Semantics and Shaintar: The Meaning of Free

There have been some interesting developments revolving around our use of the word “free” in conjunction with the release of the Shaintar: Legends Arise Players Beta Guide, and I’m going to share the posts I put into the ongoing discussion Sean Patrick Fannon started on Facebook and G+, so you don’t have to leap over there if you don’t wish to do so. And I’m not wishing to link over to his page. Either you know him or you don’t. Right?

According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the appropriate definition for free is as follows:

free: made, done, or given voluntarily or spontaneously

I certainly think we’ve fulfilled this criteria in spades. Shaintar has no cost in dollars and cents (I nearly wrote sense, but that, for certain reasons, doesn’t track here). Some folks find that registering on our website and providing personal data is overstepping our bounds (although it is nothing I find particular untoward or invasive). You go to a gas station or liquor store and they are going to card you and some random stranger will be looking at all sorts of personal information about you. I’m not wanting to step into a violation of personal liberties or whatnot. What we’re doing is three-fold, providing the ever-so-patient fans an opportunity to check out what we’ve executed and give it a go, track the number of downloads to weigh the potentiality for the product line while simultaneously building up a potential customer base. You register and you get something pretty cool in return. Thirty seconds of your time and a bit of info about yourselves versus years of hard work and imagination in crafting what can only be called a labor of love. You (and whatever baggage you bring along with you) have to make the decision for yourself. What rubs me the wrong way is how some folks want to dictate how we, as a publisher, conduct business. Games are supposed to be fun. Games are supposed to be a distraction from all the stupidity and meanness present in the real world. They are an escape for all of us. When we give something like this, something that could generate revenue for the developers and the publisher, to you from a good place, and the conversation changes from “this looks fun!” and “this looks cool” to one about personal liberties, it makes me wonder about the sheer entitlement some folks have. I want to thank the world for reminding me why I like to sit in a room by myself and just write.

Until next time, I bid you dear reader, adieu!

If you want more thoughts I’ve had, please, read on…

On Google+

I’ve been pondering this question for a portion of the day. It honestly floors me. Reality Blurs has been in business for over eight years, and we’ve never sent any emails to anyone from the store account other than to possibly notify people of updates to a product. That’s nothing I have any plans of changing. I post quote regularly on the Reality Blurs website (generally daily through the week) and am actively involved in other social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, and, to a lesser extent, on G+.

I don’t usually get into the business side of things with the general public. I’m firmly in the “no one really wants to see behind the curtain” camp. However, I’m fine with open discussions about this. What I really find poisonous about this whole situation is people dropping comments implying they are entitled to this work, since it’s free, and we’re keeping it from them. Absurd! In the amount of time you take to draft that unnecessary comment, probably less, you can certainly register for an account.

Honestly, we had a serious discussion when I posited the possibility of offering up a version of Shaintar for free, but it never crossed anyone’s mind of this particular scenario. The main reason, as I’ve stated elsewhere, to have it run through the store is to easily be able to collect data points, and gauge general interest. And, yes, it lowers the barrier to entry when we offer up special products and bundles from our websites or, call me crazy, you want to support us and enable us to keep doing these things to, I dunno, keep the lights on. We notify people of those specials through our social network and directly on our website, as we consider those people who follow our continued growth friends of the Blur. We don’t generate emails to fill your already busy lives.

We offered up the beta guide for the ENnies nominated Agents of Oblivion a good long while before its finished release, but we didn’t have a good way to track the downloads. This is the easiest solution for us. I’m certain some folks have more technical ways to handle this, but my responsibilities cover overseeing projects, writing, layout, art direction, and this is not something I care, in anyway, to deal with.

While I appreciate your courtesy and consideration in distancing me from this, SPF, I’m at the epicenter of this bizarre maelstrom and every bit as taken aback by it as you are. You know while I don’t typically pay attention to the white noise and prefer to just do my own thing, this one is messing up my groove. And, yes, this is the sort of distraction that makes me ponder about the wisdom of offering up free things at all.


On Facebook

For those of you who don’t know me, I thought I’d introduce myself, since my ears have been burning since last night, as you talk about my company, Reality Blurs.

Let me tell you where I’m coming from. I went into this with eyes wide open. In the past, we’ve released some freebies directly on our website without tracking them, such as with the Agents of Oblivion Beta Guide some years ago. The main reason at that time to offer it without registration was the lower barrier to entry (i.e. convenience for folks) and to get it into many hands for playtesting. Ultimately, however, Shaintar is a different animal. It’s a larger freebie, and we wanted to track the data regarding it as we plot out its course. Our discussions concerned how to slate it and the decision was made to offer it up via our storefront. Some folks don’t want to register on our site, and it ultimately doesn’t impact us one way or the other. That’s a personal decision regarding a game and its distribution. I doubt the world will stop spinning. And it will certainly not weigh into the equation for our implementation of this particular release.

In other words, we’re not going to deviate from our distribution plans for Shaintar. The rules are solid. Extensive playtesting has been done. We call this a Beta Guide more to indicate it is not the final form, rather than to promote people to provide feedback (as we did with AoO). Certainly, we welcome feedback, but the decision to release it was to satisfy those folks who have been clamoring for the RB iteration of Shaintar. There have been a number of delays due to my serious sickness the latter part of last year and first part of this year. We’re a small shop, and I have my hands busy as it is, or Shaintar might not have been delayed at all.

For the over two hundred of you who have opted to download Shaintar as of this morning, we appreciate your interest in the property. To those who have not, I respect your decision. I am disappointed you find our exchange of sweat, toil, and imagination worthy of debate and not download.

8 Notes on, Semantics and Shaintar: The Meaning of Free

  1. I can’t really fathom the sense of entitlement someone would have to have to think that you’d not want some type of information on who’s downloading your file. All you’d have to do to make sure you’re not getting anything you don’t want to see is not check (or un-check I can’t really remember) the box that asks if you want the newsletter. Block the mail once you get what you want. I was happy to give you a little bit of information, and get the newsletter. Your products have always been entertaining and I thank you for any freebies that are tossed my way.

  2. I’m one of those for whom you released this fine document. It’s a great piece of work – really excellent stuff. Those who whine about the distribution protocol are simply missing a wonderful no-cost experience of rich Shaintar gaming material. Such is life. Keep up the great work!

  3. Since I’d bought PDF products from you before (and had registered for it just like in anything else), it didn’t even cross my mind. Why are some people so cynical these days to think that every business must have some hidden agenda?

    Thanks for the free gaming stuff guys. You’ve got my attention on this product!

  4. I’m truly sorry you’re going through this, Sean. You can’t please everyone, trust me. I’ve been there, done that, almost stopped publishing because of it.

    I only WISH I could download it. every time I try, the server is too busy. I guess it’s just because so many people are choosing to take advantage of your amazing generosity.

    keep the faith buddy, and keep up the great work.

  5. Did you really mean to be this insulting?

    “You (and whatever baggage you bring along with you)”
    “What rubs me the wrong way is how some folks want to dictate how we, as a publisher, conduct business.”
    “it makes me wonder about the sheer entitlement some folks have.”

    I get it. You don’t understand why people don’t want to register for another website. But to ignore the fact that they do seems sub-optimal for a retailer. I don’t understand why anyone would buy Crocs, but if I owned a shoe store I sure as hell would sell them. [And Skele-toes. Those things are creepy.]

    As for dictating how you conduct business, the consumer always does that. If shoppers don’t come to my make-believe shoe store because I don’t carry Crocs, isn’t the loss of revenue dictating how I conduct business? What I don’t understand is why you seem so insulted by feedback from potential customers.

    As for entitlement, I’d rather pay you for the beta version of Shaintar rather than have to fill out another registration form. I’ve already done that for RPGNow, so just put it on there for $5. Then I get to decide which is more vaulable to me: my money or not having to register. That should make everyone happy, and maximize the number of people who see the book. Shouldn’t that be your goal?


  6. I want to thank you for the hard work and for releasing the free-beta view. I am enjoying it very much so far. I am sorry some folks have missed the point and have stolen some of the enjoyment you had about releasing this and the impact it would have.

  7. I’ll add my voice to those saying ‘thank you.’

  8. I actually DON’T think Sean meant to be insulting; he can be a bit brusque when he’s stretched, though, and it is a certainty that the entire Reality Blurs team has been stretched pretty hard with all they have going on.

    I want to once again thank everyone for your support, and I continue to anticipate your comments and feedback.

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