Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fear the Meatbox

Veteran game designer Greg Stolze (click here for a list of his works) has embarked upon a little experiment in publishing and distribution with his hopefully-forthcoming tactical game of psychotic biobattlemechs, Meatbox Massacre. Mr. Stolze is releasing this game electronically, via a "ransom" system. He's taking donations via PayPal up until September 1st. If the donations reach $600 or more in that time, he'll release Meatbox as a free download. If he doesn't get his six hundred then the money gets passed on to a homeless shelter and the meat remains forever in the box. Without the ransom, the game will not be released. Dig? More details on this method and the madness behind it is just a click away.

I like the experiments in sales and distribution that have been coming down the pipe lately. Even if the side effect of this tinkering is that we get an occasional stinker like DriveThruRPG's foray into the seemy world of Digital Rights Management or the buy-the-beta bait-and-switch of Heromachine or With Great Power. There have been lots of other nifty ideas, starting with the PDF giants like S. John Ross and Monte Cook. By my lights Ross is the better designer, but I think Cook (who is quite good, just not as good as Ross) deserves credit for popularizing the gaming PDF. Then there's the development of solid electronic clearing houses like RPGnow and Steve Jackson's finally-opened e23. Meanwhile, the gang over at the Forge are blazing other trails. My favorite example of Forgite cleverness would be Vincent Baker's old scheme for selling kill puppies for satan: he sent the game and you send him money if you like it. He asked for a fiver. I decided to be cute and sent him a check for $6.66. It's an exciting time to be a geek, between all these different methods for selling and distributing fresh new games, and the similar experiments going on in comics, such as Scott McCloud selling online comics for 25 cents a pop or Randy Milholland getting his fans to buy him a year off from having to work a day job.

Even if I don't need a game featuring brawling fleshbots, I'm still thinking about sending Mr. Stolze a few bucks. I think it's a good idea to support anything that makes it easier for smaller projects to be more viable. Besides, donating to a project isn't the same as buying a new game, so I can throw some dollars at Stolze and not break my New Year's resolution.

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