Crowdsourcing Your Features

In looking into other Unity projects I could work on, I’ve been combing through my Asset Store library to see what cool shortcuts I’d purchased that I could use to put something together. I’ve got a smattering of core assets like models and auto-rigging solutions, but I have a few higher level helper assets like Playmaker that might help bang out something quickly.

One asset that I have is the ORK RPG Framework. This massive asset takes care of a whole host of functionality for creating an RPG including menus, enemy AI, battle systems, items, inventory, and dialog. At first blush, it’s insanely complex, and also reminded me a lot of RPG Maker VX in it’s intent. But in delving into the documentation this morning, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of options for creating other types of RPGs beyond a Final Fantasy remake.

But what I wanted to talk about was how the developer is operating. ORK by itself is vast, and out of the box it seems like it’ll serve almost anyone in almost any RPG task they want to tackle. For anything else, the developer has opened new features to a crowdsourcing method. If a development group wants a feature, either private for their own use, or agree to include it in the public release, they can commission the developer to work on it. Even better, he suggests that if the community is hell-bent on having a specific new feature — like a grid-based combat system — then they could get together and pool their money like a small Kickstarter campaign to make it happen.

GamingIsLoveCrowdsourcing

I think I approve of this method. First, it helps the developer prioritize features. Second, it helps to reduce the screaming for “can you make it do X?” because if someone wants it, they need to convince the community to get behind it and fund it unless they can and want to pony up for it by themselves (or on behalf of their company). And third, it’s a good revenue stream for the developer. The update that includes a grid combat system was priced out at $3,200, funding was met, and will be part of the public release package (which is awesome, BTW).

I can see how some folks might not take kindly to this kind of process, though. We’re trained to believe that we should only have to pay once and get everything after that — or at least that’s how many communities behave. While it’s certainly the best case scenario to get as much as possible for as little cost as possible, the long tail of a project requires fuel in the form of capital, and in light of this crowdsourcing system I can see how the “fairness” is being spread around. If the developer only relied on new purchases to fund ongoing development, at some point everyone who wants the package will have the package, and will require the developer to sell a “version upgrade”. I think this system is preferrable, because someone can pay in $5 or $10 or $100 based on how much they want a new feature. And for those who want everything to be free, they can ride the coat-tails of those who are willing and able to pay into the request.

So far it seems to be working, and although I doubt this method would work for all developers, it’s an interesting method for the community to get their voices heard and to get their pet features added into the base framework.

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