Another Icon

I can’t say I’m surprised but I’ve definitely been caught off guard by the amount of people discussing Epic’s store as just being another launcher, another icon.

Exclusivity, we’re told, isn’t a problem on the PC because unlike a console where you’re going to have to plump for a piece of hardware if you want to play a videogame, it’s just another store. Just an icon away.

I mean, sure, the Epic store is another icon away but so was Greenhouse, so was Desura, so was Indie City, so was Games For Windows and plenty of other stores and clients that have disappeared over the years. None of those are just an icon away anymore and the libraries of games that people owned vanished alongside them.

Digital libraries are incredibly vulnerable to quite literally disappearing overnight. Maybe you’re lucky and the store gives you a heads up. Maybe you’re lucky and you’ve saved the game onto your hard drive, maybe you’ve remembered to keep a note of the registration details or keys, maybe the game shipped without any restrictions. And hopefully your hard drive hasn’t died in the meantime.

I have fairly large digital libraries myself, I’ve had reasonably substantial ones on other services that aren’t Steam and I’ve got a stash of executables and installers, though I’m absolutely certain it’s not even close to all my purchases. I am fundamentally aware of the transience of digital libraries, of how absolutely precarious they are. How a company going out of business, how a company deciding to just move along, how that can wipe out a library *like that*. Precisely because I’ve lost some of these libraries.

It’s 2019 and we should, given the huge amount of services that have sank or closed over the years – not just in games but with every type of digital media – be fully cognisant of the precarious nature of digital distribution.

We should intimately understand that when people are asked to put their faith and their money into a new store they’re being asked to make a gamble with their libraries. Some gambles like, well, a store that’s been around for ten or fifteen years and have shown themselves to be largely good custodians of folk’s purchases are naturally going to feel like a less risky gamble.

An upstart wading in throwing money around, even if that’s more money than most people can reasonably conceive of without blowing a fuse, does not automatically engender trust. In 2019, anybody paying even the slightest bit of attention is fundamentally aware of just how many companies decide to just stop doing a thing and things people relied on, loved in some cases, invested time and money into are taken away.

In this way, a store exclusive on the PC may not by itself require the kind of financial outlay that buying a whole new console entails but it can be even more precarious a model for the customer. At least with a console you can be fairly certain that (providing it’s not an OUYA) you’ll get at least five years out of it. You can’t say the same for a new PC store. Not yet.

So no, it’s not just another launcher, another icon. It’s time, it’s money, it’s trusting that what you paid money for will still be accessible in five years or more. It’s trusting that you can still access the files if they’re pulled from sale, it’s trusting that stuff will still work if the store closes.

It’s never just another launcher.

Lost And Found

Around this time last year, I found myself wondering where I belonged in videogames. Burnt out, struggling to work on anything for a sustained amount of time and very, very tired of watching the scale of abuse in games escalate.

This time, I have a much better idea but still, not quite.

I’ve been working on a game on and off for a while now. Whilst I was enjoying myself alright enough, I haven’t really felt that into it. Often, it felt like going through the motions instead and as a result, that spark needed to kick it up a gear never really materialised. That is until Cecconoid lit a fire under my backside.

Cecconoid is really good. I mean, I play lots of really good games but Cecconoid is the sort of really good that feels like it’s sent from the stars to inspire me. Obviously, it’s not the stars, it’s Gareth (responsible for the also excellent Lumo amongst other things) but you’ll forgive me a wee bit of floweryness.

And so what started out as “I wonder how hard it is to nail that sort of 1 bit style Cecconoid and some Devolver published games have” playing around solely to fill some time became okay, but what if I splashed a bit of colour (because it’s me and well, you know) accidentally saw parts of the game fall into shape from there. Like, woah, this is not only nice looking but manageable and that manageable thing is what I’ve been struggling to find. And also, it’s very colourful. That’s important to me.

Which was nice.

Will it get far enough? I hope so! I’ve still got a lot of serious home stuff to contend with as well as my own ever present chafing but let’s see.

It’s now been four(!) years since I last released a videogame. The sort of time people make whole upper mid tier games in except I most decidedly haven’t done that. And so much has changed!

There’s the whole Epic trying to buy a duopoly thing I’ve covered a few times but not quite in the sort of depth I’d like to because the resurgence of abuse that’s come as part of it is exhausting. There’s the end of a console cycle and studios selling up, studios shutting down and all that comes with the end of a cycle. Steam is in an entirely different shape than it was in 2015 too and with so much indie now being routed through publishers (something I personally have little interest in doing but each to what they need), it does feel a bit overwhelming.

Not the bad kind of overwhelming just the bloody hell, where do I start when I want to sell this thing kind of overwhelming. It’s a lot. I’m brushing up as best I can in-between twiddling about writing a game but as ever, whatever route I take has to be the best route for my own comfort. So that’s sort of what I’m looking at – finding a comfortable route through all this guff.

I’ll be honest, 2019 being exceedingly 2019 makes this way more difficult than I’d want. I’ll get there though, I always do.

I’ve a few other things I want to talk about but I’m already into a hefty word count so I’ll take a pause here and talk about the rest in another post.

Take this as notice that I’m back though. I can only apologise in advance for everything.