This game has been Greenlit by the Community!

The community has shown their interest in this game. Valve has reached out to this developer to start moving things toward release on Steam.

Bot Colony
Sgt.Psycho Sep 4, 2013 @ 3:45pm
Wait, what? Mandatory online only?
I'm pretty disappointed to hear this. Having read the tech paper I guess I can understand why you've made this decision, and it's far too far into development now to change things, but I do question the wisdom behind making the game online only and completely dependant on network resources.

It seems that BC is really a demonstration of the (admittedly) powerful capabilities of the natural language processing engine, and you're angling more towards selling the engine to third party developers than BC itself as a standalone project.

On the pro side, this would appear to give you unlimited flexibility in adjusting, tweaking and correcting the engine, all in real time with updates taking place immediately. This also means far faster turnarounds on 'builds' and less time building, packing, shipping updates. The modularity and connectability mean you can offer it as SaaS[en.wikipedia.org], extending your market reach, increasing profitability by devolving business risk onto service consumers, and also reduce support costs, seeing as you're supplying the engine, not the application (BC aside).

On the con side, stakeholders take a risk in the sustainability of the model. Should it fail, then all applications (BC) will also fail and become unusable. This is the exact reason why always-on connections are so hated by gamers. Not necessarily so much as an anti-theft solution, but for the long-term negatives that also go along with it. Should you ever decide/be forced to turn off the service, that's it, game over. I should also note that providers as large as MIcrosoft have decided not to support their online-only products[arstechnica.com] so please don't tell me this is 'too big to fail'. Given that this is an emergent technology and company, this is quite a risk indeed.

With online-only connections also come issues of network latency and connectivity, which is surprising, given that you wish to exploit ESL markets, some of which will presumably be in areas with low-performing/expensive or non-existent internet connections. This business decision seems to work against your own goals. Performance issues may arise (and often do in client-server architecture, Diablo 3 anyone?) which have nothing to do with the client-side installation, and which the client has no control over. This is generally an unacceptable proposition for a single player game, unless the online component provides comparitively greater value than can be provided in a standalone installation. Peformance cannot be guaranteed and may be highly variable or nonexistant depending on factors outside the user's control. Witness the hate on the latest SimCity and how this exact model has ruined the brand's reputation among consumers.

Finally, a subscription model is the icing on the unpalatable cake. So, not only do you get a product that relies entirely on being able to reach servers which you have no control over, you have to pay for this privilege, whether you use it or not. Fail to pay and that's it - you no longer have a game and your investment is 'wasted'. This really means you're not buying anything except a service, not a product. This could be made less painful by issuing 'time blocks' I suppose which allows users to activate and deactiavte their account to suit their usage, but it's an unhappy compromise.

I'm pretty disappointed by this.

As a gamer, here's what I'd like to see instead:
1. Standalone installs each containing a version of the engine and associated components
2. No online connection required except for patches to receive updates if needed
3. Single once-off payment method

This is pretty standard game development, and your decision puts the project at risk I feel. As I said, I think I understand why the decisions have been made, but they appear to have been made without consulting the most important stakeholder: the end consumer.

I think the engine could be internalised and similar to 3D engines, licenced to developers. This provides the ongoing funding necessary to support and improve the engine. If this means episodic releases to BC to sustain development, I understand, but would prefer a single payment for a standalone product, that works 'as is' forever without requiring any further payment or is reliant on a resource that may not be present.
Last edited by Sgt.Psycho; Sep 4, 2013 @ 3:48pm
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BotColony  [developer] Sep 5, 2013 @ 7:47pm 
You've made quite a few points

> It seems that BC is really a demonstration of the (admittedly) powerful capabilities of the natural language processing engine, and you're angling more towards selling the engine to third party developers than BC itself as a standalone project.

* Many people who look at Bot Colony comment that our language pipeline (you called it engine) has additional applications. That's true. But I can assure you that Bot Colony was not built with EXPRESS (like in 'premeditated') intention to sell the engine to third party developers, or as a demo of the natural language understanding capability - though I'll admit it does that. I have spent over two years writing the Bot Colony novel, and I'm very attached to the Bot Colony world, its zany logic, and LITERAL - the particular and excessively correct English that the robots speak and their thought process - I hope you'll get to experience that first hand. It is a wonderful, big world - and I am deeply attached to the idea of creating a very immersive game where not only your character is in the world, but YOU are there, because you can speak with the other characters.

> On the pro side, this would appear to give you unlimited flexibility in adjusting, tweaking and correcting the engine, all in real time with updates taking place immediately. This also means far faster turnarounds on 'builds' and less time building, packing, shipping updates. The modularity and connectability mean you can offer it as SaaS...

* All excellent points. I would add that, with NLU being as complex as it is, and needing so many updates, it would be impractical do to anything but online.

> On the con side, stakeholders take a risk in the sustainability of the model. Should it fail, then all applications (BC) will also fail and become unusable....

True, but due to technical reasons, it simply cannot run on a PC. There are gigantic databases, it runs under Linux, there are SAPI voices that simply could not be licensed and distributed otherwise (we now do text-to-speech server side and stream audio to you), and this is even before doing anything where players field their own robots into the world. And the need to update frequently.

> Fail to pay and that's it - you no longer have a game and your investment is 'wasted'. This really means you're not buying anything except a service, not a product. This could be made less painful by issuing 'time blocks' I suppose which allows users to activate and deactiavte their account to suit their usage, but it's an unhappy compromise.

* I'll point out that the 'investment' can be as small as $2.95, if somebody just buys a one month membership, and plays Intruder - pretty much what other folks would call a microtransaction. Entry pricing was set deliberately to be extremely low, precisely to enable people from developing countries to access the game. What you wrote about time blocks is actually how it will work - your account is always there, and you can access it by paying $2.95 - so the time block is one month. We do need to pay for servers in the cloud, for bandwidth, and for support (not to mention new content) - and we need to recover that cost. The game does have some stickiness - some players love to talk to robots and teach them things, and that has replay value - so if we don't recover server costs, we don't have a business. We will need to keep paying for the servers they use, without collecting anything - not a way to sustain a business. This was our thought process, at least - as you know the game is not selling yet.


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