My low cost e-commerce stack

Dungeon Adventure
Dungeon Adventure

Since I launched Dungeon Adventure, an RPG for kids, a few weeks ago a lot of people have asked me how exactly I’m selling it. It’s for sale as a digital download and print out board game, or “floor top RPG” as Phil Nelson called it. Here’s how it works:

I have a hosting account with iPower that I have had for about 9 years. It hosts this site, Dungeon Adventure, and almost any other domain I’ve ever had like markgarvey.net. My cost is $99/year, but I don’t count that against Dungeon Adventure because I’d be paying that anyway to host bengarvey.com.

I registered the domain name through iPower: $12.95/year

I looked for a while at different e-commerce / checkout software sites like scribd, PayLoadz, DigitalGoodsDelivery.com, and e-junkie. I decided on e-junkie for the following reasons:
1. Seemed reputable based on reviews and testamonials.
2. Ultra low cost. $5/month flat fee for 50MB storage and no transaction fees.

So far I have been extremely happy with my choice and in hindsight I am so glad I chose a service with no transaction fees. Spread over the cost of all my sales, that $5 is just a few pennies in transaction fees. E-junkie allows people to download the file with a unique link up to 5 times, provides email alerts to me, sends customizable confirmation emails to customers, and allow me to email customers (for a small additional fee). I was setup in about 10 minutes and it has worked flawlessly since day 1.

For payment I use paypal. I’ve used it for a long time and never had any issues with them. I’ve heard the horror stories of account freezes and such, but everything has been great. Paypal’s cut is 3% + $0.30, so on my $5.99 game the cost is $0.48. e-junkie integrated with paypal very easily and it had all the setup info I needed to accept payments through them.

Cost breakdown:
Hosting account: $8.25/month (I was already paying for this, but I’ll include it anyway)
Domain name: $1.08/month (if you’re buying hosting, you’ll get this included with the $8.25)
Checkout software: $5/month
Transaction fees: $0.48 per transaction
Total: $13.25 per month ($6.08 if you already have hosting and just need a domain)
Throughput per transaction is $5.51, so I need to sell 2.4 games per month (or 1.1) to break even.

With a cost structure this low I’ve already covered them for years.

I love the Internet.

GeekDad Reviews the Dungeon Adventure

So the response to Dungeon Adventure have been pretty overwhelming. A few key highlights:

1. Sales of Dungeon Adventure exceeded my wife’s lifetime projection for it in about 12 hours.
2. I told Sasha, “Hey we sold 10 copies!” and she said, “cool! What’s a copy?”
3. I’ve already heard from a number of people who have played the game or who are excited to try it out, and so far the feedback has been awesome.

The best thing so far has been the awesome post at Wired’s GeekDad blog by Dave Banks.

As a father, I’ve waited patiently for nine years for my son to be old enough to play Dungeons & Dragons with me. But, if I’d been more enterprising, I could have invented a full blown RPG for young kids like Ben Garvey has done.

The Dungeon Adventure: An RPG for Pre-Schoolers

A while back Sasha and I were playing with some toys and I built a maze out of blocks. With the blocks we had, you couldn’t make a decent maze but it occured to me that our maze would make a decent D&D style dungeon. We had some of her figures walk through the maze fighting simple monsters, and I thought to myself, “I could make this work into a real game.”

Kids Dungeon Adventure RPG
The Dungeon Adventure RPG for Kids

Soon after that, the Dungeon Adventure was born. It’s simple enough for me and my 4 year old daughter to walk through a dungeon and complete a quest. Here’s how it works.

1. You build a dungeon out of blocks you already have.
2. You fill the dungeon with monster cards and treasure cards.
3. Set up an overall quest for the kid(s) to complete.
4. Have them walk through the dungeon and complete the quest.

The game uses a super simple battle system using normal, 6 sided dice and hitpoints.

Sasha playing Dungeon Adventure
Sasha playing Dungeon Adventure

After playing 5 or 6 times with more complex dungeons and more interesting stories, I decided we would try and sell a version of the Dungeon Adventure online as a download and print game. I set up a website for it this week and registered a domain name. Let me know what you think!

Everything Bad is Good For You

Parents can sometimes be appalled at the hypnotic effect that television has on toddlers; they see their otherwise active and vibrant children gazing silently, mouth agape at the screen, and they assume the worst: that television is turning their child into a zombie. The same feeling arises a few years later when they see their grade-schoolers navigating a video game world, oblivious to the reality that surrounds them. But these expressions are not signs of mental atrophy. They’re signs of focus.

2005’s Everything Good is Bad for You by Steve Johnson is a challenge to the idea that pop culture is ruining our brains. Mainstream television shows are quantifiably more complex and mentally demanding than the shows of previous decades, and video games test and develop our problem solving skills better than ever before. Definitely worth reading.

Why the Arsenic Aliens were Disappointing

Some bacteria learned to survive and thrive in an environment rich in Arsenic, a normally poisonous element to life. It’s poisonous because chemically it’s almost interchangeable with Phosphorus (note their same column position in the Periodic Table). It’s usually not interchangeable enough and ends up causing problems and interrupting all sorts of necessary biochemical reactions in your body, but these new forms of bacteria were able to work out the kinks and make Arsenic work.

Scientists created this new life form, not nature.

Very interesting, but profoundly disappointing from speculation earlier in the week. Even more disappointing is that the researchers didn’t even discover this bacteria using Arsenic in the wild. They “removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells. ” (NASA)

At minimum I thought they had discovered life provably independent in origin from other life forms on Earth. This bacteria descended from the same path we did.

One of life’s great questions is, were we a fluke?

It’s likely that there is life out there in the Universe, but it’s unclear how rare it is. If we ever find bacterial life elsewhere in the solar system or discover that life “sparked” more than once on Earth we can assume the universe is full of aliens. That’s a discovery that would have “changed everything.”

Some day we'll find aliens

Rob Kolstad is an Asshole

This month’s Wired has a great article (not online yet, so no link) by Jason Fagone about the International Olympiad in Informatics where high school students from all over the world compete to solve problems through software. It’s fiercely competitive and has its own sub culture of super stars, namely Gennady Korotkevich of Belarus, who at 14 became the youngest world champion.

What should have been an inspiring and interesting look into this academic sport with open ended problems such as how to best determine the language of a given text string, went sour for me when Fagone brought up US coach, Rob Kolstad, who admits he doesn’t “know how to do most of the algorithms.” After Korotkevich won his second straight Olympiad at 15, Kolstad remarked, “the question is, will he die a virgin?

I expect smartasses with no respect for the brilliance of these kids to say something like that, but not someone who works with them every day and helps them train. He’s not someone I want to represent the US either.

Rob Kolstad
US Coach Rob Kolstad, who clearly does very well with the ladies.

Sorry, it just made me angry.

Scariest thing I’ve read all year: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

When Will Ferrel describes his George W Bush impression, he says he just imagines having a lot of “unearned confidence.” How would you know if you were one of these people? I first heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect in a comment on Hacker News and it immediately made me question a lot of things.

David Brent: Classic case of the Dunning-Kruger effect

The Dunning?Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes

Throughout my life I’ve forced myself to be confident in my abilities (ie. gotten out of my comfort zone) in an effort to improve my skills and do more things. I’ve always considered being optimistic and determined to succeed was a positive thing.

Luckily, according to Dunning and Kruger if I suffered from this effect I wouldn’t be able to recognize and change anyway. WIN.