It seems that what I wrote in the last news post gave the wrong impression to some people, so I want to clear up some misconceptions about the 'membership' thing.
Please, please note that nothing is set in stone yet and none of this will actually be implemented for months, maybe a year, if I even do it at all. At this point it's still very much a raw idea that I need to refine the details of to come up with something that will properly work well for everyone.
Firstly, I misused the word 'membership'; I should really have specified that it'd be a PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP.
That is, it'd cost nothing to make an account, just like things are now. You'd be able to comment, post on the forums, and do everything that can already be done here.
You'd be able to play demo versions of the paid games. These would be fairly lengthy demos; sort of like the length of the Beast Signer Alpha. They may or may not be updated with content as I go along, just like the full versions; it's just that the full versions would of course get more and better content.
Premium Members would probably have a fancy sign next to their names, like a P or something? I know that people would like something like that (if not necessarily that exact letter).
Membership would be paid for in months, but you could buy up to a year's worth of months in one go, getting a discount in the process. Maybe each month could be, say, $5 (I'd have to work on the prices; I don't know what people would be willing to pay, but I'll get to the details later). You'd be able to buy three months at once, though, for maybe $12. Six months at once might cost $20, and buying a whole year at once might be only $30. Something like that.
The point is that you'd be able to decide how long you activated your premium account for, and on your userpage it'd say 'is a member until [expiry date]' or something.
deviantART does this, and it seems to work well enough.
Any payments would be final, I'm afraid; no discounts.
The games that I'd make would be exclusive to this site, and they'd be released in parts; not even necessarily episodically, but just gradually; as I make something, I'd add it to the game. Due to this aspect of them, you'd not be able to download the games, largely for technical reasons; the main Flash swf file would just load all kinds of external resources that I'd add to, rather than me having to update the main game file itself all the time.
As well as the premium, ever-updating games, I would try to make occasional free games which would be self-contained with a start and end; the MARDEK series would probably be included here. I'd release them to portals, perhaps 'self-sponsored' (largely because I don't know if sponsors would pay me, if I'd seem like a competitor), as a way of advertising.
I'd also use Google AdSense to make adverts like the banners you see at the side there (or SHOULD see at the side there unless you're an *ungrateful parasite*!11). The only reason I don't already do this is because I don't really have anything here to actually advertise.
This would cost money, but hopefully it'd be worth it.
I would put effort into promoting what I had, though.
I may even have account benefits for referral linking, though I'm not sure what.
I have been spending the last few months, since MARDEK 3's release, changing my approach to game development to hasten the process. I've switched over to AS3, and in doing so, much of my code is becoming reusable like it never was before. I've been putting a big focus on making sure the code's neat and tidy and efficient.
At the moment, I'm working on making engines that I can use for future projects so then I wouldn't have to keep rewriting things from scratch; this would dramatically reduce development time. So being able to release updates fairly frequently doesn't seem too unrealistic, really... It's all the 'code stuff' that takes the longest, and once that's done, adding resources, bits at a time, would significantly increase gameplay with minimal effort... I could make a dungeon in a day, for example.
I want to try to explain some details of some of the specific games I'll release, to give an idea of what you'd get for paying...
This game will be perhaps one of the easiest to maintain and I can foresee it being one of the most popular, too.
It'd be driven by user-made content, so I might not actually need to update it much myself at all.
The game would essentially be an engine and an Adventure Builder; sort of like a glorified map editor, which I'd try to make sure was rather easy to use so that even a child could make their own RPG story things.
Once I've coded the engine, adding resources like monsters, tilesets, music, and so on, wouldn't be too hard. I'd mainly add those every other week.
The resources you could use would depend on whether or not you were a premium member. Free accounts could maybe choose from a very limited number of tilesets, music tracks and monsters, and maybe their adventures would be limited in size in some way or another. Maybe you'd be limited to using forests, towns, and caves, or something, with only twenty areas, twenty conversation files, something like that... while the premium version would allow you to use loads more tilesets, monsters, music, etc, to make essentially unlimited-sized Adventures, and you might be able to import your own resources too, like monster or tileset graphics.
Any adventures that contained any of these premium resources would be out-of-bounds for free accounts, but I can see there being loads of free-account-made Adventures so you'd always have something to make and play.
I planned details of this a while ago. The demo version would be sort of like what the existing alpha is now... You'd have access to the intro bit where you join the Signer Elite and get into the game world, and you'd maybe be able to go up to the first gym in Normos, or something like that. After that, you'd not be able to do a whole lot else... and your beasts probably couldn't evolve past stage 2.
In the premium version, however - and I should mention that I'll be remaking the game from scratch, so it won't look or work like the existing alpha - whenever you enter a world, you'll see a sort of 'world map' consisting of nodes floating in cyberspace or something; a griddy blue void. Each of these nodes would represent a location like a town or dungeon (it doesn't need to be geographically feasible since you are of course in a virtual computer world), which you could explore.
I'd add these nodes as I went along, and there'd also be a list of Missions with specific objectives which I'd add regularly; these would involve going to some existing location and doing something.
I'd also increase the number of available beasts as I went along. Rather than waiting until all of them were done before releasing the game at all, some forms just wouldn't be able to evolve until I added their evolved forms... It might be a pain if you'd trained something and it doesn't evolve, but it seems preferable to waiting ages for the game to come out at all.
There'd be a linear plot with a beginning and end, which I planned out a while ago, but once this was over, there'd be nothing stopping me from making a new, entirely different plot in the existing game world... So the plot would go on and on, I suppose.
This is still just a very, very vague idea...
I've always been a fan of sci-fi, and while I'm not really an obsessive Trekkie or anything, Star Trek has aspects that I find appealing. When I was little, I used to draw alien worlds and races all the time; things like Lingons, Cyber Orteks, etc. When I started making games, I wanted to use these races again, but sadly I've just been using mediaeval settings bound to one specific world full of boring humans.
So an idea like THIS one appeals to me...
At the end of another game I'd make, which I won't describe at the moment, the protagonist would find himself as the captain of a spaceship that was to set out and explore the galaxy; probably his race had only just discovered space travel and wanted to see what there was out there. That would be the general setting.
You'd have a crew of characters, each with their own personalities and stuff, and you'd travel to different worlds and encounter alien races and learn about their cultures, helping them with their predicaments. Some might join your crew.
Basically it'd be a way of showing off aspects of my universe and exploring things that have been restricted to the Encyclopaedias thus far.
It'd be an RPG, like MARDEK or Alora Fane or FHO or Beast Signer, built on the same engine. You'd have stats and equipment and you'd romp through dungeons and stuff.
It'd be released in stand-alone 'episodes', each with its own locations and plot. Each would probably be a single planet to explore, a single story to see to the end; short stories, of course, rather than anything with an epic sort of scale... though there'd probably be some overarching plot.
It'd follow the Star Trek episodes formula in a way, in that each episode would involve a different crew of the regulars beaming down (or whatever) so that their individual personalities would be explored in some way.
I suppose you could consider it a sort of interactive television programme in the form of a pixelated RPG. Uh.
It seems like it'd be fairly easy to do, so it's something I'd like to try out with adequate planning.
Maybe the first episode would be free, but others would be premium only. Or a few might be free; like one in four or something, so you'd get a fragmented view of what's going on unless you choose to pay.
(*Just to be clear*, it would in no way be directly based on the Star Trek universe... I don't know if anyone would assume that, but I just want to make sure nobody does.)
I might do this just to spice things up a bit; to vary from just making RPGs.
I planned the 'Raider Adventures' thing, where you fly around space and explore levels after landing on them in your ship, so maybe I could just do that, but rather than releasing all the levels at once, I'd add them to the map over time, opening new paths with new updates and stuff.
After the main, five-zone plot was over and done with, I'd either start a new story or retire the game (it'd stay up, but would no longer receive updates), based on peoples' responses to it.
Levels are easy to make once the engine works, which is why this seems an appealing idea for me, to get content out fairly quickly.
Maybe the free version would only have the first level, while the premium one would have all the levels. Consider it a bonus that comes along with paying for the more appealing RPGs.
All of these ideas seem very feasible to me largely because they're released in small chunks and all of them share significant parts of their code. The updates would be small but frequent, and due to their ever-changing nature, it might even thwart piracy (since there wouldn't be just one object to steal).
The difficulty with all my other games so far has been the fact that I had to finish them completely before I could make them available, which really takes its toll on me. Being able to make and release something in a day or a week would be *hugely* motivating! I've always envied webcomic authors for this...
I'd probably work on whichever project I felt most eager to work on; having four or so to work on would mean I'd not have to endure the tedium of just working on one constantly. So it does seem exciting to think about...
All my other games on the Games page, like MARDEK, BE-a-St, Alora Fane and so on would have lower priority, but I'd try to make them and release them for free. They'd probably take a long time to finish though since I'd work on them 'in my free time'.
So yes, hopefully this lengthy post clears up some confusion about my plans, and gives you a better idea of exactly what I'd charge for. Hopefully it won't seem too hard to part with your pennies if you'd get that sort of thing in return.