The Big Post about Development Models

The next development release is going to be released very soon, and with it the first in a major change of how World Machine is developed and released.

I’m going to go into some detail about something a little different — the business side of software development.

Let’s Review

World Machine originally was released on a “big release schedule” — every ~3  years there would be a version packing a bunch of changes together and being made available, usually for an upgrade fee. Earlier this year, my frustration with this kind of development model prompted me to put effort into streamlining and adopting a new model that is becoming very popular;  that of frequent updates.

Having frequent and rapid feature releases is:

  • Good for you: You get to use new features and fixes immediately rather than having things be finished but not used by anyone for months or years until a Big Version is released.
  • Good for me: I receive satisfaction when the things I’m creating make an immediate impact on how you can do your work.
  • Good for World Machine: Being able to quickly get feedback and iterate on ideas makes every feature significantly better.

What’s not to love? The downside is figuring out  how to deal with everyone’s favorite bugaboo…

charging folks for software.

I’m going to broach this subject for  a bit as the business side of software is incredibly important — it’s what puts food on the table for me personally, and allows World Machine Software to continue as a small business.

The Problem

The traditional development model relies on collecting  your new features into a glittering pile of goodies, which people are then asked to pay for. This works pretty well; and I have been able to devote myself full time to World Machine for a while now as a positive consequence.

However, it is fundamentally incompatible with the new feature release schedule.

If every new feature is immediately made available to current customers, there will never be a World Machine 3, since all features are instead added to the current version. That’s not quite what I had in mind! Making it even trickier is how to deal with payment for updates and upgrades.  We’ve not charged anyone for an  upgrade since 2008.  Many of the changes since then have been bug fixes that I feel should always be made available.. but the new features since then certainly could have been part of a new release.

I’ve spent much time over the past several months thinking about ways around this dilemma, including options like feature packs, subscriptions, and more. Each route was evaluated by these two guiding criteria :

  1. Strive to provide the most value to you the customer as possible
  2. Produce enough revenue to allow World Machine to prosper as a business

With those in mind…

The Solution

here is the outline of the direction we are pursuing. Some of these are new, and others are simply codifying the way we’ve always done things:

  •  World Machine purchases come with one year of free upgrades. During this time every new feature or release created is available to you for free. I plan on quarterly releases of useful improvements.
  • Your software never expires. After your first year of upgrades is over, you will no longer receive the latest and greatest features. But unlike a subscription, nothing stops functioning.  You can also access and re-download any versions you’re entitled to, whenever you like.
  • You can pay a small fee to keep upgrading. You can buy another years’ worth of free upgrades any time you like. The renewal price is basically the cost of a major upgrade, but spread out over a number of years.
  • You don’t have to stay “caught up” if you don’t want to. People using World Machine constantly for their business or pleasure will likely want to always have an active update plan, but for others, you can come and go as you please. If none of the new features being produced are compelling to you, you can wait to pay until we produce something that is.
  • The upgrade purchase is valid for both major and minor releases. Whether its minor improvements or something big enough to cause me to change the Big Number (ie World Machine 3), while your upgrade license is active you will receive it for no additional charge.

I believe that this represents a favorable blend of the best parts of traditional and the more modern “software as subscription” business models. I firmly believe it provides the most benefit to both you as customer, and me as developer. I hope all of you agree!

When does this start?

The first development release of World Machine 3 will be available this monday under the new model.

WM3.0.dev1 is not the end-state of World Machine 3; rather, it marks the beginning of its development. Over the next year, many new and exciting features will be added to WM3 on the dev channel.

What’s even more exciting is that you, the terrain artist, will be instrumental in guiding what features you most want to see appear in WM3. The major version number will be incremented much more quickly than before; I would hope that within another few years we will see World Machine 4 start the same development process…

I can’t wait!

12 thoughts on “The Big Post about Development Models”

  1. So does this mean that if you bought WorldMachine2 in June/July 2014, you’d be able to get a free upgrade to WorldMachine 3 as long as it comes out before June/July? 🙂

    1. Mark: Yes! Or at least, free upgrades to all of the dev releases of WM3 that occur during the year after purchase. I do want to emphasize though that for example, if the final version of WM3 that drops to the release channel occurs after the upgrade period expires, that would not be available without purchase of an upgrade.

      The version number is still a convenient way of tracking features, but a better way of looking at it is rather than having “World Machine 2”, “World Machine 3”, etc, there is instead simply “World Machine – at version XYZ”.

        1. The 3.X branch has a limited capacity for forward compatibility; obviously you won’t be able to use any features that aren’t present in your version, but from 3.0dev1 onwards WM should be able to load created files from newer versions and do something intelligible (if the newer TMD doesn’t use a future feature, that future feature shouldn’t break compatibility with older versions, unlike right now).

          The second half is more explicit reporting and warning about versioning of TMD files.

  2. A good concept!

    So, when I purchased WM2.x in december 2013 – I will get updates till december 2014 – right?

  3. Hmmm, where to download WM 3.0? I´ve purchased WM2 in dec 2013 – but when open WM an go “Help&Web” – it does not take me to a download location (as it used to, when updates for 2.3x came out…)

  4. Hey man, your software is sick, ive had many happy hours just amusing myself in it, as well as using it for production.

    the addition of ue4’s world manager – functionality to organise streamed levels and even make massive lods of whole terrains, is going to be a huge boost to the popularity of your product, especially since you provide companion functionality for managing larger-than-map worlds already 🙂

    your community has been hard at work i see, making a ton of useful stuff. i’d like to see a curated collection get merged with the default selection of devices – so we don’t have to trawl the web to get hold of resources.

    again, great work on this stuff, happy customer is happy.

  5. I like this idea as it seems to follow the UE4 Subscription model, one main factor though will also be the price and it’s affordability in the longrun, as I’m also a developer and have a wide range of tools the price and product availability and licensing is very important and I have to plan on future funding of Unreal Engine which is perfectly priced, not everyone that charges for subscription has a product that should match the same price as another product such as a tree creator, but this one if priced right may be worth it.

    I heard about World Machine through Unreal Engine 4 (Landscape Mountains Demo, Wish the Heightmap Was Included So I Could Study it in World Machine as that’s exactly scale of Terrain I’m Looking for and the Values Vary) and was previously knowledgeable about Terragen 2 and Vue, and have begun researching and using the basic WM version and preparing to get the Standard Edition to use as I will be creating content for Unreal Tournament and my own future game releases, there’s not as many video tutorials as I’d like to see but the ones that are out cover alot of important aspects of the program’s basics that simplifies things.

    There’s some issues for instance, lines not showing until I finalize a shape and performance issues when adjusting Layout shape sliders which slows down which I don’t know if exists in the Standard Edition, it only happens in Layout when dealing with shapes.

    I’ve been getting ready to purchase the product, if not within hours, a day or so, or a month, the current price of $99 at the moment feels right for this Terrain Generator, half that price would be just as fine though, after looking at the features it seems the pro version covers features I wish was in the Standard Version, resolutions I use commonly are 1K, 2K and 4K, normally 2K and 4K the most, the higher resolution and support for quad core etc…, is great for editing while maintaining clarity. Due to the price though I’ll stick to the Standard Version, I need the commercial license.

    I’m just now hearing about the World Machine 3.

    If it’s true that World Machine 3 is already available in Beta form and I purchase soon World Machine Standard Version that I will be able to download latest version and any updates for atleast a period of 1 year or for the major version and still be able to use latest version for my actual work for commercial development then I will be a very happy customer and feel like it’s setup how UE4 takes care of it’s customers and I will definitely recommend this product to others because there’s no reason not too at that point.

  6. Sounds good! More updates = more better! How will you deal with the 2 versions? same way with less cost to standard?

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