Crowdsourcing adventures full of astounding worlds!

Okay, so updates include the arrival of:

-more and more new paintings about to reach Etsy, plus recent launch of confetti bags like this one that are rather unique insofar as they vary randomly and have printed textures. Plus while there are texture and 3d update delays on and a lot of that scheduling clearly misfired, updates are nonetheless still on the way. I am still working on it and my hope is to have that all done finally this month well before the other big stuff of April 2024 drops.

Crowdsourced Adventure – browser-based sci-fi adventure multiverse
Astounding Worlds – unlock a menagerie of fascinating, even astounding, fantasy worlds.

Namely: By end of April 2024 I will post the fixed, reworked first areas of Crowdsourced Adventure, and a bunch of the Astounding Worlds stuff by end of May 2024. I am hoping for a Steam / Epic launch too coinciding with these, which means $400 getting two things launched across two stores at a price of $2 each on every store. That is a $2 launch price, but sales are likely to exist down the road and aside from that, the whole point of the launch is less about racking up profit and more emphasis on visibility. I think marketers call it ‘framing’ – you place it somewhere at a price but also note that it exists there somewhere else for intriguingly less. And you never really intended to mostly sell at the first price. You just wanted to make people aware of it in a big public setting aka Steam and pull them off to your own shop or site and get them playing THERE.

And the sites are already recently redesigned, with further overhauls imminent, and the two games will be HTML5/webgl browser game freeware there. There are ads at the bottom of the page below the game, but they are not going to interfere with the play of the game at all, they are just images with links, that exist along the bottom of the page.

Literally the only reason to play them through Steam then is to have an offline install for PC that fills 100%, not 90% of the full desktop screen area, with no ads at the bottom edge and no usual browser stuff at the top edge.

But the game itself is always exactly the same either way.

Questions people are likely to ask at this moment include:

What about your itch.IO listing?

-Yes, if you bought a big asset bundle of everything on my Itch.IO shop, you get the Astounding Worlds installer for PC the day it hits Steam and Epic. Or if you buy one in the next month, or whenever. Crowdsourced Adventure too – I am adding it to Itch.IO too as first part of the minigame pack.

What about Miniature Minigolf? Miniature Multiverse? Other games? You posted on YouTube and then silence…

-Other projects continue inching forward in development. The two mentioned in this question are HUGE projects for a solo dev and despite much progress there are hundreds of hours work remaining across just those two. If you want to help push those forward please keep visiting my sites and playing whatever I have already released as that is a real show of support for not only the released stuff but for future projects. If someone is playing the small projects it bodes well for bigger ones down the road. As for YouTube there will be video content on YT and Vimeo and soon relating to all the new launches. I am still actively preparing for relaunch and that will be big soon but I have to stop at some point in this ongoing addition of page after page, with video after video, and just put it online. That site… wow… I have maybe a hundred old videos headed there over the course of this year from 20+ years of crazy hobbyist video productions and that means occasional VFX fixes in places where they are crucial, including blurring out or replacing logos on T shirts and random business signage in urban outdoor scenes, HD AI upscaling on the older SD videos, adding subtitles, and running everything through cutting edge audio filters in an effort to clean up vocals slightly and reduce the interference and volume of clicks, hisses, wind, and non vocal irrelevant background noise in many dialogue scenes to make the voices clearer here and there where I can. And if the sound of people talking is still muddy, like with echoes, or just really bad built in mics, well, that’s when the subtitles under every video come in and help.

What is this ad nonsense along the bottom of the two new game sites?

It’s two types. One is just links to my various sites and shops, and the other, is to other peoples’ sites, shops, web comics, etc. It is an ad slot for many other indie sites’ banner ads. It’s part of a banner thing called, and while some of the ad spaces at times might push towards mature content, violent or weird dark stuff, that’s true of a few of my own things too that can on occasion be a bit adult in various ways and forms – dark (adult in sense of violence, gore, psychologically horrifying, or sexually suggestive, or ominous or uneasy, disturbing). Or now and then adult just as it is aimed at thoughtful adults, not idiot kids. (Adult in the sense of at times smart, sophisticated and verbally complex, not in the sense of offensive)

I pretty much chose a range of ad filters reflecting the most ‘adult’ my online stuff ever gets, and set filters to that. Mature but not flat out pornographic. So the ads will be a mix of stuff and some of that will be dark. And it is filtered automatically, not by me. It is a lot of indie art stuff, mainly online web comics. It operates with ad slots and a bidding system, so if you wanted to you could easily post your own ads on a bunch of slots across my websites. Just last two months these Crowdsourced Adventure and Astounding Worlds ad spaces all combined have typically raised 3-5 cents daily, despite the reality that not much exists on the related sites yet. I hope the launch of the actual game content leads to a near tenfold spike in visitor activity there and we see as a result something close to $0.50 a day being bid on the ads across these sites, as that is roughly $15/month and it is the lowball threshold where ongoing regular updates make any sense. It takes me 10 to 25 hours of work typically to make a moderately substantial new area or world for either game. I am aiming to earn over $4/hr doing this, any less and it just makes zero sense as I can already make over minimum wage on many other things I have going. Therefore, $40 to $100 raised between all ads on these sites and all other sales of them on, steam, epic… that is the target that funds a new world addition. If the ad slots manage $0.50 daily, that’s a smallish $40 world added to one of these two projects every 2.5 months.

And if you unexpectedly make a lot, like $10, daily, across all this?

There will be a funding pool for game dev. I have only so many hours in a day and these two projects will max out at two hours daily work each. Or… $16 a day. At that level, we may see significant nearly weekly updates. If income on this effort climbs above $20-25 a day for a while it means I will feel pretty safe to also divert a bit of it to other game dev project budgets as well… and donate some of the cash too. I certainly would love to see at least half the income over the $20 daily mark sent to charitable causes and used to solve real world problems. So… that is what I will do. And the goal’s not out of reach. Puzzle / adventure games that are open-ended and continually expanded like this are rare in gaming, and the reason they are rarely done is probably because the first big gaming attempt at a puzzle MMO flopped really badly despite strong reviews, lovely art direction and sound design, over $12 million in development prior to first launch circa end of 2003, and a recognizable adventure genre IP. (Myst Online, aka Uru) but it turned out, funny thing, even there if they scaled down to match a low end estimate of their playerbase audience they were eventually able to make it sustainable. Today Uru is back online and is operating sustainably purely on a donation based maintenance budget that is just enough to cover electrical bills, internet bandwidth, and occasional staff maintenance, or around $15,000 annually. And it has survived and remained online on such a budget for over a decade now. And it is even growing finally due to a few people making fan content and forwarding it to the Myst studio (Cyan) for inclusion on the servers.

So why is that relevant here?

Well, I’m actually a fan of what Cyan did with Uru in many ways. I find the Myst series inspiring creatively, aesthetically and was super impressed by the stuff the studio did in its ’90s heyday from a technical POV and frustrated when it all fell apart in the 2000s and sort of cautiously optimistic that they’d bounce back since then, which seems to be happening somewhat, despite one or two mediocre missteps like Firmament. But when Uru flopped, it killed the notion of ‘puzzles in multiplayer’ entirely for the entire games industry for ten years until the classic console title Journey in 2013, which promoted itself as an artful platformer, not as puzzle game or even as a game that had multiplayer. I also can see in retrospect that the entire adventure genre has unraveled over time and puzzlers with stories and real ambition are now rare. There were plenty of warning signs. Grim Fandango, circa 1996, is a genre classic but it sort of flopped out of the gate despite being one of the best adventure classics ever made. The Longest Journey was a marginally successful game despite being amazing, and its sequels chose to add clunky combat mechanics and then when that didn’t boost appeal on the second title just kind of gave up on puzzles and most gameplay mechanics almost completely in favor of just wrapping up the storyline fast in the third and final title. Syberia likewise limped along after the first title, with not a single entry in the series breaking into the mainstream. Those were in 2000, 2001. And every Myst title after the first for a good while was selling about half as well as the previous one regardless of quality. Myst (1993) sold 7 million copies. Riven sold about 4 million. Exile just shy of 2 million. By the time Uru came along the sales were in the low hundreds of thousands and only just over 30,000 even logged into the online part before it was axed by Ubisoft. When Portal revived the ‘dead’ idea of puzzles and innovated in puzzle design circa 2007 with a really cool concept underlying every puzzle setup, everybody bent over backwards to emphasize it as a platformer, not as a puzzle platformer. Puzzles were always the dorky thing nobody wanted to discuss in gaming circles. Puzzles were sudoku and match-3 and cheap junk. Bro gamers wanted to pretend they weren’t actually a thing that could be done well or that could work well. So when a game like the Talos Principle comes out (2014) and it’s one of the top ten sellers that year, and is excellent, and spawns a sequel last year (2023) that’s also excellent and is the first game to truly take advantage of Unreal Engine 5, we sort of try to ignore that. We try to ignore that to some extent the amazing parts of Tears of the Kingdom in 2023, one of the best games in recent memory, were not just related to physics but the use of physics in really inventive puzzle design that always offered multiple valid solutions, yeah, we kind of ignore it again. Everyone always tries to ignore it. We ignore it at our peril though. Game devs ignored Myst when it sold 7 million copies and topped annual PC sales charts three years in a row. (1993-1995) and it was in much the same way that they ignored The Sims when it finally broke that record and sold 14 million copies by 2002. Myst and The Sims are two VERY DIFFERENT games, but the common thread is they broke through to audiences who don’t normally play many games and got those audiences into gaming. They were well made games at the time, doing somewhat novel things nobody had been doing all that well previously, and they stumbled onto unexpected success by appealing to broad swaths of gamers, including many women, who normally were excluded from gamer culture. We dismiss a wide range of ‘boring, simplistic’ casual games, narrative games, puzzle games, or games that expand gaming to new and broader markets, at our peril as developers.

At a total ad revenue and/or sale revenue of 10% the current reduced Uru donation revenue, or a target of $1500/year, I am agreeing to make and actively build monthly expansions for, two different games, one with a roughly scifi focus, one more fantasy styled, that is a new world on each every month or 24 worlds yearly. These don’t match Cyan’s technical ambition. They are not multiplayer. Puzzles in mine will border on casual, to the point where some will describe these as walking sims in the same way “Gone Home” is often categorized as such despite it actually having some simple puzzles. They are more old school PnC adventure titles in some aspects. But the core appeal is there. Beautiful art direction, capable sound design, and even if puzzles are relatively simple, they’ll be greatly varied, along with the settings you can explore, which I feel is a lot of what I love about the Myst metaverse, just the variety and imagination in the scenes involved. Plus like those, I’ll lean heavy on that intangible sense of wornness, weatheredness, detailing that makes impossible places feel plausible, like they have history, and I’ll have many worlds with their own distinct storylines that can be uncovered. Some of these are unexpected and inventive storytelling in their own right. The first hub world in CrowdSourced Adventure, it’s a nice setup, but the first three concepts and the related puzzles and stories and the way the places, puzzles, and stories blend nicely and all three work, the three choices presented in poll one, are all ambitious, all interesting, and I’m entirely torn as to which one to pursue first. But that’s not up to me, it’s up to the players what the next release is!

See, the community forums and polling attached will be an engaging thing – as both Crowdsourced Adventure and Astounding Worlds will allow player communities to vote on updates over time, with little posted packages of concept ideas and design drawings, maps and terse text summaries, and polls allowing the community to decide which addition is most promising, and which should therefore be the next one to move forward. There will even be systems by which people can post their own concepts and ideas and if something sticks out as cool it may end up drifting up into the polling system in some form.

And while nobody ever has paid me $50-60 to make or even $10 to slightly customize, a world for them, even though that does exist as a product on Etsy and is pretty cool, maybe, just maybe, a couple thousand engaged players across two games might be enough to collectively raise that much just with related ads, even if the players themselves are not really paying anything individually.

And if you are concerned I’m hijacking Uru’s slim playerbase, note I have actual respect for them and as someone who respects them, will not hesitate to namedrop Uru. I’ve donated easily $300+ to Uru’s fund over the last decade. I feel that this post, which may take risks in mentioning many other noteworthy puzzlers and adventure titles, might get in trouble with the devs of those titles. I wish all of you to recognize I genuinely like that stuff, and that this post, and this game content, though taking some ideas from existing puzzlers… is not tied to them. My games here won’t connect to any of their trademarks or canon. It might, however, be a thing that causes people to realize those other historically significant puzzle games exist, which for younger people is truly not a given. I can see one reason Cyan seems to keep rereleasing Myst every 7 years or so in some new overhauled edition is that they want a way for old people who recall the game to share it with their kids or other younger family, in a way that won’t alienate them due to the archaic tech. They want to keep it accessible to younger generations who are just exploring the different types of gaming for the first time, all the zoomers and soon gen alpha kids who were born years after this was a thing. Every time they do this they seem to pick up a new wave of people who become fans. And this year the first Myst sequel, Riven, is also getting a huge remake. [launch later in 2024] and so on.

But if this isn’t enough, I will push further. If revenue from the ad slots and sales across all venues for (Crowdsourced Adventure) and (Astounding Worlds) exceeds $1000 by the end of summer 2024, I agree to commit to getting a full-blown Uru expansion out to the point where it can be played by the public by December this year. That’s all the stuff I worked on a little bit here and there beginning in 2014 with Sevkor. I had to completely rebuild that age, to fit the criteria of the Guild of Writers and use the new toolset Korman. The original version was pretty but inefficient, and later iterations underway are way more obsessively optimized, with a filesize of all texture and graphical data in the 40MB range, not 145MB+ and I’ve also worked on four other fan ages connected to that, which can result in a 300mb expansion with five ages of about 60mb each. They’ll run smoothly, they’ll look great, they have related lore and puzzles and I worry that the lore will be a holdup as it’s hard to tell any real story in the setting without triggering problems with the canon and fan age guidelines. Between lore and minor technical revisions and fixes to bugs people might discover, no guarantee of it all making it past Gehn shard to Minkata, much less the official servers, by end of 2024, but… just getting it all there to a point where it is all fully playable and looks, sounds good at all THIS YEAR will be tricky and involves a couple hundred hours additional work. I could keep kicking this fan stuff down the road and barely progressing on it. If it continues at the rate it’s gone so far, I’d say the ages maybe would be done in 2026. But if the Myst fandom can help boost my stuff, make it a hit a bit more out of the gate, I’ll definitely prioritize them as well over most of the 20-odd other backlogged slow moving things in my queue. It’s not just that I’m trying to cover my bills and somehow scrape together $10k+ from all sources this year to get off disability support entirely, and be self-supporting despite numerous mental health and other medical challenges, but the fact is I’m under some pressure to do so by family, friends, myself. I find it difficult to justify any fan art or no-profit creative work around the edges or any project that fails to make income. I’ve been quite clearly discouraged from any fan art by parents and others, in favor of maximizing hourly pay. I barely can justify even commercial indie game dev and only then on dubious claims that it might pay off. My stock media on, is slowed to a crawl because not many sales are taking place there. I’m making under a dollar per hour worked on stock media packs. Etsy? The papercraft is cool but is rarely selling. Most creative products sell poorly or not at all. Paintings – only half the paintings ever posted there have sold, usually discounted to levels where I make no more than $2.50 per hour worked on them. The one thing that is working is print services – posters, bookmarks, and so on. I make just over minimum wage on many of those listings. ($7.50/hr roughly) and that’d be good except that it is wildly inconsistent in volume and frequency of sales. Most days, zero, one, possibly two sales there. Then once in a while on a holiday time, usually the 45-60 days leading to Christmas it all goes nuts. I go from not enough sales to ten, fifteen a day and drown in overtime and refunding orders from people who I could not get the order done for in time… profit drops almost to zero, maybe goes somewhat negative with some scathing feedback, despite enormous effort and workload as seen in late 2023. How I wish Etsy could hold steady at 5-6 orders a day year round. If I somehow had THAT, I’d be making the requisite 10k from that alone already.

It is NOT for lack of trying to make things happen. I have so many product lines and ventures in the pipeline and they’re not stalled even if they may seem like it, they are all moving slowly forward. I’ve been working at least 10-11 hours a day across all this, at a pay of around $1/hr and change overall, which comes out to about $4k, possibly $5k earned a year on a good recent year. Get the pay rate up to near $2.50/hr and I’m good. THAT is what I need to get off disability. But I don’t make that much and most things in development have not taken off yet for those products launched, or aren’t even released yet. I am trying. 75 hours a week working on creative stuff is trying. It’s not working. And I get nobody will ever hire me. I can’t just ‘get a job’ because autism and mental disorders and lack of recent work history and other stupid red flags always trump the fact that I’m wildly creative, hardworking, skilled, and will work for super low pay in even really technically complex jobs.

That’s the reality. If these games somehow succeed post-release that WILL be huge for me. It’ll even be huge for the entire adventure genre, and the world more broadly.

BONUS: IF, between these two games and everything else, I exceed $10k in earnings for 2024, anything above $10k will be donated. I will donate to lifesaving charities, as a result of this success. And every year after, over 50% of all my earnings above that 10k mark. I will be SO thrilled to be that guy who somehow clawed his way off of govt. support through sheer effort and paid taxes, would be nice for my self-esteem and would be good for the world too.

NOT trying to be rich. NEVER want to be. I am asking for support and for someone to hire me for gigs just because I am trying to stay afloat financially on the cheap and retain creative freedom and help make the world better. This grind is not to make a fortune, it’s to make art and games and do so with a minimum of interference and fewer creative limitations, while also assisting others to survive, thrive, fulfill their own dreams in the process.

A quick note for the end of July…

Firstly, the July 4th sale went okay but mostly was underwhelming in terms of public response.

Nonetheless, I continue to push forward on more ambitious new product releases as much as I am able.

Between now and the Labor Day sale (which is sept. 1-10, 2021) I intend to release a bunch of new art items on Etsy, plus three more asset packs on itch.IO. Plans include:

-a substantial and high quality new 2.7k video VFX elements pack on

(the creation of this pack will cost at least a couple hundred $ doing a wide range of various debris bursts/falls, involving a mix of different materials, different types of FX stuff, maybe some good smoky billowing cloud tank FX too if this goes well, and that budget, of $200ish which is… roughly what I have available at the moment, and the way I want to do it – bigger and better -will be about $75 -$125 above that, so any support in the form of Etsy or Itch.IO orders in the next week or so will make it possible to do this better, with an even wider range of effects elements. But it has to be roughly within the next 20 days, by Aug. 20 or so, past that point, the scope of the collection will kind of be locked in and won’t change meaningfully between then and the Sept. 1 launch. )

-a new medieval/fantasy 3d asset pack there too. Think modular castles – interiors, exteriors – smaller structures, and many different middle ages period details filling all of them. At least 20 3d assets included at first launch.

-and a scifi pack as well with SF themed 3d assets. Sort of a mix of the darker gritty cyberpunk stuff and some cleaner / glossy future designs too, plus some alien / outer space environment elements. Again, well over 20 different 3d objects/assets included from the get go.

And those three new asset packs will have very nice preview images and materials showcasing them effectively. Which they should have, given that they’re each priced around $2.50 or so.

But: despite this accumulating mass of epic-scaled asset packs closing in on a $30 combined price, and fast approaching 3000 total files across all of them, don’t assume that you won’t still be able to find great deals from me anymore during holidays! Labor Day 2021, Halloween 2021, Thanksgiving and Christmas 2021 all will have the bundle of all my itch.IO products together for over 90% off the normal cost (i.e. under $3 for everything released to date)

That – the trio of entirely new packs – is on top of some new, and fairly substantial free additions to a few of my existing asset packs, my first submission to the Unity Asset Store, about a dozen more listings on Etsy bringing the total to 30+ listings… a relaunch and redesign of several websites including HornbostelVideos, and the release of a little adventure game called ‘Panoramic Worlds‘ across multiple platforms.

Yes, a lot is going on around here.

Some new Etsy items have already been posted, in fact.

Like this painting, or a brand new second set of model buildings, which will be visible in a preview image very shortly on! (in the next 36 hrs! with the actual sale listings across multiple model scales posted for sale on Etsy within 36hrs after that!) This is a big deal! So much has been in the works here these last few weeks and I am hoping that as the results of that effort start to go public you will be thrilled by it all! 😀

Etsy and Itch.IO [minor updates]

A little bird peering through a window at a floral vase. Acrylic artwork, on sale currently [Etsy]
Landscape with wildflowers. Also on Etsy.

Basically, the good news is that I’m posting a LOT of new art items on Etsy over the course of this week. The two seen above are just the start. There’s a sale arriving on Itch.IO later this month and a lot going on on Etsy too, and I’m promoting both venues very heavily.

I’ve ordered a fresh batch of stretched canvases, about 20 of them (!) and some of those are 18×24 inches – I also have 25-packs of 16×20 inch and 18×24 inch shipping containers/mailers and a ton of bubble wrap and packing tape ready to go. On top of all of this, a $30 ad campaign has begun [between Etsy’s own ads and some other fine-tuned banner ad campaigns] that should result in approx. 450,000 impressions [ie. almost half a million people across the internet will see my ads] and, even with an expected CTR (click through rate) of only around 0.1-0.3%, that’s still hundreds of visitors showing up on my Etsy storefront. This campaign should be running from June 6-June 26 roughly, and what that means is if you were on the fence about buying something from me on Etsy, GRAB IT NOW.

Especially given that I’ve refined my pricing to take cheaper sourcing of bulk art supplies into account and reduced my effective pay level to a bit below $2/hr on Etsy artworks. Everything’s cheaper than usual right now. It’ll especially drop in price noticeably – an additional 15% – at the same time my Itch.IO sale is active [June 21 to July 4] so keep an eye on that!

ETSY SALE – June 21 to July 4, 2020!

ITCH.IO SALE [93% OFF!] – June 21 – July 4th, 2020!

I’ve also been very active on social platforms lately including YouTube. I comment on blogs, forums, YouTube videos, social media. I’ve spent hours posting replies and hyping all this stuff that’s going to happen. I’m trying to make it take off in a big way. So if you don’t buy the item you want on Etsy now, you’ll probably lose it as it’s very likely that someone else will claim it where you hesitated. And if they don’t, eventually it might end up in a bundle on eBay [some of the older items I have had on Etsy for a while will shift to eBay soon after the sale end on July 4th, 2020]

Now for the downside of this frenzy – my ‘minigames’ are being pushed back on I’d indicated an attempt to release a set of four minigames by late July 2020 and that won’t happen. It’s unrealistic given that the first half of June is going into making art for a giant Etsy sale, and much of the third week of June into modest updates to some 3d asset and texture asset content on itch.

So what should you expect in game development terms if I’m focusing on Etsy art / stock media updates primarily in June?

Tricky – I still have a few bugs to quash and things to implement in each of those games, and if the bugs are not easily fixable this may get delayed further, but the basic expectation here is that ‘Spiral Skies’ goes live by July 4th, 2020 in both its SD and HD premium forms, plus there’ll be a lot of new teaser / preview material for other game projects posted by then as well.

I think Easely needs another week or so of actual dev work, eRacer two weeks, Vortex 2.5-3 weeks. That’s ideal, and that’s if I don’t run into last-minute barriers. The new Panoramic Worlds has about a month of additional work involved before launch. Same with Vivid Minigolf 2, and Miniature Multiverse has about three or four months of development work to go. So, in theory at least, these games can all be launched by the end of 2020.

In practice, that might not be feasible. Funding’s a persistent issue, and if this Etsy sale is successful, along with the Itch sale in late June, I can still get these games all done this year. I’d love that. I am hoping to raise around $400-500 between those two efforts. That’d actually recover the time this month that I will have spent painting (and then some) as I would be able to focus on gamedev pretty near full time, and would not be stuck doing $2-4 per hour microtasks at all. If these sales fail utterly despite all my efforts, however, I would expect only some of these games to be out by end of year, and others not until early 2021.

The relevant game pages on Itch will soon reflect this.