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How Much is a Free Lunch?

I’ve been playing the game TowerMadness pretty much since I got an iPod touch, or around the beginning of 2010. The object of the game is to use various weapons towers to stop waves of invading aliens from stealing your sheep (they want their wool for scarves).

Originally, it was supported by ads, with the option of buying an ad-free version for a dollar or two. Before too long, alongside one of their periodic updates and releases of new levels, they began offering extra level packs for a buck apiece. Not something I personally felt like paying for, but I wasn’t about to begrudge Limbic Software every chance to make a profit off of their (very fun) game.

Limbic still puts out periodic updates with new free maps as well as offering more level packs. They also offer special weapons for the same prices ($0.99 each). Two of them, flash bait and mines offer different strategies and options. Like the level packs, I find them interesting, but not worth paying for.

The other weapon is the flamethrower. I don’t like the flamethrower.

The question I find myself asking now is whether I really have a right to not like the flamethrower.
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The Workshop Process

If you’re familiar with the game Minecraft, feel free to jump below the cut right now. For everyone else, a quick background: Minecraft is an indie game that’s pretty unique even among indie games. For one, its art and play styles have already gained a huge amount of notice and praise both among gamers and the gaming press despite the fact that it’s still in beta. But that’s not what I’m interested in talking about today. What’s really got me interested is its development process.

Back in May of 2009, a guy named Markus Persson started developing Minecraft. Once he got the game to a rough, but playable state (known as an alpha), he made it available to the general public for €9.95, or about half of the cost of the finished product. This served two purposes. First, it generated revenue to help continue developing the game, and second, it gave him an army of alpha and beta testers. It’s not the path that video games, even independently created games, usually take. Open alphas are rare to the point of non-existence, and charging players to take part in beta testing is also deeply rare. I can’t think of a single title, either independent or out of a studio, that has tried this before.

So, how’s it worked out for him? Read the rest of this entry

Open Ended Ending

I recently re-read Stephen King’s Dark Tower Saga because, clearly, I have too much time on my hands (see also: starting this blog). Also, Stephen King was one of my favorite authors through high school and college (although I haven’t read his stuff as voraciously since he “retired”), and the Dark Tower was my first introduction to his work. So, it’s always held a special place in my heart and, for the first time since finishing the last book back in 2004, I really wanted to revisit that world.

In any case, even as I was starting the series, I kept thinking about something King does near the ending. And I started musing about how it compared to other devices in other media.

I will be referencing the endings of a few different things below the break, but no actual plot spoilers.
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