Posted by CLinendoll (79 posts) -

There's a few things I'd like to state up front here. I am not trying to personally attack anyone in this article, merely attempting to report on what I feel is an entertaining story from the world of games.

But, over the past 48 hours, something truly magical has happened, mostly on the popular website Reddit. Keith Burgun, lead game designer at Dinofarm Games, posted a classified ad in hopes of finding a programmer to work on their upcoming iOS game Auro. This game would be the second commercial release from Dinofarm Games, their first being the iOS roguelike 100 Rogues. Despite only asking for $7500, Auro eventually reached the final pledge total of $14,571. That's quite a bit of money, and is evidence to the fact that there is an audience that is extremely interested in what Dinofarm Games was promoting.

The classified ad was originally posted to the subreddit /r/gamedevclassifieds, but was eventually removed, presumably under the wishes of Dinofarm. In the interest of clarity, Reddit user HoboCup took a screen shot of the classified ad, which you can find below.

Click to enlarge, silly!

As you can see, Dinofarm was offering a stipend of $200 a week, with a promise of 20% of Auro's eventual profits. If that seems to you like a pretty small amount of money, for quite a bit of work, you're not alone. Reddit jumped all over the posting, with many users taking Dinofarm to task for the relatively low amount of money being offered to the prospective programmer.

Reddit user attrition0 had the following to say to the ad:

"Why is it only 20% share when you're expected to do much more than 20% of the work? The designer is saying half the game is done, the programmer in me calls bullshit on that -- the first half tends to be getting graphics up, getting some movement, basic stuff. The last half is much, much harder. 6 months expectation at $200 a week? That barely covers half of my rent.They had a kickstarter that gained $14k, and they chose not to spend that money on a programmer. That was a huge mistake."

Similar sentiments were shared by many other users on the thread, with the game designer, to his credit, responding to nearly every piece of criticism sent his way. That seemed to only make matters worse. A back-and-forth between Dinofarm and Reddit user tensofdollars went as such:

"Dinofarmgames:

What's really, really funny here is that I've been doing the whole indie-gaming gig for about 15 or so years, and there have been probably 50 times in my life that I've went on the internet looking for a programmer.

Tensofdollars:

If you have been doing this for 15 years and are unable to afford to hire a programmer FOR YOUR SOFTWARE COMPANY you're doing something terribly wrong."

As the conversation continued, things seemed to take a personal turn, with several Redditors resorting to name-calling and other such behavior. As far as Internet forums go, it's pretty much a by the book flame-war.

What's troubling though, and worthy of mentioning as news, is the nature of the Auro Kickstarter. The sum of nearly $15,000 achieved is, by any imagination, a huge success. However, the fact that Dinofarm Games seemed unsure of what exactly they needed the money for attracted quite a bit of discussion.

On the Kickstarter page, Auro is credited as being programmed by Ido Yehieli, a fairly well-known name amongst Roguelike fans. However, Dinofarm has since stated that Mr. Yehieli was merely brought on in order to bring to game up to a level of polish for the Kickstater campaign. From this point on, Auro will be finished by another programmer, presumably much less well-known than Ido.

This fact angered a few of Auro's Kickstarter backers, such as peterb12 who had this to say

"As a backer of Auro, I absolutely agree with what a number of redditors, but especially brdma, are saying here. If their Kickstarter page had said "We need to hire a programmer" rather than "Programming is being done by Ido Yehieli", I would absolutely have not backed the project, because hiring a competent developer as part of a project funded with only $7500 is a complete fucking fantasy."

As you may or may not be aware, Kickstarter is pretty much completely free of any obligation to make good on the projects that are funded on the site. Their Terms of Use state:

"Kickstarter is not liable for any damages or loss incurred related to rewards or any other use of the Service. All dealings are solely between Users. Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site. Kickstarter does not oversee the performance or punctuality of projects."

So you can see why some of Auro's backers are pretty upset by these recent events. Many recent successes on Kickstarter, particularly in the gaming space, have attracted an amazingly large amount of attention. Following the huge success of Double Fine Adventure, seemingly every classic genre and developer came out of the woodwork, hoping to ride the hype train straight into Gravy Town.

The Ouya, the Android-powered "console" closed out it's Kickstarter with over $8.5 million. That is mind-blowing. But the Ouya is also not without its skeptics. Ben Kuchera, of Penny Arcade, recently wrote an extremely in-depth look at what exactly the Ouya is, and what it isn't. It's incredibly easy to be impressed by a Kickstarter pitch, and I myself have donated to a few of them.

The circus around this Dinofarm Games posting, therefore, goes much deeper than regular old Internet drama. Almost a thousand people pledged nearly $15,000 into a company that can't quite articulate where the money is going. And, since the project is fully funded, that money is now theirs to do what they want with it.

It seems that Dinofarm will make good on delivering Auro. They appear to be extremely passionate about their genre, and the games they create. It remains to be seen, however, just how much goodwill their audience will continue to extend in their direction. As we saw with the Ocean Marketting disaster, sometimes it's better to leave the PR to the professionals.

A final note: I fully expect Dinofarm Games to find their way to this article. I welcome them to comment and provide their own input and analysis of the situation. I have tried to merely present facts, as they happened, in order to illuminate the sometimes unseen world of indie game development. Thanks for reading.

#1 Posted by CLinendoll (79 posts) -

There's a few things I'd like to state up front here. I am not trying to personally attack anyone in this article, merely attempting to report on what I feel is an entertaining story from the world of games.

But, over the past 48 hours, something truly magical has happened, mostly on the popular website Reddit. Keith Burgun, lead game designer at Dinofarm Games, posted a classified ad in hopes of finding a programmer to work on their upcoming iOS game Auro. This game would be the second commercial release from Dinofarm Games, their first being the iOS roguelike 100 Rogues. Despite only asking for $7500, Auro eventually reached the final pledge total of $14,571. That's quite a bit of money, and is evidence to the fact that there is an audience that is extremely interested in what Dinofarm Games was promoting.

The classified ad was originally posted to the subreddit /r/gamedevclassifieds, but was eventually removed, presumably under the wishes of Dinofarm. In the interest of clarity, Reddit user HoboCup took a screen shot of the classified ad, which you can find below.

Click to enlarge, silly!

As you can see, Dinofarm was offering a stipend of $200 a week, with a promise of 20% of Auro's eventual profits. If that seems to you like a pretty small amount of money, for quite a bit of work, you're not alone. Reddit jumped all over the posting, with many users taking Dinofarm to task for the relatively low amount of money being offered to the prospective programmer.

Reddit user attrition0 had the following to say to the ad:

"Why is it only 20% share when you're expected to do much more than 20% of the work? The designer is saying half the game is done, the programmer in me calls bullshit on that -- the first half tends to be getting graphics up, getting some movement, basic stuff. The last half is much, much harder. 6 months expectation at $200 a week? That barely covers half of my rent.They had a kickstarter that gained $14k, and they chose not to spend that money on a programmer. That was a huge mistake."

Similar sentiments were shared by many other users on the thread, with the game designer, to his credit, responding to nearly every piece of criticism sent his way. That seemed to only make matters worse. A back-and-forth between Dinofarm and Reddit user tensofdollars went as such:

"Dinofarmgames:

What's really, really funny here is that I've been doing the whole indie-gaming gig for about 15 or so years, and there have been probably 50 times in my life that I've went on the internet looking for a programmer.

Tensofdollars:

If you have been doing this for 15 years and are unable to afford to hire a programmer FOR YOUR SOFTWARE COMPANY you're doing something terribly wrong."

As the conversation continued, things seemed to take a personal turn, with several Redditors resorting to name-calling and other such behavior. As far as Internet forums go, it's pretty much a by the book flame-war.

What's troubling though, and worthy of mentioning as news, is the nature of the Auro Kickstarter. The sum of nearly $15,000 achieved is, by any imagination, a huge success. However, the fact that Dinofarm Games seemed unsure of what exactly they needed the money for attracted quite a bit of discussion.

On the Kickstarter page, Auro is credited as being programmed by Ido Yehieli, a fairly well-known name amongst Roguelike fans. However, Dinofarm has since stated that Mr. Yehieli was merely brought on in order to bring to game up to a level of polish for the Kickstater campaign. From this point on, Auro will be finished by another programmer, presumably much less well-known than Ido.

This fact angered a few of Auro's Kickstarter backers, such as peterb12 who had this to say

"As a backer of Auro, I absolutely agree with what a number of redditors, but especially brdma, are saying here. If their Kickstarter page had said "We need to hire a programmer" rather than "Programming is being done by Ido Yehieli", I would absolutely have not backed the project, because hiring a competent developer as part of a project funded with only $7500 is a complete fucking fantasy."

As you may or may not be aware, Kickstarter is pretty much completely free of any obligation to make good on the projects that are funded on the site. Their Terms of Use state:

"Kickstarter is not liable for any damages or loss incurred related to rewards or any other use of the Service. All dealings are solely between Users. Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site. Kickstarter does not oversee the performance or punctuality of projects."

So you can see why some of Auro's backers are pretty upset by these recent events. Many recent successes on Kickstarter, particularly in the gaming space, have attracted an amazingly large amount of attention. Following the huge success of Double Fine Adventure, seemingly every classic genre and developer came out of the woodwork, hoping to ride the hype train straight into Gravy Town.

The Ouya, the Android-powered "console" closed out it's Kickstarter with over $8.5 million. That is mind-blowing. But the Ouya is also not without its skeptics. Ben Kuchera, of Penny Arcade, recently wrote an extremely in-depth look at what exactly the Ouya is, and what it isn't. It's incredibly easy to be impressed by a Kickstarter pitch, and I myself have donated to a few of them.

The circus around this Dinofarm Games posting, therefore, goes much deeper than regular old Internet drama. Almost a thousand people pledged nearly $15,000 into a company that can't quite articulate where the money is going. And, since the project is fully funded, that money is now theirs to do what they want with it.

It seems that Dinofarm will make good on delivering Auro. They appear to be extremely passionate about their genre, and the games they create. It remains to be seen, however, just how much goodwill their audience will continue to extend in their direction. As we saw with the Ocean Marketting disaster, sometimes it's better to leave the PR to the professionals.

A final note: I fully expect Dinofarm Games to find their way to this article. I welcome them to comment and provide their own input and analysis of the situation. I have tried to merely present facts, as they happened, in order to illuminate the sometimes unseen world of indie game development. Thanks for reading.

#2 Edited by Shivoa (642 posts) -

The real advantage of indie is being able to massively undercut the job market for competent gamedev programmers with a cut of profit share and a project easy to create passion and a shared vision.

Rather than putting aside $10k/month (minimum) per team member, you can create a partnership based around a shared goal, profit share of the final product, and enough ongoing investment to keep the members alive (obviously the cost of living ranges depending where your team members live). I'm interested in why their coder dropped out of the project when they say on their website the coding is at 60-70% complete right now. That story and an impartial analysis of the actual progress might tempt the more experienced coders to consider the profit share as valuable rather than a carrot that has no meaning (how many games make a profit on iOS, what are the existing debts under which the project strains? Unless the share is a revenue share, in which case it is more attractive but you still need to be convincing that the project will complete and make sales; the Kickstarter might indicate that many customers have already been served and will not be counted in the post-release revenue stream).

I'm not sure how big Dinofarms is or how many team members they have working full-time on this iOS project but a 20% cut of revenue could be reasonable, even for a primary coder who has a significant portion of the project to code up. The $200/week will probably mean no one will be able to apply from the richer nations (North America, Euro etc) because you can't buy full time technical work for that little (so any US applicants are optimistic and plan to only do a few hours a week and claim it was their full-time output, this isn't good for the project but if they've been doing this for 15 years then they probably already know how to spot many people who apply for jobs they do not plan to complete to the specs). I would certainly not apply* but I don't think the contract is flat-out bogus for anyone to consider (but you can probably do better if you've got experience beyond a toybox game project as previous work) and if they lost the primary coder after Kickstarting (still not sure how that story actually unfolds with it being a temp contract and then on the Kickstarter as advertised 'coded by' or 'future code by'?) then I think the Kickstartees weren't flat out lied to and should have been buyer beware when the project was listed as $7500 for completion. Did they think the existing coder was working for free? Why are they now unhappy that the new coder is working for a small stipend and share if before they didn't think their money was paying for the known coder? Maybe I am not aware of the project history and personalities involved but it seems any Kickstarter for a game for $7500 is very clearly a donation thing and not actually funding the game's dev costs because the game you can make for that little doesn't pay any of the talent anything like a living wage, let alone industry mean wage, unless it is very primitive.

Edit: clarified language and SPaG.

* But I have worked on contracts that ended up being less viable than this one sounds.

#3 Posted by theManUnknown (184 posts) -

When it comes to business and commercial adventures I always find myself having a profound respect for the people handling the administrative and managerial side of things. An individual McDonalds in itself is not a particularly impressive thing to behold, but when I consider just how many variables there likely are that have to be accounted for, and how many different resources probably need to be secured at the executive level in order for my local franchise to be able to sell me a burger at the drop of a hat, I'm awestruck.

So that's what impresses me most concerning independent ventures: the crazy thing to me is not that they are trying to develop a game without any sort of official financial support from a publisher, but rather that they are now themselves responsible for all of the elements those executives & suits once handled for them. So I'm not surprised fiascoes like this should happen. I sincerely doubt I would have handled the situation any better were I in charge, considering my profound lack of anything resembling business savvy. If anything, I'm surprised there aren't more such examples of company mismanagement in the indie scene.

#4 Edited by CLinendoll (79 posts) -

To clarify some points: Dinofarm Games is two guys. One designer and one composer. Both have self-admitted modest programming skills. The $15k raised is being split, seemingly between the two. With the $200 a week coming out of these funds.

#5 Posted by Joru (311 posts) -

With that amount of money, assuming there's 3 people with the new programmer involved all they can do is 200$ each for 6 months, so the sum seems about right to me from the amount of funding. The 20% however, should probably go up to a third, since you can't live off of 200$ and have bet on financial success after release.

#6 Posted by Ohvee (145 posts) -

Great summary!

#7 Posted by Binman88 (3689 posts) -

To not mention something as important as the need to hire a programmer to complete their game is an absolute farce. There needs to be a more stringent approval process for projects on Kickstarter. The people/companies behind these projects need to be more forthcoming about the realities of their business plan, or suffer the consequence of refunded pledges.

#8 Posted by BaconGames (3539 posts) -

Nice write up and good response from , I hadn't considered the possibility that he's fishing for devs from poorer countries. Either way, the funding of games on kickstarter is a sordid business because people don't realize how expensive games are to make and saying we're making even an iOS game for less than 10K is ambitious at best and foolish at worst. Obviously this is no justification for minimum wage law but if he is within the boundaries of the law in that wage and he's offering that wage on a public market for buyers, its his business. That people feel that is too low is really the business of the person willing to tolerate such a wage, or at least see the 20% profit and hope it works out for the game.

Based on what I read here, it seems like the two threads, kickstarter and needing a programmer, happened at the right (or wrong) time to make this an issue. If they settled all this stuff before and then went to Kickstarter, this wouldn't be a problem at all. Personally I think stuff like this is good to get out of the way for people to not only be a little more savvy with their backings but bring issues like this to light that are necessary for that platform to mature if it will be a long term service.

#9 Posted by CLinendoll (79 posts) -

@Binman88 said:

To not mention something as important as the need to hire a programmer to complete their game is an absolute farce. There needs to be a more stringent approval process for projects on Kickstarter. The people/companies behind these projects need to be more forthcoming about the realities of their business plan, or suffer the consequence of refunded pledges.

I've been waiting for this nightmare scenario to happen. It's bound to, sooner or later. Someone will get a lot of money,and never deliver a product.

#10 Posted by RockMoTron (1 posts) -

Chris and I have had a lot of discussions about this, and we've felt for a long time now that somebody would eventually pee in the Kickstarter pool and ruin it for everyone by not delivering. While it's too soon to assume that Dinofarm won't actually deliver a game, we definitely weren't surprised to see that it was them who perfectly demonstrated how to ruin a lot of goodwill by (seemingly) misleading their backers. Keith Burgun's pretentious, self-important attitude certainly doesn't help things either.

#11 Posted by DinofarmBlake (1 posts) -

My name is Blake and I'm the lead artist/composer for Dinofarm Games.

To clarify, we appreciate very well the amount of skill and dedication it requires to create quality software. We were in NO WAY implying that small stipend of $200 per week was anywhere near a fair wage. It was/is all we have. Before the software is completed, I'm reasonably sure I will have to pay out of pocket to finish the code, which I can't really afford to do. I want to make it clear that, though we're a startup, and we don't have a lot of capital, we're extremely devoted to the completion of a commercial-grade, highly polished product. I've poured every artistic resource I have into this game for over a year, and I'm not stopping.

Keith was, perhaps naively, asking publicly for a coder who saw in the game what we see in it, and to, *for all intents and purposes, work for practically nothing until completion. Our original coder Ido needed to move on. He didn't know the game would be so expansive in scope as it was. We're still on good terms with him, and hope to work with him in the future.

We apologize if this little public uproar has caused mistrust among our kickstarter supporters. Rest assured, the money you donated is going to good use. We're using it to live on so that we can work on Auro almost full time. As indy developers, we try to live cheaply. We don't mind making sacrifices because we believe in Auro.

Auro is being worked on every day and will continue to until release. We apologize for the unclear and unprofessional nature by which we advertised for the position.

Please follow our progress on Dinofarmgames.com. We update all the time.

thank you for reading,

Blake

#12 Posted by CLinendoll (79 posts) -

Thanks for the response, Blake. Hope everything shakes out alright for everyone involved.

#13 Posted by InfiniteStateMachine (215 posts) -

I think the biggest issue is often when you need a good game programmer you have the following situations.

1) He's good and broke so he won't be able to work on sub-living wages.

2) He's good, has money and time off. Chances are he might want to finally spend his free time on his own programming projects.

3) He's bad.

I guess the main issue is that these types of deals with heavy post-compensation and company ownership are essentially like relationships and many people are weary of starting a long term relationship via ad posted publicly on the internet. My personal opinion is that direct targeted queries would be more effective.