Episode 8: Indies, RPGs, Medicine, C64 and Remakes

Chris Kennedy's picture

We're like a bad penny - We always turn up. It's Episode 8! Did we cut the show down, or has it grown into something we can't control? You'll have to listen to find out! Matt Barton, Bill Loguidice, Christina Loguidice, Chip Hageman, and I - Chris Kennedy - give you the latest in listener bliss.

Click here to download the show.




Segments and approximate times below:

  • Matt Barton on Indie games and their quest to save us from lack of originality in today's games (4:06)
  • Chip Hageman on Commodoreserver.com (21:35)
  • Christina Loguidice on the use of videogames in medicine (36:32)
  • Bill Loguidice's first computer roleplaying experience (45:25)
  • Chris Kennedy and videogame remakes (1:11:16)

As always, we'd really appreciate any feedback you have to offer on the episode. You can leave comments here, email us, or review the show on iTunes. You can also subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Matt's show notes:

Bill's show notes:

  • Example of an early TSR Dungeons & Dragons cover
  • Example of wireframe cover/ad art for Epyx's Temple of Apshai
  • Cover art for SSI's Phantasie and the ad
  • Cover for Penguin's Expedition Amazon
  • Cover for Origin's AutoDuel
  • Cover for SSI's Pool of Radiance

Comments

Nathaniel Tolbert
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I have starship titanic and didn't think much of it

I have Starship Titanic and I didn't think much of it. The natural language system did allow for a lot of expressive capabilities, but because you could do so much, sometimes it was difficult to identify how to proceed. One thing to note is that as voice recognition technology gets better and better, maybe instead of a natural language ala text, perhaps a natural language ala speech would be possible. I would think that the Kinect and the PS3 Move would be capable of recognizing facial expressions with a little software work, which would allow for the real time character interactions.
The problem with real time is that I like to be able to think about the puzzles I'm working on and cogitate over the conversation I had, hoping to glean a little insight into the next puzzle. I sadly am not intelligent enough to do all that in real time. That means for me, a game that worked that would would exclude me. I am no good at real time strategy games, because I want to think ahead 20-30 moves, like chess which is hard to do in an RTS as the field is constantly changing and reacting. If that's the way to go for adventure games, I can stick with my old school games, as I will be incapable of playing the new adventure games.

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Chris Kennedy
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Sierra

Nathaniel -

Just out of curiosity - would you be interested in reading a book about the history of Sierra if it were published? What sort of things would you want to find in the book?

There are a lot of good reads out there. I have read a lot from interviews of ex-Sierra employees. It seems like there are quite a few stories to be told. Some are out there on the net, but others are still a bit of a mystery.

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Chip Hageman
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Joined: 10/06/2010
AAR
Matt Barton wrote:

Maybe we should give Chip a turn?

Thanks.. but I think I'll humbly defer to someone with more of a gift for gab. :-)

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I wish we could find a

I wish we could find a publisher with some interest in the topic. I've tried repeatedly to get one interested in an adventure game book, but so far not a bit. Looks like self-publishing is the only option at this point.

In any case, it would be a very interesting project to me (and I think at least two others here.)

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Bill Loguidice
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Publishing business
Matt Barton wrote:

I wish we could find a publisher with some interest in the topic. I've tried repeatedly to get one interested in an adventure game book, but so far not a bit. Looks like self-publishing is the only option at this point.

In any case, it would be a very interesting project to me (and I think at least two others here.)

I consider game books - except for theory stuff for academic presses - dead at this point (hint/guide books still do well, but those are often official books). The only way they seem to get published is through self publishing. That's why I've been branching into gadget/technology/hardware books (and with success). That's where the publishers are presently interested, most likely because those books still get shelf space at bookstores. "Videogame" is a dirty word to them (really, even including chapters on games in say, a Nintendo 3DS book, is frowned upon!).

Perhaps once a publisher or two fully embraces e-books, they'll take more chances again with "niche" content like videogame books, but frankly at that point you're almost better off self publishing anyway.

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Matt Barton
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Self-publishing is great and

Self-publishing is great and all, but only if you have some way to market it effectively. I've become very disillusioned with doing that on my own. Even with a solid product like Matt Chat (assuming I'm not just delusional about its quality), it's difficult to impossible to get the word out. I wouldn't want to see anyone do months of hard work and then sell a half dozen copies.

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Bill Loguidice
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Self Publishing
Matt Barton wrote:

Self-publishing is great and all, but only if you have some way to market it effectively. I've become very disillusioned with doing that on my own. Even with a solid product like Matt Chat (assuming I'm not just delusional about its quality), it's difficult to impossible to get the word out. I wouldn't want to see anyone do months of hard work and then sell a half dozen copies.

I'm willing to take that risk if/when the traditional opportunities dry up, under the "Armchair Arcade Publishing" banner. I believe a realistic goal would be 1,000 copies sold for the first try, getting as much help as possible from forums/partners/podcasts/etc.. So I believe if accepting the financial parameters of 1,000 copies sold is doable, then I believe that's a realistic target. Considering traditional advances are in the $2,000 - $10,000 range these days, I believe there'd be much to gain even if sell-through was "only" 1,000 copies.

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Matt Barton
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Numbers
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I'm willing to take that risk if/when the traditional opportunities dry up, under the "Armchair Arcade Publishing" banner. I believe a realistic goal would be 1,000 copies sold for the first try, getting as much help as possible from forums/partners/podcasts/etc.. So I believe if accepting the financial parameters of 1,000 copies sold is doable, then I believe that's a realistic target. Considering traditional advances are in the $2,000 - $10,000 range these days, I believe there'd be much to gain even if sell-through was "only" 1,000 copies.

I'd consider it a miracle if we sold 1,000 copies. I can't believe it'd be anywhere close to that, sadly. Probably more like 6, maybe 10. Again, consider how few people are even downloading podcasts or watching videos, which are free and a click away. I bet if I charged people $1 to watch Matt Chat, I'd lose 99.9% of my audience overnight. We just don't have the numbers. If we can't lick that problem, it's a moot point, really.

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Bill Loguidice
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We'll just have to disagree on

We'll just have to disagree on that point, then. I think a limited run in color at 1,000 copies of a truly quality book would eventually sell out, regardless of the numbers AA does, particularly if we leverage our "friend" networks and there is sufficient word-of-mouth. I'd think maybe 500 copies for something black and white or shorter, unless the price was really low. Those are not outrageous numbers. The question is what profit margin would there need to be to make this workable. At 500 - 1,000 copies, you'd want a $5 - $10 profit margin to meet a good traditional advance, $2500 - $10,000. Again, not unreasonable. Of course there's a LOT that goes into the self publishing route (at least doing it right), so it wouldn't be a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. Definitely last resort type of stuff, but frankly, if any of us wants to do a games-centric book, it's at that point. We can either bitch about it or take matters into our own hands.

The x factor in all this are ebooks. There's a lot of potential there. You can do a limited print run of 500 - 1000 copies, and then have it eternally available as an ebook on the usual suspects (Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc.). That would further reduce risk and provide additional compensation beyond the figures quoted above. eBooks are probably where a lot of stuff is heading anyway, for a variety of reasons. Print is certainly not dying, but it will never be like it was.

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Nathaniel Tolbert
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I know this is a weird

I know this is a weird question, but with a book that would obviously have a lot of art, pictures and such, how well will that fare for most e-book readers? The current champion e-book reader is the Kindle, and it's greyscale. Don't get me wrong pictures are nice, but they aren't anything to write home about.
@Chris - I would love to hear the entire inside story about Sierra, instead of what has been said through hearsay and such over the past 30+ years. What happened to Sierra in the end was just appalling, and I have heard stories that even Ken Williams himself is unhappy with what has been done to the company he created. How could he and his wife not be? They poured their lives into that company, and made something that will stand in time as a part of the history of what made the computer, only to have it go down in flames by other companies who didn't think about what they had and gutted Sierra for the name only. It sounds exactly like what happened to the old job I worked at. We got bought by a large company, who claimed nothing would change and with 2 years of their takeover, nothing was the same. 2 years after that I was laid off because 'We only hire full time employees.' I was going to school full time and working part time so there was no option for me to work full time as well. So yeah.

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