Ashcan Backlash

ANOTHER EDIT: I am going to walk away from the computer soon and will not be able to monitor this conversation. I don’t want a brawl starting in my digital living room, so in the next half-hour or so, I will put the comments setting so that I can screen all comments. When I get back home tonight I will put the comments on up (unless there is some total asshattery).

EDIT: See The Ashcan Front for more info…

I have seen some ashcan nausea and backlashy thoughts on some blogs and such around the internet and it is mildly honking me off.

A few years ago some games came out of the indie RPG community that weren’t quite baked yet, hadn’t been playtested to the fullest and people complained. After the complaining died down, Paul and Matt gave a stage of game design that had been going by a bit under the radar at the Forge and they named it, explained it and fully supported it.

Rather than just complaining, they did something about it.

To me, an ashcan is a game that has been playtested. The game designer can assure you that it is a fun night of gaming and not a car wreck 8-car-pile-up disaster but there’s some kind of design issues that is bugging them and they would love some gamer to gamer help on the matter. The games are lovingly created, no-frills, low-production affairs that are sold fairly close to cost.

And buying them is buying in to the development of the game. It is saying, “I give a shit about this game and want to take part with my friends.”

If the game doesn’t light your fire, if you don’t want to go home and play it and then talk to the game designer about what went right and what went wrong and address their concerns, don’t. But poo-pooing the process, a solution to a very real problem that spat out some shite games, doesn’t make any sense to me.

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210 thoughts on “Ashcan Backlash

    • Cousin Games

      I think our games are distant cousins who have decided to go in very different directions. Since we both brought our game up for the first time at the same indie design roundatble, and were inspired by TSoY, I’ve felt a kind of distant (and getting more distant all of the time) relationship between our games.

    • Cousin Games

      I think our games are distant cousins who have decided to go in very different directions. Since we both brought our game up for the first time at the same indie design roundatble, and were inspired by TSoY, I’ve felt a kind of distant (and getting more distant all of the time) relationship between our games.

  1. Cousin Games

    I think our games are distant cousins who have decided to go in very different directions. Since we both brought our game up for the first time at the same indie design roundatble, and were inspired by TSoY, I’ve felt a kind of distant (and getting more distant all of the time) relationship between our games.

  2. The problem, in my view (as someone who engaged the process last year) isn’t the process, but the actual Ashcan Front. It’s expensive to have a booth at GenCon (which, of course, I don’t have to tell you), so Matt & Paul have pressure to get as many other buy-ins as possible.

    This pressure for monetary relief has lead to supporting ashcans that, frankly, were unready — very much including my own. When I asked Paul & Matt last year on my show if this thing would cause a “rush to ashcan,” they said “we hope so, we don’t have many buy-ins.” They got, to some extent, their wish. And the result is backlash.

    I have a lot of negative thoughts about ashcans (at least, the for-sale variety, especially pre-orders for them, which I feel is opportunistic & predatory against the indie culture) — as someone who has engaged in the process — that I might blog about, and I might not. But in any case, when asked by someone this year “are you going to talk about ashcans on your podcasts?” my response is a simple “nope.”

      • Some are vastly more unready than others. I’m not going to call him out here, but I know of one person who, two weeks ago, said “Man, I don’t have workable rules for my ashcan.” And he’ll have an ashcan at GenCon.

        That’s very unready.

        • Having taken something from “kinda broken” to “ready to publish” inside of a few weeks, I can’t regard anything but the present day as anything other than stale info.

          But I know you’re a lot uneasier about the connection of commercial enterprise and game development than I ever will be or honestly ever CAN be. The difference between our perspectives is pronounced enough that it feels like a difference rooted in belief rather than reason, at least as far as us having any basis for seeing eye to eye on it goes, so I’m gonna back away from this conversation as quickly as possible– since that observation is usually a big warning sign for me.

          • Fair enough. While I’d regard you as an except rather than the rule, maybe that’s not fair to other potential exceptions.

            And you’re right about the connection to commercial enterprise with respect to in-development games, and about it being a difference in perspective (largely informed by my ashcanning last year). I’m not trying to offer my comment as sage wisdom, just “hey, here’s where I’m coming from and maybe it’s worth noting because I did try the process.”

          • Fair enough. While I’d regard you as an except rather than the rule, maybe that’s not fair to other potential exceptions.

            And you’re right about the connection to commercial enterprise with respect to in-development games, and about it being a difference in perspective (largely informed by my ashcanning last year). I’m not trying to offer my comment as sage wisdom, just “hey, here’s where I’m coming from and maybe it’s worth noting because I did try the process.”

          • If I was inspired, and under-the-gun, I think I could go from concept to finished, playable work in under one week. Sure, the result wouldn’t be perfect, but it would likely be a good ashcan.

          • If I was inspired, and under-the-gun, I think I could go from concept to finished, playable work in under one week. Sure, the result wouldn’t be perfect, but it would likely be a good ashcan.

        • Having taken something from “kinda broken” to “ready to publish” inside of a few weeks, I can’t regard anything but the present day as anything other than stale info.

          But I know you’re a lot uneasier about the connection of commercial enterprise and game development than I ever will be or honestly ever CAN be. The difference between our perspectives is pronounced enough that it feels like a difference rooted in belief rather than reason, at least as far as us having any basis for seeing eye to eye on it goes, so I’m gonna back away from this conversation as quickly as possible– since that observation is usually a big warning sign for me.

      • Some are vastly more unready than others. I’m not going to call him out here, but I know of one person who, two weeks ago, said “Man, I don’t have workable rules for my ashcan.” And he’ll have an ashcan at GenCon.

        That’s very unready.

      • Agreed. I just think that charging money for ashcans may not be the best method. I personally am not charging for mine as a PDF, and if I had it in print I’d only charge cost. I want people to test it, not make it profitable at this stage.

        I did spend $50 on it, to have Jonathan lay it out. I’m just eating that (minimal) cost.

        • I think asking for money while being honest about what’s being purchased is just fine. If someone who had a nifty idea for a play was staging a “dress rehearsal” type production of it to get an idea of whether or not the play was any good before putting more time and effort into it, I’d be fine paying a small fee for a ticket to see the work in progress, particularly if that idea excited me.

          I honestly have no idea what people are so worked up about other than issues that they should be sorting out in therapy or church instead of publishers’ faces.

          • OK, sure. I am definitely not up in people’s pricing decisions. I give advice when asked, but otherwise no.

            I made my own decisions about what to charge and what not to charge. I think the important point is that publishers should make it clear that something’s an ashcan, especially if they are charging more than cost for it.

            • Part of the reason you can not charge and still get playtesters who’ll follow through with actually playtesting is that your’e an established name with games that people already like.

              Also, for some, it can be a way to fund a full print-run (which is not what I’m doing).

              • Hey, I’m completely aware of my advantages. And those facts are actually some of the reason mine is free. I probably could have charged for it because I’m known and many people have been anticipating this game, but that didn’t sit right with me.

                I can afford a full print run just fine, unlike many first-time authors.

              • Hey, I’m completely aware of my advantages. And those facts are actually some of the reason mine is free. I probably could have charged for it because I’m known and many people have been anticipating this game, but that didn’t sit right with me.

                I can afford a full print run just fine, unlike many first-time authors.

            • Part of the reason you can not charge and still get playtesters who’ll follow through with actually playtesting is that your’e an established name with games that people already like.

              Also, for some, it can be a way to fund a full print-run (which is not what I’m doing).

          • OK, sure. I am definitely not up in people’s pricing decisions. I give advice when asked, but otherwise no.

            I made my own decisions about what to charge and what not to charge. I think the important point is that publishers should make it clear that something’s an ashcan, especially if they are charging more than cost for it.

        • I think asking for money while being honest about what’s being purchased is just fine. If someone who had a nifty idea for a play was staging a “dress rehearsal” type production of it to get an idea of whether or not the play was any good before putting more time and effort into it, I’d be fine paying a small fee for a ticket to see the work in progress, particularly if that idea excited me.

          I honestly have no idea what people are so worked up about other than issues that they should be sorting out in therapy or church instead of publishers’ faces.

      • Agreed. I just think that charging money for ashcans may not be the best method. I personally am not charging for mine as a PDF, and if I had it in print I’d only charge cost. I want people to test it, not make it profitable at this stage.

        I did spend $50 on it, to have Jonathan lay it out. I’m just eating that (minimal) cost.

    • Ryan,

      I don’t think it’s fair for you (or anyone else) to discount any ashcan based on a few bad ones. My game is coming out in ashcan, and I’ve been playtesting it for about two years. I want a variety of people to get a look at it to make sure I didn’t make a mistake that I’m unaware of. I think it’s a very done ashcan, but I have some reasons to hold off on creating a full, final version (reasons with the initials MC and SSF).

    • Ryan,

      I don’t think it’s fair for you (or anyone else) to discount any ashcan based on a few bad ones. My game is coming out in ashcan, and I’ve been playtesting it for about two years. I want a variety of people to get a look at it to make sure I didn’t make a mistake that I’m unaware of. I think it’s a very done ashcan, but I have some reasons to hold off on creating a full, final version (reasons with the initials MC and SSF).

    • Potential Problems with Ashcans

      That is getting towards potential problems with ashcans and how we can solve ’em.

      I think they can be not fully baked but there should still be a good game in there. Honestly, Ryan, I wasn’t going to attempt your game when you spent the first few pages apologizing to me in text for it not being that good.

      So, you as a podcaster can choose to ignore the entire thing. Me, I’m going to put my mic in ashcanner’s faces and ask what they have done to make sure their game doesn’t fall into similiar pitfalls.

      • Re: Potential Problems with Ashcans

        So, you as a podcaster can choose to ignore the entire thing. Me, I’m going to put my mic in ashcanner’s faces and ask what they have done to make sure their game doesn’t fall into similiar pitfalls.

        People I have tried to engage about pitfalls and potential faults about this have been too focused on talking about how their game is awesome to answer the damned question, so I lost interest in trying. You, though, I’d trust you to answer. You want to do that interview on my show? I’ll totally put the mic in your face and ask you that.

        Also, you’re totally right on my over-apologizing in Know Thyself. I hope others have learned from my negative example.

      • Re: Potential Problems with Ashcans

        So, you as a podcaster can choose to ignore the entire thing. Me, I’m going to put my mic in ashcanner’s faces and ask what they have done to make sure their game doesn’t fall into similiar pitfalls.

        People I have tried to engage about pitfalls and potential faults about this have been too focused on talking about how their game is awesome to answer the damned question, so I lost interest in trying. You, though, I’d trust you to answer. You want to do that interview on my show? I’ll totally put the mic in your face and ask you that.

        Also, you’re totally right on my over-apologizing in Know Thyself. I hope others have learned from my negative example.

    • Potential Problems with Ashcans

      That is getting towards potential problems with ashcans and how we can solve ’em.

      I think they can be not fully baked but there should still be a good game in there. Honestly, Ryan, I wasn’t going to attempt your game when you spent the first few pages apologizing to me in text for it not being that good.

      So, you as a podcaster can choose to ignore the entire thing. Me, I’m going to put my mic in ashcanner’s faces and ask what they have done to make sure their game doesn’t fall into similiar pitfalls.

  3. The problem, in my view (as someone who engaged the process last year) isn’t the process, but the actual Ashcan Front. It’s expensive to have a booth at GenCon (which, of course, I don’t have to tell you), so Matt & Paul have pressure to get as many other buy-ins as possible.

    This pressure for monetary relief has lead to supporting ashcans that, frankly, were unready — very much including my own. When I asked Paul & Matt last year on my show if this thing would cause a “rush to ashcan,” they said “we hope so, we don’t have many buy-ins.” They got, to some extent, their wish. And the result is backlash.

    I have a lot of negative thoughts about ashcans (at least, the for-sale variety, especially pre-orders for them, which I feel is opportunistic & predatory against the indie culture) — as someone who has engaged in the process — that I might blog about, and I might not. But in any case, when asked by someone this year “are you going to talk about ashcans on your podcasts?” my response is a simple “nope.”

  4. The problem, in my view (as someone who engaged the process last year) isn’t the process, but the actual Ashcan Front. It’s expensive to have a booth at GenCon (which, of course, I don’t have to tell you), so Matt & Paul have pressure to get as many other buy-ins as possible.

    This pressure for monetary relief has lead to supporting ashcans that, frankly, were unready — very much including my own. When I asked Paul & Matt last year on my show if this thing would cause a “rush to ashcan,” they said “we hope so, we don’t have many buy-ins.” They got, to some extent, their wish. And the result is backlash.

    I have a lot of negative thoughts about ashcans (at least, the for-sale variety, especially pre-orders for them, which I feel is opportunistic & predatory against the indie culture) — as someone who has engaged in the process — that I might blog about, and I might not. But in any case, when asked by someone this year “are you going to talk about ashcans on your podcasts?” my response is a simple “nope.”

  5. Some are vastly more unready than others. I’m not going to call him out here, but I know of one person who, two weeks ago, said “Man, I don’t have workable rules for my ashcan.” And he’ll have an ashcan at GenCon.

    That’s very unready.

  6. Agreed. I just think that charging money for ashcans may not be the best method. I personally am not charging for mine as a PDF, and if I had it in print I’d only charge cost. I want people to test it, not make it profitable at this stage.

    I did spend $50 on it, to have Jonathan lay it out. I’m just eating that (minimal) cost.

  7. Hm. As someone designing a game, I’m still unsure as to what exactly an Ashcan is. The impression I’m getting is that it is an incomplete product that the designer wants you to buy. If this is the correct impression, I’m really not down with that. Just seems… shady.

    • What’s shadier — publishing something as though it were a completed product, or publishing that same product while saying “Hey, I’m still testing this and I’d love some feedback on it. It needs work. If you’d like to be a part of the process, help me cover the costs of getting you a copy to look at by spending a small sum.”?

        • There might be a small misconception here:

          When they are charging for their games, they are only charging like $5.00 or so (for a printed/stapled/bound version; which is about “cost of printing, plus like two bucks”). They aren’t paying for “full price; the kind of price that I would pay for a final product”. (like, when the about $5.00 game eventually gets printed (if it gets printed), it will eventually be fixed, tight, then printed and sold for $20-30).

          So people aren’t paying $25.00 for a broken game here, it’s usually like $5 or so.

          -Andy

          • The only way I could see such a thing being fair is if, when the eventual product is released, those who paid for the Ashcan get a discount should they wish to then purchase the final release.

            • >>those who paid for the Ashcan get a discount should they wish to then purchase the final release.< <

              I agree with this.

              What I think has not been said here that needs to is that blind playtesting β€” where by “blind” I mean that you read the rules text and play it with your friends without asking the designer any questions β€” is a necessary step in getting a game to “ready to be released” stage. And it seems some designers really need to go the ashcan route in order to get sufficient blind playtesting to fix any remaining problems with the rules β€” or, more likely, the text.

              Sorry to pick on Mortal Coil again here, but playing it with bar_sinister I learned some things that are simply not entirely clear from the bookβ€”even though I’ve both played and GM’d MC with others.

              Matt

            • >>those who paid for the Ashcan get a discount should they wish to then purchase the final release.< <

              I agree with this.

              What I think has not been said here that needs to is that blind playtesting β€” where by “blind” I mean that you read the rules text and play it with your friends without asking the designer any questions β€” is a necessary step in getting a game to “ready to be released” stage. And it seems some designers really need to go the ashcan route in order to get sufficient blind playtesting to fix any remaining problems with the rules β€” or, more likely, the text.

              Sorry to pick on Mortal Coil again here, but playing it with bar_sinister I learned some things that are simply not entirely clear from the bookβ€”even though I’ve both played and GM’d MC with others.

              Matt

          • The only way I could see such a thing being fair is if, when the eventual product is released, those who paid for the Ashcan get a discount should they wish to then purchase the final release.

        • There might be a small misconception here:

          When they are charging for their games, they are only charging like $5.00 or so (for a printed/stapled/bound version; which is about “cost of printing, plus like two bucks”). They aren’t paying for “full price; the kind of price that I would pay for a final product”. (like, when the about $5.00 game eventually gets printed (if it gets printed), it will eventually be fixed, tight, then printed and sold for $20-30).

          So people aren’t paying $25.00 for a broken game here, it’s usually like $5 or so.

          -Andy

    • What’s shadier — publishing something as though it were a completed product, or publishing that same product while saying “Hey, I’m still testing this and I’d love some feedback on it. It needs work. If you’d like to be a part of the process, help me cover the costs of getting you a copy to look at by spending a small sum.”?

    • 1-2-3 of Ashcans

      I totally hear that. That was my reaction too. Keep in mind that:

      1) They aren’t full priced.

      2) They are labors of love and that love should be evident in their lowbrow make

      3) You are paying to take part in the game’s design process.

      I like ashcans because they destroy any notion of hierarchy between game designer and game player.

      Does that make sense

      • Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

        yeah one thing that i think is wicked awesome about ashcans is being like “here’s some money! please keep designing this!”

      • Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

        yeah one thing that i think is wicked awesome about ashcans is being like “here’s some money! please keep designing this!”

      • Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

        Hm. I can kinda see it, kinda not. Here’s an analogy.

        When I find a band I really like, I get really into that band’s music. I track down lots of their stuff, and try and see them live if ever possible. But I rarely, if ever, really care that much about the artists themselves. Heck, usually I don’t even know the names of the members of the band. Hell, I only know the name of one member of my favorite band, and I have their lyrics tattooed in large curling script across my chest.

        For me, this seems kinda similar. When I am a customer, I rarely care so much about a product that I want to be involved in the designer’s labor of love. here’s my 20 dollars, thanks for the book, and I’ll join your forums if I really like it.

        Then again, I can appreciate most of the concepts behind the Ashcan. Bringing in interested parties is awesome. Showing them you love something is also awesome. The one thing I just can’t get past is the fact that I’m asking a customer to pay for an unfinished product. As a long-time beta-tester of many, many video games, I know that if a company came out and said that I had to pay to be part of their beta test, I’d stop playing games from that company.

        I’ll have to ponder this more. I’m new to this, but it seems kinda… well, kinda shady.

        • Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

          If it was an ambush tactic it would be totally shady, but it’s right there on the box. The designer is offering something which is by definition unfinished, it’s your choice to say “no way, get back to me when it’s done” or “hell yeah, that sounds awesome!”. I don’t see how accurate advertising and informed consumer decision can be shady.

        • Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

          If it was an ambush tactic it would be totally shady, but it’s right there on the box. The designer is offering something which is by definition unfinished, it’s your choice to say “no way, get back to me when it’s done” or “hell yeah, that sounds awesome!”. I don’t see how accurate advertising and informed consumer decision can be shady.

      • Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

        Hm. I can kinda see it, kinda not. Here’s an analogy.

        When I find a band I really like, I get really into that band’s music. I track down lots of their stuff, and try and see them live if ever possible. But I rarely, if ever, really care that much about the artists themselves. Heck, usually I don’t even know the names of the members of the band. Hell, I only know the name of one member of my favorite band, and I have their lyrics tattooed in large curling script across my chest.

        For me, this seems kinda similar. When I am a customer, I rarely care so much about a product that I want to be involved in the designer’s labor of love. here’s my 20 dollars, thanks for the book, and I’ll join your forums if I really like it.

        Then again, I can appreciate most of the concepts behind the Ashcan. Bringing in interested parties is awesome. Showing them you love something is also awesome. The one thing I just can’t get past is the fact that I’m asking a customer to pay for an unfinished product. As a long-time beta-tester of many, many video games, I know that if a company came out and said that I had to pay to be part of their beta test, I’d stop playing games from that company.

        I’ll have to ponder this more. I’m new to this, but it seems kinda… well, kinda shady.

      • Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

        I’m a consumer, not a game designer.

        I bought With Great Power when it was an ashcan. It wasn’t called an ashcan, but I’m pretty sure Michael was upfront about how tested and not tested, how in progress it was, and it was priced accordingly.

        I don’t have a conceptual problem with paying for an ashcan. The laborer is worthy of his hire.

        I do have limited funds and very limited patience and time. At th,ie moment, there’s only one ashcan I want, and that’s 1st Quest. And, yes, in that case, I am paying to be part of the design process. I could see myself buying an ashcan where I wasn’t — let’s say there were an ashcan of the Dresden rpg. I might buy that, but I don’t think I’d be especially useful in terms of feedback on the system. Heck, I’m not even sure I’ll wind up using the system. It’d just be — hey, Dresden rpg — gimme!

      • Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

        I’m a consumer, not a game designer.

        I bought With Great Power when it was an ashcan. It wasn’t called an ashcan, but I’m pretty sure Michael was upfront about how tested and not tested, how in progress it was, and it was priced accordingly.

        I don’t have a conceptual problem with paying for an ashcan. The laborer is worthy of his hire.

        I do have limited funds and very limited patience and time. At th,ie moment, there’s only one ashcan I want, and that’s 1st Quest. And, yes, in that case, I am paying to be part of the design process. I could see myself buying an ashcan where I wasn’t — let’s say there were an ashcan of the Dresden rpg. I might buy that, but I don’t think I’d be especially useful in terms of feedback on the system. Heck, I’m not even sure I’ll wind up using the system. It’d just be — hey, Dresden rpg — gimme!

    • 1-2-3 of Ashcans

      I totally hear that. That was my reaction too. Keep in mind that:

      1) They aren’t full priced.

      2) They are labors of love and that love should be evident in their lowbrow make

      3) You are paying to take part in the game’s design process.

      I like ashcans because they destroy any notion of hierarchy between game designer and game player.

      Does that make sense

  8. Hm. As someone designing a game, I’m still unsure as to what exactly an Ashcan is. The impression I’m getting is that it is an incomplete product that the designer wants you to buy. If this is the correct impression, I’m really not down with that. Just seems… shady.

  9. Hm. As someone designing a game, I’m still unsure as to what exactly an Ashcan is. The impression I’m getting is that it is an incomplete product that the designer wants you to buy. If this is the correct impression, I’m really not down with that. Just seems… shady.

  10. Ryan,

    I don’t think it’s fair for you (or anyone else) to discount any ashcan based on a few bad ones. My game is coming out in ashcan, and I’ve been playtesting it for about two years. I want a variety of people to get a look at it to make sure I didn’t make a mistake that I’m unaware of. I think it’s a very done ashcan, but I have some reasons to hold off on creating a full, final version (reasons with the initials MC and SSF).

  11. Having taken something from “kinda broken” to “ready to publish” inside of a few weeks, I can’t regard anything but the present day as anything other than stale info.

    But I know you’re a lot uneasier about the connection of commercial enterprise and game development than I ever will be or honestly ever CAN be. The difference between our perspectives is pronounced enough that it feels like a difference rooted in belief rather than reason, at least as far as us having any basis for seeing eye to eye on it goes, so I’m gonna back away from this conversation as quickly as possible– since that observation is usually a big warning sign for me.

  12. Potential Problems with Ashcans

    That is getting towards potential problems with ashcans and how we can solve ’em.

    I think they can be not fully baked but there should still be a good game in there. Honestly, Ryan, I wasn’t going to attempt your game when you spent the first few pages apologizing to me in text for it not being that good.

    So, you as a podcaster can choose to ignore the entire thing. Me, I’m going to put my mic in ashcanner’s faces and ask what they have done to make sure their game doesn’t fall into similiar pitfalls.

  13. What’s shadier — publishing something as though it were a completed product, or publishing that same product while saying “Hey, I’m still testing this and I’d love some feedback on it. It needs work. If you’d like to be a part of the process, help me cover the costs of getting you a copy to look at by spending a small sum.”?

  14. I think asking for money while being honest about what’s being purchased is just fine. If someone who had a nifty idea for a play was staging a “dress rehearsal” type production of it to get an idea of whether or not the play was any good before putting more time and effort into it, I’d be fine paying a small fee for a ticket to see the work in progress, particularly if that idea excited me.

    I honestly have no idea what people are so worked up about other than issues that they should be sorting out in therapy or church instead of publishers’ faces.

  15. 1-2-3 of Ashcans

    I totally hear that. That was my reaction too. Keep in mind that:

    1) They aren’t full priced.

    2) They are labors of love and that love should be evident in their lowbrow make

    3) You are paying to take part in the game’s design process.

    I like ashcans because they destroy any notion of hierarchy between game designer and game player.

    Does that make sense

  16. Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

    yeah one thing that i think is wicked awesome about ashcans is being like “here’s some money! please keep designing this!”

  17. OK, sure. I am definitely not up in people’s pricing decisions. I give advice when asked, but otherwise no.

    I made my own decisions about what to charge and what not to charge. I think the important point is that publishers should make it clear that something’s an ashcan, especially if they are charging more than cost for it.

  18. Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

    Hm. I can kinda see it, kinda not. Here’s an analogy.

    When I find a band I really like, I get really into that band’s music. I track down lots of their stuff, and try and see them live if ever possible. But I rarely, if ever, really care that much about the artists themselves. Heck, usually I don’t even know the names of the members of the band. Hell, I only know the name of one member of my favorite band, and I have their lyrics tattooed in large curling script across my chest.

    For me, this seems kinda similar. When I am a customer, I rarely care so much about a product that I want to be involved in the designer’s labor of love. here’s my 20 dollars, thanks for the book, and I’ll join your forums if I really like it.

    Then again, I can appreciate most of the concepts behind the Ashcan. Bringing in interested parties is awesome. Showing them you love something is also awesome. The one thing I just can’t get past is the fact that I’m asking a customer to pay for an unfinished product. As a long-time beta-tester of many, many video games, I know that if a company came out and said that I had to pay to be part of their beta test, I’d stop playing games from that company.

    I’ll have to ponder this more. I’m new to this, but it seems kinda… well, kinda shady.

  19. Part of the reason you can not charge and still get playtesters who’ll follow through with actually playtesting is that your’e an established name with games that people already like.

    Also, for some, it can be a way to fund a full print-run (which is not what I’m doing).

  20. Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

    If it was an ambush tactic it would be totally shady, but it’s right there on the box. The designer is offering something which is by definition unfinished, it’s your choice to say “no way, get back to me when it’s done” or “hell yeah, that sounds awesome!”. I don’t see how accurate advertising and informed consumer decision can be shady.

  21. Re: Potential Problems with Ashcans

    So, you as a podcaster can choose to ignore the entire thing. Me, I’m going to put my mic in ashcanner’s faces and ask what they have done to make sure their game doesn’t fall into similiar pitfalls.

    People I have tried to engage about pitfalls and potential faults about this have been too focused on talking about how their game is awesome to answer the damned question, so I lost interest in trying. You, though, I’d trust you to answer. You want to do that interview on my show? I’ll totally put the mic in your face and ask you that.

    Also, you’re totally right on my over-apologizing in Know Thyself. I hope others have learned from my negative example.

  22. Re: Potential Problems with Ashcans

    Yeah, baby, put your hot, throbbing mic in my face.

    Wait…what were we talking about again?

    Yes, I’d love to be interviewed by you about this or what-have-you.

  23. Fair enough. While I’d regard you as an except rather than the rule, maybe that’s not fair to other potential exceptions.

    And you’re right about the connection to commercial enterprise with respect to in-development games, and about it being a difference in perspective (largely informed by my ashcanning last year). I’m not trying to offer my comment as sage wisdom, just “hey, here’s where I’m coming from and maybe it’s worth noting because I did try the process.”

  24. Hey, I’m completely aware of my advantages. And those facts are actually some of the reason mine is free. I probably could have charged for it because I’m known and many people have been anticipating this game, but that didn’t sit right with me.

    I can afford a full print run just fine, unlike many first-time authors.

  25. Heh, I hear you. Which is partly why I said what I did (and to mollify my own lizard brain).

    You know, for folks who occasionally collaborate, we butt heads pretty fuckin’ often. πŸ™‚

  26. I’m curious as to how much benefit ashcans provide for creators. Are there any games that were released under an ashcan format that later made the transition to full-fledged game? And for those games that went that route, did the ashcan process produce valuable design solutions?

    I do think it’s a bit sketchy to be charging people cash for the opportunity to make suggestions about a game which then leads to a “real” edition. At the very least, ashcans should offer purchasers a discount on the final version (especially if they provide useful feedback).

    That said, there are about half a dozen games that I would probably buy as ashcans simply because they’re either total vaporware (Great Ork Gods!) or their development cycle suggests that it’ll be years before they ever make it to press. But in this case, I’m looking at the ashcan not as a design process, but more of a “let’s get some ghost of this game in my hands!” deal.

    later
    Tom

      • Re: Giants

        Here’s how I view them, bearing in mind I’ve not bought one, but probably would if I saw something that interested me:

        Well known Game Designer states they’ve got an idea for a game, it will be published if X thousand dollars comes in by Y time. Anyone putting in Z amount of money gets to contribute to the development process.

        Unknown game designer puts out an unfinished game and positively solicits feedback, playtesting and criticism from people that pick it up. He charges the print cost of the game and a couple of extra dollars to cover sundry other costs.

        The two differ only in a matter of scale and the ‘prestige’ of the designer. Both happen, the first might well be seen as more ‘legit’ because of the past work of the designer, but it’s still the same root activity.

        • Re: Giants

          In most cases of Ransom though, it’s considered final content.
          I was under the impression the full mini-games (Meatbot Massacre and In Spaaaaace…) were finished, the ransom was merely to have them published.

          Edit: If the text is not yet written, I hope what is paid for is the final product, not the in-progress text.

        • Re: Giants

          In most cases of Ransom though, it’s considered final content.
          I was under the impression the full mini-games (Meatbot Massacre and In Spaaaaace…) were finished, the ransom was merely to have them published.

          Edit: If the text is not yet written, I hope what is paid for is the final product, not the in-progress text.

      • Re: Giants

        Here’s how I view them, bearing in mind I’ve not bought one, but probably would if I saw something that interested me:

        Well known Game Designer states they’ve got an idea for a game, it will be published if X thousand dollars comes in by Y time. Anyone putting in Z amount of money gets to contribute to the development process.

        Unknown game designer puts out an unfinished game and positively solicits feedback, playtesting and criticism from people that pick it up. He charges the print cost of the game and a couple of extra dollars to cover sundry other costs.

        The two differ only in a matter of scale and the ‘prestige’ of the designer. Both happen, the first might well be seen as more ‘legit’ because of the past work of the designer, but it’s still the same root activity.

  27. I’m curious as to how much benefit ashcans provide for creators. Are there any games that were released under an ashcan format that later made the transition to full-fledged game? And for those games that went that route, did the ashcan process produce valuable design solutions?

    I do think it’s a bit sketchy to be charging people cash for the opportunity to make suggestions about a game which then leads to a “real” edition. At the very least, ashcans should offer purchasers a discount on the final version (especially if they provide useful feedback).

    That said, there are about half a dozen games that I would probably buy as ashcans simply because they’re either total vaporware (Great Ork Gods!) or their development cycle suggests that it’ll be years before they ever make it to press. But in this case, I’m looking at the ashcan not as a design process, but more of a “let’s get some ghost of this game in my hands!” deal.

    later
    Tom

  28. I’m curious as to how much benefit ashcans provide for creators. Are there any games that were released under an ashcan format that later made the transition to full-fledged game? And for those games that went that route, did the ashcan process produce valuable design solutions?

    I do think it’s a bit sketchy to be charging people cash for the opportunity to make suggestions about a game which then leads to a “real” edition. At the very least, ashcans should offer purchasers a discount on the final version (especially if they provide useful feedback).

    That said, there are about half a dozen games that I would probably buy as ashcans simply because they’re either total vaporware (Great Ork Gods!) or their development cycle suggests that it’ll be years before they ever make it to press. But in this case, I’m looking at the ashcan not as a design process, but more of a “let’s get some ghost of this game in my hands!” deal.

    later
    Tom

  29. There might be a small misconception here:

    When they are charging for their games, they are only charging like $5.00 or so (for a printed/stapled/bound version; which is about “cost of printing, plus like two bucks”). They aren’t paying for “full price; the kind of price that I would pay for a final product”. (like, when the about $5.00 game eventually gets printed (if it gets printed), it will eventually be fixed, tight, then printed and sold for $20-30).

    So people aren’t paying $25.00 for a broken game here, it’s usually like $5 or so.

    -Andy

  30. The only way I could see such a thing being fair is if, when the eventual product is released, those who paid for the Ashcan get a discount should they wish to then purchase the final release.

  31. Huh, I don’t know about all the backlash, but the bit I have heard has nothing to do with it being unpolished or money exchanging hands as much as what it does to both a) designers rushing to publish to ashcan before it’s ready for even that and b) a play culture where people spend more time hyping and playing ashcans or playtesting rather than playing finished games.

    My experience is that development seems to have halted on the two ashcans I have purchased, one of which I bought about 4-5 years ago, before it was called an Ashcan. I expect we’ll see whether officially calling it an “ashcan” is really helpful overall in the next 3 years.

    • To be fair, when we have so many designers, and so many of us have designer friends, and seeing we wish to help them/us, I don’t see it as too surprising, though I am not sure we’re quite there yet.

    • To be fair, when we have so many designers, and so many of us have designer friends, and seeing we wish to help them/us, I don’t see it as too surprising, though I am not sure we’re quite there yet.

  32. Huh, I don’t know about all the backlash, but the bit I have heard has nothing to do with it being unpolished or money exchanging hands as much as what it does to both a) designers rushing to publish to ashcan before it’s ready for even that and b) a play culture where people spend more time hyping and playing ashcans or playtesting rather than playing finished games.

    My experience is that development seems to have halted on the two ashcans I have purchased, one of which I bought about 4-5 years ago, before it was called an Ashcan. I expect we’ll see whether officially calling it an “ashcan” is really helpful overall in the next 3 years.

  33. Huh, I don’t know about all the backlash, but the bit I have heard has nothing to do with it being unpolished or money exchanging hands as much as what it does to both a) designers rushing to publish to ashcan before it’s ready for even that and b) a play culture where people spend more time hyping and playing ashcans or playtesting rather than playing finished games.

    My experience is that development seems to have halted on the two ashcans I have purchased, one of which I bought about 4-5 years ago, before it was called an Ashcan. I expect we’ll see whether officially calling it an “ashcan” is really helpful overall in the next 3 years.

  34. If I was inspired, and under-the-gun, I think I could go from concept to finished, playable work in under one week. Sure, the result wouldn’t be perfect, but it would likely be a good ashcan.

  35. Re: Giants

    Here’s how I view them, bearing in mind I’ve not bought one, but probably would if I saw something that interested me:

    Well known Game Designer states they’ve got an idea for a game, it will be published if X thousand dollars comes in by Y time. Anyone putting in Z amount of money gets to contribute to the development process.

    Unknown game designer puts out an unfinished game and positively solicits feedback, playtesting and criticism from people that pick it up. He charges the print cost of the game and a couple of extra dollars to cover sundry other costs.

    The two differ only in a matter of scale and the ‘prestige’ of the designer. Both happen, the first might well be seen as more ‘legit’ because of the past work of the designer, but it’s still the same root activity.

  36. >>those who paid for the Ashcan get a discount should they wish to then purchase the final release.< <

    I agree with this.

    What I think has not been said here that needs to is that blind playtesting β€” where by “blind” I mean that you read the rules text and play it with your friends without asking the designer any questions β€” is a necessary step in getting a game to “ready to be released” stage. And it seems some designers really need to go the ashcan route in order to get sufficient blind playtesting to fix any remaining problems with the rules β€” or, more likely, the text.

    Sorry to pick on Mortal Coil again here, but playing it with bar_sinister I learned some things that are simply not entirely clear from the bookβ€”even though I’ve both played and GM’d MC with others.

    Matt

  37. Re: 1-2-3 of Ashcans

    I’m a consumer, not a game designer.

    I bought With Great Power when it was an ashcan. It wasn’t called an ashcan, but I’m pretty sure Michael was upfront about how tested and not tested, how in progress it was, and it was priced accordingly.

    I don’t have a conceptual problem with paying for an ashcan. The laborer is worthy of his hire.

    I do have limited funds and very limited patience and time. At th,ie moment, there’s only one ashcan I want, and that’s 1st Quest. And, yes, in that case, I am paying to be part of the design process. I could see myself buying an ashcan where I wasn’t — let’s say there were an ashcan of the Dresden rpg. I might buy that, but I don’t think I’d be especially useful in terms of feedback on the system. Heck, I’m not even sure I’ll wind up using the system. It’d just be — hey, Dresden rpg — gimme!

  38. Well, i remember the good old days when we gamers playtested designer’s games for free. We usually got something out of it for our trouble, like a free version of the finished product. Now it seems like Ashcaners are trying to get us to pay to playtest their games. I don’t think i am down with that. I’ve playtested for several companies over the years and would have been shocked if they asked to be payed for me to do it. I have a couple game writer/designers in one of my groups (who doesn’t these days?) that i’ll look at their stuff and comment or playtest. But if they asked me to pay for it, they would get it right in the butt. For strangers to walk up to me and ask me to pay for the privilege…well…not for me.

    That isn’t to say that i would NEVER do it, but it would heavily rely on circumstances for me to consider it. I am in favor of the Ransom Model, but that seems different to me. You have to have a lot of trust in the designer i suppose. Maybe that is the real point here.

    All that being said, bitching about Ashcans seems very stupid to me. Don’t want them, don’t freaking buy them. Whats it to ya!? sheesh.

    • The last paragraph is an answer to what came before; you can switch the positions:
      They’re not asking for you to pay them for the right to playtest their game. Hell, they stay in their spot.
      It’s you who is going to them. You’re the one doing the asking.

      • I understand trying to shift the viewpoint to that way of thinking, but it doesn’t track for me. If you are the seller, you are asking people to buy whatever it is that you are selling. You are ASKING a particular price for a particular product.

        AshCans are incomplete games for imcomplete prices. You either are into that or you aren’t. As long as they are upfront about what the product is or isn’t, i really don’t care. I don’t see why anyone should care if the people buying it know up front and are cool with it.

      • I understand trying to shift the viewpoint to that way of thinking, but it doesn’t track for me. If you are the seller, you are asking people to buy whatever it is that you are selling. You are ASKING a particular price for a particular product.

        AshCans are incomplete games for imcomplete prices. You either are into that or you aren’t. As long as they are upfront about what the product is or isn’t, i really don’t care. I don’t see why anyone should care if the people buying it know up front and are cool with it.

    • The last paragraph is an answer to what came before; you can switch the positions:
      They’re not asking for you to pay them for the right to playtest their game. Hell, they stay in their spot.
      It’s you who is going to them. You’re the one doing the asking.

  39. Well, i remember the good old days when we gamers playtested designer’s games for free. We usually got something out of it for our trouble, like a free version of the finished product. Now it seems like Ashcaners are trying to get us to pay to playtest their games. I don’t think i am down with that. I’ve playtested for several companies over the years and would have been shocked if they asked to be payed for me to do it. I have a couple game writer/designers in one of my groups (who doesn’t these days?) that i’ll look at their stuff and comment or playtest. But if they asked me to pay for it, they would get it right in the butt. For strangers to walk up to me and ask me to pay for the privilege…well…not for me.

    That isn’t to say that i would NEVER do it, but it would heavily rely on circumstances for me to consider it. I am in favor of the Ransom Model, but that seems different to me. You have to have a lot of trust in the designer i suppose. Maybe that is the real point here.

    All that being said, bitching about Ashcans seems very stupid to me. Don’t want them, don’t freaking buy them. Whats it to ya!? sheesh.

  40. Well, i remember the good old days when we gamers playtested designer’s games for free. We usually got something out of it for our trouble, like a free version of the finished product. Now it seems like Ashcaners are trying to get us to pay to playtest their games. I don’t think i am down with that. I’ve playtested for several companies over the years and would have been shocked if they asked to be payed for me to do it. I have a couple game writer/designers in one of my groups (who doesn’t these days?) that i’ll look at their stuff and comment or playtest. But if they asked me to pay for it, they would get it right in the butt. For strangers to walk up to me and ask me to pay for the privilege…well…not for me.

    That isn’t to say that i would NEVER do it, but it would heavily rely on circumstances for me to consider it. I am in favor of the Ransom Model, but that seems different to me. You have to have a lot of trust in the designer i suppose. Maybe that is the real point here.

    All that being said, bitching about Ashcans seems very stupid to me. Don’t want them, don’t freaking buy them. Whats it to ya!? sheesh.

  41. In the end, people judge things based on similar things all the time, even if they shouldn’t.

    Look at labels, “Trad games”, “Indie games”, “Story games”, “Ashcans”.

    We judge all of them based on other things we come into contact with that we think fall into the same category.

  42. Re: Giants

    In most cases of Ransom though, it’s considered final content.
    I was under the impression the full mini-games (Meatbot Massacre and In Spaaaaace…) were finished, the ransom was merely to have them published.

    Edit: If the text is not yet written, I hope what is paid for is the final product, not the in-progress text.

  43. To be fair, when we have so many designers, and so many of us have designer friends, and seeing we wish to help them/us, I don’t see it as too surprising, though I am not sure we’re quite there yet.

  44. The last paragraph is an answer to what came before; you can switch the positions:
    They’re not asking for you to pay them for the right to playtest their game. Hell, they stay in their spot.
    It’s you who is going to them. You’re the one doing the asking.

  45. I understand trying to shift the viewpoint to that way of thinking, but it doesn’t track for me. If you are the seller, you are asking people to buy whatever it is that you are selling. You are ASKING a particular price for a particular product.

    AshCans are incomplete games for imcomplete prices. You either are into that or you aren’t. As long as they are upfront about what the product is or isn’t, i really don’t care. I don’t see why anyone should care if the people buying it know up front and are cool with it.

  46. The ashcan topic definitely seems to be heating up recently, as that 50+ post thread on my blog demonstrated.

    I think one of the main difficulties is making sure the audience knows what they are buying (or being given, in the case of a free ashcans) and understands that they are being invited into the process, not being sold a product. I think the Ashcan Booth has made a good dent in this regard but, in general, a large number of people (including many who’ve responded to this post) continue to treat ashcans just like any other product, expecting a “finished” game.

    There’s a huge variance between different ashcans as well. I don’t expect to change any of the rules of Geiger Counter due to people’s responses to the version I’m releasing for free at GenCon. The game itself is done and has been playtested both internally and externally. But I am definitely interested in making further revisions to the text in response to feedback about how clear and effective it is. And I’m going to do my best to make that clear, but there are other ashcans that may not be that far along in the process, that may still need to undergo extensive revisions.

    The only thing we can do, I expect, is to try to encourage people to treat each ashcan (and each product) on an individual basis and not judge them by what other people are doing, when that may be something completely different. That’s hard, though, when people hear “ashcan” and bring a whole series of expectations.

    • As I said elsewhere, just like they hear any other term, “Story Game”, “Traditional Game”, and so on and so forth.

      That’s the ideal, but it’ll be a phyrric victory, as people will be less likely to get games they want.

      I think the opposite is the solution, in a way:
      Have those who like ashcans get them, have those who don’t, not get them.

      I like the concept of ashcans, the only thing I wish is more games were sold as ashcans previous to their “first edition” πŸ™‚ (Though I’m talking in an anachronistic manner here, I’m talking about games that were published prior to the “Ashcan Front” coming forth)

      To me, there are two real issues with ashcans right now:
      1. The confusion on some people’s part on whether a certain game is an ashcan or not (this also fits with “what is an ashcan” – I’m looking at content here, not at production values, at all, but seems others do not).
      2. This is a personal call, but I think more games may do well as “Ashcans”, but since ashcans often get such a low traction and feedback, and what I want games to get is something they usually only get after a serious critical mass – so what I do is usually wait after a game is released, and grab it a year or so later.

    • As I said elsewhere, just like they hear any other term, “Story Game”, “Traditional Game”, and so on and so forth.

      That’s the ideal, but it’ll be a phyrric victory, as people will be less likely to get games they want.

      I think the opposite is the solution, in a way:
      Have those who like ashcans get them, have those who don’t, not get them.

      I like the concept of ashcans, the only thing I wish is more games were sold as ashcans previous to their “first edition” πŸ™‚ (Though I’m talking in an anachronistic manner here, I’m talking about games that were published prior to the “Ashcan Front” coming forth)

      To me, there are two real issues with ashcans right now:
      1. The confusion on some people’s part on whether a certain game is an ashcan or not (this also fits with “what is an ashcan” – I’m looking at content here, not at production values, at all, but seems others do not).
      2. This is a personal call, but I think more games may do well as “Ashcans”, but since ashcans often get such a low traction and feedback, and what I want games to get is something they usually only get after a serious critical mass – so what I do is usually wait after a game is released, and grab it a year or so later.

  47. The ashcan topic definitely seems to be heating up recently, as that 50+ post thread on my blog demonstrated.

    I think one of the main difficulties is making sure the audience knows what they are buying (or being given, in the case of a free ashcans) and understands that they are being invited into the process, not being sold a product. I think the Ashcan Booth has made a good dent in this regard but, in general, a large number of people (including many who’ve responded to this post) continue to treat ashcans just like any other product, expecting a “finished” game.

    There’s a huge variance between different ashcans as well. I don’t expect to change any of the rules of Geiger Counter due to people’s responses to the version I’m releasing for free at GenCon. The game itself is done and has been playtested both internally and externally. But I am definitely interested in making further revisions to the text in response to feedback about how clear and effective it is. And I’m going to do my best to make that clear, but there are other ashcans that may not be that far along in the process, that may still need to undergo extensive revisions.

    The only thing we can do, I expect, is to try to encourage people to treat each ashcan (and each product) on an individual basis and not judge them by what other people are doing, when that may be something completely different. That’s hard, though, when people hear “ashcan” and bring a whole series of expectations.

  48. The ashcan topic definitely seems to be heating up recently, as that 50+ post thread on my blog demonstrated.

    I think one of the main difficulties is making sure the audience knows what they are buying (or being given, in the case of a free ashcans) and understands that they are being invited into the process, not being sold a product. I think the Ashcan Booth has made a good dent in this regard but, in general, a large number of people (including many who’ve responded to this post) continue to treat ashcans just like any other product, expecting a “finished” game.

    There’s a huge variance between different ashcans as well. I don’t expect to change any of the rules of Geiger Counter due to people’s responses to the version I’m releasing for free at GenCon. The game itself is done and has been playtested both internally and externally. But I am definitely interested in making further revisions to the text in response to feedback about how clear and effective it is. And I’m going to do my best to make that clear, but there are other ashcans that may not be that far along in the process, that may still need to undergo extensive revisions.

    The only thing we can do, I expect, is to try to encourage people to treat each ashcan (and each product) on an individual basis and not judge them by what other people are doing, when that may be something completely different. That’s hard, though, when people hear “ashcan” and bring a whole series of expectations.

  49. As I said elsewhere, just like they hear any other term, “Story Game”, “Traditional Game”, and so on and so forth.

    That’s the ideal, but it’ll be a phyrric victory, as people will be less likely to get games they want.

    I think the opposite is the solution, in a way:
    Have those who like ashcans get them, have those who don’t, not get them.

    I like the concept of ashcans, the only thing I wish is more games were sold as ashcans previous to their “first edition” πŸ™‚ (Though I’m talking in an anachronistic manner here, I’m talking about games that were published prior to the “Ashcan Front” coming forth)

    To me, there are two real issues with ashcans right now:
    1. The confusion on some people’s part on whether a certain game is an ashcan or not (this also fits with “what is an ashcan” – I’m looking at content here, not at production values, at all, but seems others do not).
    2. This is a personal call, but I think more games may do well as “Ashcans”, but since ashcans often get such a low traction and feedback, and what I want games to get is something they usually only get after a serious critical mass – so what I do is usually wait after a game is released, and grab it a year or so later.

  50. I am a game consumer, podcast listener, and someday-maybe designer.

    When I first heard the two-sentence elevator pitch for ashcans I was suspicious. Later I heard a two-paragraph description that addressed my concerns. I see ashcans as a development methodology, and when I wear my consumer hat I don’t concern myself with how designers do their job. When I look at a finished game I don’t care whether the authors used Word or Google Docs, nor do I care whether an ashcan happened.

    The two-sentence description seems to be causing people to mistakenly categorize an ashcan as a product, rather than an entry point to the development process. Hence a lot of misgivings over whether an ashcan is fair to consumers, which I think are non-sequiturs. This is a communication problem. I think skeptics could do a better job of listening to the two-paragraph description with open minds, and proponents could do a better job of refining the elevator pitch to convey the right mindset. I think it would help to avoid using transaction-oriented words such as buyer, seller, price, or cost. Maybe ask for a “materials fee” or even “suggested donation” instead of a purchase price.

    I’m coming into this as a veteran of methodology holy wars in the open source software world. There are many philosophical lines in the sand over there, and it’s not productive. I’m hopeful that ashcans won’t become any more of a divisive political issue. In particular I hope that if I ever get serious about writing a game, I’ll be able to decide whether to do an ashcan purely on the basis of whether it solves practical problems.

  51. I am a game consumer, podcast listener, and someday-maybe designer.

    When I first heard the two-sentence elevator pitch for ashcans I was suspicious. Later I heard a two-paragraph description that addressed my concerns. I see ashcans as a development methodology, and when I wear my consumer hat I don’t concern myself with how designers do their job. When I look at a finished game I don’t care whether the authors used Word or Google Docs, nor do I care whether an ashcan happened.

    The two-sentence description seems to be causing people to mistakenly categorize an ashcan as a product, rather than an entry point to the development process. Hence a lot of misgivings over whether an ashcan is fair to consumers, which I think are non-sequiturs. This is a communication problem. I think skeptics could do a better job of listening to the two-paragraph description with open minds, and proponents could do a better job of refining the elevator pitch to convey the right mindset. I think it would help to avoid using transaction-oriented words such as buyer, seller, price, or cost. Maybe ask for a “materials fee” or even “suggested donation” instead of a purchase price.

    I’m coming into this as a veteran of methodology holy wars in the open source software world. There are many philosophical lines in the sand over there, and it’s not productive. I’m hopeful that ashcans won’t become any more of a divisive political issue. In particular I hope that if I ever get serious about writing a game, I’ll be able to decide whether to do an ashcan purely on the basis of whether it solves practical problems.

  52. I am a game consumer, podcast listener, and someday-maybe designer.

    When I first heard the two-sentence elevator pitch for ashcans I was suspicious. Later I heard a two-paragraph description that addressed my concerns. I see ashcans as a development methodology, and when I wear my consumer hat I don’t concern myself with how designers do their job. When I look at a finished game I don’t care whether the authors used Word or Google Docs, nor do I care whether an ashcan happened.

    The two-sentence description seems to be causing people to mistakenly categorize an ashcan as a product, rather than an entry point to the development process. Hence a lot of misgivings over whether an ashcan is fair to consumers, which I think are non-sequiturs. This is a communication problem. I think skeptics could do a better job of listening to the two-paragraph description with open minds, and proponents could do a better job of refining the elevator pitch to convey the right mindset. I think it would help to avoid using transaction-oriented words such as buyer, seller, price, or cost. Maybe ask for a “materials fee” or even “suggested donation” instead of a purchase price.

    I’m coming into this as a veteran of methodology holy wars in the open source software world. There are many philosophical lines in the sand over there, and it’s not productive. I’m hopeful that ashcans won’t become any more of a divisive political issue. In particular I hope that if I ever get serious about writing a game, I’ll be able to decide whether to do an ashcan purely on the basis of whether it solves practical problems.

  53. I think what we’re seeing here is a normal thing that happens in business, that’s being disrupted by the fact that here we have business/consumers all within a circle of friends. So now there’s arguing and hurt feelings.

  54. I think what we’re seeing here is a normal thing that happens in business, that’s being disrupted by the fact that here we have business/consumers all within a circle of friends. So now there’s arguing and hurt feelings.

  55. I think what we’re seeing here is a normal thing that happens in business, that’s being disrupted by the fact that here we have business/consumers all within a circle of friends. So now there’s arguing and hurt feelings.

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