On the Itch

Posted by (twitter: @mikekasprzak)
June 10th, 2016 6:29 pm

Let’s talk about itch.io.

Like I said in my post, I wont be running a Ludum Dare event in August. The community is free to do whatever it wants in my absence. Itch.io has offered to help out which is great. Much appreciated!

But long term, there are some serious consequences that need to be considered and understood.

I’ve been chatting with Leaf of itch.io on and off for the past few weeks, but not necessarily about the things you may be thinking.

Ludum Dare is kind-of a big deal. By existing and doing what we do, we benefit the greater gaming community. Much of the growth in games created the past several years can be attributed to what we do. In my other post I talked about our impact, our reach, and how much what we do matters to the industry.

We are a thing.

Itch.io is amazing. It grew out of a need of the Ludum Dare community (game hosting), and became this fantastic new way that indie games are shared and distributed. It somehow achieved what Manifesto Games, Desura, Midnight City, and so many others attempted-to but failed to do: create a stable indie games marketplace.

Itch is a thing.

And as members of the community, the itch.io team is super aggressive, adding features to make it easier for everyone that participates in Ludum Dare. They’ve done so many great things, and it makes total sense that we should be working with them. We should do it more. That kind of relationship is rare.

But it needs to be understood that itch.io is a business.

https://itch.io/docs/general/team

I trust these guys, but even with the best intentions, itch.io has grown to the point where it now competes directly with Newgrounds, Game Jolt, and Kongregate. All of these sites host games and run contests. Game Jolt has been especially aggressive lately trying to catch up to itch.io by adding jam hosting and their own download client. This is not a joke. This is serious stuff.

If Ludum Dare permanently moved to itch.io, it would be damaging.

After submitting to itch.io, there’s little incentive to upload to the other sites. Itch.io is already one of the most popular places to run game jams. But if itch.io also ran Ludum Dare, the largest online game jam in the world, that could be trouble.

We make a impact. A real impact.

There’s a reason Newgrounds and Game Jolt go out of their way to add and highlight the #LudumDare or #LDJAM or #LD35 tags. We had a good relationship with Kongregate as well, until a falling-out several years back. Some of you may not know the story, but Kongregate ran a contest alongside LD, inviting people to submit their Ludum Dare games. They offered cash prizes, which in turn caused a lot of social media outrage, unfortunately souring things between us. Other than one of the winners that reached out after getting a job there, I haven’t heard from them since. I still have a lot of respect for Kongregate. They’re just one of the few people that have seen our bad side, something I unfortunately have to work hard to protect others from.

And also, I need to mention that Tom Fulp of Newgrounds has been one of Ludum Dare’s biggest contributors over the years. I believe this was back in 2012, the same year we first broke 1000 games. At the time I was panicked. Our old host was kicking us off. I’d never run a server that cost more than $10 a month, and certainly not one that cost over $100 a month. My games business has never really done well, despite the things I can brag about (winning cash, trips, hardware, and even a car). So spending over 10x more a month on keeping “the hobby” afloat was something I just wasn’t comfortable with yet. It was necessary, but this was new territory for me.

I don’t believe we were ever month-to-month with donations covering our hosting cost, but you could count how many months we could sustain it. Later in 2012, I received a few large donations. The big one was crazy, a total across two donations of $7k from an anonymous (?) donor, but the 2nd largest was $300 from Tom. I was super humbled by this. It still took time for me to accept the idea spending over $100 a month on hosting, but the generous donations by Tom and the anonymous donor really helped me get comfortable with where I had to be. And finally after several years of spending over $200 a month on hosting, I’ve learned and done enough that our hosting costs are now under $100 a month. That and we even run multiple servers now (the old and the new).

So take that as you will. Personally, I feel an obligation not to side entirely with one company in the game hosting space. Competition is good. It’s healthy. It keeps things interesting, and everyone moving forward. It means I have to do more, but like I’ve been saying, I’m cool with that. I just need time on my side. 😉

It’s important to have choice.

That’s not to say we can’t have preferences. Everybody has preferences. Many of you prefer GitHub to BitBucket or Assembla. Many of you prefer Twitch to Hitbox, YouTube, or Beam. But the more we go out of our way to provide options, to provide choice, the better it is for everyone.

Anybody that wants to work with us should be able to work with us. Not everybody has the drive or resources to do it, but for those that do, interesting new things get done. And while I don’t necessarily have time to work with everyone, I’m happy open source is a part of Ludum Dare. It means I can focus on the things that make the biggest impact, do the hard work, and then members of the community or 3rd parties can do what I can’t.

Ludum Dare is not an island. Live streaming, source code hosting, game hosting, these are things that others do really well. What we do is Jams. Today it’s running our jams, but tomorrow it could be your jam. We’re seen as a hub of game jamming and game jams on the internet. Members of our community even run their own extra mini events beyond our extra mini events. The jammer identity is strong here. And to me, that is what Ludum Dare is, and should be focused on. If you want to run you own game jam today, use itch.io. They’ve got the custom game jam thing figured out, and it works great. But we also do game jams. That is our forte. And some day, we’ll let you run them too. Like I said, competition is good. :)

Anyway, that about sums up what I want to say. I think Ludum Dare benefits the community best if it stays its own thing.


22 Responses to “On the Itch”

  1. mildmojo says:

    Never thought anything different. Itch dare’s a nice temporary alternative. “The building’s being fumigated today, so we’re meeting at the coffee shop this time. See you back here next month.”

    <3

  2. Knowledge says:

    I’m OK with itch.io (while I would prefer GameJolt), but do they have Theme voting?

    • Stuntddude says:

      Theme voting, the ratings/coolness system, and the blog system are what makes a Ludum Dare a Ludum Dare to me. It’s the specific way it’s run that makes the difference. Without that, it’s just another generic game jam.

      If the itch.io jam doesn’t have the things that make Ludum Dare special, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s pretty worthless. It’s not a Ludum Dare at that point, it’s just a fake wearing a prestigious but unearned nameplate.

  3. djfariel says:

    Regarding donations: Has there been any kind of official support from educators? I’ve heard mention of some people that want to incorporate Ludum Dare into their curriculum, and was really wondering if there had been any open communication between those individuals.

  4. johnfn says:

    PoV,

    The way you write posts feels a little like you expect the community to skewer you if you say a single thing wrong. I think the reality is the opposite: the entire LD community loves you. We know that you rationally think about issues and whatever you decide is unquestionably what is going to end up being the best for the LD community.

    Do whatever you need to do and keep in mind that we are behind you! <3

  5. Wan says:

    Interesting post, those lessons in LD history are always nice to read 😛

    I’m glad you’re drawing that line where itch.io has to be just another potential partner, and not *the* future of Ludum Dare.

    But I’m still wary of the consequences of hosting an event there, unless they can guarantee they will only host that “Itch Dare” once. Otherwise we’re risking splitting the community in two in the long run.

  6. CyberStarLight says:

    – “exactly like Ludum Dare, but it has no affiliation”
    – “Will itch dare be a regular thing? Maybe”

    These quotes from itch dare trouble me the most :/
    If itch.io would call it THE ludum dare, only hosted here once to help, it would be fine.
    If it was a one time thing, it would be fine.
    but hosting their own non ludum dare event parallel to LD (possibly regularly) named like LD, will only split the community.

    I want to put forth the idea that keeping the community together, in one official event is more important the all the rest of the considerations combined(cheating, regular time, voting systems etc..)

    My opinion is that the best way to keep it that way is to use this site for an event named the OFFICIAL ludum dare(not mini) on the regular time, with voting or without voting.
    Otherwise replacement jams will sprout out like mushrooms after the rain and everyone will lose.

  7. Persimonn Pomelo says:

    ‘Nothing is more permanent than “temporary” arrangements, deficits, truces, and relationships; and nothing is more temporary than “permanent” ones.’ – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  8. My thoughts on those services.
    Itch.io – No problems. The only downside is that it’s nearly impossible to get found on there anymore. Most of my games used to get hundreds of downloads, and now I’m lucky if any of my games break 100 views, plus I would say that the quality of my games have improved over time.
    GameJolt – They have a nice infrastructure for hosting games, but I’ve never liked that they forced people to watch advertisements before they can play your games, and you only get a fraction of the ad revenue. That’s the same reason why I prefer YouTube over Twitch right now for streaming, but it’s even worse on Twitch because they force ads on your videos and you don’t get ANY ad revenue sharing.
    Kongregate – They are owned by GameStop, which I try to avoid like the plague. Their ad revenue sharing system is way too convoluted.
    Newgrounds – The last time I posted a game there, they only accepted SWF Flash games, which eliminates about 98% of my games. It looks like some people are posting Unity games there now, but I don’t know if that is through HTML5 (which is still buggy) or some sort of Unity Flash hack to create an SWF file.

    I guess my only concern about hosting Ludum Dare somewhere else is that it would get buried in the hundreds of “junk” jams that people create there. The first few jams held by Itch.io (like Flappy Jam and Candy Jam) had quite a few submissions. I took a quick look at the recent jams there, and a vast majority have less than 10 submitted games and a lot only have 1 submitted game. I’m assuming the ones where nobody submits a game aren’t even listed.

    • Pio6 says:

      HTML5 games (WebGL) in Unity 5.4 beta work very well now and Unity Web Player builds have been removed, so it’s the only option now, but personally I didn’t have any problems with it, except a bit worse looking shadows, but that can be fixed by tweaking quality settings in Unity.

  9. Chaoslab says:

    As the Ludum community grew so did the pressure and a man can only do so much. Good on you POV.

  10. Geckoo1337 says:

    Itch.io – exactly what I said. Great alternative ++

  11. Naca says:

    I absolutely agree with this post by PoV. Hosting LD at itch.io or any other private platform would probably be harmful for our community. LD must stay as the reference event for every game-jammer. As @Wan and @CyberStarLight wisely said, there’s a high risk of splitting the community if we don’t organize an event in August. And the proof is this itch.io jam announcement. They’ve started taking positions, and they won’t hesitate to take from us a portion of this huge cake that LD is. For this reason I think it’s important to mantain the August event in order to hold the community together.

    I understand the problems that PoV explained in his post. We all want that new website, team support, a fairer voting system, etc, and it’s understandable that one person cannot handle it all. But LD has a wonderful community that should be capable of running the event while PoV is working on other stuff. It would be an opportunity to build a team around LD and relieve some weight from PoV shoulders. A big event like this one should not be on a 99% run by a single person. I admire PoV a lot for doing this all this years, but from his recent posts we can conclude that it’s too much work for one man.

    Anyway, skipping an event would cause a bigger problem in my opinion: LD could lose its status in favor of other events. That’s why I think we should run LD36 in August. And I think that it should be a regular event, with voting and all that stuff. I’ll explain why.

    There are big problems with the voting system now. It is frustrating when we see that someone has cheated. But this problem was there from the beginning, and here we are. No voting means no fun. Voting encourages people to participate, play and comment. Fairness, although desirable, is not the main goal of LD. Most of the participants value the experience much more than a fair voting system. An event with no voting would feel like it’s not really a LD, not really “official”, and there would be still high risk of losing participants.

    To sum up, my choice would be:
    Best option: Normal LD
    2nd option: LD without voting
    3rd option: No LD
    No way: Hosted elsewhere

    I have to say that I’ve only participated in the last LD, so there are people that know much better than me what is bad and what is good for Ludum Dare (starting with PoV). However, it was an awesome experience for me, and I feel I’m part of this thing the same as you all are. I just don’t want it to get messed up so quickly. Hope that we keep it going on for many more years :)

    • Pio6 says:

      I agree. Ludum Dare is big and we can’t just let it be hosted somewhere else. Especially because itch.io is a business and they make money from it. The current system isn’t perfect, but LD is great, so why don’t we just host it here this one last time? I think it’s better than giving free advertisement to the competition that makes money while Ludum Dare doesn’t. People love LD and hosting it on the same website with the same rules just this one more time isn’t really that bad.

      • Naca says:

        Yeah, that’s what I mean. I like our self-sufficient community, with no prizes, sponsors, nor a big company behind. Only people sharing their games for fun. Money for server maintenance is raised via donations. There’s no need of turning it into a business (something I’m sure a bunch of companies pretend). PoV has made a great effort keeping Ludum Dare as “pure” as it was in the beginning. And I think it should stay that way.

        That said, it’s obvious that PoV can’t do all the hard work. We should get involved a lot more as a community.

  12. mildmojo says:

    Y’know, I don’t believe that Ludum Dare is fragile. I don’t share concerns about lost prestige or fracturing participants. Ludum Dare folks turned out well over 8,000 games last year across three events. The only bigger event is Global Game Jam, which is once a year and lacks the discoverability, rating incentives, blog posts, and feedback that make Ludum Dare so good.

    Ludum Dare’s a juggernaut. It would take a lot more than a hiatus to push it off course.

    I mean, itch.io hosts dozens of jams at the same time as Ludum Dare every April, August, and December, and we’re still seeing growth here. Even if Ludum Dare lost *half* its participants, we’d still be making 1,000 to 1,500 games *per event* three times a year. Short of shutting it down, there just isn’t a way that Ludum Dare falls over in a short amount of time.

    • eric777 says:

      I don’t think anyone believes LD is under existential threat. As someone who opposes the dropping of August or hosting it elsewhere, it’s for the reason you outline. If losing up to half your participants isn’t a fracture, I don’t know what one is.

      We probably agree that half is hyperbole. Even if it’s 10%, that’s still unnecessary attrition when we could have just ran the event on the current system like always.

  13. loliyoabundiz says:

    we need to stick togetherness. hi im new hero.

  14. g_o says:

    PoV I’m sure you know what you’re doing and that LD needs some basic management to keep it unique
    but inmho you can’t hold all the reins, especially by yourself.
    A site this big needs a loyal team, not a single person however money he gets on patreon.
    I know it sounds like time = money but you can’t stay awake for months with 2000$ or make day last 26 hours instead of 24.
    And it’s plainly obvious that with all things said and all respect given, you’re acting unreasonably – you’ve got a huge community. OF PROGRAMMERS. Still you won’t even try to recruit some for the tasks of maintaince.
    I know that illness, I had it – yet in a much smaller scale. I was making community-driven project.
    We were ten VOLUNTEERS with very small chances. I ended up finishing alone because I tried to do everything myself and didn’t trust people personally and professionally enough.
    I know it’s tough, especially when it’s not face to face but you must let go of the project just a little to let the help of others come in, otherwise you’re just being unreasonable.

    You said you don’t wanna ruin LD. And that it’s a thing. With impact. All those big sentences but if you really want to keep LD alive ( and you yourself said you can’t take any more responsiblity ) then any second passing by is valuable. Make a team, or at least announce that you’re willing to take help and let the community form the teams – and so you could choose form the existing ones. But give us the opportunity, a bit of guidance to what you’re trying to do.

    Also, you talk about your experiences and tell us your story buy you forget that LD is ours as well. You wouldn’t be in that position without us.
    Now you can say – it’s too much of a bother testing and making sure you can trust people but it’s either you’re gonna do it or you’re gonna be left alone. One Ludum Dare is canceled. How many more will be absent untill most of us will go away to other, possibly financially more attractive alternatives?

    But I’m sure the community is too loyal for that, so just think for a second how many community-driven sites keep on maintaining themselves. It’s the community, the sites forms as if automagically with healthy discussions because people are reasonable and so the final product is reasonable and matches what the community wants. Of course in reality it’s all 10 times harder but I think you must take that leap of faith if you wanna continue this thing.

    Look, I’m not here that long and I barely made any impact, still I love this thing and I want it to continue cause it gives me the irreplacable pleasure of a) being part of something larger. b) being a full time video-game developer for 48 hours. (I’m a software developer)
    Just saying what I think from the last two posts I’ve read from you.

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