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DEBRO

The term homebrew?

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Hi there,

 

Not sure if this topic has been discussed so forgive me if I'm restarting something. I finished listening to the interview with David Crane, Garry Kitchen, and Dan Kitchen on the Into The Vertical Blank Podcast. They mentioned something that, well, sparked a thought I've had for sometime.

 

They don't consider their Audacity work to be homebrew. They go on to mention Audacity as a publisher. Audacity produces high quality releases similar to what we received in the 80s with boxes, new shells, and manuals. I actually agree with them which brings me to my question.

 

If we were developing games / products and distributing them in ziplock baggies like we did in the 80s...would that really be considered homebrew? AtariAge is the publisher for most of our work. Albert, produces these games with boxes (on occasion), shells, and manuals. Albert ensures the production is top notch in my opinion. Would that not remove the homebrew term from our work as well? Why are we not considered say indie developers? There are people or teams considered as indie developers that work from their home and produce digital content...no box etc. Why are they considered indie developers and not homebrew authors?

 

It seems to me we are all indie developers since we don't work specifically for the publisher and AtariAge (if we choose that route) happens to be our publisher.

 

What are your thoughts?

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Whenever this comment comes up, I always wonder why some people think 'homebrew' is a derogatory term.

 

To me it is a badge of honor.   Some guy struggled to do something great, and we all get to share in the end result.

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Dennis, this has been discussed multiple times already. And we always came to no commonly agreed conclusion. :) 

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Posted (edited)

I guess it comes down to how you define 'homebrew'. To me, 'homebrew' sounds like something that is for personal, non-commercial purposes. Similar to homebrewed beer, which is for personal use and something you drink at home with friends.

 

Looking at the top-notch quality of the after-market Atari games offered in the AtariAge store, including professionally printed manuals and boxes, I agree with Dennis that the creators of these games can be considered indie developers, and that AtariAge is a relatively small, but very professional publisher of these retro indie games.

 

Edited by Dionoid
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Posted (edited)

I'm ok with being looked down on as a member of the homebrew hoi polloi, but if they think they're somehow putting out a more professional product than AtariAge does, I'm not seeing it.

Edited by s0c7
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Elektronite over on the Intellivision side of things has the same view as Audacity has. They pay good money for licensing and good money to their developers. They may publish aftermarket games, but for sure don't sell "homebrew" games.

 

I'm not sure "indie" is a good term either, as it suggests there still is one main channel for AAA titles, and then there are independent developers/publishers on the side. Back in 1980 that might have been the case that Atari was the AAA publisher and e.g. Activision, Imagic etc were the indie or - even better - third party publishers. No matter how you might consider Atari SA today, they don't represent the main channel for new 2600 software, so "third party" also makes little sense since there is no obvious first party.

 

It means the only term that remains is "aftermarket". Again, despite what AtGames, RetroN, Atari SA and for that matter Intellivision Entertainment themselves might think, systems like the Atari 2600, Intellivision, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, even NES etc since long are gone on the mainstream gaming market, so it definitely makes sense to call the new games that are published to be aftermarket games.

 

Games still in development may be homebrew titles, in particular those which are developed openly. I understand that in many cases, smaller publishers barely cover their manufacturing expenses despite asking $50-75 per game, giving very little money left to pay the developer, but in that case perhaps it never was meant as a part time job but as a way to express a hobby. If so, it probably is fine to call it homebrew because nobody did it mostly for the money.

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I prefer to be named how I call myself. A homebrew author who does homebrews.

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For participants homebrew is brewing your own games on your own terms.

 

For detractors it's a condescending way of deriding the quality of someone else's methods and work.

 

I've learned you can't improve other people - you can only improve your own skills and share the results with like-minded enthusiasts.

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I have strong opinions on this, but it's interesting to hear what others have to say.  I will say that Audacity isn't really doing much different than what I and other publishers are doing.  They are creating these games from home, it's not their full-time job, they've setup a company, and they appear to be building and shipping the games themselves.  In the case of AtariAge, the main difference I see is that they are writing the games themselves, but I don't think that's very significant (many publishers in the modern day publish games written by other development houses, even Atari has done this).  The other difference is they were developing fun games professionally "back in the day", whereas I was a kid enjoying their games back then.  :)

 

They are of course free to describe these games in any way they'd like.  I do take issue with anyone stating that what they are doing is more "professional" than what I and others have done over the years.  For the last run of games added to the store, I literally spent tens of thousands of dollars to have the manuals, boxes, labels, posters printed, as well as for other items (soundtrack CDs for Last Strike, postcards for reBOOTed and Adventure II XE, etc.), to say nothing of the materials required to produce the game cartridges (shells, circuit boards, EPROMs and other chips), shipping materials (boxes are expensive!), bags for manuals and boxes, bubble wrap, shipping labels, starch packing peanuts, etc.  It adds up pretty quickly.  Royalties are also paid to authors and I send out 1099s at the beginning of the year.  And I'm paying taxes on profits that remain after all the expenses. 

 

For me, the term homebrew implies that someone is creating these games because they enjoy doing so and are generally doing it part time.  This doesn't mean the games are any worse or better than commercial releases back when the systems were in their prime.  Just as with commercial games, homebrew games can run the gamut from poor to excellent.  I do feel the term "homebrew" is seen by some to mean "inferior" to commercial releases, though, especially those looking in from the outside who aren't familiar with the whole homebrew scene. 

 

 ..Al

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37 minutes ago, Albert said:

Royalties are also paid to authors and I send out 1099s at the beginning of the year.  And I'm paying taxes on profits that remain after all the expenses. 

as someone who works with a *lot* of small businesses who have no idea what they're doing, this warms my heart to hear.  I salute you!

 

I'm surprised that there are any profits left over.  I hope that it's enough for a pizza and some cokes now and then!

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Call them whatever you want.  All I have to say is that the quality of 'homebrews' sold by AA is right up there with, if not better than the games that I would have purchased as a kid.  The labels, manuals, boxes and extra goodies e.g. (posters, magnets) are top notch.  And it's not just the games, anyone that's ever attended PRGE, knows that the AA both is a must see.  From the dazzling array of consoles (set up for play) to the beautiful, larger than life 'homebrew' banners, there's really not another booth like it.  Simply amazing.👏

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Whatever you want to call what AA does, it's done at a high level. Atari Age is the top publisher of Atari games ever. Atari Co is 2nd and Activision 3rd, imo. So many great games across a variety of genres. :)

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Yep. No local brewery who sells their beer would call it, "homebrew". If you're selling it, I'd say that's one reason not to call it "homebrew". If you add a manual and/or box, it's certainly not homebrew. In the beer world, they might call it, "Limited batch" but there is also the term, "Indie".

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I'm not a programmer (nor do I play one on TV...) but I do consider myself a "homebrewer" and I'm particularly proud of that label. As far as I know, the computer use of the term originated with the Homebrew Computer Club, which just about any nerd worth his salt* would've given his eye teeth* to have been a part of. To me it's not a mark of denigration at all.

 

I consider it a privilege to be associated with the programmers that have graciously asked me to work on their games. And it's always done for fun. The fun of creating a game for others to enjoy. The fun of showing off a newly discovered programming trick. The fun of realizing a decades-old dream of creating your own game. The fun of being part of this community. The fun of just making something really cool for the sake of doing it. The documentary "Triumph of the Nerds" referred to it as "Impressing Their Friends".

 

As for professionalism, the programmers I've worked with absolutely obsess over their games. Refining, debugging and honing every last bit to make them the best they can possibly be. And I can speak to Albert's own obsession with producing absolutely first-rate, professional packaging (mainly because of all of the times I've had to go back and fix things after they've gone off to be printed ;) ). And FWIW, AtariAge presently has more 2600 titles than any single publisher ever had, except Atari. And AtariAge is gaining on 'em.

 

As for Audacity, I can see why they wouldn't consider themselves as homebrewers: they programmed 2600 games for a living back-in-the-day. That was their profession, and even though it isn't anymore, it would probably seem weird to them to revisit that part of their careers and rebrand what they're doing as something different. I will say though, that even though they're a "real company", by repeatedly distancing themselves as being "professional" and not hombrewers, they're implying that all homebrews are not professional. And while some are not, I take issue with that sort of blanket generalization. After all, being a "real company" does not guarantee high quality either. Apollo was a real company. Even Mythicon was a real company. Effectively though, they're just as homebrew-y as AtarAge. They even say as much at 10:10 in this interview, where they talk about how each game is handmade by "volunteer manufacturers". Wouldn't a "real company" pay for that labor?

 

 

To me, whether it's "independent developer", "homebrewer", "third-party programmer", a "real company" or whatever, when it comes to making games for a niche, hobbyist, fan community, it's all the same. It's just semantics until you've got a spot in the aisle at WalMart. In the end, it's really the games that will tell the tale. So far, in this new endeavor, they've made one.

 

 

* How about that? Two completely antiquated idioms in one sentence!

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Posted (edited)

Lets not forget it took 3 years to develop when that sort of commercial deadline would not have existed back in the 80's. I'm pretty sure they had 4 months to develop games back in the day.

 

I also can't help but feel Dan got shafted by the other two, as he never really says anything and his smile looks put on. Poor guy started the idea with gold rush...

Edited by TwentySixHundred
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2 hours ago, Nathan Strum said:

As far as I know, the computer use of the term originated with the Homebrew Computer Club, which just about any nerd worth his salt* would've given his eye teeth* to have been a part of. To me it's not a mark of denigration at all.

Nor to @Thomas Jentzsch and yours truly. A badge of pride, actually.

 

2 hours ago, Nathan Strum said:

As for professionalism, the programmers I've worked with absolutely obsess over their games. Refining, debugging and honing every last bit to make them the best they can possibly be.

 

Not just the binaries! What about the manual!!!

 

2 hours ago, Nathan Strum said:

I will say though, that even though they're a "real company", by repeatedly distancing themselves as being "professional" and not hombrewers, they're implying that all homebrews are not professional.

I agree with that, although I doubt that's their intention. It's simply because some/many associate the word "homebrew" with "amateur" - and as you say, they don't consider their effort amateur. It all comes down to a misunderstanding of the context of the word and what it really means.

 

Put simply; if you expect others to adhere to your own personal definition of what "homebrew" is/means, and if it applies to them... you're going to fail. Some consider it a badge of shame; others like myself consider it a high honour indeed.

 

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Hi there,

 

I have seen some very interesting and entertaining responses. Thank you for your insight.

 

As I read the comments and thought more about it, would the term be more around the product? For example, my work would be considered homebrew because I produced unlicensed remakes? Would say an original IP or licensed IP then not be considered homebrew? Would an unlicensed product for a machine with lockout capabilities (that's not in the public domain) be considered homebrew because you bypass the lockout? Am I thinking too much into this :)

 

Any case, I was curious on the term because...well...it seems the lines are blurring (to me).

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22 hours ago, DEBRO said:

Hi there,

 

Not sure if this topic has been discussed so forgive me if I'm restarting something. I finished listening to the interview with David Crane, Garry Kitchen, and Dan Kitchen on the Into The Vertical Blank Podcast. They mentioned something that, well, sparked a thought I've had for sometime.

 

They don't consider their Audacity work to be homebrew. They go on to mention Audacity as a publisher. Audacity produces high quality releases similar to what we received in the 80s with boxes, new shells, and manuals. I actually agree with them which brings me to my question.

 

If we were developing games / products and distributing them in ziplock baggies like we did in the 80s...would that really be considered homebrew? AtariAge is the publisher for most of our work. Albert, produces these games with boxes (on occasion), shells, and manuals. Albert ensures the production is top notch in my opinion. Would that not remove the homebrew term from our work as well? Why are we not considered say indie developers? There are people or teams considered as indie developers that work from their home and produce digital content...no box etc. Why are they considered indie developers and not homebrew authors?

 

It seems to me we are all indie developers since we don't work specifically for the publisher and AtariAge (if we choose that route) happens to be our publisher.

 

What are your thoughts?

I think you are correct.   "Homebrew" is a more recent term that popped up sometime after the year 2000.   Before that, words like "Shareware", "Freeware" were used. 

 

But many of these movements, including zip-lock games, "grow up" and become nearly indistinguishable from traditional publishing.

 

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Hello, Dennis and all.   When I discovered the  "retro-gaming homebrew scene" around 2000, I liked that terminology.  Clever.  Since its beginning,  AtariAge adopted the term "homebrew" for all these years, note Al's leaflets that come with games "What Is A Homebrew" for example.     One of the things that I noticed was the fun playability of nearly every homebrew I discovered via AtariAge!   (In contrast, I have a disc with tons of Atari 8bit computer games on it, including many shareware/hobbyist games, and IMHO most of THOSE were inferior to any professionally made games from the 80s.  This is not true with the typical homebrew you'd see at AA in the 2000s.) 

 

But I have noticed comments "pretty good for a homebrew".   There has always existed a negative connotation for some (the ill-informed ones! :)  ).  People who say things like that must have seen crappy shareware or indie-style games and associate homebrew with that.   Although, probably because of better tools like BATARI basic and 7800 BASIC, there have been a lot more homebrews coming out in the 2010's and frankly, although fun for a while, some of these have a sameness to their appearance, and a 'brief mini-game' style of play with not a lot of depth. That's fine of course,  very apt for an Atari game.   But would you pay $100 for it? Or even $50? 

 

Concerning David Crane and Garry Kitchen's interviews and comments, although they've clearly attended retro shows, have clearly checked out some of the very impressive homebrew games that the AA booth always features,  I still wonder how in-tune they are with the real efforts and community.  Their words reveal their thoughts. They have a bias against the homebrew community's level of quality, and they see their own efforts as superior.   There is no excuse for them not to see that there are amateur homebrews and professional-level homebrews, however.    But honestly their snootiness does not bother me,  and their 1st game is admittedly an impressive work - fun, challenging, graphically amazing, and deep.  They have successfully taken their 2600-Activision mentality and brought it forward to a quality 2021 Atari homebrew, oops I mean professional,  game!    

 

I'm not sure I'm trying to make any points, just free-typing over a cup of coffee.   c(_)

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Posted (edited)

When we talk about homebrew games, I suppose we are thinking of games where you made everything from scratch (or own previous sources), not binary hacks of old games that are put on a cartridge and sold? The later would be bootlegs/piracy for me, not homebrews or aftermarket games. I don't think there is any difference in which term you use for your game if you incorporate registered trademarks and IP from other parties, or have a product that is completely standalone from other references.

 

Of course if you seek and obtain licensing, you can put it on the box and perhaps that is what makes some publishers think have a more qualified product than a "homebrew", since not only did they invest in developing a game and manufacture it, they also invested in obtaining the rights to release it. For instance when AtariAge published Boulder Dash (R), they could have argued it no longer was a "homebrew" game (unless the developers as clearly shown above preferred for it to be referenced as such).

 

I agree that many casual collectors or even bystanders on the outside are not aware how improved development methods, learning every detail about the hardware, higher capacity cartridges and the fact today games are made by people who love the systems, not just doing it to pay their bills (at least in most of the cases), have made recent games that more advanced both in terms of audiovisuals and often playability. I'm not a beer drinker so I don't know if homebrew beer generally is considered a crude, muddy beverage compared to store bought, but I also know that many people are aspiring microbrewers, something that is seen as even better than the mass produced factory beer. However it would just seem silly to start talking about microbrewed games, like video gaming people were lacking in which terms to use so they just copy the beer community.

Edited by carlsson
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On 4/9/2021 at 2:53 PM, Cafeman said:

Although, probably because of better tools like BATARI basic and 7800 BASIC, there have been a lot more homebrews coming out in the 2010's and frankly, although fun for a while, some of these have a sameness to their appearance, and a 'brief mini-game' style of play with not a lot of depth.

I'd probably disagree with you here :)  

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I love the word homebrew and all the magic and wonderment that comes along with it, it fills me with happiness. I also won't be changing the name of the show anytime soon. 🙂

 

- James

 

 

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On 4/9/2021 at 11:23 PM, Cafeman said:

Although, probably because of better tools like BATARI basic and 7800 BASIC, there have been a lot more homebrews coming out in the 2010's and frankly, although fun for a while, some of these have a sameness to their appearance, and a 'brief mini-game' style of play with not a lot of depth. That's fine of course,  very apt for an Atari game.   But would you pay $100 for it? Or even $50? 

I'd also have to disagree. In regards to 7800Basic there is alot of flexibility. Many unique titles in the works using 7800Basic. It's extremely powerful. Along with some ASM the possibilities are endless.

 

As for Batari Basic yeah I can see why, and I think it's not so much the tool per say. The issue is the default score and status bars down the bottom of the screen. Many use them and without the flexibility to use them wherever desired (without tinkering) is what makes the games have the same appearance.

 

A decent developer can work around this and produce some nice using bB. 

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14 hours ago, ZeroPage Homebrew said:

...I also won't be changing the name of the show anytime soon.

 

- James

Hmm...

ZeroPage Probrew  (ZPP)

ZeroPage Indie  (ZPI)

ZeroPage Aftermarket  (ZPA)

ZeroPage Limited Batch  (ZPLB)

ZeroPage ShareWare  (ZPSW)

ZeroPage FreeWare  (ZPFW)

ZeroPage Commercial and Non-Commercial  (ZPCNC)

ZeroPage Third-Party  (ZPTP)

ZeroPage Not-Atari-for-Atari  (ZPNAFA)

 

Yeah, good call.  They don't have the same ring to them.  ;)

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