disappear when the full game is released.

And as for the game not being an old school adventure game. I have to disagree. It's quite different from other wonderful games from, say, Telltale, who have continued the franchises of Sam & Max etc. I would describe Broken Age as 'Lucas Arts meets Double Fine'. When I started playing I suddenly thought, 'Oh, I've missed this feeling.' They've managed to do exactly what they set out to do, which is create a throwback AND take the genre forward. Which sounds almost paradoxical, but they've done it.

Thanks for another terrific episode 2PP, looking forward to seeing how things develop from here :D

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Things I learned from this episode:

1.) Tim can't take criticism.

2.) Tim doesn't understand publicity and he underestimates people's attention span. Having reviews go up 2 weeks before something is out is not going to hurt sales. I'm certainly not going to buy a game on release day if there aren't any reviews available.

Hype and word of mouth only build over time. This is one of the reasons why Disney (if they feel they have a special movie on their hands) and in particular indie movies release in limited theatres for the first couple of weeks. Oscar films are screened early for critic to generate buzz months in advance. No Oscar contender is going to be screen a day before the deadline.

Let us not forget that most games are not released worldwide at the same time and this does not affect sales in other countries.

You only have to fear early reviews when your product is bad.

3.) DF are still trying to deny the fact and retcon it out of existance that backers backed an OLD SCHOOL POINT AND CLICK ADVENTURE GAME. Not a modern one. Not one "as if they have continued to make adventure games since GF".

4.) The incestous relationship between the game industry and reviewers is deeply disturbing. But we already knew that, it was just interesting witnessing it first hand behind the scenes.

Things I learned from this post: Putting certain words in bold does not cover for a complete lack of understanding about marketing.

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In my own mind, I'll see if Broken Age stands up to the test of time -- by how much I remember things and moments from it, compared to say Monkey Island 1, a favorite of mine. So far from Part 1, the Weaver is something that will stand out for me, because it seems so silly in a good way. The same with the talking spoon of facts. And Marek's entrance was pretty great too, as well as the silly little hexagons that push Shay up when he goes out into space. I also noticed a lot of great stuff in the foreground, little hexagons doing work, etc. I like that.

On Vella's side, things are little less memorable, but I'll certainly remember falling through the clouds and landing on the bird, Harmny and his dislike of vowels in everyone's name, Mog Chothra eating people, and the final battle of Part 1.

Smiles

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I love the game, and I love Double Fine, but I don't really love how this part of the documentary kinda portraits those wishing for a higher difficulty as something like a loud minority. I really hope that not actually how Tim and DF looks at us, because that would be the first dissapointment I have with this project.

I love the honesty they have shown with the development, I adore the art style, I salute the animations and I like how polished so many aspects of the game feel. But it's not a perfect product, and I hope that Tim's "way ahead of us" is a signal of him acknowledging feedback and finds the sweet spot between something more difficult then Act 2 and something absurdly difficult. Because that it something that does exist.

To the team once more, Anna, Oliver, Lydia, Lee, Levi, Ray and everyone else - great work with Act 1. It was a pleasure to play.

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I still replay Full Throttle, MKI 1-3, DOTT, Sam and Max, to this day because I feel that each play-through is unique in part because I have so many options/combinations. When I look at Broken Age Act 1 I just don't get the impression I'm going to be replaying it much because it just doesn't feel as deep. Maybe Act 2 will be different but only time will tell.

"I can't do that"

"I don't know what that means"

"What?"

"No"

"You want me to do what?"

"That won't work"

"Why"

"How"

"How does that work"

;)

One thing that we could have done differently with the beta review embargo is treat the backer beta period like any other company handles their betas. Specifically, make everyone who wants the beta sign an NDA. Or click on a box that says you accept these NDA terms. That's what I had to do to be in the beta for Battle Block Theater. That's what you have to do for almost any beta.

I'm not sure that would really make people happy, though. It would just make clearer the responsibility that comes along with exclusive, early access.

Amusing thing is people didn't think how it will effect them in the future (probably due to thinking nothing will come of it) when they are trying to get review code from people......

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I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but this episode does contain a spoiler: Nobody knew for sure what Alex's story was. Now we know he was a Grand Mog himself.

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I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but this episode does contain a spoiler: Nobody knew for sure what Alex's story was. Now we know he was a Grand Mog himself.

so you thought you better mention it to spoil everybody who could have missed it?

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And you thought to quote it?>!?!?! ;-)

In any case, I was listening to the Indoor Kids Podcast yesterday, and their guest made a decent point, specifically talking about films, but applicable to most things with plots, that he enjoyed the way comic books handled big stories and spoilers. They announced 'em before hand, since the journey to the spoiler, and the ramifications after the spoiler, is what the readers tended to find interesting. I kind of like this idea as well, though I think it'd be a hard sell to a fair number of people in any case.

So if so and so is grand poobha, that potential fact is interesting, but I'm perhaps I'm interested in how we get to the idea, and what happens with that notion, etc.

Smiles

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Fanboys sure like their snotty content-free comebacks huh.
They're the glue that holds in the Internet together!

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