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JANUARY - 12 - 2017 -- permalink

It's A New Year!

It's a new Polakię! I'm still very much a game maker, but things have changed significantly in my life since last I made a blog post about it.

Polakię will also be a repository for my personal video series: "For My Own Mental Health." Polakię is very near and dear to my heart, so I figured what better place to include my thoughts and feelings about how the world works, and how it could be improved. The series is basically video journals, so they are to be taken with as much salt as you want. As the title explains, they're for me.

It'sa ma face!

I am also engaging in a new project for my city: the Milwaukee Equipment Library. I'm in the process of putting together a business plan, seeking fiscal sponsorship and scouting a location that will serve the disenfranchised of my city. Making computer games is all well and good, but it's ultimately selfish, and I feel strongly that I need to get off my butt and try to make a difference with my life.

Milwaukee Equipment Library!

There's also a NEW GAME! it's called The Journey, and it's different than anything I've made before. It's not a computer game. It's not so much a game, as it is an adventure. I think you'll like it. It starts with a letter.

It starts with a letter.

Thanks for reading, for your interest, for your patronage! Happy new year! Let's do our best to help each other and make this world better, for everyone.


JUNE - 15 - 2016 -- permalink

This is Hokum!

I was on facebook this morning, ruining my day as usual, when this advertisement for Unity video ads appeared, happily touting the benefits of video advertising in mobile gaming!

Red, angry edits are mine

I couldn't help myself. My initial reaction was something along the lines of: "Reward your players?! The hell you say?!"

Now, I love Unity as a platform for game creation. I'm a self-declared Unity zealot. However, I have some real issues with this ad campaign.

First: how exactly are we rewarding players with video ads? Is it rewarding to waste their time, forcing them to watch yet another advertisement in a world where they're already bombarded with ads every minute of every day?

Is it rewarding them by locking away game content and functionality behind the barrier of a paid advertisement?

How in the name of blithering fisticuffs is that a reward?! The truthful answer is: "It's not."

It is, in actuality, a punishment to your player for wanting to play your game. It breaks the flow of the experience and ultimately holds your player hostage while they throw away precious moments of their fleeting life to watch some conniving, cloying ad that is usually pushing some other "freemium" game that will pull the same stunt on them if they download it!

I get it. I understand that studios are just trying to earn money from their work. I have no issue with that. I take issue with the ridiculous notion that this system is in any way a reward to their users.

Let's just be honest and say what's really going on. Yes, freemium games are technically "free to play" with no initial cost up front. But let's not pretend they're truly free. The cost inevitably comes later, with annoying, life-sucking ads that are foisted on the player at every turn, often breaking the game outright and generally ruining what could have been an engaging, flowing experience. The cost to the player is: they just have to put up with it.

One last little disingenuous excuse studios like to defend this practice with is the, "Users don't have to watch the ads if they don't want to!" argument. No, the user doesn't have to watch the ads. Mind you, the game is of course designed to be infuriatingly difficult, slow, painstaking, crippled and or pointless without the benefit that watching the ads affords.

You don't have to watch the ads, but you'll never get anywhere in the game if you don't. They're designed that way, and that's incredibly skeezy. Let's not pretend it isn't.

 


MAY - 9 - 2016 -- permalink

Speller Casters Update : SPELLS!

I've been hard at work now on Speller Casters, and I thought it was finally time to introduce some of the mechanics of the game.

So, what is Speller Casters? It's a game of action, adventure, magic and typing! Yes, that's right, Speller Casters is in part a typing tutor, although it does not play like one.

You take on the role of a Speller Caster: a specific type of magic user that weaves their incantations with keystrokes instead of gestures and chanting. Using all of the combat spells collected within the pages of the Codex Magica, it's up to you to humiliate your opponent while saving as much face as possible.

Two Speller Casters face off in a wizard's duel

You see, a traditional wizard's duel does not focus on the combatants injuring one another. Any magic user seeking to harm another through spell casting is expressly forbidden by the Speller Caster Code. Instead, the opponents of a wizard's duel seek to shame each other through superficial injuries to their opponent's pride, and various magical pranks.

The first wizard to lose all their pride must flee the scene of the contest, leaving the victor to revel in their achievement. Winning takes speed and accuracy in typing, as well as tight control over the magical resources at your disposal.

Spells are composed of a combination of the six elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Entropy and Order. Each Speller Caster has a finite amount of each elemental mana from which to draw, so watching your levels is crucial to successful spell casting.

Swing by the Mana Bar

Spells can vary wildly in type and effect. Here's a list of a few that are working in-game right now!

Bronze Atlas

Summons a large bronze globe in front of the caster that can be used for multiple purposes. It can be rolled to get in your opponent's way, or used as a shield against attacks.

The Bronze Atlas is permanent once it's summoned, however it does have limited hitpoints, so other spells that cause damage can eventually remove it from the field of play if it takes enough of a beating.

Campfire Stories

Summons a large fire in front of the caster. Any caster who finds themselves inside the fire pit will incur a negative fire effect to their pride.

Campfire Stories is a temporary spell, only lasting 30 seconds before it vanishes from the field of play.

Campfire Stories cannot be moved once it is cast, however it can become mobile accidentally depending on environmental circumstances when it is first summoned.

Gift of Replenishment

A very expensive spell that summons a small vial of elixir to a random location above the field of play.

Any caster that successfully grabs the bottle will immediately regain any and all pride they may have lost during the bout.

The bottle is initially summoned far above the arena, so it might land on other obstacles or landmarks, making this spell especially random.

Majesty of Mercury

Summons a magical, winged boot in front of the caster.

When this boot is grabbed, the subsequent buff affords the lucky caster twice their original jump height. this is especially useful, since Speller Casters are not generally the best jumpers.

The spell is temporary in every sense. If it is not picked up within a few seconds of its initial casting, it will vanish. Once the buff has been grabbed, the effect itself only lasts 20 seconds.

Personal Monsoon

Summons a small cloud in front of the caster that slowly floats across the play field, raining large droplets of water as it goes.

If a caster gets caught beneath the cloud without adequate protection, they will incur a negative water effect on their pride.

Personal Monsoon is a temporary spell and dissolves from the field of play after 30 seconds.

Shackles of Tenacity

Summons a ball and chain in front of the caster. Any caster uncortunate enough to touch the ball and chain incurs a negative buff which cuts their jump height in half.

Shackles of Tenacity is temporary in every sense. If the initial spell goes untouched it will vanish after a few seconds, and its negative buff wears off after only 10 seconds.

It is notable that 10 seconds can feel very long.

Underneath my Parasol

Summons a parasol in front of the caster. Any caster who grabs the parasol will benefit from protection from most negative effects falling from above.

The parasol is effective against raining effects, such as Personal Monsoon, but the spell has limited hitpoints and will therefore disappear after it has incurred enough damage.

It is notable that the parasol itself must actually make contact with negative spell effects to hinder any damage they might cause.

With all Possible Haste

Summons a magical sandal in front of the caster. Any caster lucky enough to grab the sandal will enjoy a temporary buff to their movement speed, effectively doubling it.

This spell is temporary in all regards. If the sandal is not picked up soon it will vanish from the play field after a few seconds. The positive buff effect to the caster's speed only lasts 30 seconds.

Switch Swap

An instantaneous effect spell that places the caster where their opponent is, and removes their opponent to where they themselves used to be.

It is notable that this spell does not actually teleport the effected casters. Instead, it moves them to their new location very, very quickly.

This quirk of the spell can have interesting effects on object in the paths of the two casters effected by it.

To the Heavens

An immediate effect spell that instantly shoots a caster's opponent straight into the air with great force.

There is no dispel or defense against this spell. It takes effect instantaneously.

Come ye Hither

An immediate effect spell that instantly drags a caster's opponent towards them with great force.

There is no dispel or defense against this spell. It takes effect instantaneously.

Gust of Shoving

An immediate effect spell that instantly pushes a caster's opponent away from them with great force.

There is no dispel or defense against this spell. It takes effect instantaneously.

This is just a small smattering of the spells that are planned for the game, but it shows some of the basic mechanics to expect!

♥♥♥


APRIL - 8 - 2016 -- permalink

Little Evvie Extends his first Class : lessons learned

Some history: I began my programming career writing ActionScript 1 and 2 for Flash sites. Eventually I upgraded to Actionscript 3 and was introduced to the wonders, possibilities and headaches of Object Oriented Programming! The transition was a difficult one to make but in the end I became a stronger coder, and I learned a lot of best practices.

Fast forward to Flash's slow and painful death and I found myself suddenly without the platform I had come to love so much. Flash was a ton of fun to code for (even if it was a bit buggy and unpredictable at times) and now I felt adrift in a sea of alien languages. That was when I found Unity.

At the time, Unity was still very young and largely unknown. I convinced my boss at the time to let me try my hand at it, so we downloaded the free version and I set to work teaching myself Javascript, which struck me as being very similar syntactically to AS3. Not long after my first exposure to it, I fell in love with Unity and have been zealously developing in it ever since.

Mind you, I transitioned from Unityscript to C# pretty quickly. I love me a nice, strict typing schema. The stricter, the better in my opinion. But I digress - here we are now in 2016 and I have been happily coding applications and games in Unity.

I spent over a year developing B.O.S.S with Unity's built-in multiplayer framework, and suddenly out of the blue I launch my project one fateful morning to find all my functions have been deprecated. My jaw dropped. I sped to the Unity site to find that they had proudly released a brand new, shiny, completely overhauled networking system.


I was agog. I was aghast. I was angry that they had condemned to obsolescence, all of the old system's methods without so much as a heads-up! I found myself entrenched thoroughly in outdated functions that threatened to be unsupported pretty quickly.

I kept chugging away, unable (and unwilling) to scrap a year's worth of work to start over with a system I didn't understand, that was largely (and poorly) undocumented and still very, very untested. B.O.S.S continued to progress, and I kept my fingers crossed that my functions will continue to be supported.

About B.O.S.S: let me rewind a little. I mentioned my old boss earlier. He's an awesome guy. He's no longer my boss, per se, but we remain friends to this day. He taught me a lot of important lessons while I developed for him, the most important of which was how to approach any new project. You start with the boringest stuff first. Let me explain.

Whenever I began a new game or interaction in Flash, I started with the menu. What will the user see first? What questions will they ask? Answer those questions first. The big three are: “What am I supposed to do?”, “Why am I doing it?” and “How do I do it?” Answering those fundamental questions is paramount to create a successful piece of interactive media.

You can't show a proof of concept to a client without making sure the answers to those three questions are easily and readily available to any user that might interact with your program. Well, B.O.S.S is the first piece of media I started making that wasn't for a client in some regard. It's the first game I made that I really wanted to play, and in my excitement, I forgot that most important of lessons.

Don't get me wrong, B.O.S.S is (in its current form) very much a proof of concept. It's unfinished, unpolished and very rough around the edges. I dove headlong into its development with the goal of making it playable by me and my friends. In so doing I didn't even think about answering those big three questions. I shouldn't have been surprised then when the major criticisms I got from my playtesters (all friends of mine) were comments like: “I don't know what I'm supposed to do.” or “I don't know how to do anything.”

My heart sunk upon receiving their feedback. I had been so focused on the excitement of coding this game, that I never took my larger audience into consideration. I'm grateful they woke me up to the problem, and I have already taken steps to start fixing it.

The first step I took was putting B.O.S.S aside for a little bit. It needs a lot of reworking to make it as good as it can (and should) be. I didn't want to rest on me laurels though, which brings me back to Unity's new multiplayer system.

I knew that I wanted an opportunity to learn the new system, but I needed a break from B.O.S.S to clear my head. I had been deeply entrenched in it for over two years and no longer had any perspective on it. Enter, Speller Casters!


Speller Casters is a game I've always wanted to make (and play) and it offered the perfect excuse to learn the new networking system, and to make a project like it should be made, with the three questions in mind.

So I've started writing Speller Casters in earnest. I've already learned a lot, but as with every new system, there have been a lot of headaches and growing pains. Just using Unity's out-of-the-box networking manager I was running into errors and warnings galore. Search after search offered up one common solution: “Write your own network manager.” So that's what I did!

And thus we have come to the title of this journal. Little Evvie finally had to extend his first class. It took me over ten years of coding to have to do it, and here I am proud to say it was easy and actually kind of fun. I intend to extend and inherit all kinds of classes from here on in, tailoring them to my needs as I see fit.

In the future I'll bear in mind the lessons I learned as a developer, and I'm doing my best to forgive myself for mistakes made. B.O.S.S will get a rewrite and an overhaul to make it better and more understandable, but until that point it's still playable and, as always, free-of-charge.

I look forward to revealing Speller Casters to the world when it's ready. Until then, I'll be extending base classes, inheriting functionality and answering the big three questions along the way.

♥♥♥


FEBRUARY - 13 - 2016 -- permalink

In the midst of play-testing B.O.S.S. I was inspired by the annual celebration of Pączki Day, here in Milwaukee and all over the world.

Traditionally, Pączki are made and sold to celebrate Fat Thursday (tłusty czwartek) in Poland and Fat Tuesday here in the states.

The humble pączek is a delicious, fried pastry filled with various jams and confitures and then glazed or sugar-powdered. Traditional fillings include rose jam, bavarian cream, strawberry jam, raspberry jam and my favorite, plum or prune jam.

To commemorate this glorious day, I wanted to make a quick game for my phone, so I went ahead and made Pączki Day!

You play as Ogonek, the Polish eagle, and it's your job to eat as many scrumptious pączki as you can without getting clonked on the head by any falling debris.

It's free, like all Polakię games, so if you have an Android device, head on over to the Google Play Store and grab it! Try to beat my high score of 41 (as of 12:22pm 2/13/16)


JANUARY - 21 - 2016 -- permalink

Wow, it's been a long time since I wrote anything in this blog! Over a year, to be exact. A lot has been happening, and I'm excited to be here to talk about it.

First and foremost, I have officially abandoned my for-profit mentality. Ever since I changed Moon Runner to a free game on Android, I've felt lighter. I've felt better. I've been doing a lot of thinking about video games and making a living, and I've decided to take a risk. To clarify, let me talk a little about "products."

I have decided that I don't want to make "products." A product is something that is produced at the lowest cost possible and then sold at the highest price the market will bear. That notion turns my stomach. Don't misunderstand me when I say "price," that I mean the number on the tag. The true price of any product made today is not just the initial investment a consumer makes when they purchase it, but also the advertising, in-app purchases and data mining they incur after the fact. That is the true price, and it gets higher and higher every day.

I don't want to make things like that. I want to believe that I can make video games, and earn a living doing so, without ever playing that zero-sum game. I don't think life is a zero-sum game at all. So that's where this risk comes in. I've decided that I'm never going to sell any of my video games. I'm never going to slap a price tag on my labors and say, "That's what all my time and effort and frustration and energy is worth." It would never be an accurate figure anyway. How could it?

So, am I saying now that all my time and effort is worth $0.00? Yes and no, I guess. I like to think that my time and effort is worth what it's worth to anyone who enjoys the fruits of my labor. If I make something that anyone plays and really likes, then they can decide what it was worth to them. So, I'm going to be on Patreon, is what I'm saying.

I've already seen Patreon work for a lot of content producers I love and admire, so I am hoping, and betting, that it can work for me too. I recognize that right now Patreon works best for people who can put out a lot of content on a very regular basis. Their patrons get quality work in a timely fashion, so they feel justified in supporting the artist. Games take longer to make, and they take forever to make well. I understand that Patreon is a huge gamble for this reason, and others. Still, it's a risk I want to take.

The next big piece of news I'm very excited to share is the release of Battle Of Solar System! Right now it's the alpha of a demo, which is itself a proof-of-concept, but it's ready for play testing! I've worked on it in my free time for over two years now, and I'm proud of what I've accomplished in that time. If I get to make it into the finalized game I envisioned when I first began oh so long ago, it will be a truly HUGE game, but for now it's at least something I can play with my friends. It's something I can point to and say, "That represents me well."

So, I'm excited and nervous and anxious and stoked for the future. Even if my Patreon campaign is a massive failure, I will always make video games. I won't be able to stop, it's in my blood. I just won't be able to make them full-time. I really want this to be my job. It's already my passion, and I would be lucky and honored if it could be my career. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping I can get there.

 


JANUARY - 2 - 2015 -- permalink

Happy new year everyone! This post has nothing to do with the new year in any way, shape or form, but Polakię Games is pleased to announce the release of a little application we recently finished up: The Desktop Bayan!

desktop bayan

"So, what is this thing?" I hear you ask. It's a great question. I got the idea in the tub the other day - actually, it was about three days ago exactly, come to think of it. That's really a testament to the speed with which you can realize a project from concept to deployment with Unity3D.

Anyway, back to the app. I play the melodeon, which is a diatonic button accordion. I'm not very good at it but it's a hobby I quite enjoy. The treble layout of a standard melodeon doesn't make a great deal of sense, mathematically. Don't get me wrong, the layout is very good at what it's meant for. You can play reels, shanties and some kinds of polka with ease on a melodeon. To be fair, some of the most powerful instruments for playing tangos and some forms of classical music are melodeons, such as the bandoneón.

However, there's an instrument that has been crafted and perfected over the years to play complicated pieces of music and it has fascinated me for some time. It's in the family of chromatic button accordions and it's called the bayan (бая́н.) Any number of improvements were made over the years by Russian designers and manufacturers to make the bayan the true champion of chromatic accordions. Mind you, it's not perfect for everyone and it's not perfect for every application (sometimes you still need a Steirische Harmonika) but it's pretty sweet in general.

So, flash back to three days ago when I'm soaking in the tub. Even the most entry-grade bayan sells for almost $300, not including shipping from Ukraine, or Moldova or any of the other countries where they're commonly sold. So I thought to myself, "I bet I could make my computer keyboard into the treble side of a small bayan. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would at least help me get used to the key layout." Thanks to the power of Unity3D, three days later I am happy to share my silly little project with you!

So, if you're curious, you can play it right in your web browser (not mobile, sorry) or you can download a standalone application for use on your desktop at home (or the office even!)

Standalone Windows Download

Standalone Mac Download

Standalone Linux Download

Enjoy y'all, and happy new year!


DECEMBER - 19 - 2014 -- permalink

So, as you may know, we recently published Moon Runner onto the Google Play Store. Only a few days later, without any fanfare or advertising on our part, we received three, unsolicited e-mails from three different companies all offering to "help" us out with visibility, likes and downloads.

I don't know if these are real marketing companies, phishing scams or something altogether different.

My initial instinct is to ignore them completely, but the logical part of me is admittedly curious. I mean, visibility in such a saturated marketplace is key, right? How does one get their product into the eyes of reviewers and possible users?

Just refreshing the Google Play store's front page yields around 10 or so new titles published every day. Now, those are only the titles that make it to the front page, which means they're generally put out by major developers. I'm willing to guess that at least twice as many apps are actually published per day, which makes for a pretty crowded market.

How is a startup supposed to get any attention in that situation?

My gut reaction to the e-mails we got was negative, and I had to question why.

If the e-mails were actually from real marketing firms, then that means they send out unsolicited e-mails to every single new developer that publishes anything to the app store, without exception. That just makes me feel icky.

I picture a bot, sifting and spidering through the metadata and populating a form e-mail before sending it to each and every default contact before waiting for someone to grab the bait.

I wonder how much money they would want for their services. I wonder if it would actually help get some eyes on our product or website.

For as much as I railed against in-app advertising in the last post, I recognize (and it kills me) that adveritising works. Ad revenue built Google up into the behemoth it is today. Ad revenue makes Youtube stars like Pewdiepie and his ilk into millionaires.

I don't have to like it, but that's the fact of the matter.

Well, in the name of science (or at least to sate my burning curiosity) I'm going to go ahead and reply to those e-mails. I'll post my findings here.

 


DECEMBER - 12 - 2014 -- permalink

We finally published Moon Runner on the Google Play Store!

moon runner

"Why are we selling the app for $0.99 sight unseen?" I hear you asking. It's a good question. The marketplace is super saturated with free games, so why do we think anyone would want to shell out their hard-earned cash for a game they've never played? Well, a lot of "free" games aren't actually that. We kind of hate "freemium" games here at Polakię.

There's one of two ways developers make money off of those kind of titles: advertising and in-app purchases. I don't want to go on a diatribe here, but I don't think there's any other way for me to accurately convey how much I hate advertising and in-app purchases. Let's look at them one at a time.

Advertising galls me to my very core. I recognize that without advertising, consumers may not learn about a product that they might enjoy or that could potentially improve their lives - however - advertising was invented in a pre-internet age, when shopping and choice weren't as streamlined and powerful as they are today.

Nowadays a consumer can browse thousands of products online and even look up information about products and services they're considering buying in a traditional, physical retail environment. The buyer is empowered today moreso than ever before.

With all that choice on the part of the purchaser, advertisers have had to adapt to get their products in front of consumers. This has led to advertising popping up everywhere. There is nary a safe corner of our lives where the abrasive, insipid, repetitive clatter of advertising doesn't rear its ugly head.

Ads play before, during and after every online video.

They pop up on top of image content and between the lines of blog posts and news articles.

Ads are ubiquitous and we've all just accepted it as a fact of life, when in reality it's an unwelcome intrusion into what used to be a person's right to peace.

Now, if advertising forcibly shoehorned into every conceivable crevice of our daily lives isn't bad enough, in-application purchases are worse by an order of magnitude.

Consider the transaction that takes place when a player makes an in-app purchase in a game they've downloaded for free. That user, usually in the heat of gameplay, is met with some sort of intervening force that stalls, delays or stops entirely their ability to continue playing.

The field of psychology has known for a good long time that games have the ability to trigger some pretty powerful, primal responses in us human animals. Positive reinforcement, delayed gratification and other gameplay mechanics are all employed to usher the player into a gameflow that, when halted abruptly, basically feels like the mental equivalent of a record scratch.

Enter the "pay to play" incentive.

Users can often just wait - typically a timespan of a few minutes to a few hours - until the game allows them to play again, OR they can shell out a few cents or a few dollars to continue immediately.

In essence, that player has been unconsciously manipulated by the game to incentivize the purchase.

It gets worse than that though.

Many online games that are "free to play" offer upgrades, powers, inventory and achievements to any user willing to cough up some dough for the privilege. You can imagine how frustrating that is to users who don't want to or cannot pay for those upgrades. The game becomes largely unplayable for the lower caste who won't/can't pay to win, and therefore the arms race of the in-game economy becomes one of purchasing power instead of actual ability.

Now, one of our pledges to the video gaming world at large is to always respect consumers and treat them like adults. To that end, we realize and admit that not everyone who makes in-app purchases or watches in-app advertisements is being manipulated or duped. That's too broad a generalization.

However, we do think that ads are intrusive and annoying, and in-app purchases by their very nature as a business model are gross and sketchy.

Don't get me wrong, I realize that developers need to make money, or they can't continue to produce games and applications. I think that game development is an honorable and meaningful way to make a living in this world. I just think there's a better way of going about it than ads and in-app balderdash.

Thus, we here at Polakię have decided to subscribe to an older, time-honored tradition we remember from our childhoods. We call it "buying games." It's revolutionary, we know, but hear us out.

I remember when I was a kid, my mom would take me to CompUSA, or Babbages, or Egghead and we would browse the PC games. I got incredible titles like X-Wing, The Colonel's Bequest, Half-Life, Day of the Tentacle and many other treasures in this way. I loved those games and they helped form who I am as a developer today.

There was no subscription model, no in-app purchases and certainly no advertising in those titles. You just bought them, and played them, and they were yours for as long as the floppy discs held out.

We like that model, and it's the way we're going to do business here.

That's why Moon Runner is for sale for 99¢. We stand by it, and as always we eagerly encourage feedback and criticism so we can improve it for everyone that buys and enjoys it.

No malarky. No rigmarole. Just games.


MARCH - 13 - 2014

Our own Evan Maruszewski has taken on a role as art director for the upcoming interactive, multimedia, multiplatform, RPG extravaganza that is HEROES MUST DIE!

heroesmustdie logo

So I hear you asking: "What is Heroes Must Die?"

I'm glad you asked! It's the very first game of its kind in the whole history of video games, that's all. The game is totally unique in that the gaming experience informs a live theatrical production. Let that settle into your mind for a bit and I'll spell it out for you...

You play the game on your tablet or mobile device. You meet interesting characters in interesting environments and dramatic situations filled to bursting with action and adventure.

That's fun, yeah?

But THEN you go to see a performance of the Heroes Must Die theatrical production and the choices you've made in the game actually effect the outcome of the play!!!

That's right. The story arc you choose in the game can actually alter the story that you see unfold on the stage in front of your eyes! HOW COOL IS THAT!?!?!?

More updates on this project as it unfolds. Needless to say, we're stoked to be a part of it.

all materials © polakię games 2014 — patreon