OBS - Monopolies and their TOC. (Split off thread).

Best Selling RPGs - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Black Leaf

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I don't fault the developers at all. Still, it is a somewhat insidious position to be in. Someone is giving you what is a big pile of money (but a pittance to them), and in return, you agree not to sell your product in the place you can reach the most people.
It is fair to say that, on the figures I've seen, that was a price worth paying in financial terms because he made a lot more than he would have starting without the exclusive.

Partly because he's a known name, but in a niche way. With the increasing discoverability issues on Steam he's less and less able to count on first week sales with a new game.
 

carpocratian

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There isn't anything particularly unique or difficult about the underlying software that appears to drive DriveThruRPG. The user interface is only serviceable, both in terms of the user experience and the creator/publisher tools. It wouldn't be difficult to build something similar, and do it better. Ultimately, though, it has the benefit of being the first successful general rpg sales website, so it has both name recognition and (for PDF people) a library of past purchases they can use as a backup. The relatively small size of the hobby and the uphill battle to compete in a significant way probably keeps a lot of developers away who might otherwise do a better job with a competing marketplace. You see the same thing at work in library automation software. It is dominated by a few players who do the bare minimum to keep their customers (and rarely innovate) because it just isn't worth it for more serious developers to hop in and give them competition. The market it too small, libraries don't want to fool with a transfer of data, and there is too much overall inertia.

As robertsconley robertsconley said, any significant competition is likely to come from some sort of convergence.
 

Bunch

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And the %age doesn't affect those, does it? I love people that give rewards on itch and DTRPG, as the reason I stick with DTRPG over any other platform as a customer is the fact that my products and purchases are in one place, so somewhere else will have to have a compelling reason to make me leave.
That's why phase one of the solution I came up with for slowly building a competitor is to solve the problem OBS doesn't solve, keeping track of where all my stuff is and what all do I own.
 

Black Leaf

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There isn't anything particularly unique or difficult about the underlying software that appears to drive DriveThruRPG. The user interface is only serviceable, both in terms of the user experience and the creator/publisher tools. It wouldn't be difficult to build something similar, and do it better. Ultimately, though, it has the benefit of being the first successful general rpg sales website, so it has both name recognition and (for PDF people) a library of past purchases they can use as a backup. The relatively small size of the hobby and the uphill battle to compete in a significant way probably keeps a lot of developers away who might otherwise do a better job with a competing marketplace. You see the same thing at work in library automation software. It is dominated by a few players who do the bare minimum to keep their customers (and rarely innovate) because it just isn't worth it for more serious developers to hop in and give them competition. The market it too small, libraries don't want to fool with a transfer of data, and there is too much overall inertia.

As robertsconley robertsconley said, any significant competition is likely to come from some sort of convergence.
Things I'd push if doing this would be:

A better deal for publishers in terms of cut. This is crucial. It's why Itch.io managed to enter the market.

No exclusivity necessary. You will not be "punished" by a lower cut if you put it on other platforms. I wouldn't actually push the obvious analogy here; most publishers will draw it themselves.

All publishers treated equally regardless of size.

No locked PDFs (I think watermarks are ok). If I buy a game I should be able to copy chunks if I need to for my game. This would scare off a handful of publishers (mostly the big guys least likely to sign up) and would be a lot more customer friendly.

Better UI. Better search facility. Better library management. Ideally customisation of your user experience. This is something that if done right would be a real advantage.

What I'm afraid I wouldn't do is the kind of "anything goes" site some people are asking for. The simple fact is that few publishers want to see their work listed alongside Tournament of Rapists or MyFarog. If someone really wants this, I suggest it's a separate project and you should probably market it as edgy first and foremost. A lot of publishers won't go near a site like this, but there might be enough of a niche to make it a viable outlet for people that want that.
 

Voros

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Which is why I was the first guy to call Venger out on his BS in the other thread. My point is that because of him, every other publisher now has to grapple with the concern that even a polite criticism of DriveThru policies might result in them losing their account.

Realistically, I don't think it is a big concern, but that is easy for me as my RPG income is just bonus money. I can afford to lose it. For people that make a significant part of their income on DriveThru, this kind of policy change is genuinely stressful. I found you dismissal of their concerns insensitive. And as for your analysis that as soon as the hippies came along, the comic code died just isn't that accurate. It was a long, long process.

Is DriveThru likely to become more aggressive after this change? Probably not. Is this change going to cause a chilling effect on game publishers? Based on private conversations, it already is.

I didn't mention the comic code or hippies, someone else did I assume?

Edit: Ah, I see it was Black Leaf. Feels good to be confused with one of our most even-tempered posters! haha
 
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Voros

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Kickstarter is an alternative, but even then, a lot of customers will be expecting a PDF delivered through DriveThru as part of their pledge.

Worth noting that Kickstarter expressly will not allow projects with explicit sexual or pornographic content.
 

Black Leaf

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Worth noting that Kickstarter expressly will not allow projects with explicit sexual or pornographic content.
KS are actually way more restrictive. They outlaw "offensive material" which they don't really define. (They mention hate speech, but as an example rather than the only definition).

And their TOC boils down to "we'll remove stuff because we feel like it.

We have the right to reject, cancel, interrupt, remove, or suspend any project at any time and for any reason.

Patreon are a bit more chilled, because they define pornography narrowly:

real people engaging in sexual acts such as masturbation or sexual intercourse on camera

but at least some of what we've discussed being removed here would also get removed from Patreon.

We understand that artists sometimes have to push boundaries to create thought-provoking art, so we don’t review offensive and graphic creations with strict black and white guidelines. We instead review creations in the context of the whole creator page.

However, we have zero tolerance when it comes to the glorification of sexual violence which includes bestiality, rape, and child exploitation (i.e., sexualized depiction of minors). This is true for illustrated, animated, or any other type of creations. Patreon reserves the right to review and remove accounts that may violate this guideline.

We also do not allow other fringe sexual fetish creations, such as incest, necrophilia, or fetish creations that are hard to distinguish from non-consensual sex.

And their definition of hate groups/speech is a lot broader.

People or projects affiliated with dangerous, hateful or violent groups, espousing their related ideologies and conspiracy theories, or using their codewords and slogans may be restricted from using Patreon. Members of those groups and people who praise or support the actions of those groups may also be restricted. The groups include (but aren’t limited to) terrorist organizations; organized criminal groups such as drug cartels or criminal hackers; and hate organizations such as fascist, white supremacist and white nationalist groups, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic organizations, as well as any group dedicated to attacking LGBTQI+ people. Creators may discuss these groups in their content for educational, reporting, or debunking purposes.

Itch.io is probably the most lenient. It bans

Posting content that promotes or participates in racial intolerance, sexism, hate crimes, hate speech, or intolerance to any group of individuals

but makes clear that it will review cases individually and won't do so based on anybody else's say so. This is Leaf:

It's not propaganda though. We don't want hate speech on our platform. Our acceptable use policy is pretty standard operation for probably most sites you use on the internet. This post is 4 years old, in that time there's no instance of us enforcing this policy that has been labeled as "censorship". We don't ban things because people tell us to. Contentious issues are rarely black and white & we review cases carefully. Moderation based on content is pretty rare.
 

Voros

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Man, those early John Waters movies made such an impression on my sister and me. They were like discovering a hidden world. Luckily, they were readily found at our local video stores (NOT Blockbuster). Desperate Living was quite a revelation.

Yeah it is nuts to see PF and Female Trouble on blu from the prestigious Criterion. We're missing Desperate Living on blu but I expect Criterion will get to it soon.

Funny to see once verboten material embraced with the passage of time.
 

Gringnr

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Worth noting that Kickstarter expressly will not allow projects with explicit sexual or pornographic content.
*stares in Folio Black Label Kickstarter Backer* Dude, this came with a digital portfolio containing stuff you couldn't show in an R-rated movie.

Also,
kick.png
 

Simlasa

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Funny to see once verboten material embraced with the passage of time.
See, I never experienced it as 'verboten', it arrived with no particular reputation... just something that looked funny at the video store.
 
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Gringnr

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Everybody knows that I'm a scumbag
I like sluts and whores and I don't care


-GG Allin,
"Outlaw Scumf*c"
 

Gringnr

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It's like how a lot of "dangerous" metal bands are just hilarious.

I'm sorry, how can anybody not recognise quite how camp and funny Venom are?
Or Cradle of Filth. I mean, knowing that the whole thing is ridiculous doesn't make it any less fun. But, how anyone can look at them and see anything other than horror-movie camp is beyond me.
 

Dammit Viktor

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I don't think it could or should be illegal for OBS to have a hypocritically selective "no politics" policy. I just think it should be less culturally acceptable to play favorites instead of being consistently permissive... so that pulling titles costs them more than not pulling titles.

It's a futile hope, but even the shitty corporate status quo is better than the same shitty status quo enforced at the State's gunpoint.
 

TristramEvans

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well, as I mentioned earlier in the thread, if the end result of that particular element of the ToS is that we get a curated selection of RPGs that cuts out the various "political screeds disguised as RPGs" on offer by ichio, I'm all for it. I don't think OBS having some pretty basic, common sense standards as to what they'll carry is a bad thing. I would just prefer it wasn't worded quite so ambiguously.

But then, as someone whose been working on an intro to the Pub for...weeks longer than I expected to be, I know what a frustrating process it is to get your wording just right in a way that couldn't reasonably be misinterpreted by anyone looking for issues or loopholes, without simultaneously sounding like stereo instructions.
 

CRKrueger

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Yeah, I don't want to come off as championing Steam too much.

I was thinking about that as well. I'd go with a strike system, as I can see some people innocently reporting something that wasn't against the rules.

We are both mods. We know that certain names become familiar when you respond to reports.

GOG has the selling point of DRM-free games, something genuinely consumer-friendly.
Since the games are DRM-free you can also download the game install whenever you feel like it for backups.
 

Voros

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*stares in Folio Black Label Kickstarter Backer* Dude, this came with a digital portfolio containing stuff you couldn't show in an R-rated movie.

Also,
View attachment 47200

Some stuff must slip under the radar and I assume it is report related. I know this for a fact because some of the folks behind what became Vinegar Syndrome had one of their first major projects, the restoration of The Opening of Misty Beethoven to blu, pulled by KS as it was against their anti-porn rules.
 

AsenRG

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Fair enough, but I am in the US so I am just going off my memory of what it was like here (Last Temptation of Christ was extremely controversial here).
And OBS is in the USA as well, so your experience is likely to be closer to how they perceive stuff:thumbsup:.

I actually find separate quote posts like you did easier to follow than large multi quotes
...I hope you don't hate me too much:grin:!

I think the analogy works. Being in DriveThru is the equivalent of your comic being carried by a major distributor like Diamond, while selling them on your website is the equivalent of selling your comic out of the boot of your car. Being free to sell something isn't the same as having eyeballs on the thing you are selling.
Yeah, but for some people allowing businesses to do whatever they feel like is an ideological matter, I'm afraid, so you're not likely to manage to get this message across...:shade:

Edit: Oh wait, Gringnr Gringnr already rejected it. That's my total lack of surprise, here.

And the %age doesn't affect those, does it? I love people that give rewards on itch and DTRPG, as the reason I stick with DTRPG over any other platform as a customer is the fact that my products and purchases are in one place, so somewhere else will have to have a compelling reason to make me leave.
Well, that doesn't matter...according to Gringnr Gringnr , so it must be true. It's not as if it would influence your purchasing decisions...or would it:devil:?

Seriously, people, even I wasn't aware that BedrockBrendan BedrockBrendan has print copies of his books, and that literally for years...while I'm not Gronan or Chirine, it's not like I'm a new hand at RPGs:shock:!
But it took me finding one of his books on Amazon after I searched for stuff that the search engine decided is related.
And it probably wouldn't have worked if he'd only written fantasy games. ("This guy was looking for a self-defense focused DVD, let's suggest him a mafia game!" Or I guess that's what the search engine decided, though its logic was probably more convoluted and closer to that of the Great Old Ones:skeleton:!)

So claiming that OBS doesn't have a monopsony in the hobby is refusing, consciously or not, to see the reality.
For the record, I don't think anyone in this thread is refusing it consciously, Gringnr very much included. We all have our blind spots and we don't really control that.

Things I'd push if doing this would be:

A better deal for publishers in terms of cut. This is crucial. It's why Itch.io managed to enter the market.

No exclusivity necessary. You will not be "punished" by a lower cut if you put it on other platforms. I wouldn't actually push the obvious analogy here; most publishers will draw it themselves.

All publishers treated equally regardless of size.

No locked PDFs (I think watermarks are ok). If I buy a game I should be able to copy chunks if I need to for my game. This would scare off a handful of publishers (mostly the big guys least likely to sign up) and would be a lot more customer friendly.

Better UI. Better search facility. Better library management. Ideally customisation of your user experience. This is something that if done right would be a real advantage.

What I'm afraid I wouldn't do is the kind of "anything goes" site some people are asking for. The simple fact is that few publishers want to see their work listed alongside Tournament of Rapists or MyFarog. If someone really wants this, I suggest it's a separate project and you should probably market it as edgy first and foremost. A lot of publishers won't go near a site like this, but there might be enough of a niche to make it a viable outlet for people that want that.
OTOH, both "edgygames.com" and "gamesinbadtaste.com" are domains that are available for purchase:money:!
 
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Black Leaf

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OTOH, both "edgygames.com" and "gamesinbadtaste.com" are domains that are available for purchase:money:!

Honestly, while it's something I'd personally avoid like the plague, I do think that would likely find its own niche in the market. I can see there being a fair few people looking for those kind of games, the same as there's a substantial population of people who like "porn games" on steam
 

VisionStorm

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What I'm afraid I wouldn't do is the kind of "anything goes" site some people are asking for. The simple fact is that few publishers want to see their work listed alongside Tournament of Rapists or MyFarog. If someone really wants this, I suggest it's a separate project and you should probably market it as edgy first and foremost. A lot of publishers won't go near a site like this, but there might be enough of a niche to make it a viable outlet for people that want that.

In terms of principles I would prefer to have as little censorship as possible, limited only to outright criminal activity, like child porn. But in practice I can see how having a book from a convicted murderer and arsonist neo-Nazi might turn some people away from the site—not just publishers, but actual customers willing to spend money on stuff. However, I don't think that Venger's recent stuff, for example, rises to that level, and that's one of my principal concerns when it comes to banning stuff. Where is the line? And how do we keep these bannings from turning completely arbitrary?
 

robertsconley

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Where is the line? And how do we keep these bannings from turning completely arbitrary?
I don't know if you can. It seems that nearly all of the cases to date are each unique except in one respect. The common element thus far is that the individual is a provocateur of some sort. DriveThruRPG has an unexpurgated version of Carcosa up but Geoff Mckinney the author doesn't go around poking people in their virtual chests about it. Even when he was involved in the initial debates about it back in 2010 or so.
 

Black Leaf

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In terms of principles I would prefer to have as little censorship as possible, limited only to outright criminal activity, like child porn. But in practice I can see how having a book from a convicted murderer and arsonist neo-Nazi might turn some people away from the site—not just publishers, but actual customers willing to spend money on stuff.
You'd also need to get actual legal advice there. I'm not sure Varg's work is legal in all jurisdictions. In particular, I think it would likely fall foul of Section 130 of the German Criminal Code. If you want an international site, you're going to have to take into account that first amendment protection only applies to the US. (And even there I don't believe it applies to non citizens).

Also, even if people have a personal "abolish copyright" belief, copyright violation needs to be stamped on or you'll be on borrowed time.

More generally, I'd advise just accepting that not all publishers are going to want to professionally associate with an "anything goes" approach and not all customers are looking for that. Focus on who you want to attract rather than worrying too much about those who will be turned off. You'll never please everyone.
However, I don't think that Venger's recent stuff, for example, rises to that level, and that's one of my principal concerns when it comes to banning stuff. Where is the line? And how do we keep these bannings from turning completely arbitrary?

I'd agree that it doesn't rise to the level for the kind of distribution network you're talking about (did you ever come across Loompanics? I think their approach was pretty close to what you're talking about). I do think if you allow Venger's recent stuff you're pretty much accepting that political screeds disguised as RPGs are something the network is fine with. And he did quite blatantly break OBS's TOC, but if you don't have those TOC it's not a problem.

I'm not sure you can avoid a level of subjectivity with bannings unless you take one of two approaches. You could go for the "everything that's not illegal" stance or you could draw up an extensive list of rules and try your best to make them a checklist not open to interpretation. If something breaks those rules it's gone, if it doesn't it stays.

A good example of why you're getting into a complicated area though. What would this hypothetical distributor do if someone puts out a product with a NPC that uses Pundit's real name? That's not illegal, so are you going to allow it? If not, are you banning any use of real names including famous people? Any use of them without permission, in which case it's bookeeping hell as you need to get permission from anyone.

As a general bit of advice, if you're going with the anything goes approach (which is likely to look like Steam) I'd suggest talking to one of the free speech campaigning groups and see if they can help. I'm not really up with which groups are acceptable to which "side" in the US, maybe the Electronic Frontier Foundation or Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression?
 

Tommy Brownell

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If I had Elon Musk Money and bought OBS tomorrow, my personal approach would put very few restrictions on what we hosted, but I’d have a heavily customizable personal shopping experience designed and implemented.

A rating/content system for customers to filter as desired. Further filters for publishers and contributors.

Then I’d let the market truly decide success or failure.

That’s the broad strokes idea of brainstorming a hypothetical, anyway.
 

Black Leaf

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It most certainly does apply to non-citizens.
We're getting into line dancing here, but I don't believe it applies to foreign nationals the US considers hostile powers. In Iraq, say.
 

Luca

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IMHO, the best approach is "everything which isn't illegal", since that nicely sidesteps most of the subjectivity.

As for "not getting associated", all you need is a proper tag system and extensive filtering options (on the personal users' accounts) based on them.
 

Endless Flight

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We're getting into line dancing here, but I don't believe it applies to foreign nationals the US considers hostile powers. In Iraq, say.
It applies to everyone on US soil, and if I understand correctly, or American citizens traveling abroad in specific circumstances.
 

BedrockBrendan

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Seriously, people, even I wasn't aware that BedrockBrendan BedrockBrendan has print copies of his books, and that literally for years...while I'm not Gronan or Chirine, it's not like I'm a new hand at RPGs:shock:!
But it took me finding one of his books on Amazon after I searched for stuff that the search engine decided is related.
And it probably wouldn't have worked if he'd only written fantasy games. ("This guy was looking for a self-defense focused DVD, let's suggest him a mafia game!" Or I guess that's what the search engine decided, though its logic was probably more convoluted and closer to that of the Great Old Ones:skeleton:!)

I can't tell you how frequently I hear this. I think it often comes down to many people assume that if your PDFs are on OBS, then all your print stuff would be too if you had print versions of the games. The print books can sometimes be found on Amazon, in stores, online sales sites and through links on our website. There are only a handful of PDF only books we did (the Tournament of Daolu, the Sects of the Martial World books----which I might compile into print someday, and the SoG book on Roman Egypt). This is another reason OBS's position makes them important is they do shape peoples perception of what is actually available.

The only major difference between the PDFs and prints is the maps in our PDFs are often in color while the print versions have to be in black and white (and they are usually slightly different maps in order to fit that formatting).
 

BedrockBrendan

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If I had Elon Musk Money and bought OBS tomorrow, my personal approach would put very few restrictions on what we hosted, but I’d have a heavily customizable personal shopping experience designed and implemented.

A rating/content system for customers to filter as desired. Further filters for publishers and contributors.

Then I’d let the market truly decide success or failure.

That’s the broad strokes idea of brainstorming a hypothetical, anyway.

We need to get Tommy some Elon Musk money
 

Baulderstone

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You'd also need to get actual legal advice there. I'm not sure Varg's work is legal in all jurisdictions. In particular, I think it would likely fall foul of Section 130 of the German Criminal Code. If you want an international site, you're going to have to take into account that first amendment protection only applies to the US. (And even there I don't believe it applies to non citizens).
As non-citizen living in America with a green card, I can field this one.

The short answer is that the First Amendment protects "the people" which is vague enough that it depends on the mood of the courts.

In the 20th Century, the most common approach was that aliens with legal residency had full protection of the Bill of Rights. The Patriot Act pulled that back, so I no longer have the right to support or associate with any group labelled a terrorist organization, which once again depends on who is currently a terrorist and who is currently a freedom fighter.

Politicians generously allow me to give to and raise money for politicians. So, I effectively have more political clout in American than American citizens with less money than me.
 

chuckdee

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If I had Elon Musk Money and bought OBS tomorrow, my personal approach would put very few restrictions on what we hosted, but I’d have a heavily customizable personal shopping experience designed and implemented.

A rating/content system for customers to filter as desired. Further filters for publishers and contributors.

Then I’d let the market truly decide success or failure.

That’s the broad strokes idea of brainstorming a hypothetical, anyway.
If I bought OBS or Kickstarter, I'd focus on the vetting and review processes and make them transparent and egalitarian as my first step. The second step would be to focus on the UI/UX for the customer and the publisher. The third step would be to focus on the relations to both groups.

As an addition to OBS, I'd create a separate group for the hosting of files, to serve my own hosting and to serve as hosting for other companies that want to sell through my storefront or their own and charge appropriately, similar to how Amazon developed S3 into the powerhouse it is.
 

VisionStorm

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If I had Elon Musk Money and bought OBS tomorrow, my personal approach would put very few restrictions on what we hosted, but I’d have a heavily customizable personal shopping experience designed and implemented.

A rating/content system for customers to filter as desired. Further filters for publishers and contributors.

Then I’d let the market truly decide success or failure.

That’s the broad strokes idea of brainstorming a hypothetical, anyway.

That's sounds like a good approach, if feasible. I get that some people wouldn't want to see certain stuff promoted to them, like porn for example, for valid reasons. But at the same time I'm not necessarily against people including sexual content in their products if that's what they're into (as long as it doesn't involve children and such).
 

Black Leaf

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I think one issue with Drivethru is that it lumps absolutely anything sexual under "adult".

There's quite a big difference between "this is a bit smutty and contains dirty jokes" and "this contains detailed drawings of people having sex" and it doesn't allow publishers or customers to distinguish between that.
 

chuckdee

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I think one issue with Drivethru is that it lumps absolutely anything sexual under "adult".

There's quite a big difference between "this is a bit smutty and contains dirty jokes" and "this contains detailed drawings of people having sex" and it doesn't allow publishers or customers to distinguish between that.
I look at it as the same issue with Kickstarter- they want to moderate content, but they don't want to be seen as moderating content
 

Tommy Brownell

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I think one issue with Drivethru is that it lumps absolutely anything sexual under "adult".

There's quite a big difference between "this is a bit smutty and contains dirty jokes" and "this contains detailed drawings of people having sex" and it doesn't allow publishers or customers to distinguish between that.
Yeah me, as a consumer? I’m fine with just letting everything filter through my feed and deciding on my own if I want to buy it.

But that’s how I’ve always approached content in any medium. I do appreciate a heads up like a rating system, but even then, what I actually like and dislike often comes down to execution. I can decide that for myself. I don’t personally need anyone deciding it for me.

All that said…their store, their rules.
 

Brock Savage

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I don't know if you can. It seems that nearly all of the cases to date are each unique except in one respect. The common element thus far is that the individual is a provocateur of some sort. DriveThruRPG has an unexpurgated version of Carcosa up but Geoff Mckinney the author doesn't go around poking people in their virtual chests about it. Even when he was involved in the initial debates about it back in 2010 or so.
This makes me feel like the entire process is arbitrary.

I'd agree that it doesn't rise to the level for the kind of distribution network you're talking about (did you ever come across Loompanics? I think their approach was pretty close to what you're talking about)
I was a huge fan of Loompanics back in the day! My book collection is not for squares or the easily offended.
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
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