Itch.io doesn't allow to sell games that run online, but you can beg for it (HTML vs apps, and accessibility rant)

publishing
(Ruber Eaglenest) #1

Hi!

Recently I’m pondering about the instant accessibility of our HTML games vs wrapping them to sell them as an auto-executable or app.

For example, recent, episodical Porpentine an co.'s Visual Novel:

http://slimedaughter.com/sticky_zeitgeist/

(Warning: Adult content inside)

The first chapter is completely free and playable online, while chapters 2 and 3 are downloadable from itchio.

Ok, I can play straight through chapter 1, but the wrapped chapter 2 just don’t work on my PC (My graphics adapter died some time ago).

Another example. Twine games wrapped as an APK for distributing at Google Play, just can’t play the voice over. That is, wrappers disallow voice over tech to work properly.

Of course, some people want to seel their games, and they deserve it. But, usually that is tied to wrapping their twines around, but accessibility is something important to consider, and nothing beats an HTML file.

Also, if people are selling the games at itchio, Why not give the html file for download? Instead of a troubled EXE file.

Of course, it would help that itchio allowed to gate online HTML content behind a paywall, so we have not to shuffle with wrappers and nonsense. Actually, Itchio does not support this, but you can actively beg for this. Check this text in the documentation:

https://itch.io/docs/creators/html5#can-i-take-payments-with-my-html5-game

Currently all HTML5 games on itch.io are set up to only take payments as donations. However, it’s possible to sell access to your game by setting its “Kind of Game” to “Downloadable”. If you’d like itch.io to support purchasable HTML5 games then you should get in touch.

And that is, I just wanted to share this meditation.

Anyway, I can think of any other motives to wrap games, you know, so people don’t download the HTML and import it toTwine… but that is not one of my concerns, and I think that the loss in accessibility is far more important.

Regards.

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(Hanon Ondricek) #2

That’s interesting. I have noticed that games over a certain size tend not to play very well in the browser, and I couldn’t get even a “small” test game produced with Visual Novel Maker (not Ren’py) to work at all. I also don’t know if they corrected the issue where downloading an html game to the itch.io app also wasn’t working correctly. I haven’t checked in a while, but none of my AXMA-produced html games would work in the app.

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(Ruber Eaglenest) #3

That’s weird. I mean, we have run several jams there at itchio, and you have joined in with AXMA games. I think it could help to have a proper example up there. What games youhave trouble with?

Also, don’t doubt in emailing itchio support, they are quite accesible, and probably are interested in fix things so more games could be shown in their platform.

(or maybe you mean just serving an html file as a downloadable file?

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(Hanon Ondricek) #4

Itch has a standalone app (not the web browser), and I’ve noticed my AXMA html games weren’t running through it. The app shows the web page without the play-in-browser-iframe and downloads the game file, but it’s expecting an executable rather than a webpage.

Visual Novel Maker will export to a web page, but I think its system is so huge that some browsers (chrome?) don’t like em. Again, I haven’t tried it in a while, and I’m sure VNM has done some updates since I last messed with it.

I can also vouch that Itch support has been extremely helpful in my experience. I should probably just put a notice on the page that the game doesn’t work in the app.

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(Hanon Ondricek) #5

Okay, weird. I noticed Fair (which was created by Inform 7) actually does work and brings up a browser window. It doesn’t seem to like images from an external folder though. I should probably ping them and see what’s up.

The AXMA games without images and sounds would be rather useless though, so if it can’t handle a support folder I’m not sure what would help.

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(Hanon Ondricek) #6

Something else I thought of (though you may already be aware): You can upload multiple files to a game’s page. Each one has a box to “charge a different price for this file.” You can set a a demo version as downloadable for free and also make it playable in the browser, then charge for a different file of the full game that isn’t available in the browser but is downloadable. I’ve never charged for games (though I have set them as “donate-able”) and I would assume on hitting download you get a menu of files each with separate prices as you’ve set it.

I don’t believe AXMA htmls are importable to the editor…though if someone wanted to read through miles of HTML they might be able to read the code of the game and extract it, but it wouldn’t be simple nor fun. I’ve heard of people editing Ren’py games as well - in fact, Dan Salvato endorsed modding Doki Doki Literature Club so long as there was a disclaimer that fan games were unofficial and making use of assets from the original.

Perhaps this is a case where Twine might eventually want to include a method to encrypt the HTML or set a flag that will prevent it from being imported into the editor.

(ON EDIT:) Just looked at porpentine’s game. I haven’t played, but that actually appears to be done in RPG Maker (or some other engine like Godot or Unity-something.) I don’t believe you can reverse engineer those game files and edit them without some advanced trickery.

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#7

It’s certainly possible to have an HTML file for download at itch. Or a .zip if you have images or audio that go with it. So if you see a wrapped Twine game for sale on itch you could always ask the creator to add the base version as well. The trouble with that is browser security stuff: Chrome won’t load external images and audio and scripts if you just open an HTML file from your filesystem. So you might have to run a web server (though there are easy-to-use ones for most systems). But there’s nothing about itch that stops creators from giving the option.

Yeah, that’s unfortunate. And there don’t seem to be any easy cheap paywall providers out there: all of them require a (usually substantial) monthly fee. And most of them provide subscriptions, not actual sales. I did find an interesting statement on Gumroad’s things you can’t sell on Gumroad page: it says that selling access to a website counts as a service, not a product, and is much more open to fraudulent chargebacks. So I wonder if that has something to do with it. There’s also the common attitude that “people won’t pay for access to a website.”

Not quite: a game page on itch is a single unit. You can set “tiers”: if you paid nothing, you can only see the browser-playable demo, if you paid $5, you get the full downloadable version, if you paid $10 you get the making-of ebook and videos. But you can’t sell separate files individually on the same page. So you can’t offer, say, a game with an optional selection of paid mods or DLC ($10 for the base game, $2 for each mod you select. that sort of thing). That’s supposedly the most-requested feature on itch that they haven’t gotten around to implementing yet.

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(Ruber Eaglenest) #8

Ah, ok, The itch app. Then, best report it.

About VN, yeah, it is like Unity games playable online, sometimes they don’t work at all.

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(Ruber Eaglenest) #9

Ha! That explain everything. Anyway, I just want to point that Itchio are open minded about allow a game be buyed before played online.

Regards.

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(Ruber Eaglenest) #10

Oh, Josh, about paywall, I meant in the proper itchio store. You know, an HTML game that doesn’t show up until you buy it. It is not a default feature in the system, but you can beg for it at itchio support.

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(Hanon Ondricek) #11

I open HTML I’ve created in Chrome all the time - AXMA exports an HTML and then can reference external files in a folder (though they have to have the correct path and the folders containing images and sound must exist.)

I’m sorry, you’re right. You can’t select individual files to purchase, but it works in the tier system as you explained. I’ve never had opportunity to set a price for anything.

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#12

Yeah, I was thinking there might be another solution: another store somewhere that would let you upload and paywall a HTML game as easily as itch lets you sell downloadable games (or philome.la lets you post free web games), but I can’t find anything.

I suspect itch will be reluctant to implement paywalled HTML games since it gets into software-as-a-service territory and more headaches with fradulent charge-backs and such? But it would be awesome if they did implement it. So here’s hoping…

Oh, it’s just external scripts? Sorry, I thought it was images and audio as well. Twine and AXMA pack the scripts into the html file so that’s OK. But SugarCube still doesn’t work from a local file because Chrome disallows localStorage for file:// urls. At least for me on Chrome 73 and Sugarcube 2.28.2.

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(Hanon Ondricek) #13

I expect it’s because of SugarCube’s save system. I liked playing with Sugarcube, but am not completely knowledgable about extensive use cases. It’s weird because AXMA also has hardcoded built-in saves but I’ve had no issues in Chrome.

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(Dan Cox) #14

There’s actually a unique copy-protection (of sorts) in place we don’t do enough to talk about and that is the IFID that is created for a project in Twine.

If you create a new Story in Twine, it will have a new IFID. Any files imported into Twine will have their own IFIDs. The easy way to check if two projects are based on the Story code is to see if they have the same IFID. If so, then someone imported the project at some point.

The import process works the same as a story format does to read the internal HTML storage of a Twine file. All current tools that read Twine 2-style files expect this convention and breaking it would prevent it from being imported, sure, but it would also break the story format at the same time. And with a broken story format, the file is basically unusable.

Even if Twine itself implemented a flag, other tools like TweeGo, Twee2, and Extwee can ‘decompile’ Twine files into their plain-text (Twee) contents. These could then be used to build a new copy of the project.

A far better solution, as mentioned, would be to work with something like Electron-Builder to “compile” all of the sources into a single executable for different platforms. That would mostly protect it from most people most of the time.

But, as discussed in the thread, talking to Itch staff is the best approach to fixing their issues.

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