Subscriptions are coming

I’m a little ways into implementing payment flows for Shmeppy and I want to share my more-concrete plans with ya’ll.

As soon as I complete the dev work, I’m going to release it and Shmeppy will immediately require a subscription to create a new “GM” account (an account that can create and edit games with the full toolset).

All existing accounts will be considered GM accounts for a couple months (like November 1, 2020 is the cutoff I have in mind if I finish the dev work on the timeframe I think I will, though Jan 1 has a nice feel to it too :woman_shrugging:) after which they’ll be downgraded to a Player account unless the user subscribes.

Downgraded accounts will still be able to view and export maps they’ve created, but other players won’t be able to join the games and they won’t be able to edit the maps in Shmeppy.

Once I release the change I’ll send out an email with information about the cutoff and downgrading to all users who’ve accessed Shmeppy in the last two months, and I’ll make some in-product messaging to remind folks too (like a little banner or something).

This thread is still accurate and may have useful info if you haven’t seen it yet: What will Shmeppy eventually cost? What will that look like?

Is it still free? If so when will it not be free? I have been on hiatus from DMing during the school semester and want to run some Thanksgiving/Winter break games. I am willing to support shmeppy, I am just looking for an update on your subscription timeline.

It is still free. Subscriptions will arrive as soon as I’m done with development on adding subscriptions. It’s all I’m focused on at the moment, but my work time has been very irregular, so I can’t give an accurate estimate.

As it pertains to growing your userbase, I think allowing a trial period for new GM accounts would be extremely useful. I don’t think I would have tried Shmeppy at first if it required a subscription immediately. I was more than ready to pay once I realized how perfectly it fit my needs though. Good luck implementing!

Trial would be great. I found about Shmeppy yesterday (23.11) and I fall in love. It is so simple and so clear… Nearly perfect erase map. I showed it my friends and they were intrested - so I think free version would encourage some people to upgrade their Shmeppy account for additional featuers

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to give someone money. :grinning:

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Hey John!

Do you have an updated timeline on when we’re moving to paid subscriptions? I’m excited to support future development of this amazing tool.

Unfortunately no, I’m not able to estimate the amount of time until I’m done implementing subscriptions. I can share why though:

Why it’s very hard to estimate

It’s a tricky thing for me to estimate to begin with because I haven’t implemented an entire payment system before so it’s hard for me to get a good grasp of all the intricate details that’s required. I could come up with a halfway reasonable estimate despite that (which I attempted to do a couple time last year as I’ve shared) but this first part of the estimation process is always in terms of some “unit of work”.

To convert from this unit of work to an actual duration of time, I need to know how many units of work I normally get through each week.

Unfortunately the amount of work I get done each week has been wildly inconsistent for a pretty wide range of one-off and recurring reasons.

So I’ve got a challenging estimation problem to begin with on one side of the estimation process (figuring out the units of work required to complete the project) and then on the other side I’ve got a challenging conversion (figuring out how many weeks it will take to get through my pile of units).

Since there’s no particularly strong reason for me to keep attacking this unusually hard estimation problem, I’m not going to.

What’s left?

I can share, roughly, the actual work that’s ahead of me though if you’re interested. This is some seriously nitty-gritty details though (despite still being quite rough :sweat_smile:).

  1. I’m currently finishing up the resubscription flow. I’m a good chunk of the way through it right now, and it’s fairly similar to just subscribing for the first time with an existing Shmeppy Player account, so it’s really just a few tweaks within the scaffolding I’ve already set up.
  2. I’ll need to smash at the subscribe during registration (which is already implemented) followed by various unsubscribes/resubscribes on the account page to try and shake out bugs. This’ll involve manual testing and the account page subscription actions aren’t covered by automated testing well yet so I’ll do a bit of that as needed.
  3. I need to create a payment history page. I haven’t even started on that.
  4. I need to create the “your last payment failed, gimme a new card” flow and alerting. Pieces are in place to facilitate this but nothing user-facing yet.
  5. I’ve implemented automatic refunds on unsubscription if the user hasn’t received a refund before, but I need to expose the terms of that to users somehow. This’ll involve drafting a clear description of the policy and writing takes awhile. I’ll also need to find a place to put that writing and direct users to it. Fortunately the policy is pretty simple (you get a refund if you haven’t gotten one before)… so fingers crossed that this won’t actually take too long.
  6. I need to create a new read-only mode for a map that is owned by a previously-subscribed Player account. It needs to only be accessible by the owner. This’ll be pretty annoying to implement I’m sure because it’ll be a different mode that the toolbar will be in.

And then after all that is done (and all the things that I’ll realize I need to do as I do all these things) I’ll have an untested system that charges real money from real people. So I’ll probably deploy it to a test site like “paid.shmeppy.com” and then make a callout for beta testers who’re willing to pay for Shmeppy completely unnecessarily just so Shmeppy can fuck up somehow and I can fix it.

Alternatively I might test it in a less rigorous way initially and then just put it on the main site with a large “free initial period” where existing users have quite awhile before they need to actually subscribe. That way the number of paying subscribers should grow fairly slowly and I’ll be able to work out the bugs that way.

There’s advantages to both testing strategies. I’ll make an actual decision between them (or perhaps between even more options) when it’s time to actually do that.

Wow, thanks for sharing all of that information! Very transparent of you.

I have a (possibly stupid or already-answered) question, considering this - have you considered setting up a business Paypal account, or another similar service, and managing subscriptions through that? Would that eliminate enough work on your end to make their fees worthwhile?

Also, if you’re looking for a credit/debit card processing company, the business I work for uses Cocard.net. Their rates are super duper low and they have good services.

I’m not negotiating with individual card networks. The system I’m building uses Stripe to handle quite a lot of things, especially securely storing and transporting the sensitive payment info.

I think you might be imagining a sort-of OAuth-like flow where I send users to another site and there they manage all the payment stuff and only get sent back to Shmeppy when they’re done with that. Stripe has a solution like that I could’ve used for example. I could’ve even used Patreon for this effect. That would’ve indeed saved me a fair amount of time.

The choice was a hard one and there’s pros and cons to both.

I chose to integrate the payment management into Shmeppy instead. I’m still using quite a lot of iframes and Stripe does a lot, but I have to do things like make a Payment History page which Stripe could’ve just done for me with this alternate solution.

:woman_shrugging:

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