Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Freeware Community - What Happened?

Forgive me if this seems like a rant, but then again, it probably is, but what is wrong with the train simulation community these days? It's worth pointing out from the outset that there are some very genuine members of the community that will go out of their way to help and provide feedback, so this isn't in any way aimed at them, these people know who they are and I salute them.

For years, I was always the first one to reply on a forum if a freeware developer felt a bit down if they received no recognition or feedback for their work. I always maintained that they should do whatever they do for themselves and not expect anything in return, any expectation of recognition would leave them disappointed.

However, I'm starting to see their point more and more now, many developers I am contact with are either very near to, or have already given up. Why? Because the vast majority don't really seem to care any more. It's really apparent now that in order to gain some praise, recognition or feedback, you have to be selling something. The sense I now get is that unless something is payware, then it must be of inferior quality.

Take a forum such as UKTS, apparently such a 'community' focused forum, a 'pillar of freeware' some would call it. Yet all I see these days are thread after thread of payware related discussion. You have someone that will announce an obscure foreign locomotive which will spawn page after page of discussion. You have payware companies actually using the forums as a means of advertising, threads full of 'look at my new company website' or 'vote here for the next thing you want me to sell' or even 'look at my 25% off deal that ends today, but actually will end tomorrow as I am desperate to take your cash', shouldn't these guys be actually paying for their advertising by way of banners or similar?

If you do happen to see a freeware related thread, don't expect to see it for long. It will be get pushed down the front page of a forum so quick by payware threads that it will receive hardly a reply, and most will never even know it existed.

So what actually happened? It's not for the lack of effort by many. Personally, I have tried as much as I can to promote freeware, both from myself and others. I opened a website to try and promote freeware as much as possible, but even that is becoming a struggle to maintain. Although I still receive the odd donation, these are generally repeat donations by some very kind folk who truly do want to see resources such as this remain. If things continue as they are, at the current rate, I cannot really see me being able to continue providing content in the way I do on the website, it will bleed me dry and for what?

This brings me back to recognition. I don't necessarily need everyone who downloads something from me to tell me 'it was great' or even to tell me if it was crap. But let's be honest here, although I create what I want and what I like to see, the end result is that I also want to release something to benefit the community. Take the recently expanded Steam Workshop. I have released two routes on there, making clear a commitment that I want to continue to update them. Now, they may not be to everyones liking, I may even be kidding myself into think they are any good! But I have to look at facts and figures, so far they have received over 1600 subscriptions but how many ratings? 20, and even one of those was negative, for a completely free route! That kind of ratio doesn't exactly fill me with any drive to keep going.

Let's go further, take the recent Class 90 scenario pack I released, it actually reached 1200 downloads yesterday. But I would never have known it unless I looked at my own website statistics, I only know two people that have downloaded it as they were the only two to have bothered saying so! I even had one person contacting me after I did make a post asking people if they had downloaded my recent content, and they said that they weren't going to bother, they were going to wait and pay for a future scenario pack instead!

So what can be done about it? I'm not even sure any more, if payware is taking over the scene completely and freeware takes on a label of inferior quality, I'm not sure what else can actually be done. Far too many people are climbing on board, seeing the opportunity of making a quick buck for some really poor quality stuff and I feel it is detracting from the freeware scene and putting people off.

All I can really suggest is that if you do download freeware, from anywhere, then at least appreciate the time these people take to provide it, at no cost to you. Give them a bit of feedback, if it is from somewhere that provides a ratings system then take a few seconds of your time to provide a rating. If you feel that the product can be improved, then give constructive feedback. Encouragement can be everything.

If the current trend continues, I can honestly see that freeware will dry up completely Of course, as times moves on and if no new blood arrives, then the freeware would naturally dry up anyway, but I can see there being a premature end. What will be ironic if this happens, is that the same people that couldn't be bothered to spare a bit of time originally will then flood forums with posts asking why it is dried up, blaming anyone but the people that caused it, themselves.


  1. Very good post Darren. Sadly the way how the community is going yet again.

    Most people just can't be bothered it feels to give any form of feedback for freeware that is released for both stock and scenarios. Latest ones i did, all i have got was 1 thank you. Which is more then normal compared to the workshop ones i have uploaded. Lack of any feedback can and is honestly disheartening at times.

    Compared to other games what i have played where the communities are very helpful and the dev's etc will say stuff and thank you for taking part in testing the new maps (Rising Storm/ Red Orchestra 2)

    Surprised to hear that someone would rather pay money for a scenario pack with the 90 then use them from your pack (Still to install, busy with other various things at the moment)

    Those companies that advertise all the time, i will tend to ignore them. Especially the Scenario ones as i can't see the point of them and to me look no better then a lot from the freeware community.

    Hopefully one day it will change but i can't imagine it will. As mentioned on Twitter am getting ever so close to jumping ship on UKTS at least and maybe the overall community for scenarios etc for RW etc.

  2. I am always grateful for free stuff.You have produced some great add ons for TS2013/14.Without developers like DPS there would be an awful lot of people putting hands in pockets to pay for good quality assets etc.Unfortunately there are people who are just not grateful for what they get.Long may DPS continue to produce quality assets and content for TS2013/14.I have most of DPS assets etc and I am grateful.There isn't much in life that is free so when something free comes along to enhance TS2013/14 I will get it and make use of it.It's just a shame there are some ungrateful people out there in the TS community.
    Keep the great work coming guys..!!

  3. The problem is most people can't be bothered giving feedback if they like what you've done. Nothing you can do about it, it's human nature. You will have to live with the fact that people give feedback almost exclusively when they are DIS-satisfied. However, as a 30-year broadcasting veteran I can tell you that studies show for every complaint you get, it tends to reflect 5 other people who feel the same way. Not good. But for every compliment you get, that represents as many as ***FORTY*** people who like what you are doing, but haven't told you so.

    Take heart--some of us love your stuff and are happy to let you know it! I have many of your scenarios from the Workshop but haven't yet had a chance to play them. But I know I will enjoy them so maybe I should just rate them now and beat the rush! :)

    Just keep encouraging people to let you know, and to let other developers know how they enjoy their stuff. Some will, most won't.

    20% of the downloaders commenting will have to carry the 80% of the takers who don't bother speaking up to say "Cool!" (or "Crap!")

  4. I completely agree, even from a commercial standpoint. I've created four scenarios for free and I have an ever increasing number of Scenario's that I don't bother to publish other than between close friends.

    I personally believe UKTS is what has made it worse, people there moan about the smallest thing and then when you make a response with why such things are the way they are they get shunned or reported. After doing this twice you get put on Moderator Approval and then you get banned. They also seem to brand everyone on Facebook as 'kiddies' yet they act in the same way. It must be said though that those who do this do tend to stay to the General Discussion threads, and so in the Screenshots threads tend to have good comments etc.

    Another problem is freeware requirements, a lot of freeware requires a lot of extra content and to some people that isn't feasible. I believe this is one of the key things that has helped the Workshop become such a great place - obviously there are some bad scenarios but they tend to get filtered away.

    I'll be the first to admit to not giving feedback, but if I did I'd spend just as long doing that as I would playing. I'm grateful for all free content, more so when it is a route or piece of rolling stock that will have taken a good few weeks (more like months/years tbh) to build and when these things are of a payware kind of quality you really do feel for the person developing it when they receive small criticisms.

    Hopefully, this is just a phase and will change, but for that to happen places such as UKTS need to change their attitudes. And whilst I don't want to criticize any of the devs at RSC I have to say they should really start doing shows by themselves or not bother at all. Going with UKTS in my opinion really doesn't help them gain anything especially when so many on their constantly moan on. One certain member of the RSC team who used to be part of UKTS still seems to be stuck in the past with the same kind of mindset, but I'll not go into that here.

  5. I have downloaded numerous of your downloads, routes and reskins. Never have left a well done but in each and everycase they are fantastic. Creston for instance - nothing better when you want to take a short stopping service or blast a pendo down the mainline. Don't be disheartened as for every person who dislikes rest assured plenty more do like it.

  6. I must admit, I have slowly but surely lost all interest in creating reskins for this game myself now...
    The latest I have done (UKTS Freeware Pack - UK Class 47) I released because I thought it would be mean to just "not bother" although having just checked, there are 1266 downloads counted, yet only 1 comment?
    Yes, it really does leave you feeling like all your hard work goes totally unappreciated. There are 47 reskins in total, and Jim Nobkins also had a fair share of the work updating them all to TS2013/14 specifications.
    I know how you feel Darren (on a much smaller scale though)

    Nat (nattydredd)