Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Road to Crowd Funding

Needless to say I think we can all agree I'm a terrible blogger haha. It takes a lot of time to produce a quality blog article and I've been spending that time on coding instead of, well, blogging. That being said we've promised to become more active as we approach our crowd funding release date, which I confess we haven't announced yet, and to that end I would like to provide some information about what we're doing that's taking so long.

We've blogged a lot about our technology in the past. Things like HDR and atmospheric scattering and that's because our planetary tech is shiny and we <3 it and it's a big part of what makes us unique. It's the vehicle through which we will build the kind of games we want to build, bringing unique gameplay to you, the consumer. However there's something we really haven't talked about much yet that's just as important - our web/server/backend infrastructure.

The Vision

Believe it or not we are actually guided by a cohesive vision of the games we want to build, the type of company we want to create, and how we're going to interact with our consumers. A core pillar of this vision is a community first approach to everything we do. In the beginning this took the form of allowing the community to help build Infinity by contributing assets to the game. Unfortunately we realized some time later that there were two major problems with our contributions system. The first, and most important, is the complicated issue of intellectual property (IP) rights. We had no way of verifying who had made what and whether it was violating anyone's IP rights or anything like that. Everybody loses if we get sued into oblivion - except the lawyers of course. The second issue is that there really wasn't a good way for a contributor to submit their assets for a formal review for inclusion into the game. Later on in this article I'll address our solutions to these problems but first I want to talk about our plans for the cloud.

Joining the Cloud Kool Aid Party

If you look at what has made Apple so successful in consumer electronics it's the ability to create a seamless, easily accessible experience with their hardware and software. We would like to do that with our games by creating a cohesive, seamlessly integrated I-Novae ecosystem. Everyone who participates in this ecosystem will have an I-Novae ID that can be used across all I-Novae powered games and services. This is important in the near-term because we will need to keep track of everybody's donations during our crowd funding campaign so we can give them their awards upon successful completion of the campaign. We are considering making some of our reward tiers access to beta, alpha, and pre-alpha builds of the game. In order to properly support reward tiers like this we need to have the ability to provide/restrict access to builds of the game to the right people as well as collect their feedback, bug reports, etc. All of this will run through our I-Novae cloud platform and a users I-Novae ID.

Another benefit of the I-Novae ID will be our ability to provide a single sign-on experience. Many of you, if not most, are already using something like Google/GMail/g+, Twitter, Windows Live, or Facebook and instead of having to create yet-another-username/password you will be able to log into both our games and our services using credentials from one of those providers. Optionally you can still use a username/password if you prefer it.

In the long run we would like to support taking screen shots and video from directly within I-Novae Engine powered games and uploading them to your I-Novae profile in the cloud. We want to make it easy for you to share your favorite gaming moments with your friends through your preferred social media platforms. Lastly our I-Novae cloud will also support the usual cloud stuff like maintaining friends lists, digital distribution of I-Novae Engine powered games, and virtual market places.

Virtual Market, wait, WHAT!?

Infinity: Battlescape itself will not be released with assets from the community however, assuming we raise enough money (stretch goals!), the game will have a virtual marketplace where people can create and sell/share their own assets. These assets will be restricted to things that do not affect gameplay. For example you will not be able to create new weapons or ships but you will be able to create new skins - unless of course you create a mod. Mods will also be available through our virtual marketplace and will allow changing most of the game. Contributors will be able to submit their assets and mods to the marketplace for a nominal fee. This fee will serve two purposes. The first is to help cover our administrative overhead for verifying that the contribution does not violate anyone else's IP (solution to problem #1 above) and the second is to make sure the asset meets our minimum quality requirements and if they don't we will provide appropriate feedback (solution to problem #2 above). Lastly we don't want our virtual marketplace to fill up with tons of junk, a huge problem faced by all virtual marketplaces with a prime example being the Android app store, and having a nominal fee for submission is a huge step toward preventing that. Once a submission has been accepted the contributor will be able to set the price of the asset/mod themselves. Our community has a tremendous amount of energy and creativity, we have some really cool tech, and we would like to be able to harness that in a way that benefits everyone. We believe a virtual marketplace would go a long way toward achieving that goal.

In Closing

Laying the groundwork for this cloud infrastructure is also coinciding with rebuilding our website. Our current forums will likely be archived and replaced with a more modern solution that we can integrate with our I-Novae ID system. Since we don't really want to reinvent the wheel with forums software if anyone knows of something that's easy to integrate with a custom authentication/roles system, ideally built in ASP.NET, then please let us know. Redoing the website will be a lot of work but we believe it's necessary and in the long run it'll be worth it =).