Patreon: Year Three

By Shamus Posted Monday Jun 5, 2017

Filed under: Landmarks 142 comments

It’s been three years since I took ads off my site, stopped taking side-jobs, and began treating this blog like a full-time job. As in the past, I’m taking this anniversary as a chance to look back at the previous year, appraise my output, get feedback, and discuss future plans for the site.

Skip the next section if you don’t want to know about my financial situation. The short version is that things are about to change, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Personal Finances

That internet money!
That internet money!

I know this is weird. I was raised in a world where it was considered extremely rude to mention or ask how much anyone was making. Those were different rules for different times, and I see the need to relax them here where I’m making public appeals for support. At the same time, this still feels really uncomfortable to me. Old taboos are not easily overcome.

In the early days of my Patreon, I made a quasi-joke funding goal of $1,160 as “minimum wage”. The idea being that once people give that much, I’ll be making as much as someone who works full-time at a minimum wage job. It turns out that this is not the case.

What I found out the following April is that the income I get from Patreon is very different from income I get from an employer. Like, I have to give the IRS about a third of all my Patreon money.

Yes, actually a third. Yes, I’ve been to a tax preparer. Yes, we’ve checked the laws. This is really the case. Yes, I’m deducting that stuff you’re about to suggest. Yes, this seems really high for this country. I’ve had this conversation a dozen times and people simply refuse to believe it.

The rationale for this seemingly borked system is this: Let’s say you work for Corporation Z. They make a bunch of money. They pay taxes on it. Then they take some of what’s left over and pay YOU, and you pay taxes on THAT. This tax I’m paying on my Patreon income is simply both of those taxes combined, so that things are… fair. (Because otherwise I’d have an advantage over the corporation, right?)

At this point you’re about to get mad and jump down to the comments. “How come [some rich person] pays a lower percent of their income as taxes than Shamus does?!? This is an outrage!” I know it feels good to jump on your political hobby-horse and rock vigorously around the room, but honestly the entire topic is beyond tedious to me. It feels like I’ve just been run over by a car and a bystander rushed over and began ranting about how those IDIOTS at city hall need to DO SOMETHING about this crosswalk. You can’t imagine my apathy towards political discussions right now. Really. Don’t test my patience on this. I know you think you’re helping, but… no. Don’t go there.

It turns out that the income level for making about minimum wage in terms of spendable income is… right about what I’m making now. Somewhere around $1,700 or soI’d update the Patreon goal, but think of how that would look to someone who didn’t read this post.. Of course, I’m still making less per hour, because I work at this job about 60 hours a week. But look: This job involves playing videogames. And this isn’t like game reviewers that sometimes get assigned terrible movie tie-ins to review. These are games I pick for myselfJust IMAGINE how negative this site would be if I was obligated to keep up with the traditional review schedule of burning through a AAA game five days before launch, whether I cared about the genre or not.. I’d rather consume and analyze videogames for 60 hours a week than be footsore behind a cash register for 40. It’s not even close. You’d have to offer me doctor or CEO money before I’d seriously consider the cash register job.

I want to stress that I’m not trying to get you to give more! I know a lot of you already give. (And some of you give a lot!) And there are a small handful of people who give via PayPal who aren’t included in the Patreon figure. I’m grateful for the support and I don’t think anyone is being unfair to me.

I’m making this decision freely. I could probably make a lot more money by taking an office job I’d hate, but I’ve decided my life will be more fulfilling if I do this job for ~minimum wage income. Aside from sleeping, we spend more time working than doing anything else, so the one way to really improve your quality of life is taking a job you can enjoy doing. Very few people have this option open to them.

Is this a wise career move, long term? Probably not. I’m not getting any younger. Retirement age is coming up. I probably can’t afford to spend the next 15 years working a job with no health insuranceNOPE! I still don’t want to hear your smug political rant. where I don’t make enough to save for retirement. At some point I’m going to need to put the blog down and re-enter the workforce proper. (Or find some other way of making this work, like a hit game / novel, or suddenly becoming far more popular.)

My wife Heather cares for a very old woman. She’s 97I said last year she was in her early 90s. I was wrong.. The job pays very well, and we wouldn’t be able to make this work without that income. Basically, her job makes this job possible. So every year I tell myself “When Miss Havisham dies, I’ll need to go out and get a real job.” Well Miss Havisham is in decline, and I don’t expect her to see the end of June.

What will happen when she dies? I have no idea. Heather and I are talking about different ways we can solve this problem. It’s possible I’ll need to give up the dream and go work in a cubicle, but neither one of us is crazy about that idea.

Of course, this would all be much easier if I had a bigger audience. I’d rather 5,000 different people give me a dollar than one person give me $5,000. But I’m also wary of doing anything crazy in pursuit of a larger crowd. If the stupidity of EA has taught us anything, it’s that neglecting your loyal audience in pursuit of a larger one is suicide. Dead Space and Mass Effect both show that not only does it fail to attract those new followers, it will also alienate your base. Worst of all, it causes you to make shitty content.

The point is, I’m not planning on making any big changes. Maybe I’ll write a book or maybe I’ll release a game, but this site is still the priority and any other projects need to fit around it.

Again, this is not something any of you can change with your personal donations. This is just the reality of the situation I live in. Barring an explosion in popularity, sooner or later a change is coming, and I don’t know what it will be or what it will look like. I’m just trying to stretch this gig out as long as I can.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s change the subject.

How is the Site Doing?

This is probably the happiest I’ve been with the site in years. I was thrilled to see that my total output is in the neighborhood of two Tolkien-sized novels a year. That’s over and above any personal goals I might have set for myself. I’m also really happy with the site presentation right now.

So things are great. I like the content I’ve been putting up. In an ideal world I’d have something visual to go with all this text. Maybe a text play or a comic. I keep toying with ideas for that stuff, but the lightning hasn’t struck yet.

Also I think we’ve been a little short on coding content since Good Robot finished up, but I expect that will change soon. I’ve got a John Carmack talk to annotate and I’m noodling around with Unity.


A few weeks ago I asked my Patrons for questionsIt was on a private post and I forgot to ask for permission to use their names publicly because apparently this is my first day on the job. If you’d like to have your name on your question just identify yourself in the comments below, and I’ll add it here.. Here are a few:

For what it’s worth, I’d like to hear your thoughts on how patronage has treated you. I remember there was a lot of anxiety when it seemed that it would become your primary income stream. Has it ultimately proven a feasible model for you and your family?

I know I mostly answered this above, but I’ll add that I think that Patreon seems to be a much more stable source of income than I expected. It might not be quite enough for my particular situation, but if I was younger, single, or living in a country with lower housing costs, then this income would be amazing. It’s clear by now that Patreon isn’t a fad, and even if it ultimately doesn’t work out for me I think it will work for a lot of other people. Unlike advertising there’s much less seasonal variance, unpredictability, and personal compromise.

Jack Conte is the creator of Patreon. He started it in order to fund his music. He’s given a number of talks like this one over the years that have convinced me that his heart is in the right place and that Patreon isn’t going to collapse or turn evil anytime soon. Even as the founder, he doesn’t take a salary from Patreon. He makes his money from his supporters, the same as I do. Since we have the same source of income, his incentives align with mine, rather than oppose it. Like, if Patreon made diet soda then if he wanted more money he could get it by charging me more. But right now anything he does to make Patreon more profitable for him will also make it more profitable for me.

Any plans to write another novel?

I have been talking to my brother for months and bashing out ideas for another Witch Watch novel. He’s been on me for ages to write a sequel. It could happen!

Why do birds suddenly appear when you are near?

It’s the birdseed, man. Birdseed.

Any plans to actively seek out new partners for the podcast/site after the unfortunate schism?

I’ve got more than enough volunteers to start up the podcast again if I wanted to. I might do that eventually, but lately I’ve been spending those hours on writing and coding.

In the wake of Spoiler Warning leaving the site, I’m mostly interested in what your plans are for the time that’s freed up – any plans to write about Factorio or has that dream been quashed?

While the circumstances surrounding the split were unfortunate, I have to say it feels pretty good to be able to focus on the writing. Spoiler Warning+Diecast took about 5 or 6 hours on Saturday nights. Then I spent another few hours during the week watching the episodes as they appeared and writing up a little post to go with them. So that content cost me about the length of your average workday.

Spoiler Warning also created a lot of hassles that annoyed me and messed up my workflow. I like to let a post take shape in my head before I begin writing, and after I’m done writing I like to let it sit for another day before I do a final proofread / gut-check. I don’t always do things this way. For example, this post was dashed off at the last minute. But I like having the option to let posts simmer. For reasons that aren’t worth getting into, the video posting schedule was always at odds with this and we could never find a system that made everyone happy. I look at a lot of those old Spoiler Warning posts and think, “This would have been way better if a couple of these were mashed together, proofed a little better, and edited down to their most cogent points”.

Sorry if you were a fan of that content, but I’m not eager to do that again. The 8+ hours spent doing that is going back into writing the long-form stuff, but I can’t really point at any one series of posts and say, “THIS! This is what you’re getting instead of Spoiler Warning!” I imagine I’ll be posting more words. Or if not more words, then more thoughtful and less dashed-off words.

The following questions are all from the same person, bullet-list style:

Is your content backlog still growing? I’d think video-game time would be eating into it by now.

Correct. The backlog is still pretty damn big, but it’s stopped growing now that I have so much to play.

Batman is about to wrap up. After that I’ve got a two-parter on Diablo III, and after that is another Batman-sized series on the Borderlands franchise. I think it’s important to have lead time on those things. There was one time I abandoned my Thief 2014 write-up, and that’s always really bugged me. Since then I prefer to have the rough draft of a series complete before I start posting it, just to make sure I don’t create any more orphans like that one.

I’ve also recently begun a series on Prey 2017. I have no idea when that will show up. It’s still pretty rudimentary.

And then there’s the series on Fallout 4 that’s still lingering at half-finished after 18 months. I take it out and tinker with it every equinox or so, but I can’t decide if it needs to be a short series or a novel. There’s a lot wrong with the game, but not all of the flaws are worth talking about. I mean, yes, the dialog wheel is bad. Do I need to be the millionth person to complain about that? Maybe not. But a lot of the flaws are connected. I’d like to do something short-ish, but every single time I try to make something short and focused I end up getting side-side-sidetracked talking about nested design flaws and systemic Bethesda gameplay issues. I should probably finish this while people still remember Fallout 4.

You’ve said before that you rarely get out of the house due to travel anxiety, but you’ve been to Texas (twice?) now. Any tips for similarly need-to-have-a-plan-for-everything afflicted?

Note that I’ve only been to Texas once. I have no advice. It never gets any easier for me.

Is there a chance you’ll return to your Free Radical roots with a Prey inspired fanfic scifi story?

Very unlikely. Although like I said above, a Witch Watch Novel might happen. I do have another Cyberpunk novel I’d like to write, but I think Witch Watch is the better time investment.

Any thoughts on the concept of Intellectual Property (not laws or anything, just the idea itself)?

Not anything deep. While I’m not going to throw in with the anarchists and declare copyrights and patents should be abolished forever, I see tremendous value in Creative Commons, the MIT License and other “release crap for freeBoth kinds of free.” systems. That is to say, I don’t object to the fact that you can own ideas, but I think peoplePeople who run companies and don’t personally create the stuff. are generally too quick to do so.

A concrete example: I think game companies could give away the source of their old games and it wouldn’t hurt their bottom line in the slightest. It would be educational, it would make sure the games survive future compatibility walls, and it would help renew interest in those old titles. You could even make the case that releasing the source code for (say) Morrowind would lead to a boost in sales because people would need the data files to tinker with the code, and the easiest way to get that stuff is to buy it on Steam.

I’d personally love it if I could find a situation where I could produce code, give it away, and still somehow pay the bills. Maybe something like a Patreon-backedHopefully the same Patreon. The LAST thing I’d want is it run two! open source game. My current experiments with Unity are – aside from the educational benefits – an attempt to see if such a thing could be feasible. Honestly, I very much doubt if this is going to go anywhere, but I’m willing to throw some time into it and see what I get. This is just the latest in a long line of crazy schemes designed to keep me doing this job for as long as possible.

If nothing else, we should get some good blog posts out of it.

You’ve never met most of your fans in person, and maybe that’s how you like it. Ever thought of doing a live Twenty-sided meetup? Maybe run a three-session RP campaign or something?

I don’t think I have the fan density for that to be feasible. If I met up with every fan in a 500 mile radius, I doubt we’d have enough people to properly staff the bridge of the Enterprise, much less have an “event” worth going to.

How has your creative inspiration process changed over the years?

The inspiration remains unchanged: I write when something annoys or delights me to the point where I need to talk about it. It’s a lot more automatic now. I honestly wonder how I’ll cope with life if I ever go back to a cubicle. I spend a lot of time writing in my head. It used to take a long time to figure out what I wanted to say, but now it just seems to happen.

Well, that’s the end of year three. Thanks so much for reading. The Patreon is here, if you’re of a mind to join in. You can also do a one-time PayPal thing if you’re not looking to make a commitment.



[1] I’d update the Patreon goal, but think of how that would look to someone who didn’t read this post.

[2] Just IMAGINE how negative this site would be if I was obligated to keep up with the traditional review schedule of burning through a AAA game five days before launch, whether I cared about the genre or not.

[3] NOPE! I still don’t want to hear your smug political rant.

[4] I said last year she was in her early 90s. I was wrong.

[5] It was on a private post and I forgot to ask for permission to use their names publicly because apparently this is my first day on the job. If you’d like to have your name on your question just identify yourself in the comments below, and I’ll add it here.

[6] Both kinds of free.

[7] People who run companies and don’t personally create the stuff.

[8] Hopefully the same Patreon. The LAST thing I’d want is it run two!

From The Archives:

142 thoughts on “Patreon: Year Three

  1. Cilvre says:

    Full post is showing on main page, just fyi

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      Well, it would be strange if that didn’t happen. By now it’s almost a tradition :)

      1. Shamus says:

        It’s even worse than that. This post was SUPPOSED to go up Tuesday. I wasn’t actually done fiddling with it. But then I hit “publish” instead of “save” and didn’t notice until hours later. Rather than take it down again, I’m just going to leave it.

  2. Bryan says:

    Are you willing to talk about how much you made from Good Robot? Maybe it’s in another post that I missed.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      Not much from what I gather. I hope the Perodactyl guys at least got enough to cover the time they put into polishing it.

      1. Naota says:

        This is, unfortunately, another question for Arvind. By this point in time I’d like to hope so. I can give a hopefully interesting answer from my own perspective though: Good Robot is probably the most polished and supported game we’ve put out so far. In trailers, promotion, testing, feedback, kinaesthetics, and aesthetics I think it easily surpassed our past efforts. Combined with Unrest, it’s looking likely to have been a big factor in landing me a regular job at a local game studio just this month. It was also the least financially rewarding project of the four Pyrodactyl games I’ve been on board for so far.

        I don’t think this has anything to do with the quality of the game itself, and certainly not the critical reception (you guys were immensely kind to us, and I’ve never enjoyed a dialogue with the audience more than the Good Robot posts on this site). So far as I know, for all that I said above, the game didn’t cost a great deal more to create than a typical project, so this wasn’t a case of the production values not paying for themselves. All signs point to the fact that the market of the time really was so inundated with mid- to high-quality indie titles that only the lucky, intensely memetic, and all-around exceptional rose to the top of the Steam store. Them’s just the breaks.

        Working on Good Robot with Shamus, Ruts, Arvind, Mikk, and Rashi was a blast nonetheless, and I’d do it again given the chance – but I also understand that I speak from a position where the game’s financial success wasn’t the sole director of my future.

        Mind you, I’m not done making games yet by any means (well obviously – but I still plan to keep with Pyrodactyl if this new job pulls through). Arvind and I went to represent Pyrodactyl at GDC this year, and we both came away with stacks of business cards, new contacts, and even a few job offers. The plan for the future in both our cases is to make a stab at getting a stable income so we can put more into our games without the risk or worry of being completely dependent on them. If things go the way we expect, it’ll be very nice not to have to compromise the quality or scope of the game by releasing early or at a sub-optimal time because we simply couldn’t afford to work on it any longer.

        In any case, this is my attempt at the dreaded money talk. Hopefully you found something interesting in it.

      1. evileeyore says:

        What do the data points on that graph represent? I’m not at all understanding it.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I think its the number of people who logged in time with the game that day.

        2. Ninety-Three says:

          They represent Steamspy’s estimation of how many people own the game. Steamspy gets its data by randomly viewing Steam profiles and checking what games they have, then extrapolating that over the broader population (because they don’t have enough bandwidth to check every profile every day).

          The estimation of Good Robot’s ownership is highly variable because for small games, the randomly-sampled data sets are not large enough to be representative, and are updated constantly.

          Unfortunately the graph doesn’t show its error bars, but the statistics on the side do: Steamspy estimates Good Robot is owned by 18,141 ± 4,124 people, or “between ~14,000 and ~22,000 people”.

  3. forty-bot says:

    I don't think I have the fan density for that to be feasible. If I met up with every fan in a 500 mile radius, I doubt we'd have enough people to properly staff the bridge of the Enterprise, much less have an “event” worth going to.

    I think you may be underestimating the amount of people who would be interested in going to a small meetup. From your Patreon, you have 424 people who give money to you. Lets assume that the number of people who would be interested in going to something in person is a similar amount. I’m guessing most of your traffic (and patrons) are from western, english-speaking countries. For the sake of argument, that is people who have english as a first or second language (around 800 million). There are around 150 million people within a 500 mile radius of Butler PA. Since 80% of the US and Canadian population speaks english natively or as a second language, we have 120m/800m==15% of your total paying fanbase. With 424 patrons, that’s around 60 people. I think that’s more than enough to hold a get-together, and at least enough to staff the Enterprise. I know that this is a sort of back-of-napkin calculation (and your actual number probably differ from this [though I suspect this is a rather conservative estiimate]), but I don’t think this should be dismissed out-of-hand.

    1. Lazlo says:

      I don’t know if he already does this (I know it’s a feature of many website analytics systems), but it might be interesting to run the web server logs through a geoip database and find out if there are strange little pockets of Shamus fandom hiding here and there throughout the world.

      1. If I am remembering correctly (not logging in to check)- at least a third are from non-English speaking countries. That might be those who comment but I think that would be a fairly accurate representation of the whole.

        1. Mokap says:

          If anything, it’ll probably be even more non-english speakers outside of the comments – I’d bet you’re less likely to leave a comment if English isn’t your first language.

    2. methermeneus says:

      I happen to live just south of Philly, so it’s close enough to be worth the trip for me, and Tengokujin (posts even less often than me, but also an avid reader of the site) isn’t much farther away and would probably attend a Twenty-Sided fan meetup, so there’s two.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      Maybe a digital meetup rather than a physical one? Do a livestream on a Minecraft server or in Team Fortress 2 or something. Then anyone with a half-decent connection can join in regardless of distance (speaking as a resident of probably the farthest state from Pennsylvania…).

    4. Des says:

      For what it’s worth, I live within Butler County and would readily attend such an event.

    5. CrushU says:

      I’m technically within 500 miles and would go to a meetup in PA… Not in the Winter, though.

    6. ThaneofFife says:

      I live in the D.C. area, & I’d certainly come!

    7. Zak McKracken says:

      According to the Wikipedia list you linked a lot more than 80% of the population of the US and Canada speak English (80% is just the native speakers in the US), and I’m amazed to see that there are more English speakers in Germany than in Canada.

      That said: Your calculation fails to take into account how many of the people within the 500-mile-radius would be willing (and able!) to make the journey and would also be available on a certain day. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but out of the people saying “I’d love to have a meeting” here in the comments, a significant fraction won’t be able to make it there because they’ve already go holidays booked, or someone’s getting married, or something else. It’s not just spending an afternoon, it’ll eat an entire weekend for most participants, and there’s a lot of stuff that might interfere with that sort of thing.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The rationale for this seemingly borked system is this: Let's say you work for Corporation Z. They make a bunch of money. They pay taxes on it. Then they take some of what's left over and pay YOU, and you pay taxes on THAT. This tax I'm paying on my Patreon income is simply both of those taxes combined, so that things are… fair.

    This seems familiar to me.Some time back my country changed the way taxes work(to be more in line with europe,I think,I was never interested in it to find out the reasoning).So for quite some time(five years?Six?),practically all of the stores were adding the new tax on top of their prices,even though the new system was supposed to incorporate the tax into the price already.It was madness.Still is these days,but to a lesser degree.

    So my guess here is:Patreon is a new thing and no one knows how to tax it,so they decided to tax it as much as they can.Because why not.

    1. Walter Kolczynski says:

      The tax Shamus refers to is the same tax all self-employed individuals have to pay in the USA. It’s not unique to crowdfunding and has been around a long time.

      1. MichaelG says:

        Yes, back when I was working as a contract programmer, I paid through the nose too. Something like 40% effective tax rate. And yes, I was making good money. But writing those estimated tax payments four times a year really hurt. “I just bought the government a nice car! For the third time this year…”

        1. Cordance says:

          While this is true there are a lot of things you can put into your tax. Like that new car you bought and the miles you put on it. I know Shamus said that he has looked at every deductible he can, however have you looked at every deductible he could create. Random BS example a business planning dinner with him and his wife could create a tax reduced evening out. It then makes a whole lot of paper work to keep track and if the creating a business post is anything to go by it might not be worth the effort, but it might be worth looking into being more proactive regarding boxing things as business expensive. Make sure you talk to a tax man preemptively rather than the normal way which is post spending. Employee appreciation gift where you give your employees family a trip to Texas to help them unwind. You need to be a lot more careful and proactive about how you handle such things so you dont dirty afterwards but if you preemptively ask an accountant about it you might find you can create business expensive where before you just had life. How many business do you know own coffee mugs, how do those get clean, not to mention all the tea that damn Shamus employee drinks why do we give him business bought tea again…

          1. Shamus is serious. We deduct everything we can deduct. We actually live very frugally (no $5 coffees here. A splurge is a $1.25 Americano). Our biggest expense is food and housing. (We have one car, we bought it very used 7 years ago. It is well beyond the mileage everyone says you should get a new car at. :P) Point is there aren’t many places we can cut back and there aren’t any areas we can deduct that we aren’t already because we don’t spend much in the first place. Also, accountants cost money, dude. And this is a huge stress in our lives so talking about it more actually doesn’t help.

            1. Cubic says:

              I’m not a tax guy, but is there any scope for renting out part of the house and deducting repairs and mortgages to whatever extent possible?

              1. Daimbert says:

                I don’t think they own a/their house anymore, and the apartments weren’t really big enough for that. I think it’s pretty safe to say that they’ve considered any obvious options, and it’s likely that the more creative options are going to cause more problems than just getting an office job would.

              2. mechaninja says:

                Renting out part of the house (or more typically deducting a portion of your rent/house payment/etc) is absolutely a standard thing with self-employment and if the accountant they consulted didn’t tell them to do that (and that’s assuming Heamus hadn’t already figured that one out) then he shouldn’t be an accountant. At the VERY least they should give him a poor yelp review.

              3. We rent, have office in house, and you are NOT allowed to sublet in our area. Written write into all leases. Also, keeping in mind how hard it is for us to find a place to begin with.

                1. Decius says:

                  You aren’t allowed to sublet, but some portion of that apartment is being used as an office. I’m pretty sure you don’t need to sublet to yourself to have a home office.

                  1. Lanthanide says:

                    Heather is saying they already have a home office and are already claiming it as a business expense.

                    They can’t sub-let a room in their house to a boarder / flatmate, because the lease doesn’t allow it. If they just ignored the lease and did it anyway, there’s a reasonable chance they would be evicted for breaking the lease, and then in even more trouble with expensive moving costs and trying to find somewhere Shamus can live with his various allergies.

            2. Jeff says:

              Have you guys looked into tax shelters?

              Not sure how it works in your state, but here it’s possible to register a number corporation (though obviously that has a registration fee) and then have all income go into there as revenue. You issue shares to yourself as owner, and pay your family members dividends and/or a salary as you desire. Meanwhile the corporation can claim all sorts of things as expenses, including said dividends and/or salary.

              So instead of Shamus earning X amount, you can have the corporation earn X/3, you x/3, and Shamus x/3, which should drop you down in the tax brackets. Balance salary and dividend payments to minimize relevant taxes.

              (The funny thing about this is that it was taught to me by a retired federal law enforcement officer who worked in a Proceeds of Crime unit.)

              You could even book things like new computers as assets owned by the corporation, and totally skip the normal personal taxes step (employment -> employee -> purchase) altogether.

      2. BenD says:

        I wish I’d paid closer attention when Shamus first put out his Patreon call and the ~$1200 estimate; I should have known something was wrong. My combined experience with self-employment and taxes should have had me immediately raising an alarm. So Shamus, I apologize for that. :( That’s a nasty April surprise.

      3. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        My brother is a pastor, and his first job was at a small church where, for tax purposes, he was self-employed. He got quite the crash course is exactly how FICA and income taxes work in their totality. It was also a nice demonstration of the difference between tax incidence (where the money comes from) and statutory incidence (who collects the money and remits it to the government).

        1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

          Sales tax is a perfect example of that. You’re supposed to keep that money separately earmarked from the moment you collect till its turned over to the state. You’re not supposed to use that money for anything while you’re holding it.

    2. Richard says:

      Self-employed taxation is both complex and annoying.

      The UK is one of the best and easiest places – and even here it’s complicated.

      You can either run as a “Sole trader” and pay class II and class IV NICs plus normal income tax on all your profit, a partnership (similar), or as a limited-liability partnership or company and have it pay corporation taxes on its profit, paying yourself a salary (on which the company pays NICs and you pay income tax) and dividends (on which you pay income tax).

      Many countries have even more arcane rules.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    After that I've got a two-parter on Diablo III,

    Looking forward to that one.

    and after that is another Batman-sized series on the Borderlands franchise.

    Including the telltales tales?

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Oh man, me and a friend I tend to play multiplayer with have been putting away getting the Pre-Sequel but I might have to push for it this summer sale if Shamus is droing a writeup.

  6. MaxEd says:

    Maybe a new comic series can widen the audience a bit without damaging the principles of this blog? Although I guess comics eat up a lot of time.

    As for companies releasing sources for old games, this is a thing I would like very much too, but I understand why almost nobody is doing it. First of all, a lot of code (especially for older games) rely on closed-source 3rd-party libraries (BINK etc.). They could release a version linked against a stub, I guess, so that people could write their own implementation if they want to, or replace 3rd-part-dependent code, but a lot of people would whine about code that does not compile, I think. Another reason is proprietary algorithms, like that shadow thing that Carmack had to remove from Doom 3 code before release. However, I believe unless your game is something really cutting-edge, you probably don’t have on in your game, so this should not be a problem.

    But the bigger problem is that open-sourcing code is still not a zero-time job. You can’t just dump it to GitHub. You need to re-read it, preferably along with the legal department. Clean it up. Maybe even restructure folders, because your code needs dependencies to be present in a location hard-coded in project files to a shared drive on next-to-last incarnation of company’s network (I think this is what often happens in big companies with big shared code bases).

    So it’s a non-zero-time job with a zero profit. Which is why almost no one is doing it, unfortunately. Maybe code releases could be funded by crowd-funding campaigns? Those could also be a PR tricks for company, I gues…

    1. Walter Kolczynski says:

      It’s been quite a while since DM of the Rings concluded. I know the archive is there for anyone who wants it, but posting “reruns” might drive up interest again at negligible cost.

      1. Kylroy says:

        I could swear Shamus has already “re-run” DMotR with commentary.

    2. Tizzy says:

      Unless I’m already senile (a distinct possibility given how my day is going), there are posts in this blog’s archive discussing how Shamus’ homebrewed software for comics creation has been rendered inoperative for whatever broken dependencies reason, and how fixing or replacing it would be a tall order.

      So I wouldn’t expect a new series is around the corner, unfortunately.

    3. Richard says:

      The best examples are probably Quake and Freespace 2.

      Freespace 2 was pretty much a straight dump of the source back in 2002 – it took a bit of fiddling to get it to compile and run, and it needed the original game data to do anything.

      It’s been updated through several compilers and became cross-platform relatively quickly – even Mac is now supported!
      The current state of the game is almost completely unrecognisable compared to the original. These days very little of the original code and even game data remains…

      Quake has been pushed even further. There are ports to practically every platform.

      So it can be done for very little.

      However, the publisher still has to go through and check that there aren’t any trade secrets, keys or possibly-infringing items.
      The moment it’s published, people are going to go through it looking for stuff they can sue you over, and stuff they can abuse (eg encryption keys)

    4. Lanthanide says:

      Carmack didn’t have to remove any shadow thing from Doom 3.

      That was an option that was on the the table. But id were able to come to an arrangement with Creative, the owners of the applicable patent, to add their EAX surround-sound codec into the game so they could access the patent without paying money:

      The patent situation well and truly sucks.

      We were prepared to use a two-pass algorithm that gave equivalent results at a speed hit, but we negotiated the deal with Creative so that we were able to use the zfail method without having to actually pay any cash. It was tempting to take a stand and say that our products were never going to use any advanced Creative/3dlabs products because of their position on patenting gaming software algorithms, but that would only have hurt the users.

      John Carmack

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    A concrete example: I think game companies could give away the source of their old games and it wouldn't hurt their bottom line in the slightest. It would be educational, it would make sure the games survive future compatibility walls, and it would help renew interest in those old titles.

    Are you familiar with little kings story story?Its really a fascinating event.Basically,they made a game for wii,and it was good.Then they ported it to pc,and it was atrocious.So they contacted a modder and asked him to fix their port,and gave him the full source.Check out what he had to say about the whole shebang:

    1. Chuk says:

      I liked that game on Wii, I never heard of this. Cool.

  8. Moridin says:

    When it comes to taxes and bureaucracy, it could be worse. Here in Finland you can’t even solicit donations except for specific purposes(such as charities), so many Patreon and other crowdfunding campaigns would be straight-up illegal.

    1. Viktor says:

      Patreon is sales, not donations. At least as long as you have concrete reward tiers it is. Kickstarter is a preorder system. You’d have to be careful with how you word things in both cases, but it’s not wrong.

      1. Moridin says:

        Many Patreons and Kickstarters don’t have concrete reward tiers(and Shamus’ is among them, as I understand it). And even then, Kickstarters have the additional problem of allowing people to donate unspecified amounts without receiving any rewards(which, I believe, is part of the reason one kickstarter resulted in a lawsuit and had to be cancelled). You’re right in that it isn’t insurmountable obstacle, but it is one more thing to worry about.

  9. stratigo says:

    a phobia of politics isn’t gonna prevent politics from helping or screwing you.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      Also true of bears.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Except bears are more likely to help you than politics.

        1. Syal says:

          Also politicians can’t climb trees.

    2. Retsam says:

      Yes, and an endless intractable debate about politics in the comment section is surely going to help him… how exactly?

  10. Steve C says:

    Have you considered moving outside of the USA? It’s probably a non-starter but I’d thought I’d mention it since a blog can be run from pretty much anywhere you want. If forced to take an office job it will likely require moving anyway right?

    For example self-employment income of $20,400 ($1700/month) in Canada would result in a tax bill of about $3000 (give or take $300 depending on province) before deductions. After deductions it would probably be closer to $2000. (And yes, those are real numbers.)

    I don’t believe this qualifies as the type of comment you warned against. If it does, please delete it.

    1. Naota says:

      Now, I’m not entirely sure on this (nobody seems to be – including the CRA), but like Kickstarter pledges, Patreon donations may be considered taxable by GST/HST much in the same way as Shamus described. This would mean that if he made over a certain yearly sum, he would have to pay taxes as though he were a retailer selling consumer goods to people on the street, despite the fact that his patrons may or may not even live in Canada to begin with.

      While the CRA is a lot less restrictive about running a business than what seems like half of the states’ equivalents, it doesn’t really… understand the notion of money changing hands over purely digital goods, and so of course defaults to taxing them the old-fashioned way. Again, this might have changed since the last time I looked into this stuff – but it’s the impression I got when setting up the framework for a Kickstarter project in Ontario.

      1. Steve C says:

        The CRA has been clear on that. Patreon donations are income, and sales taxes do not apply.

        Kickstarter is different because it could be donation, or it could be selling something (Kickstart this game = selling a game = sales taxes) or it could be fund a business (equity/loan etc = no sales). That stuff is not clear because it depends on circumstance. Something like what Shamus is doing is straightforward though. It would be classified as self-employment income.

        1. Naota says:

          Ah, nifty. I suppose it is harder to find a more clear-cut definition of a donation than Patreon’s business model. Given its relative success, I wonder why more people aren’t trying the same for ongoing game projects (I’m thinking something more in line with, say, Dwarf Fortress than an endeavor by a team of many people of varying involvement).

      2. tmtvl says:

        One of the creators I support lives in Germany, and if she gets more than €990/month she’ll have to pay taxes so between €1000 – €1200 she’d actually earn less than she would if she earned €990.

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          That’s how it works in Germany:
          If you earn below a certain threshold, it’s considered negligible and is not taxed — it’s all yours.
          If you earn above a certain threshold, you need to pay income tax on the money above the threshold (after deductions). But! You also need to start paying health and unemployment insurance. For some silly reason, that is a fixed percentage of the gross income (before deductions, including the below-threshold part!).

          What’s worse is that for employed people, half of those insurance costs are borne by the employer, but if you’re self-employed, that’s also you, so it hurts doubly.

          [Just deleted a bunch of stuff about how that affects people because it’s politics … I’m generally okay-ish with how this works in Germany, but that threshold has bothered me for ages]

    2. Duoae says:

      I’m not American but all the Americans I know who live and work abroad complain that they have to pay taxes back in the USA as well as in the country of residence.

      Doesn’t that scupper this idea?

      1. Dev Null says:

        Yeah, as a yank who lived in Australia for years I can attest; the last thing living abroad does is make your taxes easier. I had to pay full US taxes on my Australian income, AND full Australian taxes on the same income, and then I could deduct the Australian taxes I paid on my US tax form, and vice-versa. So it was technically impossible to work our how much I owed the IRS until I knew what I owed the Australian Taxation Office, and also impossible to work out how much I owed the ATO until I knew how much I owed the IRS. This is not made simpler by the fact that the tax years are 6 months out of sync.

        (The end result, for me at least, was that I had government officials from two different countries essentially tell me “Look, I never said this, but just lie; you’ll end up paying about the same amount, and it’s heaps easier.”)

      2. Steve C says:

        It was my understanding that US citizens are not double taxed because of the United States-Canada Income Tax Treaty (which was to designed to prevent just that.) So that an income of $20,000 is declared in Canada, and then the CRA collects tax on it in Canada. That $20,000 is then considered taxed by the USA when the forms are submitted to both countries.

        U.S. citizens in Canada generally don't owe U.S. tax unless they have American source income (baring weird edge cases which this isn’t.) I’m certain it works this way for income Canadians get in the USA. Canadians in the USA pay the IRS their taxes which counts as taxes paid in Canada. I’m only pretty sure it works this way for Americans in Canada. (I’ll try to remember to ask at an event this weekend to confirm.)

        I don’t know how it works for Americans in other countries. There is a specific law for USA Canada because of there’s a lot of cross-pollination. USA–> AUS would have different laws.

        1. Steve C says:

          Followup: I found out that it is not the taxable income that matters. It’s the actual taxes paid. So if you are a US citizen in Canada then you calculate taxes owed under both countries laws. If that’s say a tax bill of $10,000 in Canada and $15,000 in the USA then you’d pay $10,000 to the CRA, and $5000 to the IRS. So an American is always getting the worst of both sets of laws.

          HOWEVER the USA exempts the first $80,000USD foreign earned income. Which means if you are an American citizen and earn less than that in Canada then you never pay the IRS anything at all (other than on income earned in the USA). You still have to file US taxes but the IRS tax bill will always be $0.

          It’s simpler for Canadians in the US. They file and pay US taxes to the IRS and don’t have to do anything else.

    3. Lanthanide says:

      Shamus has spoken about moving to other parts of the country in the past for work (like California), but decided to stay in Pennsylvania for family reasons.

    4. Tizzy says:

      Hmmm… Beyond the obvious uprooting factor, isn’t there the small matter of countries having to let you in??? An American citizen may find it easy to visit many countries around the world, but immigration is never easy.

    5. Zak McKracken says:

      I’m a big proponent of moving to a different country at least once in your life, at least for a year. It’s incredible what that can do to your perspective.

      But Shamus does in fact have reasons (family, and cost of moving) not to.

  11. Shamus, why not take on a few sponsors?

    No idea how that would take place (now that you’ve nuked the sideboxes).

    But one idea I got just now is to have certain parties interested in sponsoring article series.

    Who would these sponsors be? No idea. Would BioWare want to sponsor” a Mass Effect article series? (I don’t think so but who knows really).

    I’m seeing it more likely that computer hardware, software, music software/audio hardware, etc. might be a better fit.

    Then place a (clearly marked as such) sponsor box below the lead of your article.

    There probably won’t be much you get from that but it’ll be something, maybe enough to buy a new mouse or headphones when the old ones break. And it won’t be anything like annoying ads, just a static image that is also a (referrer) link to a company/product page.

    I’m sure that there are enough people reading your site that could hook you up with the right marketing guys at this/that to get something started. Your crowd is small but it hits certain niches or overlap areas of interest. And a few thousand eyeballs are still a few thousand eyeballs.

    Another thing you should do regardless is get a referral id with GOG so that whenever you have a article that mentions a game then you can link the name of the game to your GOG referrer url/id. Add a little [1] info after it stating it’s a referral link and you should be good.
    Again you won’t get much from this, but maybe enough to buy a game now and again.

    1. Lanthanide says:

      As a start, he could just turn ads back on. I always thought that was a bit of a weird ‘purity’ thing from Shamus – oh, I’m getting patreon from a few people now, I might as well turn ads off.

      Sure, do that if you’re making well more than you need to live. But if you aren’t, then keep them on. You never know when your financial situation will suddenly change, and you’ll wish you had the past 3 years of ad revenue in your back pocket.

      1. Des says:

        If I remember correctly, he actually started the Patreon in order to turn the ads off because some bot flagged a years old post as ‘inappropriate’ and he didn’t like the idea of content being susceptible that those sorts of random shenanigans.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          Seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

          1. I think it was the entire bathtub, bathroom, and house as Google deemed the entire site “unsuitable”.

            Google ads are also tracking, although you can turn off the personalization off for Google Ads so that the ads only uses the page context instead of the surfing habits of the viewer, and if you also configure the ads to be static images and text only then Google Ads aren’t half bad.

            But they won’t pay nearly as much as you’d get from sponsored image links etc.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        I consider ads universally a bad thing.
        I try to ignore them, block them when I can. I hate that Google tracks me through them (really, it’s scary!), and I never, ever click on them.

        So … the absence of ads makes this website a lot better in my view.

  12. Geebs says:

    That’s an interesting point about open-sourcing code, although I imagine a fair number of people would suggest that the average piece of Bethesda’s code is probably far too dangerous and broken to be unleashed on the public.

    In any case, OpenMW is interesting because they’ve taken a reverse-engineering approach to re-implementing Morrowind as open source. They’re also a lot nearer to releasing a version 1.0 than a certain over-ambitious total conversion project/portmanteau generator I could name.

  13. MichaelG says:

    I post this in a spirit of marveling at the oddness of the world, not to make you feel bad:

    Simone Giertz Patreon is $7191 a month. For this kind of output:

    You just need to be cuter, I guess.

    1. el_b says:

      one thing ive learned about the internet in my time here is that people like wierd and interesting content, but they will just throw money at good looking girls..the fake gamer camgirls of twitch proved that.
      shamus have you thought if livestreaming when you play games? doesnt have to add to your normal workflow but gives you extra revenue and content. you can talk about any random crap if you like, spoony still gets hundreds and he doesnt put anything out anymore.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Ive recently found out that people value male boobs more than female boobs.Ive seen people throw literally hundreds of dollars to see two fat guys undress,while there was a female porn star with them.It made me realize that Im a sex magnet actually.Who wouldve thunk it.

        1. Jokerman says:

          What in the hell have you been watching Daemian…

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            A bunch of stoners.I listen to them for the articles,honest!

      2. lucky7 says:

        I remember a while ago Shamus said he couldn’t focus on both being entertaining and playing the game. That was a while ago, tough.

      3. Echo Tango says:

        Man, streaming Factorio would be great!

        “Hmm. I need to make more gear wheels…”
        [15 minutes later]
        “Dammit, my trains are all deadlocking!”
        [5 minutes of swearing and mumbling]
        “OK, we’re finally ready to increase production of science…Wait did my blue circuit production stop? What the crap?!”

        1. Shamus says:

          This is the Factorio experience. It’s this constant deluge of failures, stalls, and inefficiencies. You work furiously to make everything perfect.

          And then the moment it’s perfect the game is over.

      4. I can answer this one: Livestreaming would take time away from writing. He writes in his head as he plays. I know this because when I am home I tend to talk at random (we work in the same room- him gaming/coding/writing, me illustrating, painting, doing web design) and I tend to interrupt his thoughts on a regular basis when I am home.

        1. evileeyore says:

          That’s probably a useful service. Interrupts the runaway stack overflows.

        2. DGM says:

          Some LPers play first and then add commentary after-the-fact as they watch their own video. That wouldn’t work for livestreaming but it might for Youtube. It would get around Shamus’s “can’t play and talk at the same time” problem, it would let him use some of the material he wrote in his head as he played, and it would be easier than Spoiler Warning’s set-up since he wouldn’t have to record both gameplay and commentary at the same time.

    2. Shamus says:

      While I’ll never compete with photogenic teens in terms of adorableness, I have been thinking that appearing on camera for a pitch video would be good. I know I have a stronger connection to people when I can see their face and body language. John Green and Philip DeFranco are PEOPLE to me, and CGP Grey is more like this abstract concept of a person.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        That’s probably because Grey is a robot.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          That would certainly explain his “robots are going to take your job and destroy your industry… so that’s cool right?” video.

      2. Ooo. Lets make a video. It will be AWESOME! And Bay can edit it! And it will be awesome. (Also, since I am here I can say it is highly unlikely that my elderly lady will make it through the day. At most it will be tomorrow. The changes that mean today or tomorrow have happened.)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Everything is cool when youre part of a team

            1. Mephane says:

              I find it rather odd to see this line of replies after Heather told us the woman will die tonight or tomorrow. :(

              1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

                The song is supposed to be a soulless expression of joy in a corporatized culture, only our hero is not self aware enough to realize the intentions of the song or even how empty he himself is as he sings it.

                1. Steve C says:

                  That’s how the song started. By the end of the movie that song means exactly what it says. It becomes about joy and teamwork through the arc of the movie. (And [sigh] why would you be a wet blanket on something like this dude…)

                  1. Wide And Nerdy® says:

                    I was trying to explain how Roger’s reference to the song in response to news of the old lady possibly dying was potentially an appropriate bit of irony.

                    I understand the post ironic arc the song takes. But if I explain how the song is bright and chipper and awesome, that just backs up Mephane’s complaint.

                    1. Syal says:

                      It’s simpler than that; just stop reading at the parenthesis in Heather’s comment and it all makes sense.

                  2. Not sure what is meant by “this dude” so I’ll just ignore that.

                    The awesome comment/link was in reference to the comment about the video thing, which I thought was awesome. And reading awesome twice in the same sentence made me remember that song.

                    Now if I where to refer to the part of the comment that was in parenthesis ad had nothing to do with the video comment then I would have put the awesome comment and link in parenthesis.
                    Since the comment had the unfortunate situation of the elderly lady in parenthesis I assumed that was an aside, and I incorrectly assumed people would understand that I responded to the comment, the video stuff and not the stuff in the parenthesis.

                    People like to over-complicate things or read to much into something (even I fall into that trap now and again).

                    In retrospect the irony that Wide And Nerdy pointed out is rater apropos, although unintentional at the time.

                    Michael linked to a video asking Shamus to be cuter, Shamus mentioned making a video, Heather said that would be awesome, I also thought it would be awesome, Damien heralded teamwork, Mephane found it insensitive towards a elderly lady, Wide points out the irony, Steve dislike Wide because of something to do with me a wet blanket and Wide.

                    Something took a wrong turn somewhere, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me, at least this time.

                    1. Steve C says:

                      Replace “something like this dude” with “something like crapping on Heather’s excitement and everyone else’s support. With a tangent that even misses the point of the song, Wide And Nerdy®”.

        1. Somniorum says:

          My condolences, ma’am. : (

        2. Duoae says:

          Sorry to hear that. I hope you guys are alright!

        3. Bubble181 says:

          Sorry to hear it, and condolences.

  14. Yerushalmi says:

    Somewhere around $1,700 or so[1]I'd update the Patreon goal, but think of how that would look to someone who didn't read this post.

    Might I suggest adding a second goal with this as the target? You could even write “this is what would give me an actual minimum wage” with a link back to this post for an explanation or some such.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Shamus, you could also write a short post on Pateron, and/or link back to this post, explaining the increase in the goal. :)

    2. +1. I was just about to post this suggestion. Adding another goal would solve the communication problem.

      1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

        Life changes, as long as you post a link, most people will understand. The contribution level you set is positively meager. I have no idea how a family survives on that even with the details you’ve disclosed. I have to figure your audience isn’t so Bohemian that they expect you to keep it this low forever.

        I’d figure out what you need to support your entire family including a reasonable estimate for retirement and basic benefits cut that in half, thats your “no ads” level. Take the whole amount and make that your “I only work on ad-free, sponsor-free site content” level. And dont be afraid to pad that a bit to make up for income volatility.

        Take. Care. Of. Your. Self. And. Your. Family. Please. We’ll be able to enjoy your site more knowing that you’re covered.

        1. Lanthanide says:


    3. Garrett Carroll (Son of Valhalla) says:

      I’ve noticed that a lot of Mr. Krabs figures tend to make a lot of money through Patreon. As in,” I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready, for me money.”

      Seriously, people who are like “Me wants the precious (money),” tend to see their patreon money go up to around $2000 to $2500 at the least.

    4. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Yeah seriously. When my Patreons add new tiers/goals as they become successful, I don’t think they’re greedy. They’re just adjusting to the circumstances of being that amount successful so far. Any non-jerk person should be able to comprehend that they’re never OBLIGATED to give more on a Patreon. Or anything at all really! Do what you want, don’t bitch about “charity money” or whatever stupid anti-Patreon memes exist.

  15. Daimbert says:

    Is this a wise career move, long term? Probably not. I'm not getting any younger. Retirement age is coming up. I probably can't afford to spend the next 15 years working a job with no health insurance[3] where I don't make enough to save for retirement. At some point I'm going to need to put the blog down and re-enter the workforce proper.

    The strange inversion of our lives continues, because despite having similar interests and personalities — although I’m a VERY early morning person and pretty much need to do things to get an outcome and don’t enjoy the process very much — as retirement age is coming up for me I’m looking to find a way to transition FROM an office job into something like what you’re doing if I can manage it. So over the next 10 – 15 years I want to end up in the job you have right now and you’d probably want — if not love — the job I have right now, at least in terms of the financials.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      OK, it’s easy. Just take on Shamus as a part-time hire, and then each of you spend X months / years training each other to take each others’ jobs. Switch off jobs every week, or work even weekdays or something. Problem solved! :P

  16. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

    Regarding Fallout 4. Think about Skyrim. Thanks to mods and Special Edition, I think people have only just over maybe the last six months started to forget it. Its an institution. So is Fallout.

    Conan O’Brien, the man who used to mock us all as nasally basement dwelling virgins, actually wore a Vault Suit and a Pipboy and did an apocalyptic opening to his show. Yes, his Clueless Gamer feature had already been growing in popularity, but he hasn’t dressed up for a game before or sense then. Matthew Perry loved the series so much he gave Oprah a copy of Fallout 3 and Obsidian cast him as Benny. Point is, Fallout 4 is big. Maybe I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

    As for restating points, I like reviews that are complete and comprehensive, especially when I’m reading a longform like yours. The dialog wheel has a lot to say about it even if its all been said, more importantly, its symptomatic of the major root cause of the complaints, the shift from RPG to action adventure. I’m sure you know all of this but maybe me putting it in your head in this way in this moment does something for you.

    Likewise, by the time you release this, we’ll have forgotten half our complaints about the game. A reminder is helpful.

    I think as long as you have things to add in the overall series, nobody will fault you for including important but often discussed complaints. Nobody else owns that stuff either. We all knew the dialog wheel was wrong.

  17. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

    Now separately, let me be the Capitalist devil on your shoulder.

    Do whatever you have to do to make money. If you think there’s a way to restructure your content that will pull more people in, do it. Put ads back on the site if you need to. Maybe consult your Patrons about it but know that I’m one of your patrons and I approve, plenty of people with Patreon accounts still take ad money. People who make a lot more off their Patreon accounts than you do still take ad money.

    Take sponsorship if you have to. You don’t get a say in this. As the man who pays ~0.5% of your salary, I demand it. ;)

    As for leaving your core behind. As long as you write about games and coding at least some of the time, I’ll be in your audience. I already don’t read absolutely every single thing you post and I don’t feel like you’ve forgotten or abandoned me just because you don’t cater everything to my preferences (which would require you to spend all your time talking about a very select list of games and writing coding tutorials.) I even enjoy your general musings about life. Like your marriage advice and your last column about CGP Grey. You’re old man Shamus now, you have a bit of wisdom to share.

    Actually that just gave me an idea for side work. There are a number of services springing up like Codecademy and Code School. They’re great for beginners but short on intermediate content, things like design patterns and best practices. You’re very accessible for a guy who writes about your subject matter. I’d think you’d be ideal for that and you might enjoy passing your wisdom on.

    1. Daimbert says:

      As for leaving your core behind. As long as you write about games and coding at least some of the time, I'll be in your audience. I already don't read absolutely every single thing you post and I don't feel like you've forgotten or abandoned me just because you don't cater everything to my preferences (which would require you to spend all your time talking about a very select list of games and writing coding tutorials.)

      There’s a risk, though, of the stuff the core doesn’t find interesting overwhelming what they do come here for. If in a given week there might be one post that someone finds interesting, they may end up forgetting to come back to read, or decide that it isn’t worth paying what they do a month for that, or whatever. Essentially, it’s a noise to signal ratio, and I think Shamus is afraid of going too far into the noise category for the existing core while still not having enough signal for the broader audience. The worst possible outcome for him for trying to expand his audience would be alienating the existing one while not picking up the new one.

      1. Christopher says:

        I wonder if getting another gig at Waypoint or something would help, like what the Escapist column was like. Sure pulled me in here, and those articles were pretty much what he wrote here, only shorter.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I wouldn’t mind ads, but part of the reason I support Shamus on Patreon is that I don’t interact with ads. I’ve had ad blockers since the day I learned about them, because my purchasing habits are completely incompatible with ads. i.e. I either buy cheap stuff in bulk, buy tools which I know will last a long time, or buy small things (like a hamburger) on impulse. If I see an ad, it’s either for something I don’t want, or something I already have. :)

  18. Lazlo says:

    I'd like to do something short-ish, but every single time I try to make something short and focused I end up getting side-side-sidetracked talking about nested design flaws and systemic Bethesda gameplay issues.

    So what you’re saying is that, while you’re trying to complete the main quest of writing your article, Preston Garvey shows up and tells you “There’s a design flaw that needs your help”?

  19. Duoae says:

    Thanks for another great year of content! Your long-form style posting really inspires me and I wish I had more time to do my own stuff but, y’know, stupid job taking up all my time! I wonder if I should buy a cheap netbook style device that I could write on during my commute…

    I’d love to read another witch watch. I miss spoiler warning but, to be honest, I’d been watching more d&d content over time anyway and had not even started the latest season because I have the game in my backlog.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’d be interested in another Witch Watch too. If I remember correctly the first one evolved from a central idea of “wrong guy getting resurrected” with everything else built around it. Now that the world has been somewhat established I’d be curious to see what other story/ies could be shaken and prodded out of it.

      1. Syal says:

        I imagine it would involve someone going around digging up lich heads.

        …Don’t know what happens after that. Talking probably.

  20. Aanok says:

    I just noticed you still have Spoiler Warning linked from your Patreon. It would probably be best to address that :p

  21. David W says:

    It sounds like what really needs to happen is for us fans to be a little bit more evangelistic. It’s been years since I was in college passing blog links back and forth over AIM. Maybe I need to think about the friends I’ve made since then, see if any of them would love Shamus if they”‹ only knew about him. It’s easy to assume that everyone who would like Shamus already knows about the blog but that isn’t necessarily true.

  22. Cubic says:

    The obvious job you could get is as a script doctor contractor. Just do what you do here, except inside game companies and in advance. If they have money to burn on Anita Sarkeesian there should be a part time spot for someone like you.

  23. evileeyore says:

    “The 8+ hours spent doing that is going back into writing the long-form stuff, but I can't really point at any one series of posts and say, “THIS! This is what you're getting instead of Spoiler Warning!” I imagine I'll be posting more words. Or if not more words, then more thoughtful and less dashed-off words.”
    As a fan of The Words, I can say that your site has become immensely more enjoyable to me since Spoiler Warning separated from it.

    I never really watched Spoiler Warning (a few rare episodes that piqued an interest) and I hate podcasts (I zone out if there is nothing to watch).

    “I'd like to do something short-ish, but every single time I try to make something short and focused I end up getting side-side-sidetracked talking about nested design flaws and systemic Bethesda gameplay issues. I should probably finish this while people still remember Fallout 4.”

    Sounds like a nested problem. We know how much you love those.

  24. Ralph Sleigh says:

    Unfortunately, despite your wishes, as someone who has read your blog for decades, I have decided to give you some of my money. I also have to pay an extra 20% UK VAT.. Do you take bitcoin? If so drop an address and I can hit you up.

    One day I may even forgive you for threatening to blow up my minecraft bridge with dynamite. .. :-p

  25. poiumty says:

    Have you thought about lowkey going (back) into video production? Nothing too big, just narrate your blog posts and keep the site for transcripts and post videos on your channel. I feel like this is the one way to reach a wider audience while not sacrificing your old one (though there would be some time spent in editing).

    I enjoyed your old videos, back when you did videos. And since I’ve started subbing to critical videogame analysis youtubers like Noah Gervais and Joseph Anderson, I got reminded of them. The videos, that is.

    Youtube aside, I hear Twitch is an awesome medium if you’ve got a fanbase. You could stream the games you’re playing.

    1. Writing a article (script), gathering some images for it and then reading the script and editing in the images in the video could work. It could be done very simply.

      A intro logo, some theme music, and still images (also used in the article), and Shamus narrating.
      People who like videos can watch the (embed?) video, those who like to read can well just read the article, an those that like to watch/listen/read can do that (is it called read-a-long?).

      You are basically covering a trifecta of mediums here. Blog (text), Podcast (audio), Vlog (video).

      Doing it for all articles would be painful until a efficient production path setup have been made for this, but maybe once every 2-4 weeks?

  26. Decius says:

    Witch Watch/Free Radical crossover series confirmed!

    1. MichaelG says:

      When the AI kills someone, it scans them and resurrects them in a sim. The tech equivalent of the undead. And the Witch Watch are now all systems programmers checking to make sure none of the sims take over the (unreal) world… It writes itself…

      Did you ever read Ubik by Philip K. Dick?

  27. WWWebb says:

    I hadn’t noticed until this post, but in the new site layout, I’m not seeing a Patreon or PayPal logo anywhere. One of the keys to getting patrons is probably having people KNOW you’re on Patreon. Unless someone is diligent about reading your signature, no one would ever know you had a tip jar.

    As far as content to drive those patrons to your site…more humor. I mean the laugh out loud kind from your more visual content (comics and Let’s Plays), not your usual dry wit. The long form analysis is definitely good stuff, but it’s not the kind of content that gets people to push the various “share” buttons.

    Speaking of share buttons, do you get analytics for those? “What is the most shared content” might make for an interesting post.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yeah,Shamus decided to do it in text below the post.I agree that the patreon logo works better,at least for newcomers.

  28. somebodys_kid says:

    Hey Shamus, can you give us maybe a two week warning before one of your new video game series has its first post? That way I can actually try to play the game before you post. I had to stop reading the batman one until I finish the game as I’m not getting as much out of it as I did the Mass Effect series.
    But this is still my favorite site on the internet (has been for years) and I eagerly await more text-based content!

  29. Garrett Carroll (Son of Valhalla) says:

    That Fallout 4 write-up still needs to happen! I would still read it, even if the game has a lot of flaws. Maybe you could focus more on the plot and how side quests interplay, what works and what doesn’t.

  30. Viktor says:

    Definitely make a comic. Or something visual that’s easily shared. You need to grow the site, which means eyeballs on your content, which means you need something that’s not a massive essay digging into an entire series. I enjoy them, but variety is a good thing.

  31. Rosseloh says:

    Cheers Shamus. Every year I tell myself if I wasn’t attempting to be “smart” and taking care of my own debts first, I’d be throwing you a few of my dollars. Eventually I’ll get to that point.

    Hope it all works out for you. I have enough financial anxiety as it is…I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I was in your shoes.

  32. Dreadjaws says:

    I’d say this is the perfect time for your Fallout 4 analysis, since the game had a recent resurge in popularity due to being free for a weekend on Steam (and discounted if you wanted to keep playing). It’s a clever strategy: let people play the game without limitations as much as they want for that period. If they get hooked (as it’s very likely), they’ll end up buying the game.

    It certainly worked for me. I bought the game and I’ve sunk 34 hours into it already, even though from what I’ve seen I’m not even half into the content of the base game, and I’m already planning many subsequent playthroughs. Also, considering that due to work I can only play about two to three days a week it’s quite a lot of my free time I’ve sunk into the game.

    Then, around 20 hours into the game I realized this was a Bethesda game, owned by Zenimax, and I wasn’t supposed to be buying anything from Zenimax, because I was angry at them. *Facepalm*

    Oh, well, at least I got it cheaper in the Humble Store, and a percentage of it goes to charity, so they probably got slightly less money. … Yeah, suck on that, Zenimax!

  33. Jamas Enright says:

    Hi Shamus, are you aware of LiveEdu? It’s like the twitch version for coders and other streamers (they were just coding for a while, but they are now broadening).

    Not only can you watch other people code, which might be useful, but you can stream yourself and maybe get some monies that way? (Probably not much, but I haven’t looked into that.)

  34. Solf says:

    This is maybe somewhat relevant to this topic.

    I am finding myself increasingly unhappy with Patreon (as patron). Specifically they appear to charge ~30 cents on each ‘person I support’ (+5% or w/e) and they claim those are transaction costs. This seems to be a flat out lie to me — they don’t charge me individually for each person nor I expect they pay out to creators individually.

    My tendency is to support people in 50 cents – 1 dollar range per month. It is not much, but it is what I’m comfortable with. And I assume every little bit should help. Except it probably doesn’t with Patreon apparently charging 35 cents + percentage on each transaction for no reason I can see (and yes, you can’t anymore pledge less than 1 dollar — it used to be possible and I have some pledges grandfathered).

    So I’m thinking of cancelling all my Patreon support or possibly doing once a year ‘high’ pledge (although it seems Patreon wouldn’t make that easy for me). Or maybe switching to direct Paypal donations where possible.

    Shamus, what is your opinion on these Patreon practices? Is there something I’m not seeing and they are justified in charging every 1 dollar pledge in the vicinity of 40 cents in ‘transaction costs’?

    1. Shamus says:

      For the record, there are THREE fees at play here:

      One is from Patreon, and is the 5%.

      The second is another percent, which is charged by the credit card issuer. This might be in the ballpark of 2% or so. So if you use a Visa card, Visa actually gets 2% of the transaction.

      The final fee is a per-transaction fee, again charged by the card issuer. This seems to vary a lot by card. Some places say 10 cents, but I’ve heard people complaining about 25 cent fees. For the sake of illustration, let’s assume the typical fee is 15 cents.

      So if you give me a dollar:

      Patreon takes 5 cents.

      Mastercard (or whoever) takes 2 cents. (The 2% fee.)

      Mastercard then ALSO takes 15 cents. (A flat fee.)

      So 22% of the total donation is absorbed by fees.

      If you give $10, then:

      Patreon takes 50 cents. (The 5% fee.)

      Mastercard takes 20 cents (the 2% fee) and also 15 cents. (The flat fee.)

      So only ~8% of the total donation is absorbed by fees.

      So the painful fees are coming from credit card companies. This means that bigger transactions are better, which explains why Patreon charges you for all of your donations in a single transaction. If you support 10 people for $1 each, then charging you ten times for $1 would incur a whopping $1.50 in transaction fees alone. By charging you in a single transaction, they avoid inflicting the flat fee on you multiple times.

      So yes, if you’re donating less than a dollar the fees are going to kill you. However, this is the fault of the credit card companies, not Patreon. They do what they can to mitigate the damage.

      Having said that, I think your idea of quarterly / yearly donations is a sound one. I know PayPal lets you automate a monthly transaction. I don’t know if quarterly / yearly are options, though.

      1. Solf says:

        I think I might not have been quite clear in my original post, sorry.

        I am aware of per-transaction and percent fees charged by credit card companies.

        However I strongly disagree with apparent Patreon policy of charging per-transaction fee on each person I support. Say, the fee is 30 cents (I believe it is something like that). If I support 10 people for 1 dollar each, then Patreon insists on charging 30 * 10 = 3 dollars in per-transaction fees.

        I feel this is wrong and they are doing for non-apparent reasons, so I strongly suspect this is done simply for (their) profit.

        They do not charge me 10 times, they charge me only once (per month), so there should be only one transaction fee per month.

        Similarly I don’t think they pay creators every value separately, I believe they pay everything in bulk — so there’s just one transaction fee as well.

        This is why I’m strongly considering stopping using Patreon.

        But like I mentioned previously — maybe I’m missing something there?

        P.S. To clarify — last time I thought about adding someone to the list of people I support (for 1 dollar/month), Patreon flat out told me that I’ll be charged 1$ + ~30 cents (not sure if it was exactly 30, something like that) + 5% (again, unsure about the exact number). They explained it by transaction fees and said that previously if I paid 1 dollar they’ll take those from that dollar (rather than charging on top).

        I had no idea they are charging so much before that.

        1. mike says:

          What you’re saying and what Patreon are saying are different…
          Assuming you’re payments are all processed via a single payment provider using a single Patreon account (not sure why you would do it any other way).
          Patreon lump all your pledges into a single payment process to that provider. So if you’re supporting 10 people for $1 each, your payment is processed once. The payment provider take their fee (say $0.30).
          The people you’re supporting get $0.97 each ($9.70/10). Of course, this ignores the Patreon fee of 5%. I’m not sure if this is applied before or after the payment funds are transferred… I assume it’s after.
          So they’d take 5% of the $9.70, leaving about $9.20 to be split amongst the accounts. The people you support would earn $0.92 each from your payment.

          After all payments are sent to a Patreon account, they can choose to transfer the money to their own account, which incurs a fee from their payment provider (transaction fees). This can vary. Paypal take $0.25 – $1 for US accounts, or 2% up to a maximum of $20 for a non-us transfer.
          The transfer fees are obviously out of Patreon’s hands and are related to the amount the Patreon creator chooses to take out of their Patreon account.

          What I’m not sure about, and what it sounds like you’re saying: They won’t let you pay just $1 per pledge? I’m doing that on a few subscriptions and haven’t seen any messages about extra fees. I’ve also got a few with higher pledge values – so perhaps that’s got something to do with it?
          Perhaps they only show that message if you’re total pledge value is under a certain threshold?


          1. Solf says:

            I went to Patreon to check this again — and, using ‘Crash Course’ as an example — they indeed do not say they’ll charge anything over the 1 dollar.

            I am now confused. I am as sure as I can be that I was asked for additional charges on top of my pledge before. Maybe they changed the policy back as it was before they started asking additional charges? Maybe they now charge creator instead? Maybe it depends on who are you trying to support? Maybe I wasn’t logged on correct account?

            I simply don’t know at this point :(

            P.S. My total pledges are over 10 dollars (just to pick a number), so any per-transaction fee should be relatively small percentage.
            P.P.S. I still dislike them for not allowing me to pledge 50 cents or whatever. Shouldn’t cost them anything really to move some bits in the database.

  35. PPX14 says:

    The main thing I took from this was that you should finish your Thief 4 assessment. ;) I’d forgotten about it, had a re-read.

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