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Hive Time from developer 'Cheeseness' released nearly a year ago, and so the developer has written up a lengthy blog post on the development and the finances. A good read if you like behind the scenes dev info, here I will sum up a few interesting bits from it but the full article is definitely worth reading.

It's a thoroughly interesting read because Hive Time is in quite a unique position. Not only because it's made with open source tools like Godot EngineBlender, the GNU Image Manipulation ProgramInkscape, and Audacity it also released where you could download it for nothing. Technically, it's a $10 game but they made it pay what you want for people who can't afford to pay. The pay what you want model was made pretty popular years ago thanks to the likes of Humble Indie Bundle and others, but for selling a single game how does it turn out? That's what Cheese talks about and it seems to have been a tough sell overall.

For people after some hard numbers, Hive Time appears to have sold under 600 copies after almost a year. That's not counting people who claimed it from the huge itch charity bundle. In terms of revenue, they said how they've "been unable to approach anything near covering development costs". Itch doesn't have per-platform sales, but it does show downloads per platform-file which Cheese showed as:

Pre-release:

  • Linux (27.19%)
  • Mac (12.93%)
  • Windows (59.88%)

1.0 release:

  • Linux (8.24%)
  • Mac (14.72%)
  • Windows (77.04%)

1.1 major update:

  • Linux (10.03%)
  • Mac (8.88%)
  • Windows (81.1%)

Never seen Hive Time? Check out one of the amusing trailers below:

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The full blog post contains a whole lot of info to go through, including fancy charts showing downloads and sales corresponding to articles, videos, livestreams and more. Nice to see that we're one of their seemingly bigger regular referrers.

While it may not have sold as much as they had liked, they're clear that it's been a valuable learning experience they will put into future projects and they've been happy to run it with the pay what you want purchase option.

You can read the full post here and buy Hive Time from itch.io which is under a pay what you want price.

Disclosure: Josh 'Cheeseness' has been a regular contributor to GamingOnLinux over the years on a completely volunteer basis. As always, my decisions to cover things are simply based on my own interests and because Hive Time is cool. Save the bees.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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15 comments
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CatKiller 25 Oct
Quoting: CheesenessThat manual intervention is so far beyond what a typical user is going to be up for, and it needs to be re-done every time the game updates (which a user might not notice and may end up accidentally launching a new game, risking their saves, etc. if there are any format changes or other backwards compatibility breakages).

Not really. If you're running a game without the Steam client (which depends on whether the game dev uses Steam features or not, but is trivial if they aren't) just copy the game files wherever you want and run them from there.

The instructions you linked to were for specifically rolling back an update that a game dev has pushed, where the game dev hasn't made the option otherwise available to use an older version. Breaking changes between versions are also the dev's choice.
Cheeseness 26 Oct
[quote=ShabbyX]
Quoting: CheesenessAdded as a non-steam game works, but then you don't get updates. Selling steam keys per pay-what-you-want may work, probably with a special clause that steam keys require a minimum because steam charges you or something.
Nothing stops you from installing a newer version whenever it suits you.
There are lots of different possible ways to ship stuff on Steam and combine that distribution on other platforms, but as I've said, it's just not appropriate for this project. What you're suggesting is the equivalent of saying that meat should be made available to participants in a study on the effects of vegetarian diets. Being available on Steam (a platform that does not offer pay-what-you-want pricing) would specifically prevent me from being able to study and write about a project that only uses pay-what-you-want pricing. It would prevents me from seeing whether people who might prefer to buy a game on Steam would still be willing to buy elsewhere (turns out, most are)


Quoting: rustybroomhandleSteam does not charge developers for keys. I can request 10000 keys to use on another store/bundle/giveaway and Steam is 100% ok with that.
It's slightly more wrinkly than that. Valve have always had the power to deny the generation of free keys, and exercise it from time to time when something crops up that isn't a good fit for the store (in order to preserve pay-what-you-want pricing, I'd effectively have to have a game that wasn't available for purchase on the Steam storefront, but for which I was selling keys elsewhere - that feels like the kind of inappropriate use of the platform they'd be keen to crack down on).


Quoting: CatKillerNot really. If you're running a game without the Steam client (which depends on whether the game dev uses Steam features or not, but is trivial if they aren't) just copy the game files wherever you want and run them from there.

The instructions you linked to were for specifically rolling back an update that a game dev has pushed, where the game dev hasn't made the option otherwise available to use an older version. Breaking changes between versions are also the dev's choice.
Even just copying the files is way out of band for standard user experience, and specifically involves circumventing the platform's intended behaviour. From a developer perspective, I don't feel comfortable recommending manual workarounds like that to my customers.

That said, if one is cool with copying files elsewhere and adding the game back in as a non-Steam game, that's awfully close to the exact steps one would have to do to download the game from Itch and run it through the Steam client...

Breaking changes between versions is often not a conscious choice on the part of developers. I put some effort into maintain backwards/forwards compatibility with user data, but statistically speaking, there will eventually be something that I overlook or just plain mess up. That said, I should be free to consciously change file formats if that feels like the right thing to do for the future of the project without that risking a forced update upsetting the files of users who'd prefer to run an older version (even if you make older versions available in another branch, a user still needs to notice an unwanted update and manually switch branches without accidentally launching the game - it's a mess).


Quoting: mirvAnd for something entirely different, something that caught my eye and I just liked was the menu scroll indicator: rather than a straight line, it follows the edge of a hexagon. Nice little touch there.
Thanks! I had that idea long before the game had a menu. It was a bit finicky to set up, but I'm really glad I was able to implement it and that people appreciate it :)


Last edited by Cheeseness on 26 October 2020 at 10:14 am UTC
whizse 26 Oct
  • Supporter
I will forever remember Hive Time as the first and only game I created a mod for. Yes, I'm a modder now!* In my hive, all the bees are named Eric and I love them semi-carnally!

* I edited two json files, wooo!
CatKiller 26 Oct
Quoting: CheesenessEven just copying the files is way out of band for standard user experience, and specifically involves circumventing the platform's intended behaviour. From a developer perspective, I don't feel comfortable recommending manual workarounds like that to my customers.


Manually copying files around is the "user-friendly" outcome that you were looking for. I'm not trying to be argumentative here; it's entirely a dev's decision whether they choose to release on Steam or choose not to release on Steam, and that's fine.

The client's intended behaviour is an auto-updater, yes, for Counter-Strike, I believe, but there's a button in the client to easily show a game's files: that is also intended behaviour. It opens up your normal file browser at the appropriate location so you can do whatever file management stuff you'd do if you'd got the files from anywhere else.

QuoteThat said, if one is cool with copying files elsewhere and adding the game back in as a non-Steam game, that's awfully close to the exact steps one would have to do to download the game from Itch and run it through the Steam client...


Why would you add the game back into Steam? The hypothetical is that not using the Steam client is superior to using the Steam client.

QuoteBreaking changes between versions is often not a conscious choice on the part of developers. I put some effort into maintain backwards/forwards compatibility with user data, but statistically speaking, there will eventually be something that I overlook or just plain mess up. That said, I should be free to consciously change file formats if that feels like the right thing to do for the future of the project without that risking a forced update upsetting the files of users who'd prefer to run an older version (even if you make older versions available in another branch, a user still needs to notice an unwanted update and manually switch branches without accidentally launching the game - it's a mess).

The file formats, manifests and scripts are entirely the developer's choice. There's no reason why a dev couldn't copy a game's files to a backup location prior to running an update in preparation for users using those files should they opt in to using an older branch. Each update comes with a News link where a dev can provide information on the changes and instruction on how to opt into an older branch, and the Steam client comes with access to the Steam forum for direct contact between devs and customers.

To reiterate: you can't easily do pay-what-you-want with Steam, and you can't distribute files without the customer using the Steam client. Those are absolutely valid reasons for a dev choosing not to release on Steam, and it's the dev's choice where they release regardless. If a dev wants people to be able to run older branches, and customers want to run older branches, that is absolutely something that can be done with the Steam client; the issues arise when a customer wants to run older branches and the dev doesn't want them to, which isn't the case here. At any point (assuming the game doesn't use Steam features, and so requires the Steam client to run) a customer can also independently take whichever version they're happy with and run it from wherever they prefer.
Cheeseness 11 Nov
Apologies for the slow responses - some personal life challenges have made it difficult to give attention to this sort of stuff.


Quoting: whizseI will forever remember Hive Time as the first and only game I created a mod for.
Very nice! Even if it's just for silly stuff, I'm super happy that people feel like they can find some extra fun by poking around in the data files :)


Quoting: CatKillerThe client's intended behaviour is an auto-updater, yes, for Counter-Strike, I believe, but there's a button in the client to easily show a game's files: that is also intended behaviour. It opens up your normal file browser at the appropriate location so you can do whatever file management stuff you'd do if you'd got the files from anywhere else.
That's still buried behind a dialogue and a bunch of clicks that makes it entirely undiscoverable, and is still outside intended user behaviour (IIRC the intention for the browse local files option was to make installing mods easier when it was added back before Steam Workshop existed). An acceptable solution wouldn't require me to hand-hold users who hadn't done it before through the process.

QuoteWhy would you add the game back into Steam? The hypothetical is that not using the Steam client is superior to using the Steam client.
The perspective I'm coming from for this line of discussion is only that I find the forced auto-updating behaviour of the client to be inappropriate and incompatible with the experience I'd like to provide my players with. The majority of users who've seemed keen to get the game on Steam have specifically been interested in running it through the client, which tracks for me - I can't imagine why someone would prefer to buy the game through Steam if they didn't want to run things through the Steam client.

QuoteThere's no reason why a dev couldn't copy a game's files to a backup location prior to running an update in preparation for users using those files should they opt in to using an older branch.
No reason aside from being wasteful and not respectful of users' hard drive space/lifespan in order to have a pretty clunky work around for something that shouldn't need working around in the first place. Recall that an option to entirely disable updates per game used to exist, and that was removed - it doesn't make much sense for me to overlook that the platform has moved toward making avoiding unwanted updates increasingly more awkward for users (it's totally fine if others want to, but that's not where I'm at).
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