Critique on Introversion

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Konni
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Critique on Introversion

Postby Konni » Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:45 am

First of all, I want to state the obvious: PA is build on a great concept, it is tons of fun even in Alpha, it is captivating and overall a great game. This is probably the reason why so many people bought in on the concept and invested their money in Introversion in order for them to be able to fund the work on this game. However, the investment of users is said to have breached the $9M mark at the end of last year. $9M (or was it even Pounds?) is a huge credit of trust. It does not only cover the livings expenses of the employees of IV. According to their website, IV is composed of 3 directors and 4 "friends". There are probably more people working for IV, though, since I once received an e-mail from "Sam". $9M for approximately 10-15 employees, that is a lot of money. Yet, the steps, PA as a game in development is taking, are rather small. The monthly updates contain great content and are based on great ideas, but with more than 250,000 investors at their back, IV should really push foward now to bring this game out of alpha status. $9M should be enough to hire some people and the sooner this game is released the more money comes in with sales. This game has been alpha for over a year now and if we are being honest it still misses important and huge parts of content for being a long term motivational game.

So I, as an investor in this product, wish IV hired more people in order to implement the content they are having on their minds faster consequently bringing this game on beta status and fix the remaining bugs.
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby thekillergreece » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:17 am

If you never knew the huge mistake IV done: They almost went bankrupty because they overdid on hiring people.


For me its fine for 1 developer to make this game(Chris Delay) and bring updates monthly. Its pretty fine...I am not in hurry for the game to be in BETA or released status...And of course, Prison Architect will remain in Alpha for very long time because major conents are not implemented yet.

I am pretty fine with the work of team...They get money because thousand people like their art, game and support the game, it is not just because IV wants money for their game in order to continue.
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby knoest26 » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:19 am

If only the world would be that easy.

Introversion has been on the edge of bankruptcy several times over the last 10 years. They are probably going easy on the staff so they won't grow to big and end up with a lot of staff which they can't afford. That 9 million dollars is actually 11 million dollars and (only) 6,7 million pound
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby xander » Thu Jan 30, 2014 4:57 pm

You aren't an investor. You paid for a product, namely a finished video game. The marketing was very clear. Your money paid for a copy of Prison Architect when it is complete. Since you decided to pay for the product before it was complete, IV have thrown in some perks: access to alpha builds, the dev wiki, the bug tracker, and the developer forum. You may have also opted to buy some other perks (name in game, &c.).

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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby Konni » Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:37 pm

The whole point of early access is to find people who are willing to invest in a game in order for it to be developed. Whatever the marketing said, without the users paying for the game in advance, PA would not be what it is today. In how far is this different from an investment? Whatever you call it, the funding is still a credit of trust. This trust is paid back with great content so far, I just do not understand the rather slow pace with which the game seems to be developed. $11M is no chicken feed and the developer forum is full of great suggestions. I might be too much involved in businesses, but it flat out does not make any sense to me how you would not try to invest a starting capital of §11M. The game enjoys great popularity right now, who knows what the situation is in a year or so, which is the time it probably takes to finish this game given the slow developmental phase right now. Right now, this game has a good fan base, but as history taught us, people eventually will get tired of playing the game (especially since the long-term motivation is still an issue due missing complexity). If you have a great idea aka a good business concept, would you rather try to get help in order to improve it quickly and deeply (which is another issue, if they want to make a deep, complex game, you certainly need more than 2 people working on it) or would you rest on the premature praise?

Personally, I have the feeling, that IV is pretty pleased with this alpha status right now. If there are any bugs in the game (and there are known bugs from previous alpha versions) you can always play the "well, the game is still under development"-card. That eliminates responsibility for their product. At the same time, mod support was implemented pretty early. Do not get me wrong, I love mods and the modding culture, but I still feel, that the developers are primarily in charge of the content. Of course, you can criticize me for not being satisfied with the mod implementation, since it is such a nice move by IV to implement it. Don't get me wrong, I endorse IV in supporting mods, but it is pretty much useless as of now, since the content of the finished product is not even foreseeable. If someone invested time into making a mod right now, they probably would have to rework it every month, since the game changes more or less drastically. Real content/story mods are pretty much impossible to create right now. Sceptical me has the feeling that again, IV wants to more or less outsource their responsibility of creating content.

I hope I am not doing IV an injustice.
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby Citizen » Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:49 pm

When Chris and I drink brandy discuss the differences between fast zombies shambling zombies, your name often comes up. It is decidedly sure, you have not committed any great injustices. Rest easy, young prince. Rest easy.
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby xander » Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:04 am

Konni wrote:In how far is this different from an investment?

When you make an investment, you gain control over how your money is spent. When you buy a product, you are giving your money to someone else in exchange for that product. You have no control over how IV spend your money nor over how Introversion develop Prison Architect, ergo you made a purchase, not an investment. You were never given any reason to believe otherwise, and if you have convinced yourself that you should have some control over how Introversion conduct their business, that is no one's fault but your own.

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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby Konni » Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:24 pm

When you make an investment, you gain control over how your money is spent.


This only applies for large-scale investments. IV marketed a certain idea and I, like 300,000 other people, gave them (little) money in order for them to be able to finance the development of their idea. If I open a bar and ask many sponsors to fund me in order to acquire enough seed capital (in exchange for free beer maybe), they won't have much say in how the bar is decorated. However, if I take the money and need more than 2 years to finally open the bar and let the investors bring in their profit (whatever that may be), they will most certainly express their displeasure. I do not want to steer this discussion towards formalities, I still think it is a bad business decision to not speed-up the process of development with that much capital at the back. I have been involved in businesses, some start-up companies really and they did not take the money, they received before delivering their promised product/service for granted. I am not saying IV does, but with the meager feature list of alpha 17 my concerns are somewhat based on bad experiences/scepticism/paranoia.
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby ConstantinP234 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:54 pm

As someone who works for a consulting company, let me clear some things up:
First, even though you did not want this to be about formalities, you have NOT invested into IV. I know that advertisement slogans along the lines of "support the development" can be a bit misleading, but you have only bought a game, not invested into a company. I know that in the common language those two words can be used synonymously, but since you apparently work with businesses you should know the difference ;)
It is, of course, important for a company to keep their customers happy, so that those customers make mouth-to-mouth propaganda and continue buying future products. I think that this is the point you wanted to make with that bar analogy thing. I would, however, argue, that in the gaming market (which I have not analyzed deeply, so take my words with caution) you have very diverse products and a really dynamic market which leads to the image of a company being not at all important to a game's success compared to the quality of the product. (Which you can quite often notice if you pay attention to the gaming market.) (Oh, and other than that I do not think many people are unhappy with how it is developing...)

Now, to get to the real point of your statements: You conclude IV's strategy to be inefficient. You are doing so from a very limited perspective however. In order to find the best strategy, one first has to define the company's goal. You hastely jumped to the assumption that this is financial growth. It is a very common misbelief in the general population that that is a company's only real goal. This is not true however, the aims companies have are really diverse in practice.
Without speaking to the owners of the company and without taking a look at the books and crunching some numbers, we can only guess their strategic objectives. I, with my expertise and a quick look at the company's background, would say that they are taking a sensible direction. Most likely they are just some guys who like making games, and maybe they want to leave it that way without risking their life's work and their jobs on an aggressive expansion where no aggressive expansion is needed.
But even if we assume their goal is maximising profit, their strategy still makes sense. Let's make some reasonable assumptions first: There is a limited market for Prison Architect (Your grandfather is not going to buy it). It will have met the whole demand at some point (You are not going to buy it twice and your grandfather is still not buying it). The product will turn out exactly the same with 5 or 500 people coding it. The end of it's production is in relation to when it will have met the full demand (People might be waiting for the finished product instead of buying an Alpha).
This means that hiring additional forces will speed up development, but not make it better. Using additional coders to integrate features that would not have been integrated otherwise makes no sense (either there is not enough bang for the buck in them or Chris can add them himself at no additional cost). Since we found out before that time is not an issue to the success of the game, and hiring additional workers is not beneficial in any other way than time (assuming they have a guy specialized in every field they need a specialized guy in), the only benefit of adding them to the team would be to be able to move onto other projects more quickly. However, so far Prison Architect seems to be so successful that there is absolutely no reason to do that.

I hope I have provided you with a more differentiated view on the subject, and would like to hear your response, as, of course, I am always eager to learn new perspectives on a matter.

Oh, and Introversion, if you are reading this and do not have a guy specialized in strategic financial planning yet, just contact me :)
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby Konni » Fri Jan 31, 2014 6:03 pm

First of all, I feel misunderstood. Buying the game long before even a release date is within sight, is not an investment in the company, it is an investment in the product itself. I, like many others, invested very little money in this product in order for it being developed in the first place. Since I only invested a very small amount and have 300,000 fellow investors of course I can not demand anything. If I bought the game after its release, there was no investment neither in the company nor the product itself. I honestly think you guys are mixing things up: there is a difference between a pre-order and an early access version of a software. A pre-order in fact is the purchase of a finished product prior to its release. Early access is something different. For those versions the developers declare, they do not have the financial power of developing their game idea. The classical approach was to find a publisher (EA, Blizzard, etc) who would invest a certain amount of money into the product in order for it to be realised. IV chose the "indie-approach" searching for investors. They are not legally committing to ever release the game (see EULA: THE GAME IS PROVIDED "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OR GUARANTEE OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF SATISFACTORY QUALITY, MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR NONINFRINGEMENT;). So in fact, we did not buy the finished version of the game, we bought it "as is". Without the help of the community (or a publisher as an investor), this game would not be released, we are an indispensable part of the development of the game (rather our money is) and therefore we are by definition investors.

To the second part of your interesting discourse. I never had the goal of making as much money as possible in my mind as IV's primary intention. Further, I was not advocating a massive expansion for IV. There is a difference between hiring 20 people in a massive expansion and hiring 4 people to help out with stuff. In the beta video of Alpha 17, a tree casts a giant rectangular shadow on the street. This, of course, is somewhat likeable and cute. Oh those guys are so down to earth, they do not care about perfect presentations. Yes, on one side this is cool. On the other hand it is a weird and obvious bug in a game which has been publicly alpha for more than a year now. According to the bug tracker, it is not the only one. There is still so much to do besides adding new features, one or 2 persons handling it won't cut it.

The product will turn out exactly the same with 5 or 500 people coding it.


I see what you are intending to express. Of course 1 person would be able to make the same game 500 people are working on. It is a matter of time, after all. However, this is only true in theory. Imagine 10 people worked on the game. 2 people trying to smooth out the bugs, 5 coders work on AI (easily the most challenging part of making such a game) and 2 people implement new features (story??!!) and 1 does all the art work, animation and so on. Right now, as of I understand it, 2 people are more or less working on the game. One sometimes does work on performance (which still is an issue as well) and the other implements new features. Of course, the could eventually finish with the same result, it would just take them about 5 times the time. Also, with people actually concentrating on one specific aspect of the game, it gains more depth and therefore would enhance the quality of the game. The AI can be frustrating at times and I have never met any software developer being good at every part of coding. I highly doubt every facet of the game would be of the same quality if only 1 or 2 guys worked on it opposed to 10 people with specific emphases doing the job.

At some point, users want the final version of the game in their hands. First and foremost, this is very important for modders! You can not create a substantial mod for alpha versions apart from graphical stuff. Too many things change from version x to version x+3. It can't be in the best interest for IV to take huge amounts of time with the development. I can only assume that at some point the people working on it will get tired of it and may want to do something else.
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby xander » Fri Jan 31, 2014 7:05 pm

Konni wrote:--==<snip>==--

Can you please define the term "invest," as you are using it? The definition with which I am familiar is something similar to that stated by Wikepedia: "investment is putting money into an asset with the expectation of capital appreciation, dividends, and/or interest earnings." Now, I am a mathematician, not an economist, so I am more than willing to admit that I am out of my depth. However, you keep saying that you have made an investment, which implies that you should be getting something back and/or that you should have the right to dictate how IV run their business.

It should also be noted that projects funded under a Kickstarter-style model that fail to release a finished product may be legally required to provide refunds. If IV fail to release Prison Architect (or if enough people get pissed about the long alpha/beta process), it is possible that people who purchased the game could sue and be awarded a refund. Again, IV have stated that we have purchased the final game (i.e. pre-ordered it). Since the game isn't out yet, they are offering early access to the alpha as a bonus.

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Last edited by xander on Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby Mithrawndo » Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:03 pm

If I may refer you to section 3 of the EULA for Prison Architect

The Game is licensed, not sold. Your licence confers no title or ownership in the Game.


This could not be more clear: None of us who purchased an early access license for Prison Architect have anything more than a vested* interest in the completion of the game.

We have absolutely no legal right to influence the company's approach to development beyond whatever they offer us, as all we have purchased is a license to run their software - despite what marketing hype you may have heard. The early access phenomenon is frequently misunderstood as players investing** in a development team's efforts to produce a piece of software, when in fact this was not the goal at all. This is understandable, because unfortunately many people spread this horrible, malicious rumour when it first cropped up. From the player's perspective, it's really just about giving us the choice of what games make it into development rather than that decision being in the hands of a few people in a large publishing house, the goals of which are not likely to tally with our own. Without being in the industry, I surmise that from the developer's perspective it's about being able to advertise their cool new idea and reach out to potential financial support in the form of licenses for the finished product, allowing them to bypass publishers who will not wish to take a risk on a title that won't guarantee a strong return.

It's democratic game development, not investment.

*Vested: confer or bestow (power, authority, property, etc.) on someone
**Invested: put (money) into financial schemes, shares, property, or a commercial venture with the expectation of achieving a profit.

Thought I'd clarify those two definitions as the misuse of the latter word was starting to irritate me. Also hello, my first post on the boards!
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby rlgjiojgboirtjnb » Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:22 am

The next statement might sound offensive, but it is not meant offensive in any way, its just curiosity.

In what country/education system/general life do you live to constantly say that you "invested" into IV and thereby have any rights (i.e. the right to critique IV on business decisions)?

My mother tongue is not english, but in german investing has the identical meaning as it has in english (which has been several times been explained in this thread), as it has in most latin based languages, so what origin of the word (i.e. in your mother tongue, or maybe in ur education, etc) makes you believe what you believe?

Again, not meant offensive!
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby Konni » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:13 pm

Why is this discussion always steered towards the term 'investment' and does not really cover the core of my statement in the opening post?

To clear things up a little: You guys seem to define 'investment' based on a financial point of view. Xander, thank you very much for quoting a wikipedia entry and leaving out the most important part. Here is the full quote:

"In finance, investment is putting money into an asset with the expectation of capital appreciation, dividends, and/or interest earnings. "
(emphasis by me)

As you probably read the entire wikipedia entry, you should know that besides the financial investment there is also economical investment. Economic investment is not directly linked to any short- or mid-term financial gain. In economics you invest in something to get some kind of benefit from it. Sending your kids to school and pay for their college education is an investment with no direct monetary output for the parents. Bill Gates expects no direct financial profit while he supports children in need or some of that kind. However, this is still an investment (improve reputation). Basically you invest your money into something, to have a benefitiary outcome. In economic science, some authors even suggest that going to your favorite haircutter is pretty much an investment. You like how he/she is doing your hair, so you keep to engage his/her service in order for him/her to be able to keep the shop open and to be able to affort a living.
Converted to the situation concerning PA, we gave IV money in order to for them to be able to make a game we want to play. Can't you see that this is totally different to buying a finished game in the store that's development has already been funded by a publisher?

To make it crystal clear compare what a publisher does and what we did:

1) A developer's studio (IV) has a great idea for a game. They know it will take 2 years to develop the game and they have no income while developing it. So they need someone for financial aid. Consequently, they turn to big companies (publishers like EA) who are willing to provide them with capital, but in return demand a share of sales revenue.
I think we can all agree that the big company invested money into the developers in order to make more money (financial investment).

2) A developer's studio (IV) has a great idea for a game. They know it will take 2 years to develop the game and they have no income while developing it. So they need someone for financial aid. Consequently, they turn to a big community (people on the Internet) who are willing to provide them with capital, but in return demand to play a game for a lower price than a full price sale.
How is that in comparison to case 1) not an investment? There is even financial benefit to it (lower price).


The Game is licensed, not sold. Your licence confers no title or ownership in the Game.


This could not be more clear: None of us who purchased an early access license for Prison Architect have anything more than a vested* interest in the completion of the game.

We have absolutely no legal right to influence the company's approach to development beyond whatever they offer us, as all we have purchased is a license to run their software - despite what marketing hype you may have heard. The early access phenomenon is frequently misunderstood as players investing** in a development team's efforts to produce a piece of software, when in fact this was not the goal at all. This is understandable, because unfortunately many people spread this horrible, malicious rumour when it first cropped up. From the player's perspective, it's really just about giving us the choice of what games make it into development rather than that decision being in the hands of a few people in a large publishing house, the goals of which are not likely to tally with our own. Without being in the industry, I surmise that from the developer's perspective it's about being able to advertise their cool new idea and reach out to potential financial support in the form of licenses for the finished product, allowing them to bypass publishers who will not wish to take a risk on a title that won't guarantee a strong return.


Concerning your quote: this term can be found in every EULA concerned with software and is nothing special. Every time you buy a piece of software, you buy the license to use it. If you bought the game, you would be free to tamper with the source code, use its content in an unintended manner and such. Take a look at other EULAs of software you bought and you will find this clause everywhere.

The second part of you statement contains a huge misunderstanding. I am not demanding anything from IV. I explicitly named this thread 'critique' and in my opening post I stated 'I wished'...A large-scale investor (i.e. publisher) naturally has more say over a game. They sometimes decide about content and form of presentation. They have that power because without them, the developers had no money.
I, as a tiny investor among 300,000 others, would never arrogate the right to demand something to myself. However, as an investor, I feel entitled to criticize IV for what 'little' they do with my (and everybody else's) money. They do not have to change their approach based on my criticism, they hopefully do not feel offended in any way. I just use this platform to express my displeasure and originally hoped for people to join in (as I know a few people feel the same) or at least to receive a valid explanation for their unusual business approach. I did not want to start a discussion about the various definitions of the word 'investment'.
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Re: Critique on Introversion

Postby rlgjiojgboirtjnb » Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:35 pm

You want their explanation for their behaviour?

Look up the very first alpha video, youll hear the following quote:

"Its an alpha....and considering its IV we are talking about here, its gonna be in alpha for quite some time...."
(rough memory quote)

Besides that quote you could look at their history (which people have tried to explain to you here) but you choose to ignore all of this. And tbh, everyone who ever had to do with small business understands IVs position and would be similar inclined against hiring lots of more people just because 1 product is more successful than expected.

You bought an alpha without release date and even without feature lists, sorry to say, but you ll have to deal with that fact. And whether they WANT to "push the game out of alpha faster" is purely up to them and noone else.


PS: By your definition of investment every single transaction involving money (probably every transaction ever even without money) would be an investment of some form or another. And that might! even be true in economic terms, however in normal english language use, an investment refers in most cases to a financial investment, esp. when you "request/suggest" that IV hires more people (only investment i know of where you can ask for that is by being a financial investor) and considering that your posts all focus heavily on this word, its no wonder a discussion about the word and your usage has ensued.

PPS: I actually very much enjoy the current pace, every month you get a new challenge and have to rethink your prison on a grand scale, its basically an addon every month (expect current alpha with armed guards, that one was rather meh), id be happy for them to be in alpha forever if that would mean to have every month or every few month a new game.....it just would never get boring!

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