Minor dramatics and other Yak-oriented activities

By: Xander

On: November 24th, 2007

<img src=“http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2136/2059946860_e355def24c_o.png” width=“289” height=“247” alt=“Jeff and his Sheep. One of them. Probably the happiest one” hspace=“5” vspace=“5” align= “right”/>

A little more drama unfolded over this week, with Jeff Minter’s disheartened rant on the lack of sales for Space Giraffe followed up by the announcement that he will no longer be keeping up his development blog, which will henceforth be solely an area for discussions of Sheep, Plushies and other workless topics.

Earlier in the week, Jeff posted up on his blog his feelings on the subject of Space Giraffe selling only 1/10th of the amount that the re-re-re-re-re-re-re-rerelease of Frogger achieved on the Xbox Live Arcade. To quote The Yak on the subject, his reaction to the news was this;

OK, we get the message. All you want on that channel is remakes of old, shite arcade games and crap you vaguely remember playing on your Amiga.

I know a few TIGers would argue against the 1989 TMNT Arcade game being considered shite (especially if you happen to own a vintage cabinet), but it does pose some worries about the future of XBLA as a platform for indie developers. However, Space Giraffe wasn’t just controversial within the console crowd, as there were greatly divided opinions across the indie community as well as the mainstream press.

So perhaps the usefulness to the indie community remains to be seen, but at least in this case it’s left Jeff Minter with some serious doubts, even as Grid Runner ++ continues development (now silently) on the 360. Here’s hoping for at least some better luck in the future, as successes regardless, I’d just hate to see the indie spirit crushed by a 26 year old highway crossing frog.

Update: This week’s XBLA releases are Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe. “The ironing is delicious…”

( Source: Eurogamer, because they still have the greatest review ever of Earth Defence Force 2017 )

  • ZombiePixel

    Hmm..while Space Giraffe isn’t exactly Tempest it’s pretty friggin’ close. Methinks he’s actually upset that people aren’t buying HIS remake of an old shite arcade game. Badmouthing rerererereleases is kind of funny from a guy who, were it not for fanboy nostalgia, would be completely out of work otherwise.

  • Tommunism

    I have a vintage 1989 TMNT cabinet:)

  • raigan

    yeah, this seems a bit stupid. pacman CE proved that you can still make a great remake on XBLA _even_ when the original is there too (or, two originals in the case of pacman). maybe the problem is that tempest sort of sucks compared to pacman?

    also, frogger was awesome!

  • Brian Deuel

    Minter does make one good point. It seems that unless a game is a clone of another, it’s not going to get much attention. Nevermind that the game that’s being cloned is shit or otherwise. The remakes scene is huge, and that’s what most indy developers go for, freeware or otherwise.

    And if the game ISN’T a clone, it better have up-to-date or similar wizbang graphics, or no one will touch it. Doesn’t matter if its fun or not. If you cannot attract a player with eyecandy within your original idea, you may as well just bag it.

    And yes, I speak from experience on that last point.

  • Derek

    I don’t think graphics have to be wizbang… they just have to be coherent, and suitable to the gameplay. Not that wizbang doesn’t help!

    But anyway, aren’t graphics an important part of a gaming experience?

  • companada

    Just more proof of how much the gaming community is a piece of crap today. If I had a 360, I would probably buy Space Giraffe. Unfortunately I stay away from those consoles because of the fact that there are no good games for it (except for the rare occasions). Sigh. Also, if I have to play more remakes I might just shoot myself. Too bad only a couple people in this world actually have a new idea.

  • Del Duio

    Blah, Tempest sucked.

    My fond memories at the arcades always consisted of Mappy, Ms. Pac Man, Dig Dug, Centipede, Joust, and yes Frogger too.

    But anyway, aren’t graphics an important part of a gaming experience?

    Most of the time, although you can still have a lot of fun with those text graphics RPGs and not mind.. well, some people can at least.

  • Tanner

    This doesn’t change my opinion of Jeff in the least. He’s still brilliant. He’s just a little…egotistical, that’s all.

  • Del Duio

    Actually, he just reminded me that I even had a Livejournal account, ahahahaha.

  • Inso

    Played the demo. Didn’t enjoy it.

    Might be a good game in there if I gave it time but don’t see how making my eyes bleed helps it.

    So I didn’t buy it. Simple as that. I’d not be surprised if other people didn’t feel the same way.

  • krinkle

    It just seems to me that Jeff is a little too into himself to see that maybe his work isn’t really all that great. Or marketable.

    And what the hell is that crack about Frogger? “One of the worst games in the history of old arcade games?” Dude, there’s a reason people are still playing it after twenty-six years. It’s a classic. Does Jeff really think that his inaccessibly abstract indie game is going to compete with a true arcade classic (no matter how dated)?

    Go whine out your beard some more, you whiny whiner Jeff Minter.

  • PHeMoX

    Lol, true, it’s a bit too easy to hate on frogger-clones, but it’s still unfair considering the ‘easy money’ people make out of it apparently versus the struggle developers seem to have selling a original game…

    Besides, I’m pretty sure most developers like to think of their babies as instant classics, but know damn well their game isn’t really on par.

  • Eclipse

    ZombiePixel if you says that Space Giraffe is a tempest remake you simply don’t know what a videogame is.
    Space giraffe is Tempest like Half-Life 2 is Doom.

  • Eclipse

    krinkle, Minter is a veteran, he was developing games also when that old arcades were new and he made history on C64 for his abstract games and they weren’t inaccessible.
    I think space giraffe could be inaccessible for that fucking console owners that haven’t never saw a computer.
    Btw, we need to encourage original games, and SG is a very good one, arcade clones are just lame things to code for money.
    Also Minter did classics too so he’s not the first arrived on the gamebiz, i think he can says that frogger sucks because he did some of the greatest arcade games on home pc history such Attack of the Mutant Camels, Batalyx, Sheep in Space etc

  • Shi

    it seems acceptable for gamers to proclaim their hate for a game but not for a developer?

    what’s all this malarkey about freedom of speech and entitlement to one’s own opinion then, eh? bah.

    it’s as if creativity is a curse.

  • Melly

    Space Giraffe probably scared people away with its over-the-top visuals. That and Tempest and its variants (I know SG is not a clone of Tempest, but that’s where it has its roots) aren’t exactly the most popular shooters out there. It may be Minter’s style to overdo on the particle effects and trippy visuals to the point of compromising gameplay for anyone not used to looking at a screen like that, but it might not have been the best design choice.

  • PHeMoX

    I don’t think the difference in sales really has anything to do with visual quality, most frogger-clones do not exactly look next-gen…

    Perhaps it’s the fact that everybody can get into Frogger… but SG isn’t thát accessible and like Melly said people may have gotten scared away by it’s abstract look.

    If people can’t see what a game is about by looking at a screenshot, it usually takes them two steps more before they will check it out.

  • I Like Cake

    So the guy puts a lot of work into a project which doesn’t do particularly well and he is, understandably, a little upset: that’s kind of a shitty thing to have happen. I’d probably be upset in the same circumstances, and so would anyone, so maybe cut him some slack instead of rabidly attacking his character for no reason?

    I’m not saying you have to like him or his game, but just because this is the internet doesn’t mean you have to virulently despise everything and everyone you aren’t totally crazy about.

  • krinkle


    **Melly said about 5 hours later:

    Space Giraffe probably scared people away with its over-the-top visuals.**

    This is exactly what I meant by “inaccessibly abstract.”

    And I agree that we should support indie developers. But just because it’s indie doesn’t mean it’s good, or will appeal to a mass audience like Minter’s aiming for with XBLA. He tried marketing a game, and he didn’t get the results he was looking for. Instead of being a whiny baby and blaming the public, he should drop the ego and try again.

    It can only be so indie if you’re trying to sell your product. Since he’s such a veteran of the industry, he should know that. SG is geared toward a niche audience, and he’s trying to sell it to a mass audience. It doesn’t work that way.

    So veteran or no, Minter can go take a piss. If he’d owned up to the fact that maybe… just *maybe*… SG didn’t do so well because of a misjudgment on his part, I’d have a little more respect for his predicament. You can’t blame the audience for not being interested in your game. Imagine if Clive Barker went around sulking and calling people morons for not liking Jericho. You might be inclined to give old Clivey a big, hearty “fuck you, dude.”

  • I Like Cake

    Yes, but that’s only because I’ve seen his press photos.

    I’d also tell him to do up his goddamn shirt. No one wants to see that.

  • haowan

    I feel sorry for Jeff but he can’t on the one hand make extremely esoteric games and yell at detractors saying “I didn’t make this game for you!” while on the other saying “damn I wish more people bought my game”. I like that he’s making games for his own tastes, but i just don’t get why he’s surprised that nobody else likes them.

  • ZombiePixel

    And yet a hideously unmarketable title combined with “a day late and a dollar short” glowing vectors seemed like such a winning recipe.

    I fear if that Jeff Minter, Chris Crawford and Peter Molyneux were ever in the same place at the same time they would create a black hole of douche so powerful that not even light could escape.

  • Skaldicpoet9

    TMNT in the Arcade rocks my friggin’ socks off.

    And who doesn’t like Frogger?

    Now, if I had an 360 I probably would have considered buying SG but I am probably considered one of those “niche” players that the game is geared towards anyways :D

    I think that he should just get over the fact that sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss(way off). The challenge, I believe, is to come to a genuine compromise between what those “niche” gamers would buy and what the “commercial” audience would buy. Unfortunately if indie games on consoles don’t take this type of position, I think this “golden age” of indie games on consoles will soon be disintegrated.

  • raigan

    there are lots of successful indie games which aren’t clones and don’t have next-gen graphics. what about gish or armadillo run? both games have graphics which are great and work, but not cutting-edge.. however, they both are REALLY FUN to play.

    i would be able to sympathize if it weren’t for the fact that SG is just hideously ugly. there are lots of things to be done with abstract 3d-visualization, but retina-burning neon primary colours is not one of the more appealing or intersting avenues..

  • Smear-Fest

    This is a game that caters to hippies… Marijuana and Ritalin being the drug of choice of collegiate party-boys, while they are a major part of Live, we can’t forget the prepubescent boys who’s drug of choice is simply Ritalin and Cool-aid(s).

    I couldn’t see myself playing this game sober. it’s just too much for my inexperienced mind. If i had blotters handy and if i had subscribed to Live then maybe.. maybe..

    I can’t blame people for buying games they spent $200 in quarters 30 years ago, over a Digital Bad Trip Inducing Smear-fest

  • nullerator

    Frogger was mildly amusing in the eighties, but it has never, ever been a good game.

  • http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber Oddbob

    Mmf, problem is – Jeff is a *bit* of a drama queen at the best of times and now looks like he’s in the middle of a very public breakdown.


    Since the release of Space Giraffe – it’s been everyone elses fault that it hasn’t performed well (or at least -not as well as he wanted it to-).

    It’s getting a bit of a long list of stories now as to what’s gone wrong – people are too dumb to understand it, he didn’t write the game for people like you *vaguely waves finger accusingly in the general direction of a passing stranger*, you’re all idiots, it wasn’t like this in my day when arcade games were for real men and told you nothing, nothing I tells thee, nothing, zip, nada whilst happily ignoring things like attract modes and splash screens detailing how to play…

    …and now it’s because we all want 30 year old games and not his shiny new stuff.

    I said it on YakYak and I think it still holds true. If he keeps looking for external factors as to why Space Giraffe isn’t working out how he wanted he’s going to be lashing out for a long time to come.

    But I’m at a loss to work out precisely how it’s meant to perform. It’s got critical acclaim, it’s got a healthy~ish leaderboard which means that at least 2,500-5,000 people have bought the game in the past couple of months. The kind of sales a lot of indie devs would kill for in that space of time.

    Mind you, one thing I’ve learnt about Jeff over the past couple of years is that he’d sooner focus on the negatives than the positives of *anything*.

    If anything, this reflects more on Minter as the root problem and cause than pointing in anyway towards XBLA not being a viable prospect for indies.

    And yet, I still love Space Giraffe with my heartses and still want Jeff to do well. I’m just not sure if he’ll *ever* be happy.

  • PHeMoX

    Yeah, I’m still waiting for a frogger game where I’m the one controlling the traffic …

  • PHeMoX

    ( lol, and give it a funky title like; ‘On no more Frogger’ or ‘Frogger must die!’ … :p )

  • Zaphos

    Yes … I think this is more about Jeff Minter having an emo moment on his LiveJournal (isn’t that what a LiveJournal is for, anyway?) than any comment on commercial viability, etc.

  • John H.

    I’ve always liked Minter, and Space Giraffe sounds like just my kind of game… if I had an X-box 360.

    Frogger is an okay game, but the only reason people are buying it is nostalgia. The play doesn’t hold up, there’s little in the way of nuance there.

  • Derek

    Jeff looks incredibly chill in that photo.

    That is a great photo.

  • Mr Peckerston

    “companada said about 3 hours later:

    If I had a 360, I would probably buy Space Giraffe.”

    Me too; maybe that’s part of the problem? The intersection of the group of people who have heard of Jeff Minter and enjoy weird/uninviting shmups and the group of people who buy expensive new region-locked consoles can’t be huge.

  • haowan

    Factor in the bestiality angle and you’ve got an even smaller audience ;)

    note: joking

  • http://ithamore.blogspot.com/ ithamore

    I’m sorry Jeff, but I (and the majority) don’t own a 360 (and I never plan to).

  • Osiris

    I very much enjoy space giraffe, but Minter really needs to get his head out of his ass and realise that it’s a niche title, not something that’s going to appeal to the masses. Really, it just struck me as Jeff having a hissy fit because a port of frogger sold better than his game. If he wants appreciation via sales, then he needs to make more accessible games that don’t require the right mindset to enjoy. Some of us do enjoy the stuff you make, Jeff, but we’re not the majority, and you’ve got to accept that, instead of having a temper tantrum when you get slapped in the face with cold hard reality.

  • Wonderpus

    for fucks sake if Space Giraffe was remotely good i would have paid for it , it was quite possibly the shitest minter effort ever ! i’m not suprised it didn’t do well at all
    stop whining Jeff , leave Tempest alone for a while ( remake something else for a change )

  • Melly

    Indeed it seems the most accessible games are the ones that sell well. I’m fairly sure that the willingness to actually figure out a game’s mechanics by yourself with no tutorials or tips is long gone from the minds of the majority of gamers. People wanna be able to pick up a game and start doing well at it right off the bat. It’s the reason games like God of War sell better than Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry, even if those others have much more refined mechanics.

    Though I haven’t actually played SG, so if I’m off the mark I apologize.

  • rinkuhero

    I agree that he shouldn’t blame people for not liking it, that’s just a part of being in the marketplace. People are not perfect customers, they don’t always choose the game that’s better, other factors are involved, like nostalgia. And it is unreasonable to not recognize that.

    But on the other hand, it’s just his personal journal, he probably didn’t mean for thousands of people to read it. He wasn’t going around posting on messageboards WOE IS ME or anything. If you can’t gripe and have bad moods and say unreasonable things in your own journal without getting harassed and having your beard insulted, where can you do those things in peace?

  • http://www.sjheckel.com Scott

    That list is for XBLA PURCHASES.

    Who’s going to purchase a no name game (essentially) over Space Giraffe. Everyone who purchased it probably already did… it’s stuck in the long archival list of all games already released.

  • http://www.sjheckel.com Scott

    *** sorry I meant over Frogger

  • Drood

    A friend of mine got Minters autograph once. It read:

    “Your mind is my ashtray”.

  • Jonathan Blow

    I just want to reiterate what I was saying a few months ago, which is that Space Giraffe is the best Xbox 360 game I have played. It is really good.

    It is, however, inaccessible. Jeff could have made it much more accessible, while maintaining the good parts. The fact that he doesn’t understand that, and doesn’t see how to do it with the next game, is a bummer. It is pretty clear to me.

    As for 2500-5000 copies being a lot… keep in mind that he is probably getting about $3.50 a copy (he decided that the sale price would be $5). The indie games you are thinking of that would be happy with 5000 sales, are probably thinking of 5000 sales at $19, not at $3.

  • Jonathan Blow

    For what it’s worth though I have no idea how many copies total SG sold… hopefully it sold a lot more than 5k. I was just responding to that post.

  • wormguy

    Yeah, it’s too bad that the average video game player doesn’t want anything more complicated than “Left Trigger = Shoot” and “Right Trigger = Shoot More”.

    Space Giraffe’s a good game. But it’s just too inaccessible for your caffeine-guzzling twitch-shooting Halo player.

    If you want to make money, you gotta give the people what they want, and if all they want is first person shooters and remakes, and you aren’t gonna make them, don’t expect to rake in the cash.

    It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

  • http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber Oddbob

    John, I completely agree that it’s far and away the best 360 game I’ve played – in fact one of the best games I’ve ever played – and I agree entirely that it’s an easy fix gamewise to open it up to a wider audience.

    Well, I’d hope I’m understating the figures too, I’m just taking a rough guess as the leaderboard pre-patch I *think* was somewhere around the 5,000 mark and post patch it’s closer to 3,000 – which is an unfortunate drop off by anyones standards.

    But it’s still not doing *badly*. Assuming 5,000 as a nice round figure at the current exchange rate and assuming your $3.50 is correct – that’s pretty close to an average shopworkers wage for a year.

    It’s barely liveable on, true, and I wouldn’t want to be pulling that in with a mortgage to stress over like Jeff has – but not worth throwing the towel in over either. With a few more titles to consolidate that and if he and Giles can get the PC version of the game out and *crosses fingers because it deserves to be seen and used by everyone because it’s an incredible tool* NeonPC to supplement the income – they can be pretty comfortable if the wind blows fair.

    I don’t want to see Jeff quit, he’s my biggest inspiration. But he’s also his own worst enemy on these things. I wouldn’t say the post release hoo-ha has necessarily damaged sales, but it won’t have done them any good either. Wobbly after wobbly doesn’t really reflect well.

    On the other,other,other hand – I can feel for him a great deal. He put his heart and soul into SG and it shows and he’s obviously burnt himself out and not seeing the amount of people on the leaderboard rise exponentially depresses me, so I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel if it was the game you’d wrote.

    And it’s a shame, because there’s so much design brilliance evident in it that it should be near criminal not to have at least tried it.

  • Zaphos

    I don’t think it’s the case that the ‘average’ player is unwilling to deal with complication — more that you have to lead people gradually in to any complicated system … you can’t just throw them in to the chaos and expect them to figure it out on their own.

    I also doubt that all people want is first person shooters and remakes. At least, relatively poor sales of ‘Space Giraffe’ don’t imply that to me.

  • konjak

    I think it’s more about the mainstream not finding interest in a game that looks like a psychadelic soup (in their eyes).

  • AmnEn

    My reason for not buying Space Giraffe:

    a) no X-Box 360
    b) looks like Media Player gone wild
    c) appears to be yet another shmup

    It’s not that the game isn’t fun. I don’t know, never tried it and never had the ability to. Shmups have some serious competition and freeware alternatives out there.
    So for me to buy a shmup it must grab my interest. The very second I look at a screenshot. Jets and Guns did because it overflowed with details. Space Giraffe, given I had a suiting platform for it didn’t as it looked like a bad trip.

  • Lurk

    Mhh, why is’nt it on pc? I like these kind of games, but I don’t want to buy an xbox360.