Should Hosted Games be vetted more thoroughly?

This is a non-sequitur; a non-issue even. The majority of all HG have this wonderful thing called a Demo, try it before you buy it. So you can have your free sample (taste) if it is not to your taste, have some sorbet to cleanse your palette and move to the next game and see if that author’s writing style conforms to your particular tastes.

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I get your point. With demos, if people don’t like what they see, they dont buy right? So to avoid others from making the mistake of buying it, or even read the demo in the first place, they give a bad review on the Play Store. Therefore, it pulls down the rating of the game.

But some people are really simpleminded. Like, one bad product, all bad products. One bad demo, all bad demos. One bad experience, future bad experiences. Don’t touch that company, ever. I know some people like that, which is why I’m a bit…like this.

My issue is not with buying the bad products, it’s the quality of the products that the company churns, demo or no demo. But I guess things like this slip past QC every now and then.

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Condemning all HG games due to errors in a single game is definitely a branding issue but one not easily fixed. I have seen reviews listed for other games in which they bash me for writing them. As HG grows, people will learn there are many authors, not one team.

Amazon lets authors self-publish with very little editorial restriction. A friend published a book of essays there in literally a weekend from reading their guidelines to it being for sale. In this way Amazon and HG are similarly a vehicle to become published. Amazon has the advantage of consumers understanding Amazon is not editing these books.

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So to avoid bad reviews we avoid published people all togethe. If that were so we would end with a not innovative list of games about same concept over and over.

You could see on App store cloning games or stories that doesn’t difference between each other. I see same Otome story being published in English with same story and just little minor pictures changing. Some people gives the rating score wrongful mistaken the company.

Ratings aren’t everything. It should not be. What makes Hosted special is freedom. Change that and asking for a polished stainless edition. Is cut many potential dreams and potential stories to growing and develop.

If you asking upfront. You need a edition level and proof read together beta testing and certification of past several testing measures… No single not totally sure of his English language skills would even consider to trying out and write something.

I wouldn’t be here if that rules applied back then. I would have said… Nah, Mara you are still learning English language. This is just for people with English mayor and natives. I were looking other forums first but they let clear that no interest in fans writing only in their products. So I ended here 6 years ago. So for me is very important could say a friend It doesn’t matter you sucking now in English. With time and people help someday you would reach a level enough to fill confident to submit your game to them.

I am not that level yet but just now someday I could reach it Gives me strength to continue. Not all is business, literature is a passion a piece of art. Something you give of your own soul to others. Well that’s my opinion

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Not that separate. I mean, I recognize that not everyone writes like me (good luck running hounds.txt or bandits.txt through the grammar checker) but even people who are less fond of mid-paragraph and mid-sentence variation have enough code in there that using automatic spellcheckers would be a massive chore.

Take Gavin Inglis, who uses a much more straightforward paragraph-then-code framework than I do. Even with one of his simpler scenes, pulling out the paras and sentences for a spellcheck could add hours of work.

Well, those aren’t always the ones that are the problem. :slight_smile: If you’re only spellchecking a selection, then sure, it doesn’t have to be a massive chore – but selective spellchecking won’t fix the games where it’s a significant problem.

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One of the key things that we do not want to be accused of–or mistaken for–is being a “vanity press.”

A vanity press is a pejorative term for a small press that offers a suite of services for amateur and semi-pro authors that result in the author never seeing revenue for their work or even finding themselves in debt to the publisher for “services rendered.”

For example, “sure, we’ll publish your 100,000 word fantasy epic! And even give you a $500 advance against 25% royalties! But you’re going to want to get that copyedited, right? Well, we can copyedit it for you, and it’ll only cost X/word. And we have to have cover art too. And don’t forget the typesetting!” And then the novel is published and generates $5-20k in the first three years in print, and the publisher keeps all of it to recoup their “costs” (copyediting, marketing, art, etc etc), and the author never sees any more money. Now, sure, if you really are hugely successful, a vanity press might help you turn a profit. Their work might even actually look good, but (broadly) the authors are the source of the revenue, rather than the consumers.

Thus, from the beginning, we did everything to avoid being labeled or confused with a vanity press; from the first dollar earned, the author earns a percentage. This meant–before Hosted Games even existed–that authors were responsible for their own copyediting and artwork. There also wasn’t any editorial oversight.

This also meant that it was very hard to get people to write for us. I wrote Vampire because I was out of a job. I thought it would be something to do that might make a little money while I looked for a new one. Would I have taken a shot on an unknown IF press if I hadn’t known Dan since 8th grade? Not a chance.

After we published Romance and Vampire in August of 2010, we started to get a few more submissions. I remember wrestling with two games in particular (one that fall, and one the next spring) where I spent multiple days line-editing the game (doing the sorts of things that @tw1stedmind is asking for), only to be told “no thank you” by the authors. Like, hours and hours of work just rejected out-of-hand. That was a real gut-punch, and made me question the idea of editing these games at all.

Now, by this time, Vampire and Romance had started to make some real money. We’d been kicked off AdSense by Google, and that meant that we were doing pay-to-play on iOS and GPS, and that was producing lots more revenue than the beer-money that Dragon had been earning through ads. What’s more, that December, we released Dragon and Broadsides on e-Ink Kindle. With one FB post and tweet by Amazon, we made more in one month on one platform (January 2011) than the entire history of the company to date.

Sure, around this time we started twisting arms of friends to make games. But the promises of money are very different from money-in-hand, and while we did get some interesting games from this particular transition moment (XOR by @Havenstone being one, Star Captain, Reckless, Ninja and To the City of the Clouds being the others), it was hard getting people to sit down and write an interactive novel “on faith.”

It was at this time that our 1% partner, Julian Yap from Serial Box, said, “you need to pay advances. You need to pay for art and copyediting. That’s how you’ll get professional writers to write for you.” It was like that moment in “The Social Network” where Justin Timberlake (Sean Parker) says, “Oh, and drop ‘the.’ Just call it Facebook.” We looked around and said, “oh, he’s right.”

So we individually loaned the company money as capital and publicized the advances. (This is how we found Zachary Sergi, Jonathan Valuckas, and Paul Gresty, for example.) But if we were going to give advances, we needed to have editorial control. Authors could no longer reject our notes if we were going to be giving them money up front.

And so we came up with the spin-off of Hosted Games. (In fact, we considered making it into a non-profit at some point, which is why the domain is still hostedgames.org.) The point was, we were going to professionalize Choice of Games: pay real money as advances; pay for art, copyedit, and testing; and exercise editorial control. For Hosted Games, we maintained the spirit of where we started: keeping the bar for entry low so that new voices can have the opportunity to be published. But keeping the bar for entry low necessitates keeping the costs low, and that means off-loading a lot of the marginal costs to the author: art, copyedit, and testing.

That said, we have to balance the competing interests of Hosted Games: making sure it’s not a vanity press, keeping the bar for entry low, and not losing money. It costs us about $1000 to publish an HG just in salary-hours spent between Dan, Rachel, and myself. There are a number of games that we’ve published via HG which–in their multi-year lifetime–have still not grossed more than $1000. We literally lose money on those games–and continue to do so every month, as we have to spend resources on customer service when things go wrong as well as the time involved in calculating and paying royalties–but we still pay the full royalty amounts.

We’re not going to offer to copyedit games that are submitted to HG; in particular, we can’t say, “send us your game and maybe we’ll pay for it to be copyedited.” More importantly, though, why would we spend money when we’re just as likely to lose money on a project as not? Does that mean we should try and evaluate games, and decide whether to copyedit-publish or reject? Maybe? But that clearly raises the bar and also introduces the possibility of error. For example, @tw1stedmind called out Zombien as an example of a poorly written game. However, Zombien, in terms of life-time revenue, is 18 out of the 74 currently published Hosted Games. Should we have rejected it? Would we have guessed that it was going to make as much money as it has? I wouldn’t have.

Or take Magikiras. The game is almost a million words and a copyeditor would have charged at least $10,000 to copyedit it. That’s a huge gamble on a game that we weren’t involved in the design and creation of. We don’t know the author. He has no prior publications. He’s not a native English speaker. He certainly didn’t read our various guides on what we think makes a good CSG. How would/should we have handled that? If you would have asked me then–or now–if I was willing to gamble $10,000 on it, I would have said you were crazy. (It’s #19 out of 74, and has grossed about 80% of what Zombien has made.)

This is all a long way of saying, I recognize your concerns, but I don’t see a good way of addressing it from our end of things while not going bankrupt and still maintaining our commitment to democratization. The only thing I can say is to recommend that the community be diligent about beta testing games that have been submitted for publication. That said, I hope this post has given you some insight as to why things are the way that they are.

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Spell check only works if your structure is native. If you have a structure that is not grammatical incorrect, just different from what standard English language doing nowadays Spell check would lead you or to even worse phrases or just plain wrong words. I have know it for experience. I have learned hard way That English readers has a mental image of how English should be write today and anything else is bad English. In Spanish metaphors and other literature mechanisms could easily change normal paraphrasing and is seeing as a literature mechanism well executed or not but understandable.

Natives doesn’t understand the struggle is looking dictionaries and grammar books that contradict each other about many things. From meanings to the correct way of paragraph breaks in based on the narrative view. You barely switch verbal times and points of views. Nowadays metaphors are almost certainly out of your language.

Is not easy at all. Then you receive insults just for trying like You are not native go fuck of and write in your shit language you are a cancer for English language. How you dare to write something so bad grammatically.

That’s the reason I can’t even try to post a public link again I got a tremendous depression from it. It is easy criticism bad grammar of people. And shit on them but is hard trying.

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Absolutely. I once received a CV in Afghanistan that had clearly been spell-checked – because the candidate said he was keen to work in a “mullet-cultural environment,” mentioned his past experience with the “United Nations demeaning agency” (he meant de-mining, landmine removal), and described his marital status as “mired.”

Misspellings can be less distracting (if also less funny) than the wrong words suggested by a spellchecker.

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Just a question brought up by things you said in your post:

With regards to non-money making titles: Would it be possible to bundle a couple together to market a “value purchase” that could increase the income?

Something like the Steam bundles and something you could promote in-house and via social media channels?

I’m just wondering if a re-branding for some of those older titles might help generate new interest.

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Our data on the Steam bundles indicates that the bundles are roughly revenue neutral. We think they help expose players to other games they might not have otherwise purchased, but we also have to offer the bundles at a discount. If a 25% discount bundle nets us 33% more purchases, that means we didn’t lose money on the bundle, but we didn’t make any extra money either.

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From https://www.choiceofgames.com/looking-for-writers/write-a-hosted-game/

Games must be at least 30,000 words long; the word count includes code.

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@tw1stedmind i agree with you ,but actually there is bad games in cog too, i think the problem is that there is no many writers that actually get to finish their wips, i bet there is atleast 5 wips better than many games already released both cog/hg that are already dead or put in a loooong hold, also you have to know that if they make more restrictions they wont get that many games realeases and then get less money… :smirk:

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Time is certainly a big factor here. Most people are working a job (sometimes two), and if they have a family or other stuff going on, then working on writing takes a backseat.

There is another thing to bear in mind when speaking of quality. First is that few people are good writers right out of the gate. Like any other skill, practice certainly makes perfect, whether you get it from doing fanfic, working on mods, or just scribbling every day (I do all three to some extent, as well as freelance writing for pen and paper rpgs, and some computer games).

The other thing to bear in mind is that a person also has to be able to code. I’m not saying learning ChoiceScript is a gargantuan undertaking, but just finding someone willing to write AND do their own coding makes for a rather specialized skillset, one very few writers want to bother doing.

And on top of this, you then have to include the “Choose Your Own Adventure” aspect choices as well which makes more people reluctant to try.

Not to mention money has been touched on in various issues (such as the cost of an editor). I would be willing to bet even of the good number of the CoGs that do well, most of the writers still have to work a dayjob…which once again can cut into quality as you try to find time for it. This also adds to the fact that for many people if the financial reward ends up being miniscule, they will put their efforts elsewhere.

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I love Choice of Games so much. I love your mission statements and your goals. I love that you give untried, untested and unpublished authors a chance. I love that the entry bar is so low to publishing Hosted Games, but that it is definitely proper publishing and not vanity publishing.

I love that there is a focus on earning money, the possibility of making a real career out of this, of showing people that there is real value in what they write. You can make a living doing what you love. (Or at least some beer money.)

Thank you so much supporting Hosted Games, for providing this chance and opportunities. Thank you for giving us this forum too. And also for being so open about all of the processes.

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Yeah, I know. The thing is, that should stay as it is now. If I am a writer, I would say it is my job to make sure everything works, there are no grammar errors and the story flows. The more energy I put into that, the better. BUT, I dont think we need a filter or a check before publishing. That is part of the job the author has, not HG or CoG. He or she should take some pride in his own job and have it carefully checked, by himself and in the betas.

I usually choose if I like a book and its style from the description and the screenshots in google play. So far, it just failed me with one single book.

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First of all, great thread, and really interesting opinions and thoughts by everybody on it. I’ve been turning many of the issues in it in my head for a while, and seeing the arguements and counter-arguements on all sides is great.

Writing is obviously difficult, and at the amateur level no matter how long you spend on it and how many friends etc read it, there’ll still be mistakes (I keep getting comments like that for TW, and every time I re-read a paragraph I cringe, and cannot believe I wrote such a poor sentence and didn’t notice it earlier). HG allowing us to still get published is great, and I think it’s part of the beauty of the label.

Having said that, maybe there is a need to slightly (emphasis on this word, please!) raise the bar. Maybe this minimum of 30,000 words could be increased to 60,000-80,000, or a minimum wordcount per read could be introduced (though anyway it seems most of the games released nowadays fit into what I’m describing, so maybe there is already an unofficial understanding in this respect?)

Also, maybe we could have HG checked by 2-3 established authors before release? (This could be compulsory or optional, I see benefits and problems with either system…) For example, after a game is checked by CoG it would also go to 2-3 authors, who would provide further feedback, grammar check, typos etc. I’d be very happy to provide feedback to other authors IF I knew that they’ll do the same for me later (whereas I’m more reticent to provide feedback to WIPs of people I don’t know, as I’m not sure that my comments will be listened to, or that they will reciprocate in the future). However I can see that this system relies on time and goodwill (and that not everybody takes criticism well…)

So, I guess I find myself coming back in full circle, and why CoGs have ended up at the current system (Jason’s post is very enlightening). Mmmmm…

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I would argue that increasing the word count would not do much to help improve quality. If anything, it just lengthens the lower quality games, opening up the opportunity for beta testers to overlook more mistakes.

Edit: Could someone tell me why a cake is next to my name?

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True, that danger exists… though short games often get slammed by reviews… it’s a difficult one!

Cake… i think it’s your anniversary of joining forums? (Happy anniversary!!)

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I try not to be too hard on some of the HGs I read. Even so, I was kind of surprised at the issues I found when I read some of them. I agree with the OP, however. There were several where I found the quality control well below what I would have expected, and certainly ever wanted to pay for.

When I wrote Paradigm (in the HG queue as we speak), I was lucky enough to be able to devote six months of full-time 9-5 work to it. Spend one day writing, and spend a full day editing what I wrote the next. I was lucky to also be able to talk with published authors and writers whose work I truly respected and admired. I was also lucky enough to have an editor friend who offered to check 100,000+ words for spelling and grammar and continuity and general quality for free. I was lucky enough to have half a dozen friends who tested the game pretty thoroughly as I worked on chapter-by-chapter before I even put it up on these boards, friends who were happy enough to write me pages of feedback. I’m lucky enough to enjoy deep reading and literature analysis. And I also have two degrees and a background in teaching, which simply means I am far more comfortable with the English language than a lot of people. Even then, I’m willing to bet there are things that everyone missed, because Paradigm is my first big attempt at writing, and my first at programming, and I’m willing to bet there will be people who angrily point out that I know nothing about the English language.

And, with at least one of those criticisms, they’d be right! Even with my background, I was informed of a grammar thing by my editor friend that I simply didn’t know existed. Did you know there’s a difference between a dash and a hyphen? I didn’t!

But it’s something I can fix for whatever I do next.

But the thing about the HGs is that they’re a platform that allows everyone a possibility of making some money from their writing and, potentially, using it to get a bit of awareness. Some people have a lot of resources to draw upon, and others don’t. Some of those people in the have-not category might still be fantastic writers with great ideas, and it’d be a shame if their work wasn’t shared with the world. There are some I’ve paid for simply because I think the author shows great promise, even if the work has some issues here and there.

But there do exist HGs where I was pretty surprised to see the errors that had slipped through, that had indicated that even a basic spellcheck hadn’t been used. There is a spellcheck plugin for notepad++, which I personally use.

It’s a complex issue, and I think there’ll always be a tension between the expectation of quality and the ease of access.

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It is true that short games get slammed by reviews, but I think even 60,000 words will feel too small to many these days.

Also thanks for letting me know about the cake!

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