Patreon: Year One

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015

Filed under: Landmarks 119 comments

A year ago this month I launched a Patreon campaign. At the time, Google Adsense had pissed me off (watch the original pitch video for the details) and I wanted to dump the ads. So I pulled down all advertising and launched the campaign in hopes you could make up the difference. It was a success, and changed my approach to how I make content and how I view my work.

At the time I said that while talking about money is often a taboo, I think having a little transparency is good when you’re running an enterprise directly supported by the community. I don’t want to post my personal finances or anything, but I just want to give a basic idea of how things are going, what my goals are, and what I think of the work I’ve been doing.

This is going to be extremely navel-gaze-y. Proceed with caution.

The biggest change here is that the Patreon money enabled me to focus on this gig full time. Before, I supplemented my income with irregular jobs. Not fun jobs. More like, “Hey Shamus, I hear you’re a computer guy. My website is broken and would you mind crawling down into the thousands of lines of amateur ad-hocThis is redundant. Ad-hoc is the only kind of PHP you can write. PHP and exorcise the demons?” That work wasn’t fun, it wasn’t reliable, and it didn’t turn into stories that could feed this blog. It also kind of felt like a waste of my time. There are a lot of people in the world that are looking for work and can un-screw your mySQL database, but I’m the only one who can run this blog.

I was taking work from people who needed it, that I didn’t want to do, that I wasn’t really totally optimally qualified to do, that kept me from doing the blog-writing I love. I lost, you lost, the hypothetical other guy lost, and it sucked all around.

The point is: Now I can spend more time on the site.

So this is the first year where I could pour as much time into the site as I pleased. Looking back at what I’ve accomplished so far I have to say…

I’m not happy with the result.

Where Did the Time Go?

Why is “four” represented by IIII instead of IV? THIS IS NOT HOW ROMAN NUMERALS WORK. If you’re going to use a confusing and archaic number system, at least get it RIGHT.

I started thinking about where all the time was going a few weeks ago when I created those slides for the “From the Archives” thing you see at the bottom of every post. You know, these things:

As I built up the master list, I noticed that the majority of my best work was from 2009-2010. Since then I’ve done fewer of the long-form analysis pieces. And that’s fine, I guess. But I kind of thought this last year should have been a return to form. Freed of the time-sink obligations, my productivity ought to shoot back up, right?

Nobody has complained, of course. But I’m not seeing the jump in the volume or quality that I assumed I’d get. So let’s look at what I did with the time…

That whole business with moving really killed my productivity for a few months. That was brutal. Then there was this…

I didn’t even take the time to properly document the project with screenshots. I only have a dozen or so, with massive time-gaps between them.

Inspired by Strafe, I wanted to see what it would look like if you made a quasi-modern rendering engine of real-time shadows, specular maps, normal mapping, and mixed it with a low-fidelity pixelated look and chunky geometry. Sort of a “Doom 3 by way of Minecraft textures” idea. What would it look like with detailed textures and VERY low-res specular maps? What about the other way around? What if I made a shader that introduced deliberate color banding to the lighting?

I spent a lot of time on it, and the whole time I kept telling myself I would turn it into blog posts Real Soon Now. But that obviously never happened. As soon as it came together I slammed face-first into the awful truth: Bump-mapping, specular lighting, and shadows are the defining aesthetic of modern games. In the end it just looked like any other modern-ish game with the texture resolution turned down. Trying to make a “retro” look using this sort of rendering style doesn’t make any sense. It’s like trying to make “classical” style music using nothing but chiptune instruments. It still sounds like chiptune music.

So that represents a big chunk of effort that didn’t turn into blog content, didn’t lead to any interesting technology, and didn’t teach me anything terribly interesting. That probably wasn’t an optimal way to spend all those weeks.

The other major thing I did was produce two new videos: Reset Button: Do it Again, Stupid and Reset Button: Playstation3. I know some people enjoy these, but I’m always daunted by how painfully time-consuming it is to make video content. I have no idea how Chris can keep doing it. I like the videos well enough, but when I see them I can’t help but think about the ruinous ratio of my “hours spent working” to your “minutes spent being entertained”.

Also, video really clashes with my writing style. I tend to iterate a lot. If it’s a big essay, I’ll fuss with it for days, even messing with it just before hitting “publish”. But in video, you lock the text down first, then narrate it, then painstakingly match it with related images and video. That last part is where it hurts the most. I’ll get halfway done and realize I could have made the same point in far less time, made it more clearly, and used a more amusing analogy. So what then? Do I go back and re-edit the text, record all-new audio, and then fuss with the video to accommodate the changes? You can blow weeks of productivity like that.

The point is, by the time I post a video I’m usually unhappy with it and I’ve got a text version in my head that makes the case much better. Sometimes I try to iterate more on the text before I go to the recording phase, but then I just end up getting sick of the topic and moving on before making the video. Bottom line: I just don’t move at a pace that allows for a lot of video content.

I’m not saying I’m done with video forever. But I do think it needs to be saved for special topics.

So that’s where the time went. A few months of sickness, then a big move, then a stretch of recovery, a black-hole project, and a couple of videos. Time flies.

EDIT: As some people have reminded me, I also spent a couple of months making Bad and Wrong Music Lessons. Looking back, I’d call that project an overall success. I learned something, I produced quasi-worthwhile music, and I turned the whole thing into a long series of posts. That was a big win.

Where Does The Money Go?

I can neither confirm nor deny these allegations that sometimes we spend money on cosplay.

I don’t think I made this clear in my original pitch, so I should probably do this. Some Patreon campaigns promise that the money goes towards funding “the art”. Like, “I’m going to use this money to buy better instruments and extend our concert tour to more locations.” To be clear: I am not making that kind of promise. Sure, the money does get spent on videogames and computer parts because I love that stuff, but it also gets spent on boring things needed for survival like gasoline, car insurance, running water, and cupcakes.

I say this not because I’m trying to get pityI’m well aware this is a fun job. but because I don’t want anyone to think I’m misrepresenting how the funds are spent. This year of Patreon support has given me the means to buy more games, and to get them closer to launch, but it’s also been spent on ordinary things that are of no direct value to this blog, except in the broad sense that I write better when I’m not hungry and it’s not raining on my head. I hope that’s cool with you.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I’m going to try to focus on getting back to the style of work I did a few years ago: Long-form, multi-part, deconstructionist nitpicking with the attitude that we nitpick because we love. The recent Fallout 3 analysis was the first of these. Mixed in with that should be some programming posts.

This is my Patreon page, where you can see how the campaign is doing and how many supporters I have. Thanks to everyone who supports me. If you’re nervous about giving, don’t be shy about giving small. Lots of people give just a dollarLess than a dollar, and most of the money gets eaten in transaction fees. Credit card companies HATE tiny transactions., and over a large enough group of people, it adds up to making a living.

If you don’t give, you don’t need to apologize. I’m glad you’re here and glad you’re reading my work.




[1] This is redundant. Ad-hoc is the only kind of PHP you can write.

[2] I’m well aware this is a fun job.

[3] Less than a dollar, and most of the money gets eaten in transaction fees. Credit card companies HATE tiny transactions.

From The Archives:

119 thoughts on “Patreon: Year One

  1. sofawall says:

    Regarding Patreon, is it better in a dollars-to-you way to donate 12 dollars every year rather than dollar a month (for example)? I imagine enough of the fees are small, flat fees on each payment that one larger payment means more money gets through to you.

    1. I’d think a dollar a month would be better, if only so you don’t have to remember to do it once a year.

    2. Patreon only charges once a month, regardless of what you support, so one way to go is that once you’re on Patreon, find a few more people to support, too, and the credit card fees get amortized between all of them.

      1. Primogenitor says:

        Such as Spoiler Warning (and Campster, and Rutskarn) which has a separate Patreon.

        1. Benjamin Hilton says:

          If you look at the pages separately you’ll see that Shamus, Errant signal(Chris), Rutskarn, and Spoiler Warning(Josh) all support each other. I love the Idea that there is this one dollar that is continually being passed between all of them with no one ever actually getting it.

          1. Deadpool says:

            Except Patreon and the credit card companies…

            1. I think it’s just one more way to bring traffic between their different pages.

          2. Mephane says:

            Well isn’t this how money works in general? It always changes hand, round and round and round. :)

    3. Erik says:

      One very good way to reduce fees is to validate a bank account with PayPal, so it can pull directly instead of through a credit card. Transfers from validated accounts have lower fees than through credit cards. Then use that PayPal to fund Patreon, and the fees go down.

      (Especially if you’re funding multiple folks, so that your fee is for a single amount larger than any of the multiple folks are getting. Funding 5 people for $1 means a single $5 transaction, not 5 $1 transactions.)

      This is, of course, only relevant to the payer side. I don’t know how much Patreon eats in recipient’s fees for itself; I assume it’s a percentage of the total not a fixed amount per transaction, but I really don’t know.

      I’ve been happy to Patreon you from the start. I can’t say you caused me to get a Patreon account, because I’d had one for a month, but you were one of the early folks I supported and I’m very glad to have had the option. I’ve been reading since DMotR was still running (though late in the run), and you’ve given me lots of entertainment over the years, making it well worth the small amount of money I’m giving back.

  2. Shamus, I’ve been reading you for the past five years and I’ve probably re-read this site in its entirety at least three times (temp jobs can get boring).

    I’m not here because I have specific expectations on your output. I’m here because you’re excellent as a person, and I automatically like everything you output, regardless of format. You could post five-word reviews of potato mashers and I’d lap it up.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, the way you want to do it. We’ll be here.

    1. Benjamin Hilton says:

      Once again we need a “like” Button.

  3. Andy_Panthro says:

    I’m more than happy with long essays rather than video/audio content, I’ve always preferred it that way. Although I do make time to listen to the Diecast, there’s so much video stuff around that I really pick and choose what I watch (and often it’s not Spoiler Warning, I think the only ones I’ve watched all the way through are Fallout 3 and Hitman Absolution).

    I guess I’m in the minority on this though, as video seems to be ever more popular. I’ll still be blogging with text and screenshots though, even if it’s only to a handful of people (I do it for the love of writing, rather than anything else).

    As for Patreon, I’d be surprised if any of your donors would be unhappy at what you spend the money on. All the living costs are part of the cost of you creating content, and so it’s appropriate to factor those in. I have to admit I was skeptical that Patreon would be enough to fund people, but it seems to be working out very well (for those with enough fans I guess).

    1. Abnaxis says:

      Seconded on the essays vs. audio/video. I’ve never understood why long form videos have become so much popular for long form analyses/tutorials/reviews. They’re impossible to reference quickly, take too damn long to watch (and you to watch them exclusively for a set block of time if you want good comprehension), and take ten times as long to produce.

      I mean, this is your house and all and I understand trying to provide the stuff most people like, but I would much prefer a larger volume of written content over you stressing over video. I always just chalked it up to “signs of the times” that everything seemed to move to video.

      1. bloodsquirrel says:

        Videos (and podcasts) have one big advantage over text: I can listen to them while doing something else.

        1. Andy_Panthro says:

          I can’t really do that, if I’m listening to something other than music I want to concentrate on it, especially if people are talking and I want to actually hear what they’re saying. Otherwise it just becomes background, and I feel like I haven’t listened to it at all.

          1. Definitely agree. Diecast (and other podcasts) may be made of win and awesome, but I cannot absorb them properly while doing something else and I have serious trouble just sitting and listening to something without doing something else, especially for as long as an hour. I cope marginally better with videos, but even then I tend to pause a lot while I do something else or if I’m distracted by something. I realise this is MY problem, but it does mean that vast chunks of content (not just here, anywhere) are in a format that I simply cannot digest. Alas. :(

            1. Adeon says:

              Yeah. I listen to a number of podcasts but I mostly use them as a form of white noise to help me concentrate on something else. I rarely actually pay much attention to them (I tend to favor podcasts where the hosts have deeper more soothing voices since that is more relaxing).

              I do watch some video stuff but even there I’ll often just minimize the window and take it audio only. I only really watch the video if it’s something that doesn’t work audio only (like sketch comedy).

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Thats why I like reviews in audio/video form.But tutorials/guides I hate in video form since its so damn hard to find what you are looking for.

        3. Abnaxis says:

          I can either be attentive or I can do work. If I try to do both at the same time I fail at doing either. That might be my own personal problem, I guess–I could never takes note in school either.

          The only time I’ve found to watch videos/listen to podcasts while doing something else is when I’m exercising. Other than that my work requires too many brain cells to commit to listening.

        4. Daimbert says:

          Oddly, the reason I dislike them is because I can’t listen to them while doing something else; if I run them in the background I either have to pay attention to them or I miss stuff, and then have to rewind. But most of my work, for example, is doing things for a certain period and then having a few minutes off — compiling — and then hopping back on to do other things. With a long form essay, I can stop in the middle and pick it up later. That’s hard to do with a video or a podcast.

          It also helps that I’m a very fast reader.

          This is why I rarely watch the videos or listen to the podcast, and generally do read — or at least skim — most of the essays, even the ones that are on topics that I’m not that interested in.

        5. RansomTime says:

          I tend to need to concentrate on videos a whole lot more than text, which I can stop reading, skim through – backtrack much easier. Additonally, I can read text content on my phone when I’m out and about, which is when I’m most likely going to be checking my feeds. Even if I had the data to watch a video, I probably wouldn’t – as I’m normally listening to music. Text demands none of that, and so I can do it whenever.

          I havn’t thought about this before now, but I realise that whilst I read almost everything Shamus posts, I think the only time I’ve sat down and watched a video he’s linked is the IDTech conference that he did an annotation of.

        6. AileTheAlien says:

          I too like listening to videos/podcasts in the background. I suspect I’m in the minority, given the above comments, and also because of when I listen to this type of content: while playing videogames. Usually I play games where there’s either no sound, or it’s unimportant, so I just turn it all the way down, and listen to a podcast.

          Either way, I really like the long-form content you produce, Shamus! If that means I get it in text format, then so be it. I’ll just have to start using some kind of text-to-speech program. :)

      2. Don Alsafi says:

        Add mine in as another voice that vastly prefers written posts as opposed to audio/video ones. Text I can consume at my own pace; audio/video, not so much. (And if I get interrupted or distracted I have to find the pause button, jump back some random amount, etc etc.)

        So, much of the A/V content on here I rarely watch/listen to – but I pretty much always read your words.

        Patreon’d, btw. You’ve been providing me thoughtful and entertaining writing for seven or eight years now; a few bucks a month is the least I can do as thanks! :)

        1. Mistwraithe says:

          Ditto. There is no way I can listen to a podcast and do work at the same time. I have watched very few of your videos through to completion (perhaps the old Rollercoaster Tycoon disaster video is the only one?) but I read your written material voraciously. I often don’t even bother opening the Spoiler Warning posts, although there are sometimes interesting written bits which go with them.

          So count this as another firm vote for more written content and less video.

      3. Xeorm says:

        They’ve got their uses. I can listen while doing something else, and it’s always useful to have an actual look at what’s happening over only a description.

        But, I much prefer this site doing text over video. Plenty of good video spots, not so many good text spots. Not everything needs to be the same.

    2. Mephane says:

      I am in the same boat, I greatly prefer written text and still images over audio/video content.

    3. mark says:

      I’m exactly the same. I read pretty much every word shamus writes, but rarely actually watch the videos. Which is nuts, i read the break down of an audio, or the notes that goes with the video, even when i dont do the other bit. I tend to find i use this site for the excellent analysis, and read it when at work or while watching tv, rather than 100% focusing on a video

  4. Gahrer says:

    Yay! While I like almost everything you put on this blog, those “long-form, multi-part, deconstructionist nitpicking with the attitude that we nitpick because we love” are my absolute favorites.

    1. Amstrad says:

      This is exactly the sort of pedantry I live for.

    2. Hitch says:

      One explanation I’ve read for why clocks would use IIII instead of IV is that if the numbers were cast in in metal, the clock maker could make a mold of VIIIIIX and cast that 4 times and break the characters apart in various combinations to make every number he would need for the clock face with no wasted characters. IV would require an extra V fewer Is and the IV combination that does not occur in VIIIIIX, whereas IX and XI are indistinguishable.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Roman inscriptions, especially in official contexts, seem to show a preference for additive forms such as IIII and VIIII instead of (or even as well as) subtractive forms such as IV and IX.

      Figures.Who else will butcher a language other than bureaucrats.

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        OTOH, additive forms are unlikely to be confused or misread

    4. nm says:

      When I was in Rome a few years ago, I went to wander around the colosseum. The doors are numbered I, II, III, IIII…I figure the Romans (particularly ancient ones) are allowed to make Roman numerals however they want.

  5. bloodsquirrel says:

    Out of curiosity: what about the image-based Let’s Plays like you did for the Champions MMO/ World of Warcraft?

    I’m guessing that, in part, those make sense to do when The Escapist wants to buy them, and I know that they change what they’re interested in regularly.

    1. As someone who has made a couple decently long-running ones, they can turn into massive timesinks for little appreciable content. For example, a session of CIV5 can take you hours to play but you only end up with a dozen screenshots because nothing of real interest happened.

      Add in the fact that only a portion of games are good for screenshotting (your average shooty-mans would be ill advised) or are interesting/funny enough to justify (and you have to actually play the game to figure that out, which is a sunk time cost). I also found I had to write the post immediately after/during or risk forgetting why you took particular screenshots. Add it all together and the whole thing starts looking kinda iffy.

  6. Joshua says:

    As a person who likes articles and detests videos, this makes me happy.

    1. evileeyore says:


  7. As a customer, A: I’m satisfied, and B: it was always clear to me that Patreon was more “living wage” than “directly funding the art”, if you know what I mean. Most Patreons I fund work that way, really. (In the end, what exactly is the difference, right?) I treat Spoiler Warning the same way; by now it really ought to have been able to fund all the equipment it needs but I’m perfectly fine with it being “tip” money to be distributed to whomever you all agree on at will and expect to fund it until such time as y’all shut up shop.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I actually always assumed that this is where the money would go. I assumed anybody getting these kinds of contributions was getting them because they already produce and thus already have the means they need to produce.

      What I’m wondering is, how the money on your Patreon is getting you by? I don’t need details but is this a two income household? I’m sorry to pry, but you kind of broached the topic and I’ve been fighting the urge to ask this question for almost a year now. Even a simple “this is not all the money we make” would be enough.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        He does go into that a little bit if you follow the ‘a year ago’ link above: the three paragraphs after the bolded one.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Thank you. Reading that makes sense. I’m comparing it to my income and I guess I waste a lot of money. I could support a family but I’d have to drop some bad lazy habits to make it work.

  8. neminem says:

    > “It's like trying to make “classical” style music using nothing but chiptune instruments. It still sounds like chiptune music.”

    Yes, and so? I absolutely, categorically, disagree that this sounds like a bad idea. It would sound like classical chiptune music, of which there should totally be more.

    1. Majromax says:

      > It would sound like classical chiptune music

      It would sound like classic chiptune music. Think of the famous Tetris “A” theme, which is really a Russian folk song.

      Chiptune instrumentation and classical composition styles lend themselves to each other, in the same way that classical pieces are better in crappy MIDI than modern rock. The “point” of the music has to be conveyed cleanly, but the composition itself can be frightfully complex without regards to its being actually playable.

      The soundtrack of classic games like FF3/6 is comparable to an opera in scope and complexity, including character, setting, and mood-specific leitmotifs.

      1. Mephane says:

        Not sure what technically counts as modern rock. But almost any music can be improved by turning it into heavy metal. :P

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Man, I remember J.S. Bach being used for a lot of Commodore 64 music. Intricate but interesting melody lines and a heavier use of counterpoint melodies instead of chords. Like the NES, those old computers only had two or three voices. Unlike the NES, no drum machine. Bach was a perfect fit.

    3. MrGuy says:

      To give a parallel example, these folks make lullaby music renditions rock music that’s mindblowing awesome. My favorites are their Radiohead album and their AC/DC album, but I think Smells Like Teen Spirit is my favorite individual song.

  9. Da Mage says:

    I don’t know about others, but I found you through your programming posts….and most specifically, pixel city. I feel pixel city worked so well since it has a small scope and clear goal that was outlined at the start. This meant the finishing point was always close and thus you followed through the entire project, unlike some of the later ones that ended as there was never an end in sight.

    Nowadays, there is TONS of online resources for game development, but in the last few years they seem to be moving more and more towards game engine specific constructions, rather then the generic theory. For example, your explanations for a shadow shader finally gave me the push to go and learn how they work. That is why I find your stuff such a good read, it is well supported with theory and implementation and does not require the reader to subscribe to a particular system.

    I also think sometimes the programming posts could use a bit more ‘I think the system should be built like this’, then followed up with another post on the challenges encountered with that design. By writing an article about how the system works BEFORE implementing it you may be able to avoid ‘just need to do a bit more’ and never getting to the blog post stage. Of course you would have to balance that against getting stuck in the ‘talking about stuff but never implementing it’ situation aswell.

    But anyways, keep doing what you’re doing, cause so far it’s been really good.

  10. Aaron says:

    so the computer nerd is not part of the a/v club, huh weird.

    in a more serious tone the recent fallout 3 articles have been fantastic if a bit out of sinc with the timeline, maybe do an article on the univac and eniac next so as not to slip to far back?

    edit: you know considering you are the guy that asks “what do they eat” would that make you the only one whose pictures of food would be narratively supported?

    1. krellen says:

      I was going to post giving explicit permission for Shamus to buy whatever he wants and/or needs with money I give him, but now that I’ve seen this comment, I want to add a caveat: I demand to know “what do they eat”!

      1. Just for fun- Shamus literally eats rice cakes and cheese for all meals most days. Really. With the occasional Mexican seasoned ground beef with cheese, salad and or Sweet potato chips. There it is, in it’s entirety. Now you no longer have to wonder. :P (And yes, if that was in a video game he would make fun of it but he eats the same meal for months before getting bored.)

        The rest of us have a much more varied diet, which comes from the grocery store- Aldi usually with the occasional trip to Trader Joes and the very occasional and exceptionally expensive trip to Whole Foods (food allergies are super fun.).

        1. krellen says:

          I am now an extremely satisfied customer. :)

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Glad to know I’m not the only weird one who sticks with the same food for long stretches of time. I’ve been eating the same chicken sandwich for a long time now. Partly its just a matter of not having to think about what I’m eating or worrying whether I’ll like it.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            The same one?Man,that must have been a huge sandwich once.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Will you be here all week?

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Nah,just for 7 days.

            2. Peter H. Coffin says:

              I’m now thinking of the Simpsons episode of Homer and the Sandwich, where he buys a ridiculously large one, and Marge makes him throw out the last bit because it’s made him sick enough to turn grey.

          2. krellen says:

            It’s a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich, right?

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Is there another sandwich?

        3. MrGuy says:

          Ah, but WHERE DOES HE GET the rice cakes and cheese? :)

        4. Galad says:

          The same meal for MONTHS!? He’s secretly an alien. Or a robot. Or both.

          Either way, glad to have you around, Shamus :) Beep boop.

  11. Matt says:

    How’d I miss that you had Patreon? Continue doing what you’re doing, Shamus, I’ll support you! (Starting today, anyway….)

  12. DTor says:

    I always appreciate your transparency, Shamus. I’m sorry if you feel like you’re not doing your best work lately, but I’ve been continuing to enjoy just about every post. Focusing more on multi-part critical analysis posts and less on video content or programming projects sounds like a good idea.

    I know you didn’t ask for suggestions here, but…I like it when you and the SW cast stream stuff on Twitch, even when you can’t get that many people together. Maybe streaming more often could be a way to produce more video content without spending so much time on editing.

  13. Yay long form! Looking forward to more of the work only you can do.

  14. Primogenitor says:

    I’d still like to read something on that failed retro style look. A negative result is still a result, and worth publishing just to save other people failing in the same way.

    1. Mistwraithe says:

      Agreed. If Shamus was finding it totally boring and couldn’t think of anything interesting to write then fair enough, hard to make an interesting article out of that. However I wouldn’t want Shamus to not write about it because the project didn’t work or he thought we would probably be bored. I suspect our boredom threshold is higher than that where Shamus’s writing is concerned ;-).

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      the site could do with some more graphics/programming posts in general, but yes, negative results are results too.

  15. Majromax says:

    > The other major thing I did was produce two new videos

    You forgot to mention your entire library of music output, encompassing both “Bad and Wrong Music Lessons” and “Project Button Masher.”

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah! How did that not make the listØŸ

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      To speak more generally, I’m quite pleased with the volume of output. And to add to that, we knew from the beginning that the point of this was to replace another income source, Google Ads, thus its no disappointment if your output hasn’t increased.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I would agree. I’m also pleased with the volume of output, especially since Shamus got a better handle on his audio editing.


  16. Rosseloh says:

    but it's also been spent on ordinary things that are of no direct value to this blog

    I’d venture to say that with the community you have here, it’s cool. After all, we don’t get nice things unless you are able to feed your family.

  17. SpaceSjur says:

    “Long-form, multi-part, deconstructionist nitpicking with the attitude that we nitpick because we love.”
    Yes. Please. More of those.
    Also, as I finally seem to end up with some expendable income: I’ll definitely patreon you as soon as I can afford it. I really, REALLY like this blog.

  18. WA says:

    While I do love stuff like “Why Fallout 3 is So Stupid”, I think I’d also like to see articles on “How Insert-Game Did Something Really Right”.

    I’m not sure if that also falls under deconstructionist nitpicking, although it should probably fall under because we love.

    1. Mephane says:

      True, that would be a very interesting addition. Since it is easier to nitpick the bad bits than praising the good bits, I could see this work better as a semi-forced regular entry. Like a “game feature of the week” category, where every week Shamus is required to write one thing a game did especially well, even if the rest of the game was utter garbage.

      It doesn’t even always have to be a long article, just a particular feature, or a particularly well-done variation or implementation of a very common feature, that Shamus came upon while playing a game, watching someone else play, or merely remembered from a game he once played or heard of long ago.

    2. Zak McKracken says:


      Since this place is my main source of information on games, I sometimes find myself with a rather bad impression of quality in games these days, simply because this blog likes to focus on the not-so-good parts. Something positive wouldn’t hurt — supposed you can find something interesting to say on the way there.

  19. Lazlo says:

    The whole “this isn’t funding ‘the art'” thing doesn’t make sense to me. What does doing this blog require? Well, it requires some games. It requires some computers, but not many and not frequently. Mostly, it requires time. Time is your ‘instrument’. If you were a starving guitarist you might say “I ran out of money and had to hock my Fender at the pawn shop, but if you support me I might be able to get it back.” As a blogger, you’re saying “I had to hock my time to dudes with PHP problems, but if you support me, I might be able to get it back.” Same difference. Paying for you to have the tool you need to do the work we all want you to do.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I think thinking like this is what makes Shamus so dissatisfied with what he’s done so far. If he views it as people paying to give him time to use on the site, then that’s the funded resource, and so if he uses his time for things that don’t go on the site or spends his time doing other things that he didn’t even ever intend to go on the site, then he has to look at the time he’s spending on the site and wonders if that’s enough to justify the money that others are spending on him to do that. That’s not, in my opinion, the way the readers and the people who are funding him — full disclosure, I’m not one of those — want him to be thinking.

      I feel guilty enough about not spending enough time on my own blog as it is. I couldn’t imagine the guilt if people were PAYING me to produce content on it.

  20. Thomas says:

    I’m pretty sure it was clear to most people that the Patreon money was going to you and your family rather than for buying equipment w/e. If you’d been raking in hundreds of thousands of pounds, I’d still be comfortable with that going straight into your pocket because it’s all due to the work you’ve done and do.

    I think lots (most?) Patreon’s are about paying the person rather than funding equipment. Kickstarter is where the money goes towards something.

    1. Phill says:

      But even there it can be going to fund salaries. If hiring two programmers and four artists required paying them $whatever in salary, no-one is going to think they have the right to control (or even care) what the people hired chose to spend their salary on.

      Although, you might argue with the lowballing numbers that kickstarters go for that they are looking are either funding ‘salaries’ that are barely enough to survive on, or ar (as per Unrest) below even that and clearly the developers are working real jobs and doing this in their spare time, and the money is just for unavoidable extra expenses.

      I’d hope that everyone who supports Shamus financially understands that they are helping to pay for a normal life for Shamus and his family (whether they have other incomes or not), and we get no more say over what he spends the money on than e.g. my employer gets so say what I spend my salary on.

    2. Mephane says:

      If he had hundreds of thousand of dollars each month, I would demand the cosplay consist of fully functional Iron Man suits and Batmobiles. :D

  21. Ramsus says:

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing that you spent time on a project that happened to not work out as something you felt you could write about. Sometimes these things don’t pan out, but you shouldn’t get discouraged to further experiment with things to do and later talk about. If it even costs us a few less posts from you when something doesn’t work out, I’m sure the ones we do get when it does will more than make up for it. Personally I look forward to whatever unexpected project you think up next and I love the variety it adds.

    Perhaps you could try some sort of simulator or program that you could input the data for what a video game’s population is and their environment and such and it tells you what they must be eating to survive. =P

    1. Syal says:

      To add to this, I think it’s important to have projects you know aren’t going to end up on the blog, just to let your brain unwind. Don’t fall prey to the idea that getting more money to do something means you can/should spend longer on it without burning out.

      1. Mephane says:

        Yes, it’s both inevitable and necessary. If you only do experimental projects with the sole intention that it must produce a “product” (in the sense that there is anything – in our case even just a single blog post – that goes to someone not taking part in the projext), then you’re limiting yourself extremely, and lots of potential is entirely wasted on making stuff more “mainstream”. One could argue this is at the heart of the problem with most AAA game development*.

        *And a counter-point to that, look at stuff like Goat Simular or Grow Home, both of which started as mere internal experiments.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    As long as you dont start doing regular fan requests through patreon,Ill be happy with your work.

    Seriously,what is it with fan requests on patreon?”Hey,I see this person is doing A.I like seeing them do A,so I will pay them to do XYZ”??????

    1. Mephane says:

      I would generally prefer nothing special be done for Patreon or the particular supporters. No exclusive content, no “first look” access to stuff, nothing extra, not even a badge. I know the possibility was hinted at in the campaign, but afaik nothing like that ever happened, which is good.

      1. krellen says:

        As one of those supporters, I support this. I support so everyone gets content, not just me.

  23. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Really looking forward to more of these like your Fallout 3 series. Seems like kind of ideal content especially given how good you are at it. Given how long it takes to play a game, its good to be able to get a bunch of articles out of it.

    I’m eagerly awaiting whatever you choose to write about Arkham Knight. From your Twitter I can tell there’s a series marinating in there somewhere.

  24. Kalil says:

    I’ve never really been big into video and audio content, and yah, I kind of miss your long-form and hilarious deconstructions. I think my favorite pieces of yours are the lambasting of Fable II and the Champions Online ‘lets play’. The latter remains one of the funniest things I have read on the internet, and got my non-gamer father hooked on your writing.

    I am always glad to see you experimenting with things, though, because some of your best stuff has come out of things much like the failed project you talk about above. So yah, keep at it, and thanks for your work, and I and your other 300-odd supporters will be backing you all the way.

  25. Tektotherriggen says:

    It’s a shame that engine project didn’t work out – it’s a great aesthetic, and a few indies have done similar things (I wanted to say “like Fract OSC”, but that has a lot more colour and a lot less bump-mapping).

  26. For those that want to maximize their donations.

    Transferring from a Paypal account to another Paypal account is free (no fees), and AFAIK it is possible to set up recurring transfers with Paypal too.

  27. 6b64 says:

    I join the ones saying video content isn’t essential. Sure, if you feel like making videos, I don’t mind that at all – I am at “if you published your shopping list I’d pay for it”-level fanboyism. But please, please don’t feel pressured to make video content. I really, really love long-text analysis. It is not a very common thing, and you are very good at it. I don’t really like the trend that everything is made into video – just where did the assumption come from that everybody likes that?
    And I agree what was said before: let’s not forget all the music you made, that was a very cool thing. I think it was a great year, and I’m very happy that your Patreon is working out nicely.

  28. Diego says:

    You can still write about that black hole project, it’s just not what you thought it was going to be initially. It’s like when doing research, you have an idea that could lead to a paper, but the idea doesn’t work. But that leads to a paper saying “that idea doesn’t lead anywhere”. It’s still information, although less exciting.

    Your quick write-up in this project made me curious to know more about it. It lead to more questions; if that doesn’t recreate what you thought it would, what would do the trick?

    My suggestion is to start a project unrelated to the blog (cough MAKE GAMES GODAMMIT cough cough) and use that as a source of content for the blog.

  29. houiostesmoiras says:

    You said not to apologize, but I’ll do so anyway: I’m sorry I can’t find it in my wallet to contribute. I consider this a blanket apology to all the other content producers whose blogs, vlogs, critiques, and creative videos I can’t afford to support, such as Vlog Brothers/Crash Course, Sursum Ursa, Veritasium, Smarter Every Day, and the non-Shamus members of the Spoiler Warning crew. I am a big fan of Patreon and similar services; the ability of fans to directly support creators they enjoy, and of creators to reach those fans with content and for support worldwide is quite possibly the greatest single cultural breakthrough of the Internet age. I find myself consuming quite a lot of content, and I truly wish that I made enough money to properly pay for the services I use (ie: entertainment and education provided by content producers), but right now I’m struggling just to come up with the ~$200 to get a safety and inspection license to make myself more valuable to my employers (but, incidentally, probably not valuable enough for them to give me a raise of any kind). I promise, if I win the lottery, Patreon will be one of my first stops.

    1. One of the things I like about Patreon is precisely the “Patron” aspect. When I was young, I, you know, pirated a few things for the Commodore 64, then as the web took off, I’ve read a lot of free stuff when I wouldn’t have been able to contribute anything either. Now, I’m not “rich” but I can swing some patronage on a monthly basis, and I’m actually happy that Patreon enables me to directly fund people to provide still-free content to everybody. It enriches us all that way. I’m paying forward the stuff I received when I was younger.

      I wish you all the best, and in five or ten years, when I hope you are doing better, perhaps pay it forward. If not, well, at least take comfort that unlike ten years ago, Patreon-funded producers are no longer necessarily paying to produce the free content anymore.

    2. Syal says:

      As another regular who seriously can’t afford to donate anything, you can still help by linking to articles and such; if you bring in someone who can donate who wouldn’t otherwise be here, it’s just as good as donating yourself.

      1. Shamus says:

        This is a very good point.

  30. The Seed Bismuth says:

    Excuse me for this, YES YES YES more long articles.
    Now for a question will you revist “trusting the author” at any time?

  31. WILL says:

    I like you Shamus. I love your show, I love when you stream.

    But what I’d really like, is to play one of your games one day.

    1. MrGuy says:

      On that note, it’s been awhile since there’s been any update here on on Pyrodactyl’s blog about Good Robot. Anything you can share?

  32. MadTinkerer says:

    “So that represents a big chunk of effort that didn't turn into blog content, didn't lead to any interesting technology, and didn't teach me anything terribly interesting. That probably wasn't an optimal way to spend all those weeks.”

    You learned it was a path to avoid in the future. You can’t optimize for that except through trial and error, or as the professionals call it, research & development. You spent a matter of weeks to save a matter of months or years. Look at it that way.

    1. Mephane says:

      No, no, no! Do not avoid this path in the future. It is experiments like these which are necessary in order for experiments that turn out well to be possible. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be an experiment, if there weren’t the change that it may be bound to fail. Also, it only seems bound to fail in retrospect, you cannot know that beforehand.

  33. Muelnet says:

    I always find the idea of “Oh the money isn’t being spent on the art, therefore you’re wasting money” to be the weirdest argument ever. An easy example would be a painter. Paint and canvas are cheap (as are bandwidth, games, etc.), the expensive part is the house and the food and all that shit.

    Or take these big budget Kickstarters for games. Most of that money isn’t going to license technology or buy computers. It is going towards office space, electricity, and salaries/benefits. And most of that salary is going to people who are using it to pay for their house, gas, food, etc.

    This is all just a long way of me saying it is weird that you have to say you are spending Patreon money on those things, because I assumed it already. On the other hand I know some people don’t seem to understand this so I also understand why you say it.

  34. Mephane says:

    Just a few points which probably have already been touched by various comments, but I’d prefer to consolidate my feedback of this first year in one post:

    – I greatly enjoyed the latest Fallout 3 series, and hope more articles and series of that type are coming in the future. As I said in another recent comment, it is these very articles which brought me here and made me stay.

    – I rarely watch any video content at all here, for a multitude of reasons, but the primary reason is I can read text at my own pace and regardless of the surroundings. I share the room and thus when I watch an hour of video or audio stream, this becomes the only thing in the room that ought to produce sound, and the only thing that ought to get my attention; no TV, no other (loud game), and conversation also doesn’t go well with watching a video. (This is also the reason why I use voice chat in games only very rarely.)

    – I never begrudged Shamus or anyone else for the plentitude of video content, but I still find it kind of sad to come here, see a new post, and it is once again another video. I have no idea how time consuming it would be to produce, especially regularly, but I would totally read literal transcripts (or even just detailed summaries) of these things. It seems the two or three paragraphs below most videos is usually rather aimed at people who have watched or are about to watch the video, and not as an alternative way to consume the same content. (I use the verb “consume” only due to my lack of any better word that covers reading texting, watching video, and listening to audio.)

    – I am not only totally fine, but very much hoped the Patreon campaign would support precisely the kind of experimentation that might turn out entirely fruitless, without even something worthwhile to write about, like the rendering experiments you mentioned. I am very happy that you touched upon the subject, because it means that the money enabled that very kind of freedom to experiment with stuff you find interesting, which in my imaginary utopia every person would have all the time.

    – It had always been clear to me, from the moment you opened up the campaign, that this was not about “funding more content”, but supporting your life (and deeply connected with that, the family) so that you can maintain or even extend the creative freedom that allowed you to run this blog in the first place.

    – I see some parallels here with some of the things I learnt about the unschooling you have been doing. It would be very interesting to see a comparison between both processes, education without a formal school and work without a formal job, from your first-hand experience of both. :)

    – Ever since you put Good Robot on Steam Greenlight and mentioned procedural levels there, I have been speculating for myself, so I would really love an answer: did the Patreon campaign enable you to add this feature, or must this attributed to your cooperation with Pyrodactyl? And did you always want to have procedural levels and just didn’t have the time to make it so (during the initial development and blog series), or was that an idea that came up only later?

  35. Zak McKracken says:

    If the whole Patreon thing is supposed to reflect the idea of “patronage” then your patrons are explicitly not paying for your “product” — in that case they’d be customers, not patrons.

    I think the whole “bang for your buck” mentality has sunken in very deeply with a lot of people, and it is hard to lose again. What a patron does is support an artist to enable them to continue doing what they do, so that their art can continue being produced. They don’t buy anything, neither a product nor a say in what the money will be spent on or what the artist produces.

    (says the guy who still doesn’t Patreon… I’ll correct that one of these days, promised!)

  36. Arstan says:

    I finally joined your Patreon, Shamus! Yay!

  37. Scott L says:


    Hey :) I’m a LONG time reader, but very sparse commenter. I think I’ve made one comment in all the years I’ve been reading your blog and other stuff. I’m more of a passive ingest-er (is that a word? well, it is now!) of information :) But this article made me realize that I actually *look forward* to your various columns, blog posts and insights, and that has value. So I signed up for Patreon, and am donating a little bit your way every month. It isn’t much, but it’s what I have, and I want you to know I really appreciate the work you put in and look forward to years more of insightful, funny and thought provoking reading. :)

  38. Cat Skyfire says:

    I favor your writing things over video. You are a fun writer to read, even if I don’t always care about the topic (a game I never played, for example.)

  39. Griffin says:

    Huzzah! I really like your long-form articles. Reading the recent multi-part takedown of Fallout 3 was a enjoyable return to form. Looking forward to seeing more stuff. Put me in the crowd that prefers reading to watching videos.

  40. WWWebb says:

    I miss screencap comics. I don’t know where they fall on the “hours spent working vs minutes being entertained” scale, but they were consistently funny. You have a good voice for fiction.

  41. ThaneofFife says:

    I’ve been reading your blog since juuuust after DMoTR ended, and I donate $5 to you through my wife’s Patreon account (it’s Hel, if you go looking). (We also met on WoW once–thanks for the free stuff!)

    I just wanted to say that I really appreciated you posting this, and congratulate you on a great year!

    Having read that you’re not satisfied with your output, I feel compelled to provide some completely-unsolicited feedback:
    – I’m very satisfied with your output.
    – Although I enjoy your long-form videos, it’s hard to set aside time to watch them.
    – Spoiler Warning is great in theory, but I never have time to watch it. The one season that I watched most of was Marlow Briggs–and I had to stay late after work to catch that.
    – The same is true for the Diecast. My biggest request for it would be an audio transcript–is it possible you could do a machine-generated transcript? I realize it would probably be hilariously inaccurate, but it would still be interesting to read.
    – Given the above, written content is most valuable to me, as I can read it on break at work. Your Fallout 3 breakdown the past couple of weeks was EXTREMELY helpful–it kept me from buying the game at the Steam Sale and being annoyed when I finally got around to playing it.

    List of things I would love to see you do more of:
    (1) more game reviews–first impressions posts are fine, even if you decide not to follow up (just let us know you decided that, please);
    (2) as many personal life posts as you feel comfortable making–I always find these to be interesting and insightful. They also make me want to give you more money–which I will one day when I have fewer student loans to pay;
    (3) more about tabletop gaming–what have you been up to lately? what would you like to try?;
    (4) more pop culture reviews–like your Haibane Renmei review about a decade ago. Reviews of any movies which you’ve seen recently would be cool too–or even just thoughts on fridge logic from the latest Avengers;
    (5) more on Project Good Robot. Regardless of whether you think it’s as good or re-playable as you wanted it to be, I intend to buy it. I’d love to hear more about where it is, and what’s happening; and
    (6) I would love to see you weigh in on controversial issues, which you currently tend to stay away from. I’m sure we would disagree from time to time, but I’d like to hear your perspective. However, I understand that this will probably never happen, as you worry about causing flamewars and/or alienating your readership.

    In conclusion, thanks for being yourself! Best,

    Edited to add: A thing about stuff / your stock photo comics were freaking hilarious. Would love to see those come back!

  42. Vorpal Kitten says:

    “I promise, if I win the lottery, Patreon will be one of my first stops.”

    If I won the lottery I’d probably hire the lot of you to do an extra Diecast every week.

    Actually, I was thinking the other day about how if I was rich it would be so awesome to scoop up a bunch of skilled and underpaid people with works I’ve already been proven to like, like Rutskarn, and have them make games tailored just for me. Like Unrest was cool and all, but I bet you could get a lot more dialogue options in there if it was all text based.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      That’s actually kind of interesting. I’ve never heard of someone just grabbing some programmers and telling them “MAKE ME A GAME.”

      I guess a lot of indies start off by just making a game they want to play that turns out popular, but I wonder how a game with an actual patron would turn out?

  43. I’m glad to hear you’re going back to more analysis and long-form stuff. I really like this blog a lot, but I don’t like to listen to podcasts or watch videos online very much. I like to read. And there have been quite a few times over the past year when this blog had 5+ consecutive days of “podcast-video-podcast-video” and NO WRITINGS.


  44. Bubble181 says:

    I don’t know how the page views and so on check out, but every time there’s a post like this, I notice a LOT of us saying we really like the text updates. I am also one of the people who read each and every blog post, read the synopsis for the Diecasts and SWs, but never watch or listen.
    Won’t say what you should do in any way, you need to keep doing what you feel would be most effective/fun/entertaining for both you and us, but one thing’s for sure: you don’t need to feel guilty or lazy for doing a text update instead of a video update. We all seem to be mighty fine with them ;)

    Congrats on the year of Patreon, glad to see you’re doing OK and making at least a bit more than minimum wage ;-)

    Personally, I don’t give to Patreon, because I prefer spreading my money around to whoever amongst the artists I like seems to be needing it the most at that particular time. I put some your way when your HD crashed, maybe next year a webcomic artist I read will have a car break down or the admin of my regular hangout’s daughter will need surgery – whatever. Obviously you couldn’t live off of a bunch of people like that (without constant begging which is icky and blegh) but I hope it works too.

    I’d also like to point out that this is the year we’ve been seeing (a few) updates from your daughter. It may not seem important now, but in 10 years time when this is a “Father and daughter” million page view per day juggernaut, remember this is where it started :P

    Hurray for 20 Sided!

  45. Kdansky says:

    People on Patreon and Kickstarter always insist that money spent on projects goes towards “the project”, and they often don’t realize that the people working on those projects also need to pay for rent. For software projects (games), this is especially true: Hardly any money at all is spent on non-wages, because both artists and programmers are very low on hardware costs (fractions of a percent).

    As a reader, the last year was neither a disaster, nor a high-point for the blog. I don’t really enjoy Spoiler Warning as a show (too much bunny-hopping, not paced fast enough), nor the podcast, and come here for written words which I can read when waiting for a compiler.

    Star On Chest or a similar series would be great, but I doubt there’s another MMO or similar game that would work. Maybe Soul & Blade that’s coming out soon?

  46. Ben B says:

    I like just about all your work, but I have to admit I really like the long-form stuff. I read all of the Fallout 3 bit yesterday and it was really good.

    The only stuff I don’t really consume is some of the Spoiler Warning things, as I’m just not that into some of the games you guys have played. But I really liked watching The Last of Us (I don’t have a PS3/4) and recently the Arkham Asylum series (I have the game on Steam, but not the time to play it). My real complaint with Spoiler Warning is when Josh goes nuts with the controls and the jumping, and I have to take a break or I’ll get too nauseated.

    Shamus, thanks for all the great content you put out there. I love it. And I’m glad you’re eating and staying dry. Keep it up.

  47. Gobo says:

    Thanks for reminding. :)
    I’ve read your blog for so long, I feel you are more a friend than “just some blog writing guy”. So I’m now patreoning a monthly beer out on town.

  48. Duoae says:

    At the risk of piling on the love even more I’m perfectly happy with your output, Shamus.

    Would I like more? SURE!! However, I’ve been there and done that and I know how feeling like you’re working to a schedule works out when you’re trying to be creative with something you enjoy. You (or at least I) just got wound down and burned out. I used to write a lot of analysis on games, reviews and whatnot of the industry but over the years I’ve lost my impetus and life has crowded out the time I get to just sit and think about those sorts of things in order to get an idea in the first place in order to be able to develop it and actually get something down in writing. (This goes for music as well as prose).

    However, I really enjoy your blog content. I enjoy spoiler warning a lot (though I wish you guys managed to get in a couple of games I’d love to hear you talk about – especially now there’s the console side of things in play [but I am really enjoying Arkham so keep that rolling out!!]!). I also (finally [and what’s with all these nested parentheses?]) got around to reading both “Free Radical” and “The Witch Watch” – both of which I enjoyed immensely and which got me back into reading big time.

    So I’d just like to say, on the record, thank you. You are well worth my monthly contribution. :)

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