Official Forumwarz Blog

The official blog for the web game, Forumwarz

Posts Tagged ‘business

Different Business Models

Over the last few weeks I’ve received a couple of angry emails.

Here’s a sample:

“I have to PAY to play the next episode?

No Thanks. No Thanks.

I’m not going to tell you guys you suck now or anything, I understand, you need money to do what you gotta do… But I think you went about it the wrong way, and you aren’t getting my money.

It’s not even entirely because I’m not convinced episode 2 isn’t worth money. It’s because I feel like I’ve been hijacked.

Kingdom of Loathing is the only other online web based rpg I play, and they’ve probably got 50 bucks out of me over the course of my playing, why? because they didn’t create necessary plot content and then force me to pay for it. They just have cool things that are optional to pay for. I’m down with that.”

Kingdom of Loathing

I get asked about Kingdom of Loathing (KoL) with some regularity: Have I ever played it? What do I think of it?

The truth is I have played it, but only for a short period of time. I thought it was really cool, and I was impressed with the depth it has. It’s amazing how much there is to do in there.

Forumwarz has a lot in common with KoL. They’re both browser-based role playing games. They both are parodies of the genre. While it can be said that they are our “competition,” I never think of them like that.

When Jick and Mr. Skullhead created KoL, they paved the way for games like Forumwarz and we’re grateful to them. And while KoL wasn’t in my mind during the design stages of Forumwarz (the games I was influenced by were Jones in the Fast Lane, Superhero League of Hoboken and World of Warcraft. Jalapeno was influenced by Shadowrun and the Monkey Island series), we certainly took KoL into consideration when trying to figure out a sustainable business model.

I think that having another parody browser-based RPG does something to legitimize the market. There’s no reason why players can’t play both. Or one might appeal to a certain kind of players while the other appeals to another. Additionally, we can look to each other for inspiration or ideas. I’ve corresponded with Jick a few times — he’s a really nice guy. He plays Forumwarz and even bought Episode 2!

I’m not out to steal players from KoL or “best” the game on any level. I’m out to create the best game I possibly can, and I’m sure they are too.

Business Philosophies

Every time I have received an email like the one at the top of this post, it has been from a KoL player. They are the ones who object the most to us charging for content.

I think I understand why. In the KoL world, things are not done that way. Longtime players of that game have accepted this as a basic truth, and it almost seems to offend them that anyone would even consider doing something different. This is what we have to deal with when entering the market years later.

If anyone feels “hijacked”, I’m terribly sorry, but it has always been our plan to charge for Episode 2. We’ve been talking about it publicly since February. There have been countless threads on Flamebate and blog postings about it. I really think the people who have taken the most offense are those who just assumed we’d do things exactly like KoL.

The Forumwarz business model is different. Note that I’m not saying “better” here, just different. We are more like the shareware model of games, where you play the first episode free, then pay if you enjoyed it and want to continue playing. Really what we’re doing is nothing new, it’s just being applied to a new medium.

Is our method a mistake, like the person’s email says? So far, I’m delighted to say things are going great. It is far too early to make long-term predictions since the new episode hasn’t even been out a week, but the future looks bright at this point.

We are experimenting here. If it continues to succeed we will keep it up. If it fails, we will look into other methods of sustainability. I don’t want to put words into the KoL’s team mouth, because maybe they’ve decided to never, ever charge for content, but I’m sure they’re at least observing how this is going to pan out for us. This is the way businesses function: they try new things, see how the market reacts to it, then adjust based on their reactions.

Ultimately, I’ve always said that it’s your money to spend as you choose. We are delivering a product that I think is worth $9.99. If you don’t think it’s worth it, that’s cool. Plenty of other people do. Also, there are other games you can choose to play instead that have different business models. No matter what happens, as a consumer you’re going to have some awesome games around to play.

Written by eviltrout

October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

Posted in Episode 2, Home, News

Tagged with , ,

Do you learn more working for yourself?

I just got this tubmail:

Hey Trout,

On building forumwarz the past 1-2 years, would you say that you’ve learned more about web technologies and web business than you would have if you were to work in a typical 9-5 IT company?

- udo

I liked the question a lot so I decided to post my answer here on the blog.

Yes. Absolutely yes.

First a bit of history for those unfamiliar, which I think qualifies me to answer this question. Feel free to skip to the next section if you just want to know my answer and don’t care about how we got to where we are.

From 2 years ago until now:

I have been working on Forumwarz for just over two years. I don’t have an exact date for when work begun, but I do remember telling Jalapeno Bootyhole and BINGEBOT 2015 that I had decided to quit my job at a Halloween party in October 2006. At that point I had already been working on it in the evenings after my day job.

I gave my job a lot of notice, and started working full time on Forumwarz in January of 2007. We decided in early October 2007 that we had a pretty good first Episode done, so we launched that to the Something Awful goons on October 31st. About 1,000 people took part in that beta, so if you got in then, consider yourself an old timer!

When we launched Episode 1 there was really no end-game to play. Once you’d finished the storyline there was nothing at all to do! So we took a few ideas we had and built them out. First we built support for Klans. Then we created the Brownie Point upgrades system. Then we created ForumBuildr v2.0 BETA. Then we created Forumwarz Domination. Once we had that set of features, we decided to take off the beta label, and launch properly. This was in February 2008.

We were picked up by some major news sites online (the difficulty of sparking that could honestly be a whole blog post in itself), and we jumped from about 2,000 to 45,000 users in a month! To say we had some growing pains is a huge understatement. We focused on improving our architecture. There were many software upgrades and even a few hardware upgrades.

After that we built some more community features: Internet Delay Chat, INCIT, more brownie point options. We began season 2 of Domination and introduced a bunch of themes. At some point, I think around Spring, we started working on Episode 2 hard core. We’d had the storyline written for a long time already, but there was a lot that needed to be fleshed out in terms of the specifics of how it would play out.

We shifted gears and that’s what we’ve been doing since then, with the odd contest and small upgrade in between. We launched a closed Beta of Episode 2 on Monday. We will be launching Episode 2 in early to mid-October. It’s really interesting to me that I decided to quit my job in October, we launched Episode 1 in October and we’ll be launching Episode 2 in October!

Okay, now I’ll actually answer your question:

In my experience, most of the web developer positions in the Toronto area are either Java, PHP or .NET. There are definitely jobs for those who do Ruby or Python or Perl, but they are much harder to come by.

If you’re lucky enough to have a good employer, they might allow you to experiment a little with a technology that branches off your own. Generally though, in my experience most companies want to stick with the technologies they’ve already figured out (and more importantly, invested in) how to support. If your company has a huge Java application that runs on Weblogic and Oracle, then you come up and say “Hey, for the reporting component, why don’t we try Ruby on Rails or Django”, you’re probably about to face an uphill battle.

When you work on your own, there is no such resistance. You are free to do whatever you want. You can try out new things like I did and gain a lot of experience in the process. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to learn in the Java or .NET world, but by virtue of doing it all yourself you’re going to have to learn it.

Even if you don’t take a chance on a new programming language or framework like I did, you will still end up learning things.

A good example is the IT side of a project. I was just remarking the other day that I hated setting up servers in the past. I would do it out of necessity but I would complain incessantly while doing it. When deploying Forumwarz, I had no choice but to configure them myself. I had help from friends, but I did the majority of it myself. And then, at some point recently while configuring an EC2 image for Amazon, I realized that I was actually enjoying it.

I now know how to set up a cluster of ruby instances, how to set up Apache and Nginx, mail servers, software firewalls, databases, dynamic DNS and I love it! I was forced to learn those aspects of deploying out of necessity, but I am much stronger for it. I never would have done that if I was working for another organization. I would have just thrown my code over to the IT guys.

Finally, there is the long amount of hours you inevitably end up working when you run a start up. Even if you promise yourself you’re only going to work 9 to 5 (And nobody I know with a startup does that), things will pop up when you least want them to. Your site will go down in the middle of the night. You will get calls while sick and in bed and have to crawl out to fix them. These are amongst the worst aspects of working for yourself on a startup, but also the ones that teach you to work under pressure. They also teach you how to work when you desperately don’t want to.

In the end, even if Forumwarz fails and I have to go back to the corporate world, I’m sure the skills I’ve learned have will only push me forward career-wise. And that’s saying nothing of the thousands of awesome people I have met, and the industry contacts I have made in the process.

I have made huge sacrifices in my personal life for this project, but you’ll rarely hear me complaining about it: I love what I do, I’ve learned a hell of a lot, and I’m sure no matter what happens with the project from this point on, my career will be better for it.

Written by eviltrout

September 20, 2008 at 9:38 PM

Posted in Coding, Home

Tagged with , , ,


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