Discussion: So, how should we pay for the site?

Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
September 13th, 2011 6:58 pm

*** Update! *** See below… (or click here)

Hi everybody!

Now that the smoke has cleared and the results have gone live (as well as me finally being moved in to my new apartment), I’d like to start a discussion about that nagging issue of site costs. Phil and I have some ideas, but it’s you guys that keep us going, so I want to hear what you think.

In case you missed it, during Ludum Dare 21 Phil and I migrated the Ludum Dare server from a $10/mo shared host to a $60/mo VPS… and when that wasn’t enough, to a $200/mo VPS. So as of August, our burn rate went from an easy $150/yr (12 months hosting + domains) all the way to about $2500/yr. That’s not really pocket change anymore.

The root of the problem is that Ludum Dare isn’t a normal website or blog. Most of our content is dynamically generated, in real time, over one high volume weekend every 4 months. I was sent (and very much appreciate the) numerous offers to host us during the the event, but what most people don’t realize is that we’re not a bandwidth hog, but a CPU hog. All that dynamically generated content was A MONSTER on CPU usage, and that’s what raised the warning flags on the shared host.

Since the migration, Phil has done MANY MANY optimizations to the site. The reason you don’t currently see a sidebar is that some of the DUMBEST things are wasting SQL queries EVERY SINGLE TIME they show up. One of us has to sit down, take the good bits of the side bar, and merge it in to one single chunk of HTML, JavaScript or cache file. We’ll get to this eventually.

As it stands now, we should be able to take a good sized burst of incoming traffic (Hi Markus). That’s not really an invitation (yet), but whatever happens happens. :)

So we have a website… it just costs a lot of money.

There are probably some things we can do help scale the cost of the site during low traffic times. Amazon has been suggested multiple times, but I have no clue how one runs a wordpress blog on Amazon, nor how to calculate what our costs would be. Again, CPU hog. Cloudflare has also been mentioned a few times, but I have to admit, as a small business owner, I kinda want to save my free instance for me. πŸ˜€

So, how can we cover our costs?

Option 1. Take Donations

We actually used to do this, but stopped once people started abusing our generosity. ludumdare.com has a pretty decent site-rank, so we used to offer a link to anyone that sent us money. But the shadiness of some of the sites we were asked to link to convinced me to stop doing this. To be fair to everyone that did contribute, I decided to simply leave the links as-is for the past year.

So, we could open up the Paypal box again. Phil has been looking at some plugins that will sort-of automate the “hey we need money” side of things, but nothing is settled.

Compared to options that follow, this is easy.

Option 2. Regular Kickstarter Campaigns

I really don’t like this option, but would expect it to work. I don’t know Kickstarter’s fee, but I do suspect a direct Paypal deposit is lower. Personally, I’m kinda bothered by the whole “PBS yearly donation drive” mentality. “Give us money and we’ll continue showing educational television. Give us $100 and you get a T-Shirt”. At least, I don’t think that suits us.

Also it’s far more work, as a typical kickstarter offers incentives, and all of us on the staff are busy trying to run our respected gamedev businesses. Ludum Dare works best for us when we have very little to do. :)

Option 3. Adsense/Advertising

While it’s true banners and ad networks are an option, I don’t think we do enough volume for it to be helpful. Yes, we do lots and lots of traffic in one weekend, but I think for the most part it’s the same 1000-2000 people checking the site over and over again, where those banner avenues are all about uniques.

What we have instead is an EXTREMELY specific audience; Game Developers. People from the industry, students, and indies. Pretty much every facet of game development, we’ve got. So with that in mind, we’d probably be a really good place to advertise middleware, platforms/app stores, and perhaps even companies looking to hire.

I do think, honestly, we are not a good place to advertise a game. But hey, if somebody does really well and wants to give back, then who are we to argue. :)

Option 4. Take Sponsors

A variation of option 3. Per main event (April, August, December), take on 1 single sponsor that is the sponsor of that event. Whatever we charge sponsors should be enough to cover our costs for the next 4 months (maybe 6 to buffer), even though they’re paying mainly for the time around that weekend.

Unfortunately, this adds a more complexity and work to running LD, as it means I need to approach potential sponsors every 4 months to cover our costs. This might not be all that difficult; I have had some interested parties come to me directly already, and simply putting up a sponsorship invitation might be enough to get more. But I don’t know yet.

Option 5. Hosting Sponsor

All that considered, if someone or some company wants to outright eat our hosting costs for us, then that means we just have to run a site. Simple. We’re game developers here, and our time should really be spent doing that.

I used to say the Ludum Dare website ran on autopilot, and it mostly does, but Phil and I do put a lot of time in to it (like me, right now, writing this post). We learn lots running the site and the community, but I have to admit it might be nice to let someone else do all the server work for us. πŸ˜‰

Donations vs. Sponsors

That’s pretty much what the above options are. Either we the community pay for it, or some 3rd party does.

In a sense, that’s kind-of where Phil and my opinions deviate.

Phil is out of town at the moment, so I apologize for speaking on his behalf, but I think his opinion is we the community should pay for it. I think this is great, but personally, I am a little scared of donations having to cover $2400 per year. We could probably do this fine for a couple years, but I am really worried about this long term. If we could predictably be directly responsible for some Notch-like success stories then sure, but hahaha, you can’t predict that kind of thing. πŸ˜€

When the costs were $10/mo, that was easy; We could totally pay that (as we have) or ask a few people throw some $20 bills our way. Done. But we don’t really have that luxury anymore.

So alternatively, I’ve been leaning towards the outside sponsorship option. Give some limelight “Ludum Dare XX, Sponsored by YY”. I do know we have something potentially very interesting to sponsors in our niche (gamedev). And companies certainly pay more money for far-worse advertising opportunities.

But at the same time, I’m like “HOLY CRAP! That’s WAAAY more work for me!”. It’s not like I get paid to do this. πŸ˜‰

Prizes and Incentives

I still get approached about this every so often (today even). Somebody wants to offer prizes for the winners.

Personally, I think one of the best things we do for both you the participants and us the organizers is our “no prizes; your prize is your product” mantra.

For you, it sets a good precedent. Win or lose, you are creating for you. Win is obviously better, but the takeaway from a Ludum Dare can be quantified in so many positive ways. All it costs is a weekend, some sleep, and maybe a little bit of sanity. That’s fair though. :)

For us, even though we have somewhat strict rules, we don’t have to enforce them vigorously because no money was lost. In other words we can be a little lazy, but really we are trying to encourage and foster a very positive game development community. Competitive yes, but in the best way possible.

That said, I’m not entirely opposed to prizes and/or things given out to participants, but I fear what our judging process would become if it was directly responsible for rewarding the prizes.

Also if we introduce sponsors, they may want to offer incentives. After all, what better time to crash course learn a piece of middleware than during an LD? I kinda think this could work, but at the same time I would never agree to an event that *only* used a piece of middleware. If you want to give a little something special to those that do, by all means.

Scaling down costs

Of course, probably the best to deal with the increased costs is to lower them in the first place. I briefly covered what has been suggested (Amazon, Cloudflare), but if anyone wants to comment on cost reduction ideas feel free.

We’re on a VPS now, and a little birdie in my ear is saying for that we should be dedicated, but that doesn’t lower the cost really.

So. Ludum Dare. We are complicated

Phew! I think that about covers all the angles, concerns and things we have to deal with. I would love this to be a simple “snap my finger and it’s done” problem, but things aren’t all that simple.

We are committed to making this event happen, since we all think it is incredibly important and valuable to a lot of people, but we don’t have infinite time either. We also think that it should stay and be as free as possible for everyone to participate in (this is the Internet after all).

So that’s what has been going on in my noggin’. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

84 Responses to “Discussion: So, how should we pay for the site?”

  1. thristhart says:

    You didn’t include “sell merchandise”!

    I’d love an LD t-shirt. Perhaps a “I survived Ludum Dare 21!” sort of affair.

  2. Felipe Budinich says:

    Fuck prizes and Incentives, there’s something pure and good going on here, do not mess it up PLEASE. There are other avenues of competition out there, but what we have here? It’s about community!!

    I’ve got an idea: Approach Mochi ads, kongregate, etc, and allow developers to share some of their revenue with the Ludum Dare website, like add an option checkbox to the process. There is a monumental amount of games that start here and then get into Kongregate, Newgrounds, etc.

    Option 1: Do it in addition to other stuff.
    Option 2: I think it’s a seriously bad idea on the long run… it might work if you get boingboing.net or other sort of blog involved, but it would suck to be on the verge of doom every year.
    Option 3: Middleware vendors might be interested. But dunno how many of us run adblock?
    Option 4: Assign yourself a percentage of the sponsorship, that’s how NGOs do it, and it makes sense, if you get someone that is a kickass at fundraising it’s not a bad idea for him/her to get paid for the effort.
    Option 5: If you can manage to do it in addition to other stuff, it would be awesome. Ludum Dare is growing and it shows no signs of getting smaller.

    • Felipe Budinich says:

      By the way, Option 2 may be somewhat of a good idea to implement NOW (just don’t think about it for the long run, but as a one shot thing, it would be awesome), if you manage to raise about 5K it would buy you time to sort this out.

    • melior says:

      No prizes, no entry fee, no adsense. These will either have no effect or a negative one.

      Yes single donations, in addition through Flattr. Repeated Kickstarters would die out, and you run the risk of not receiving anything if your goal isn’t met.

      Sponsors, maybe. I certainly don’t mind, but some do.

      I think exploring other hosting is definitely worth checking out, especially Amazon and Google. Those two were practically made for your use case: huge, brief spikes between drawn out periods of low activity. Google App Engine is unfortunately raising their price, though.

      I’d also like to see what we could come up with in a competition, because you’d have people that would just modify bulletin board software, others who’d customize some CMS, and others who’d start from scratch in some framework like Rails or Django. And probably some chuckleheads who’d write their own web server. Not that you’d get anything useful out of it, mind you, but it could be fun.

  3. johnfn says:

    First: I fully support no prizes, and I hope it always stays that way.

    A simple thing: It seems to me like you only need the Big Fancy VPS for 4 months out of the year (more specifically, 12 days), not twelve months. The other 8 months are pretty much downtime, and you could shift to a less costly server, right?

    That said, I really like LD and would be happy to donate.

    Another thing you didn’t mention but that I would like: merch! I would totally buy a LD t-shirt!

    • wallacoloo says:

      I agree. I think LD is becoming a quarterly event; but that doesn’t mean a killer server is needed year-round. Seeing as how migration to the new server was done in under a day, it seems quite feasible to spend 10 weeks on a low end server, and then switch to a high end one for 4 weeks during the competition, and repeat, so long as you can rent it for just 4 weeks. I would also buy an LD t-shirt. This wouldn’t be a huge source of income, but it adds to the event in other ways too – mainly the community – which is what this event is really all about!

    • bmfs says:

      I agree with johnfn.
      I think the ‘no prize’ policy really helps to make this a good community and inspires others to join us. With prizes some would probably think working for 48h wasn’t worth the effort and get mad by the rating other people give.
      “Your work is your prize” is just plain simple and great.

      About the Server:
      We only need the kickass server during the event and maybe the next 12 months.

      And surely you don’t even need change servers. There are popular VPS solutions that deliver on-the-fly resources scalling.

      Minimizing the costs along with donations should suffice. The pride of donating for this awesome project should be enough.

    • bmfs says:

      On the other hand, probably a dedicated server would be much more CPU performante than a VPS, a actually cheaper…

  4. TheVTM says:

    How about google apps…
    Sponsors make me feel like I’m doing this for someone.
    Maybe the best solution is to begin with donations and them if necessery change the strategy.

  5. laremere says:

    A few possible avenues of attack you didn’t directly mention:

    – Sell an advertising banner or two directly to sponsors which cover a 4 month period which starts a week or two before a jam. Additionally, selling offer and coupon space which is given to all participants. (ie: bonus: participants get two free weeks of unity pro)

    – Sell merchandise. Someone else mentioned that, and I think it would be a good idea. Super bonus – a shirt would be a great advertisement to grow the community, especially if it said something like “Ask me about the Ludum Dare game jam.”

    – Reprogram the site. This has an instinctive “yuck” factor to it, but hear me out. I would guess that wordpress was designed for handling the blogging of a couple people, and the viewership of many people. Especially during jam time, this site has new content almost constantly. A site designed specifically for these needs has the potential to run much better in the long run. Additionally, this is a site for game developer hobbyists and professionals. You have access to a very large amount of programmers who might be interested in helping out with this endeavor. A project on github or something similar would allow for the possibility of collaboration. A new system would definitely need a few test runs, possibly using a miniLD or two. The main downsides of this would be more work (but more chance for the community to get involved,) and the chance that it won’t be ready next time a a full sized jam comes around.

  6. ruben01 says:

    CanΒ΄t you change the vps size during the in between months? I am using linode for example, and you can change the vps size on the fly, and what they charge is prorated by the time you used each size.

    Also if only there was a developer who loves to participate in ludum dare and can cover the cost of the whole year with less than 2% of what he makes in a day :-)

    • PoV says:

      I think, if we weren’t down/slow during most of the last event, we would have used 500GB+ of transfer, putting us in the $60 bracket. But again, CPU was the bottleneck, and I dunno how beefy a “3 green box” VPS from Linode would have been. I suspect not enough.

  7. offwhitefox says:

    Rolling back to an AWS server should definitely save a LOT of cost, especially given that it’s a CPU hog and it is a Burst CPU hog. It does take quite a bit more technical knowledge to set up an AWS but once it’s up and rolling it should benefit you greatly in the long run. It’s probably worth it to bring in a consultant to help set up AWS properly and review your site to optimize it.

    I definitely agree with the idea of a sponsorship — perhaps, given the popularity of the event, even trying to work out a partnership with IGDA or IGF…I can’t speak to their interest in it though. Though if you partnered with private corporations (either game devs, hardware vendors, or even platforms like Tapjoy/TrialPay) you’d probably have a more steady stream of income and more resources available.

    I would totally buy some LD merch if it were up for the offering, and that could even make good prizes. I’d rather not see prizes of any real monetary value but some LD merch packs worth $20-$50 would be really cool prizes! Or even exclusive merch for the top 10 or winners of each category πŸ˜€

  8. illume says:

    I wonder if it could be hosted on the dedicated pygame.org server? Phil, if you’re interested can you give me an email about how much server/s are needed? What are your current server specs?

    It’s possible that a strong and powerful server could be shared.


  9. LegacyCrono says:

    I think Kickstarter wouldn’t work very well for us. A donation button would be much better.

    People are talking about t-shirts, but we actually have a Zazzle store: http://www.zazzle.com/ludumdare
    This should be better promoted, I guess :)

  10. sfernald says:

    Best by far I think is a sponsorship.

    Game tool companies such as Unity and Game Maker would (should, anyway) jump at the chance to have their name associated with this event consider that most all users of the site are potential customers. It is the perfect niche site for them. If there are 500 final entries, there are probably at least 1000 people who enter the contest and probably several thousand more who considered it, lurking around the site. Unity, for example, would only need to sell a couple copies of their software to cover the costs.

    Then it can go on without annoying ads or donations, or god forbid, money drives, which are the worst of all possible things (I can’t change the channel fast enough when one of these pleas comes on tv). It’s not that I don’t like giving, it’s just that I really don’t like beggars in my face or touching my car with a dirty rag, either, for that matter.

  11. billknye says:

    I am absolutely willing to donate to LD in whatever form necessary, if you open up donations I’ll be first in line.

    Also, I work for a company that has a datacenter and runs VPSs, as you have already stated you are thinking of moving to a dedicated server which I think would be a better option. I could host (for free) a rack-mount server in our datacenter, assuming it was on the order of 2U or so. I have a Dell 1950 sitting around that I could even donate as hardware (may need some other small hardware items, more ram, extra HDDs etc). I can build it out and PoV or Phil or whomever can run/manage it.

    You can contact me directly (my username) at gmail.com.

    • billknye says:

      To specify exactly what hardware I can offer, it’s a Dell PowerEdge 1950, redundant power supplies. Dual 3.0 Ghz Xeon dual core cpus, only 1GB of RAM at the moment (hey it was a pull what do you want), another 4gb of ram can be had for less than $100. I can throw 2x 146GB, 15k SAS drives in it if we need speed, or 2x 1TB Sata drives if we need space.

  12. Codexus says:

    How about a premium membership? 20 people on a $10/mo premium membership would be enough cover it.
    You’ll need to make sure there are some advantages to being a premium member but it’s probably easier to get people to agree to $10/mo than a one time donation of for example $50.
    The difficulty here is making the premium membership interesting without giving an unfair advantage to the premium members.

    Some ideas:
    – a special badge on posts
    – more visibility for premium member posts
    – one of the preliminary voting rounds is the ‘premium round’ and only premium members can vote in it
    – during game voting, a list of all premium member games

    Maybe ludumdare could also evolve and offer content like videos and articles focused on techniques you can use in a 48h game jam?

    • bebopbraunbaer says:

      +1 for premium

    • digital_sorceress says:

      I’d be against this idea.

      Premium members having high visibility and voting privileges sounds a little narcissistic.

    • LegacyCrono says:

      I’m against that. I think if people want to support LD they can just donate when they want to. Paying a monthly fee for advantages sounds wrong.

    • Devenger says:

      I would have never got involved in Ludum Dare if I hadn’t felt like it was as close to a fair, open game-making competition as could exist. I suspect the past me would have been quickly put off by sighting any premium features.

      This isn’t to say I’m opposed to donating, though – one of the things I did whilst recovering from the LD#21 weekend was search for a way of giving some monetary support towards Ludum Dare, and if an avenue for donation came up, I wouldn’t need the incentive of recognition to give some cash – I just love when I can take part in this whole game-making-game, so have an interest in its continued survival.

      • rom016 says:

        I agree with Devenger. I would not have participated if there was any sort of premium content. The points that make LD attractive to me are:-
        1) Anyone of any level can enter.
        2) Its free
        3) There is no premium content.
        4) The games remain your property.

  13. KungPhoo says:

    I’d be really interested to have an add on your site, because it’s an awesome target audience for my product “GLBasic”.

    Another option would be to require a small fee ($1.99) to participate on a LD. It might drop the number of entries from 599 to 499, but I don’t think 2 bucks is a lot, is it?

    • digital_sorceress says:

      I feel that an entry fee would be against the spirit of LD, no matter how much (or how little) is asked as payment.

    • ExciteMike says:

      Even if it is a fee of $0, requiring the extra step of entering credit card info is a barrier I wouldn’t want LD to have. Right now, any high-school kid who is just starting to learn programming can fire up Game Maker and join us in this kick ass event. The fact that LD is super duper inclusive is awesome. Let’s not lose that if we can help it.

  14. localcoder says:

    WordPress can definitely be used with Amazon EC2. There are tutorials around. This might save a lot of money!

    Another good pay-as-you-go service is NearlyFreeSpeech – It’s more like a normal web host, so setting up WordPress would be easier – but I suspect it is much more expensive than Amazon. (I haven’t compared the prices)

    Google App Engine would be awesome but will never run WordPress.

    • digital_sorceress says:

      Do we need to stay with WordPress?

      With 600 users, WordPress becomes difficult to navigate.
      – It’s difficult to find old posts.
      – Popular discussions drop off the front page too easily,
      – We can’t use bbcode.
      – We can’t edit our comments to add/correct things.
      – it’s hard to see which posts have new comments.

      I find forum software like VBulletin to provide a more comfortable, easier to navigate environment for larger communities, even if it does attract more spam.

      You can install VB extensions for news feeds, twitter and linking with all the other social networking stuff, if those are important for publicity. :)

  15. jonbro says:

    I think that the right way to go would be a bit of a combo of the options.

    I would happily throw down a donation without the expectation of anything in return. I don’t need a link. I bet other people would happily do that too if there was a little bar showing how much money needed to be raised to keep the site up for the next quarter. I could even see myself subscribing at $10 a quarter, without needing anything in return.

    I also can’t imagine that it would be that hard to get sponsors for this site. LD is a force with devs that bang things out, and I bet our eyeballs are worth something. I can understand the hesitation to do the whole sales thing though.

    I also third the thing about banging on the site. Perhaps the comments could be moved to diquss, or the blog moved to a hosted option (wordpress.com?), and only the compo part of the site actually running on the server that LD owns? I suspect that may make a little difference, but I am not 100% sure. I bet there are some other issues remaining with wordpress that just arn’t meant for this level of site. Also, who knows if we can find a good hosting solution.

    I don’t like prizes, and I don’t like entry fees. Leave that for other compos.

    • jonbro says:

      I also wonder if with the traffic that notch was producing if it is even possible to handle any dynamism at all. I don’t know if it is… check out the main minecraft site, it is pure html.

      Maybe we could revisit caching and have a script that pings the dynamic server and wgets the new files every 5 minutes? Wasn’t the issue that the site was rebuilding the cache on every new blog post, and since the site is so write heavy we had problems?

  16. digital_sorceress says:

    I brought some of these ideas up in an earlier thread.


    If the organizers are not happy paying $200/mo for the server, they should either:

    – find a sponsor.

    – find an organisation who’ll donate server space. Approach the likes of steam or one of the indie game portals.

    – obtain venture capital funding, with the long term goal of setting up a new indie games portal. These competitions play a valid role towards that goal as they bring people to the website to raise it’s popularity as well as inspiring developers to make games, who ultimately would be making games the portal could sell.

    – Ads don’t raise that much money, especially when so many people use adblockers nowadays.

  17. SusanTheCat says:

    +1 for Donation

    Random Idea: This is a spin off the premium account idea. If someone donates $X or more, they get a link that goes to their game entry until the next Dare. You don’t have to worry about linking to dubious sites. The donator’s game gets some more visibility.


  18. PoV says:

    Great feedback so far everyone. Keep it coming! πŸ˜€

  19. Lose WordPress. Problem solved. No “sell out” required.

    My $0.02: Ads, sponsors, prizes: this would taint the community and mark the demise of the feel-good grass roots ethos that made LD so great.

    I know I’m being optimistic, but my gut instinct tells me you can go back to a $10 a month server if the site was custom coded with cpu in mind. WordPress quite simply does not scale. One solution, if you don’t have time to custom program a new website, is use wordpress in the $10 server but store ALL css files and images on a CDN. Even though caching of dynamic content wil make CPU load WORSE since the site is constantly changing, you CAN cache the images etc. See:


    But as we know bandwidth isn’t the concern: it is the fact that WP eats CPU for lunch and likes to generate pages with a thousand individual mySQL queries. Plain and simple I think the only solution is to throw WordPress out.

    This need not be a blog anymore: make it a compo only site. We all have our own blogs. We all want to donate (without any links). No banner ads puh-lease! Ludum Dare is better than that! =)

    Final solution: BAN NOTCH!

    • tnelsond says:

      Poor Notch. :'(

    • notche says:

      This is the answer. Ditch wordpress like a dead rotting dog sitting in the sun.

      Set up a forum software designed for traffic like vbulletin and then just set aside and let the users figure this out.

      One thread per game submission with all the info contained in the post would be just fine for the first compo.

      The frustrating thing about this site is that most posts fall off the first page and go unnoticed right away. A forum system where active posts continually jump to the top would be much preferred.

      You just have to be willing to leave some things behind to move forward. I think the site will be much more satisfying for the community because there will be much improved discussions than what currently exists. Honestly, this site is like a web site, circa 1997 – a little behind the times and frustrating.

      • digital_sorceress says:

        Your feelings are echoing pretty much what I wrote above.

        But using plain forum software would feel a bit bland. It would need customizing a bit, and it’s good to maintain some familiarity and continuity.

        I experimented last year modifying phpbb3, using hidden forums to store content, and using custom php scripts to read data from them, and format it for whatever purpose. It was quite nice.

        We could recreate the front page, the submission/voting forms, journals, and the entry pages we have here using something like that. :)

        • notche says:

          I agree totally. Phpbb could be customized easily by the users. It is such familiar software that a bunch of mods could be assigned and run this site lickety-split. All my favorite sites are forum sites of one kind or another. It would just set the community here afire.

    • Milo says:

      Oooh! We could have a LD (or mini LD) where the theme is, “Make a new Ludum Dare site in 48 hours!”

      I’m sure that *somebody* here would be able to make a webpage from scratch that looks nice and has the same functionality.

  20. tnelsond says:

    If LD is getting too big would it be a bad idea to fork it? (I’m guessing the answer will be yes)

  21. onefineline says:

    I agree that it would be better to avoid spending money in the first place by trying to make the backend more efficient. WordPress is not known for being an engineering marvel, but GOD FORBID this site turns into an other crappy bulletin board site. Oh god, I hate those so much. Talk about ULTRA-generic. All that said, I too would be willing to donate a little bit if necessary.

    In regards to prizes: no no no no no. That just sounds like a problem waiting to happen. I’m glad that others echo this sentiment.

    Sponsorship? Sure, why not?

  22. dotzero says:


    really, i think donations are one of the best options. i think many of the developers will donate at least a couple of dollars.

    Add ads, i think a website like this will have enough unique visitors to make some more $$$.

    Also an Option: Flattr. I know a couple of blogs that make a lot of $$$ with this.

  23. Jacic says:

    I think a way to donate would be nice to have no matter what is decided. I know I would be willing to donate several times a year to keep LD running!

    How time-consuming would it be to downgrade to the previous server, then return to something like what is used now for every compo? I know this was mentioned in a previous comment. It sounds like it might be a good idea.

  24. LoneStranger says:

    I kind of like the idea of moving to a customized BB site. It doesn’t have to look boring. Don’t they have skins for those, just like WordPress?

    It would only have to cover the /compo section of the site. The /planet section can remain WordPress, since the traffic on that is much lower.

    I imagine that the custom LD gadgets could be ported over pretty easily to another system, and stuck on a dashboard-type page that maybe shows blurbs of the last BB entries in News, or even in the Compo at that time of the year. I can’t remember everything that was on the sidebar, but if any of it was generating HTML from data that doesn’t change often, perhaps updating could be scheduled for two or three times a day instead of every request.

    • notche says:

      Yeah, I don’t see why the site couldn’t preserve much of its style and quirkiness as a php bulletin board. There are companies that will do it for you (create a skin) dirt cheap as well. All the best forums are heavily customized and the site would work so much better as a bb.

  25. mrfun says:

    My two cents:

    1. Go donations only
    2. Move back to the $60 vps or switch from servint to one of those fancy “can scale on the fly” vps types.
    3. Hope donations cover it
    4. Hope the latest php tweaks that were done can handle traffic bursts on the weaker server, I know Phil made many improvements during the “Great LD21 Crisis”
    5. Include a way to switch the site to “emergency CPU save” mode when needed

    I’m pretty sure we could get $1000 a year in donations but less sure about $2400…

    I really like the current system and would push towards tweaking what we have rather than converting if possible.

  26. alfredofreak says:

    Possibly see if LD can become a purchase division option in the Humble Indie Bundle? After all, the third one DID raise over two million dollars.

  27. ratking says:

    I’m all for donations, so why not asking the somewhat richer indies (the HIB guys, notch, etc.) directly for funding then? They get a shiny link on the page or so, and it’s still in the family.

  28. EdgarAllen says:

    You could do something like Envato or aiGameDev and launch a separate section with resources on game development that would draw in content that is more ad revenue producing or which may be worth a premium membership for. Then use that revenue to fund the competition site. Problem with that though, is you would become editors and bloggers rather than game developers. It would take a bit of effort to keep up enough content to profit from as well.

    I also wouldn’t write off a PBS donation drive type thing. You could easily pull off a Mario Marathon like drive. Get a group of guys together for 48 hours and live stream the rage inducing awesomeness of playing the LD entries. Would be fun to watch, fun to do, and not take too much effort. Take what you need for the server, then give any overlay to charity. I am sure you could easily pull in 5k/yr minimum with that.

  29. digital_sorceress says:

    What about this:

    Allow donations. People shouldn’t get any special privileges for having donated.

    There is a risk that donations will become less as months pass by. We might want to build funds up to give an 8 month buffer – enough to cover two more LDs. We might want to have bar on the webpage so people can see what the pot currently holds, with markers for LD22, LD23 etc, showing how far into the future the site has funding for.

    About two months before a contest takes place, if funds are below the buffer level, then look for a sponsor for that one contest. A sponsor should be asked to cover one contest (1/3 of a year) which is $800.

    It may be that we’ll only need a sponsor once per year, rather than three per year. It depends how the donations cover things.

    I rather like the idea of having LDXX sponsored by YY. :)

    The logo/colour scheme of the site could be adjusted for a sponsored contest. A sponsor could also be given ad space – locally hosted flash/images rather linked through a dubious malware infested ad server. Perhaps also two or three video ads from our sponsor could be cut into the keynote speech video.

  30. spliter says:

    I think both of those ideas are great and both should be implemented.

    I would gladly subscribe for about 10$/month, but there shouldn’t be any special treatment reserved for donators that as I believe it would divide the community, maybe a mention in the “who donated” page, but that would be about it.

    We could also go for the ad revenue, having ads sparkled on non intrusive parts wouldn’t hurt much and would definitely help.

    With both of those combined we could most probably reach the goal of 200$/month.

    As for sponsors it should probably work as a fallback when the accumulated money isn’t enough.

    Still the best thing would be a cloud based service that scales with the traffic like Amazon, even if it meant hiring someone to set it up using the donation money.

    • digital_sorceress says:

      I would guess that 90% of us here have adblockers — far more than the general internet population — simply because we’re all computer experts.

      So while ads would raise something, it would not be very much, and we’d have to determine :-

      (i) is it worth the effort implementing ads, when that same effort could be invested in finding more lucrative form of funding.

      (ii) is it worth the pain of having ads, if they make the site less desirable to browse.

      (iii) would the increased load on the server (running the code to request ads) be worth the revenue generated by them. My estimate of 90% may be incorrect, but the greater that figure is, the more significant this point becomes. ~ that extra code is run whether users have adblockers or not.

  31. phalseprofet says:

    I haven’t actually entered a LD or mini-LD yet, but I’ve been following the compo for a couple months now, and when the time is right I’m going to enter.

    In the meantime, if a new site is needed I will happily donate my services to (help) create (or test) such a site. At the moment, I’m a web developer by trade, so it wouldn’t be a stretch for me to make something custom for this competition. If somebody in charge is interested in talking to me about possibilities or interrogating me about my level of experience, let me know.

  32. Arowx says:

    $5 to submit your competition entry for rating, IGF is $100 so still cheap!

  33. Would anybody consider becoming a “supporter” and paying a regular recurring donation? I’m thinking of the way Forrst works, where having a paid membership isn’t required, but you get some perks (including a feeling of awesomeness) for throwing down the price of a pint every month towards something you believe in.

    Making it a recurring donation will help you plan your costs, and you’ll generally get more than with a click-to-donate mechanism (which people usually use only once).

    I’d certainly be willing to pitch in, with or without perks! I can certainly afford $5/month. And it wouldn’t prevent anyone from participating for free.

    From a technical perspective, something like Amazon’s pay system can do subscriptions: https://payments.amazon.com/sdui/sdui/business/asp/subscriptions#pricing

    If Ludum Dare was a person, would I buy that person a beer at least once a month? Hell, yes!

  34. digital_sorceress says:

    A merchandise option: What about a DVD loaded with all the entries (or as many as possible). I don’t know how much it would cost to print & ship each disk, but each sale be made to produce $2 of revenue.

    • Codexus says:

      The games belong to the people who made them, you’d need some agreement that LD has the right to sell the games and many people wouldn’t like that.

      • digital_sorceress says:

        I see it much like how public domain libraries once worked — buyers are paying for the service, not the software.

        It can be opt in. When contestants submit their game, there can be a tickbox

        [βœ”] Allow this game to be included on the Ludum Dare DVD.

  35. increpare says:

    Chris Hecker offers to step in and pay the yearly hosting costs, mandating the tagline “please finish your game”.

  36. jolle says:

    I’m against prizes.

    I’m against premium accounts if it would effectively affect your game rating in any way.

    I don’t mind any of the funding alternatives.

    Regarding donations, $100 per year for me really isn’t an issue. I’m sure there’s 23 other guys who feel the same way. Or perhaps there’s 48 for whom $50 isn’t an issue.

    I think sponsors/optimizations/finding cheaper hosting would be great if done correctly, but I’m not the one who would have to do it, so I don’t think I really have a say on it.

  37. PoV says:

    Alright folks, a bit of a status update.

    First of all, I want to give a big thanks to all of you for your feedback.

    In the very near term, we’ll be to throttling down our VPS usage to a lower price point ($60), and see how well the site runs. Phil did make a number of huge optimizations to our custom plugins, so we might be able to get through an event at a lower price point. The October Challenge will likely be our first test of this, but that’s a more drawn out event anyways (a handful of updates per day, instead of hundreds per hour).

    Also, as per the many requests, and since it’s easiest, we’ll be re-opening a donate box. If it turns out donations aren’t enough to support us, we’ll look to expand in to other options. I’m hoping to have it up sometimes this weekend. One step at a time.

    Most importantly, we want the site to stay free and accessible to all. So don’t worry, we wont introduce anything weird that segregates the community.

    Thanks again everyone for the feedback.

  38. Nugsy says:

    I agree with the sentiment that WordPress doesn’t cut it anymore, but i also agree that a pure forum wouldn’t work.

    Maybe LD requires a new form of website? Some sort of forum/blog hybrid maybe.

  39. Sinuath says:

    I believe Prizes would give people reason to cheat. And some people might be tempted by that, possibly causing a cataclysmic event, much like what happened in WOW.

  40. constantsun says:

    You say that every page load is a heap of mysql requests?

    But, most of those users are not logged in, and therefore don’t need anything dynamic…

    You need caching my friend.

    Really, I just did:

    I had a mediawiki site that was grinding to a halt until I had caching set up. 90% of the users aren’t logged in, and when that 90% stopped hitting the db, all was great.

  41. Alexbrainbox says:

    Instead of regular kickstarters, how about you do one massive kickstarter (or similar) to buy your own server outright, and fund bandwidth costs by Option One donations?

  42. asfdfdfd says:

    Another option could be rewrite submissions/all LD related stuff to the GAE for example. With high load in mind. WordPress is really memory monster. Also you can rebuild blog system because with such number of participants blog posts from contestants are useless.

  43. Piot says:

    Please no prizes or sponsors!

    I think donations is a better way. It is fairly easy to setup a paypal or flattr-button.

    Also, there has to be a cheaper way to host the site. For most stuff you can generate static html every X seconds and setup a caching frontend.

  44. A lot of people have suggested that WordPress cache plugins will help: they will NOT, which might at first sound surprising.

    Why won’t this help? Caching of dynamic content only helps if the site itself isn’t changing constantly. With dozens of new blog posts every minute, the cache is constantly being regenerated. They already tried the best WP cache plugin during LD21 and it made things worse, more or less doubling CPU usage and increasing the number if SQL queries. Cache plugins only help if the site is unchanged for periods of time.

    For example, if you blog once per day and get millions of hits, a cache plugin is ideal. If you post a new blog entry every 5 seconds, the cache actually makes things worse.

  45. mildmojo says:

    Transient CPU spikes sound like a classic case for elastic virtual (cloud) hosting. My naive understanding is that you either migrate server images to more powerful instances as necessary, or spin up as many instances of the WordPress server as you need and put a load balancer in front of them.

    Some other limited-time event sites may offer inspiration, too. My top-of-the-head sites aren’t much help. It looks like NaNoWriMo.org uses Drupal on Amazon EC2, and FAWM.org started with Drupal and migrated to custom scratch-built software. There must be flash event sites running on WordPress, too.

  46. TellusE says:

    I’m all for open donations.

    Some basic calculations reveal that if everyone who entered the LD donated less than 1,5 bucks every time the servers would be more than paid for. I know that not a lot of people would be willing to do that, but I’d happily pitch in 10 bucks every time for the sheer solidarity of it. Find 61 other people willing to do the same and we’re set :)

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