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Monday, July 6, 2009

Growing Pains

They say you can't please everyone, and as Elf Lair takes steps towards growth into an actual publishing company, I'm finding more and more that's true.

Since the Deluxe Edition came out, I've had a few complaints that I'd really like to publicly address. The crux of these complaints are twofold:

1. Some people don't want to download errata and/or have it posted on our forums. They want me to give them a free PDF of the updated game.

2. Some people are outraged(!?) that we didn't smash Monstrous Mayhem in its entirety into the Deluxe Edition of Spellcraft & Swordplay.

Now, these complaints haven't exactly been legion: there have been four, to my count. But these four have been exceptionally public, and at least one of them is from someone who previously was a vocal supporter of ELG. I do like to try and maintain a good public face, so I would like to address the complaints here in hopes that I can be clear in Elf Lair's policies and the reasons behind them.

Folks, I understand where you're coming from, but in regards to the free/discounted update downloads, Lulu does not give me access to the identities of people who purchased the game, which means I have nothing other than your word that you've got it. Nor do they give me the ability to offer discount coupons like some of the other e-book dealers.

Let's be honest: every single one of us knows that Lulu is far from the best service out there--in many ways, it's crap. Their shipping sucks, their customer service is mediocre at best, their production costs are outrageous, their turnaround time S-L-O-W, and their options for storefront customization basic at best. I am not fond of Lulu. But they are, unfortunately, the ONLY game in town that does what they do, and offers the control that they offer over your project. So for the time being, we're stuck with them.

Given that I don't actually have access to the identities and contact info of customers who buy S&S through Lulu, while some of you out there I know for a fact bought it, others I don't, and if I start giving out free copies to a few people I have to give them to everyone, which quickly makes actually trying to sell the game moot. I did this once, due to my first loud detractor, and suddenly people came out of the woodwork saying, "What about me? Why don't I get one, too?"

Eventually, when DriveThruRPG/RPGNow get their PoD service up and running I'll be looking to move there, as that will give me the ability to offer discount coupons, updated downloads, etc., to customers. As long as I'm at Lulu, however, my hands are tied. Now, I could split my store and offer e-books through DriveThru and print through Lulu for the time being, but I expect people would then complain about having to go to two different places to get their e-books and print books in that case.

In addition, why is it that it's okay for companies like Eden, Palladium, etc., to put out errata documents, but not us? Why is it that Troll Lord Games and Catalyst Game Labs can incorporate errata and rules changes in every new printing, but nobody complains that they should get a free copy of the book, and yet when we do it--just because we're small and upstart--people want us to give them the new version, even though the pre-existing one is perfectly functional? Maybe I'm misreading but it feels like a double-standard that's in place because we're a bit closer to the fan base than some of the more traditional publishers are.

Finally, since I don't have a way to give out free download codes, the truth is that even with the identities of people who have purchased S&S in place I couldn't e-mail copies of S&S Deluxe because it's over 12 MB in size (even after I ran it through file compression in Acrobat) which is over the attachment size cap for AOL, Verizon, Comcast, Yahoo, Gmail, AND Hotmail (all of which have a hard limit of 10-11 MB).

I also can't help but feeling if I were a larger, more traditional publisher people wouldn't be raging about me releasing a new edition of the game that doesn't have everything they wanted in it. S&S is a light game. It's designed to be a light game. The rules we incorporated into Deluxe don't change that or add additional layers of complexity. The rules that are still in Monstrous Mayhem are rules that are OPTIONAL and NOT NECESSARY TO PLAY THE GAME.

Seriously; I meant it when I said that it's NOT a required update. There's nothing NEW in it. I wasn't kidding about that. I'm sorry that a few folks feel like I should've given them the full package of S&S and MM in one big book, but from my end that really feels like people demanding something for nothing, for no reason other than they want more for less. There seems to be a belief that if I smashed the two books entirely together, it just wouldn't cost as much. That may be true and it may not--I'd have to see what Lulu's production cost would be for a book that long. I could get into the licensing issues regarding some artwork I commissioned for MM that I'm not permitted to use in any product that is not an edition of Monstrous Mayhem, but suffice it to say, I'd lose some art if I did that. Some folks may not care about that, but it's a wasted investment if I axe that artwork.

Seriously, I don't want to drive customers away or be seen as though I don't appreciate your business because I do, really. You ladies and gents are what keep Elf Lair alive and progressing towards bigger and better things. Seriously, if I'd known it was going to cause this much of a storm I never would've bothered with the deluxe edition--I'd have just left it, warts and all, the way it was. We're really trying hard to take the next step with Elf Lair, and the more we have to focus on what now in retrospect seems a mistake in releasing S&S Deluxe, the longer it's going to take to finish upcoming projects like Vampire Queen, Eldritch Witchery, Apotheosis, Eiru, and Twelve Parsecs.

Finally, there have been a few grievances that we shouldn't expect people to look here on the blog for news and updates. Given that we've posted that the blog is the official place to keep up with ELG news and updates, I don't think it's that big an assumption to trust that our customers check here for what's going on with us.

NOW, with all that being said, I will look into doing whatever I can to fix these issues, and will post here when I've come to a decision about how to put peoples' fears and doubts to rest.

Thanks for your continuing business--I hope that this blog didn't seem too ranty, self-pitying, or unappreciative. I think we're going through a few growing pains at the moment, and I guess that's a good thing: even the complaints mean people care and are taking notice of Elf Lair as a company, and we have seen that and appreciate it. Hopefully you'll continue to be pleased with our product overall.

3 comments:

  1. nill illigitimi carborundum, Jason.
    -or-
    Joke them if they can't take a ____.

    Hang in there! :)

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. [Sorry...I deleted my last post as I wrote it whilst bouncing a crying baby on my knee. I'll try again...]

    First of all, I'd like to say I'm a fan and supporter. I love what you've done...but in the interests of customer feedback I must say that the pace at which you come out with new versions is...kind of frustrating.

    My experience so far as a customer has been...

    ....I bought the very first original full-size hardback on the day you made it available on Lulu. But then, a day or two later, you updated it with some errata that you had missed.

    Then you came out with the new digest-sized revised hardback a few months later along with Monstrous Mayhem. Wow...great! Really like the new size...and revised as well so that means improved. Great. Shame I blew £20 quid on that old version but hey! So I was first in line...buying both the new revised core book and MM on the day you released them. But then, a few days later, you updated Monstrous Mayhem with some errata (the page number references were wrong). Hmm.

    But now, a few months later, a new version has come out combining bits of MM with the core book and with a nice new cover. Wow. Wish I'd known...much better having it all combined in one...and the cover is cool.

    Okay. So lesson learnt. Wait a few days to make sure everything is error free...maybe a bit longer so I can get the final final version. But I can't help but feel that my eagerness as a fan has been rewarded with slightly inferior copies.

    Oh well...it's not that big a deal, I guess. I mean...like many others...I'm a bit of a collector (or completist). I also went out and got the 3 little softbacks version you did...and the box set. But...it's the pace at which you have updated and changed things. I know from your point of view you want to tinker and improve...to make sure that you have the best version out there. But as a customer I like to feel like I've got the most up-to-date version...and when the versions are updated so quickly you can't help but feel that you have somehow ended up with a slightly inferior copy.

    I don't mean to be too critical...as I said I'm a fan and supporter...but I can certainly understand if some people feel a little frustrated.

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