Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Ransomware cheap DLC

I was looking at a certain games portals ‘new releases’ list recently and saw tons of tiny bits of DLC for under 3 dollars. Very cheap. I assume that this stuff makes money, or at least breaks even.

It got me thinking about the possibility of similar priced DLC for GSB. I’m not especially keen to do any more fully fledged expansion packs. I did three, and you’d be surprised how much work is involved in adding new weapon types and modules. The game is hugely involved now. The weapons for the order took ages to balance. The swarm was easier, but they still took a while.

Right now, I’m 100% dedicated to the GSB campaign game, which is horribly complex to code (yet pretty simple to play, it’s not galciv or anything like it). As a result, I’m not about to make any new module types or other gameplay-affecting stuff.

But then… is there a market for just new ships hulls? Either more hulls for the existing races, or maybe another new race, but one with no specific new tech. Just new visual shiny basically. Would people be interested? To do a whole new race costs a lot in artist time (and some cliff-time for the damage textures)., but if I could find a way to make it break-even, I’d do it. I love designing the ideas for new ships. It’s mostly artist work, so I can keep working on the campaign.

Has anyone ever run, partaken in, or seen a ransomware model working? The idea is that people pledge money (and actually hand it over, it’s not just a promise) to a third party. When that amount reaches $X, the product is produced, and released (presumably for free?) and the developer gets the money. Kind of like donations, but with a target.  If the limit isn’t reached, I assume the people get their money back. I hear people talk about this idea, but I’ve never seen it happen. have you?

24 thoughts on Ransomware cheap DLC

  1. I’m not much fond of DLC, because it feels like paying extra for something that should have been included from the beginning. Especially because we pay a lot more in Switzerland than most of you guys. Starcraft 1 on Amazon: 39€. Here: About 60€. That’s just ridiculous and results in me being incredibly unforgiving to getting charged extra extra.

    That said: Campaign game might as well cost a few bucks, I will gladly pay for that. I’m wary of paying for a few extra hulls. And if it breaks challenges (such as: Cannot use them without paying extra for those stupid hulls) I am strongly against it.

  2. Eh, obviously I was talking about Starcraft 2 (released only days ago), not something of ten years ago.

  3. i prepaid US$48 for the legendary support level of grim dawn the first day the option was available. its not exactly ransomware, more a crowdfunding sort of thing, but a lot of the same risks are there.

    in the case of grim dawn, it was a no-brainer for me. i loved titan quest, and want another titan-quest-quality game badly enough that im willing to roll the dice and pony up some cash for it far far in advance of any kind of released product (or, really, the reasonable expectation that one might ever actually emerge).

    as far as GSB goes, i probably wouldnt put up any money for extras… i still havent bought any of the expansions, and likely wont. i feel the game stands well enough on its own. i WILL likely buy the campaign module when you release it, because i feel like it adds enough to the game to warrant a purchase.

    generally speaking, i dont go in for th “tiny dlc” thing. a dlc pack needs to add something significant (or a whole lot of little things that add up to being significant) before im going to open my wallet. one could argue that buying all the tiny things individually adds up to the same effect but… it almost always costs a LOT more than id be willing to spend for all the things together anyway. i guess im just cheap.

    oh, and i absolutely would never pay any amount of money, not even a cent, for purely cosmetic stuff. i cant understand why anyone does, but obviously they do, as many world of warcraft players could attest to.

  4. I just read an article this morning about starting a company in the way you’re describing:
    You may just want to check out directly. It may not work for you directly, since software is a bit more difficult to manage in this way than physical goods, but it’s a starting point (and a success story!).
    Kickstartup works by getting people to pledge money, and they get incentives for pledging different amounts (i.e. For a startup that sells a book, someone gets a copy of the book for the basic donation, and a signed copy of the book for a bigger donation). People who didn’t pledge anything don’t get it for free – they can just buy the item afterward.
    Maybe you could create flashy ships as DLC, but special, extra-cool ships are exclusively reserved for those who pledge in advance.
    (I don’t actually play GSB – I just read your blog for your insights – so this may not make sense for the game.)

  5. I second Kickstarter. ( As they describe it: “Kickstarter is a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers…”
    I think this would be a great match for you as you have a dedicated following and if not enough money is pledged then you don’t have to do anything!

  6. I wouldn’t call it ransomware as much as patronage. Patronage sounds far more palatable to people you want money from.

  7. I definitely wouldn’t use the term “randomware” (, but it is indeed an intriguing idea. While I haven’t done it myself, I know ChipIn ( is a popular money-raising website that doesn’t charge any fees for their service. Reading their terms of service, they state that the organizer can set it so that if the goal is not reached all of the funds are returned, so I think that would serve the purpose that you’re looking for.

    While I’ve only played the demo (waiting for the OSX version… *wink wink*), I agree that I don’t think hulls-only is a worthwhile project that I’d want to pay much for. Then again, it could be a nice mini-project to try the system out on.

    I do really like the idea of crowd-sourced payments, though somewhat unusually shifts the risk to the consumers (who are “purchasing” something that they haven’t seen). It reduces risk for the developer, though also removes potential gains if the game is huge (assuming you go with a freeware option once you hit your goal). It’s an absolutely intriguing mechanic, but I can’t offer much personal advice on it having no experience with it.

  8. I like the idea of another race, even one that doesn’t add new weaponry. As long as their ships get different base stats so they’re not just a cosmetic change.

  9. It’s a novel idea Cliff. I just got the game and expansions last night though (oo look, payday!) and I think that’s going to keep me busy for a bit. And I’m eagerly awaiting the campaign game.

    Still I’ll be keeping an eye on the blog and would probably chip in on such an endeavour.

  10. Also check out Iron Skies,, a Finnish sci-fi film which is being, at least partially, funded by crowd funding.

    I’ve been considering the same thing recently actually.
    I need funding for a new version of All Out War and have been struggling along with funding via contract work, which quite honestly is a very bad way of getting money for the project as it just about covers the bills but leaves you too exhausted to work on your actual project.

    Regarding DLC, I actually like the whole model as a player (and a dev), but it has to be worth it for me to part with my cash.
    I prefer to buy discounted bundles of DLC over individual content though, I think that’s a perception thing that there’s more “value” in a bundle.

  11. I would be happy to pay for a DLC release that just contains new ships. Not new skins for existing designs, but new ships for existing races. A $7 DLC with the usual 14 new ships, distributed across the four starting races, would be great for me – I haven’t played GSB in months (waiting for the campaign), but would love to pay you $7 or so for some new models to get me back into the game.

  12. About ransomware/patronage – that’s not for me. I’m happy to pay for GSB DLC, but not in advance. The exception is for beta releases – if there is actually something to play, then at that point I’ll pay up.

  13. If you are looking to make more money from this game, then I would like to see a Battleships expansion. One battleship hull for each race. If you haven’t bought the associated race expansion, then you can only access that particular battleship if you buy the race expansion for it too.

    Or how about a ‘Flagship’ expansion? One fleet flagship per fleet. It’s battleship class and can be customised with all sorts of the kind of re-skinning, spangles that you have been writing about. Along with a nice set of battleship class modules and flagship special modules )).

  14. Apparently personal customisation is the stuff that sells best on all the free to play games (i.e. they’re living off of their DLC) – now those have a very different market to your strategy gamers but it still might be something that appeals.

    Might be worth trying once?

  15. I think it would be worthwhile for you to look at what some authors of books have done in this area. Lawrence Watt-Evans, for example, has published a number of novels with a method that when enough donations come in the next chapter is posted online approach. See also did a similar thing.

    You might do something like that with extra hulls. When enough donations come in for another hull, you post it for free download on your website.

  16. Not taking time to right this again

    Just give us battleships with selectable bonuses

  17. I’m not really pleased with the hulls there are now, so I doubt I would want more.

    And six races is enough, I would like to see them more fleshed out.

    What I’m really interested in would be new modules. I would definitely pay for DLC if it added a few new modules, especially if it added one or more racial specific modules for each race.

  18. I would pay about $10US for a new race, even if that race had no special modules. As others have mentioned, I would want the hulls to have different statistics than those already available.

    I would be willing to pay this money in advance if that helps you decide to do the project.

  19. I would be all for this. New races i could care less about, but a larger verity of hulls, bigger, small, more specialized (I personally would love a speed-penalty, Armor/shield boost no weapon slot ship!) or bizarre! The hulls are the platform for creativity, and without a verity of hulls you could get stagnation

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