Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Games Entertainment

Why Do Games and Game Studios Fail? 389

Posted by chrisd
from the when-franchises-attack dept.
LukeG writes "This new article discusses the reason behind games and their developers failing, noting the distance of those selling the games, from those that buy them as one possible cause. Doomed games such as Bablylon 5 come under the spotlight, while the ubiquitous Duke Nukem Forever is also touched upon." For me, this article brought to mind the twin disasters of Fallout Tactics and the Farscape based game.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why Do Games and Game Studios Fail?

Comments Filter:
  • Games fail. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by packeteer (566398) <packeteerNO@SPAMsubdimension.com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:39PM (#4586052)
    When the programmers dont care. Too often people learn to program when what they really want to do is produce. Im not sure about commerical games but i know many times smaller games are messed up when everyone has i different idea or plan.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:49PM (#4586099)
      Too much product, not enough buyers. In addition, there's not enough playing time to play every freaking game available. It's as simple as that.
      • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:07PM (#4586158) Homepage
        That is also very astute. When one console game takes up to 80 hours to finish, just how many are most people going to play in a year?
        • by phorm (591458)
          That's not really such a problem. I'm much more likely to buy a string of really good RPG's in a year (were they to be PC-available) as opposed to 3-4+ shooters. There are only so many ways to blow somebody into kibbles, while an RPG with a good storyline is like a playable book. Cost is also a factor though, with big new titles coming in the >$60 range...

          Mind you, I am looking forward to doom3 and new kibbles, but that's probably not for a little while yet.
    • Re:Games fail. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991)
      Because the programmers, designers, and producers tend not to give a damn about treating game production as an art, and see it solely as a business.

      They're a bunch of lemmings who parrot each others work ad nauseam; all they seem to have produced over the past few years are RTSes and FPSes, with a smattering of other genres. One game becomes succesful, the rest of them start making exactly the same kind of game. Look how many WW2 FPSes have come out recently.
    • Its sometimes the publisher. They want to rush the game out to compete with other similar titles coming out around the same time. Then when the game fails the publisher blames the developer. Of course by then any and all support are gone and the devel team is disbanded. Thats why games fail.
    • Re:Games fail. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Seclusion (411646)
      At times I also think the problem is the programmers don't care. These days I'm getting quite put off by PC games because most of the time they seem like they get dumped into the market before they are finished. I'll use Alpha Centauri as an example of that. I assume the game did so poorly that they had to drop support for the one expansion pack(which is another cheap tactic these days) Then once out there, any features that don't directly affect pvp(player vs player) gets ignored. I'll use Starcraft as an example since I'm very familiar with it. The ai's still have a number of bugs. The zerg custom ai at times does nothing but mine. Also there's the situation where the zerg ai loses all it's over lords because it won't build more despite being able to. There's also the problem where if an ai loses a building, it usually won't build something else in that spot and thus running out of perceived space. The map editor is also a big problem, if you'ver never played any of the use map settings type maps, you'd see there were a lot of great features that map hacker programs were needed to implement. In fact, I'm some what surprised vivendi hasn't taken time to harass them like they did with bnetd. So for the time being, I've dropped my support for almost all pc based games.
      • AI and stuff. (Score:4, Informative)

        by 0x0d0a (568518) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @04:43AM (#4587323) Journal
        the programmers don't care

        I really don't think this is the case for most games (obviously, it is for a few).

        The problems you cite are mostly with the AI. The AI coder has to wait until most of the rest of the game is in place. He has to frequently be modifying the AI in parallel with people who are tweaking the game to provide play balance. He has the tightest schedule of any of the programmers, usually has a rather small amount of CPU time alotted him (at the AI point, profiling and optimization on other parts of the game are probably underway, or will be soon, so everyone just wants to get the graphics engine running at a steady clip).

        Another problem is that AI is very open ended. You can make incredible AI systems, and throw as much CPU time as you want at them. So you get programmers with grandiose ideas of what they're going to make. Then their time-to-work shrinks smaller and smaller, and they have to keep cutting their plan until they can just manage to squeak out their AI.

        I agree that game developers in the PC world put out their games too early. This is, however, partly fueled by the lemming-like behavior of users to the latest and greatest. Everyone always wants "new releases". I never understood that. By buying right away, they experience the full brunt of the bleeding edge -- bugginess, patches to worry about, having to pay ridiculous amounts of money for top-of-the-line hardware to run the game at a decent clip...I don't buy any game that's less than a year old. I get better prices, better stability, and don't have to throw insane amounts of money at my hardware.

        Just remember-- just because some developer puts a game out on the shelves and their publisher's marketing department is pimping it all over -- you don't have to buy it.

        I agree with you on the abusive and frusterating harassment Viviendi did of bnetd. That's just as frusterating as the DVD Consortium going after Linux DVD players and MS trying to stop the NTFS and CIFS support in Linux.
  • by thisisatest (120597) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:39PM (#4586053)
    But I think it can best be summed up with the following words:

    Because the games suck.
    • by D4Vr4nt (615027) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:46PM (#4586086) Homepage
      Oh yes.. New games do suck.

      Mainly because innovation has warming the bench, and the team is out there playing the same endless game. Bust some caps, click click death, whatever.

      The money is in the innovation . Make something totally new, and chances are it will be successful.

      I'm personally tired to death in blowing stuff up in the first person, I'd rather play solitaire.

      Tony Hawk Pro "Pogo Stick" :P
      • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:53PM (#4586116) Homepage
        In fact, there are many innovative games that aren't good, and some excellent games that aren't innovative.

        Some of the best films are great because of strong plots, excellent storytelling, and good cinematography, without breaking any new ground. Is there anything really innovative about Ang Lee? Steven Soderbergh? Not really, but they utilize existing techniques well, and know their craft.

        Same with games. It doesn't look like Doom III is going to break any new ground - just do a lot of things that were done before, better. But they are the *right* things - suspense, atmosphere, art.

        • Doom III (Score:3, Interesting)

          Since I am, much to Carmack's chagrin (ha ha), in possession of the Doom3 alpha leak, I can tell you this: the only thing that Doom III has going for it are the models -- with normal maps, they look fucking amazing -- and the real-time lighting on the worldmaps, a leap forward for rejecting built-in lightmaps.

          Even on a Radeon 9700, 20-40fps is the best you will get save for a few scenes which are the rendering equivalent of looking at the ground.

          The rest is just a blatant ripoff of Resident Evil with a bit of Half-Life thrown in.

          People buy games mostly out of brand loyalty, advertising, and especially, especially, especially HYPE.

          Serious Sam 2 still kills UT2k3 in gameplay, innovation, AND graphics, but no one will play a game made by some little guys called "Croteam."
          • Re:Doom III (Score:3, Funny)

            by ymgve (457563)
            Since I am, much to Carmack's chagrin (ha ha), in possession of the Doom3 alpha leak, I can tell you this: the only thing that Doom III has going for it are the models -- with normal maps, they look fucking amazing -- and the real-time lighting on the worldmaps, a leap forward for rejecting built-in lightmaps.

            Even on a Radeon 9700, 20-40fps is the best you will get save for a few scenes which are the rendering equivalent of looking at the ground.

            The rest is just a blatant ripoff of Resident Evil with a bit of Half-Life thrown in.


            Sooo...you're basing your opinion on how a game will be when it's finished on a never-to-be-released alpha build...
        • It doesn't look like Doom III is going to break any new ground

          This is par for the course for Carmack. He breaks technical ground. id doesn't break game design ground. Basically, the game is little more than the showcase for his new, latest game engine, which is then used to make actual games with by the modding and professional dev communities.
      • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:56PM (#4586311) Homepage
        The money is in the innovation . Make something totally new, and chances are it will be successful.

        The problem is the stuff that game companies have become convinced that the best route to a bestseller is to make it exactly like games that have been around for years. Yes, there are exceptions, but it's like Hollywood, where they figure with enough special effects they can really clean up, and making interesting movies is too big a gamble.

        Look how much trouble Sid Meier had getting EA to back the Sims.
        • by srmalloy (263556) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @10:28PM (#4586418) Homepage
          The problem is the stuff that game companies have become convinced that the best route to a bestseller is to make it exactly like games that have been around for years. Yes, there are exceptions, but it's like Hollywood, where they figure with enough special effects they can really clean up, and making interesting movies is too big a gamble.

          Add this to the fact that modern business management theory, for long-term planning, doesn't project out more than two years. If a project takes longer than that to turn a profit, it's not viable. So you wind up seeing one of two things happening -- either the company will license a rendering engine from another company, and use that to produce another derivative-looking game, as you describe, or they'll get about 60% through the game development before the suits realize that it's not going to be on the shelves in two years, and either panic and force the programmers to switch over to a rendering engine licensed from another company (reducing the game to the previous response, but delayed a year and a half when the programmers have to start over), or start a massive fingerpointing campaign to assign responsibility/blame for the fact that the programmers' projection of three years was accurate.

          Multiply this by several games, for a large game company, or have the people funding a small game company get antsy about throwing more money on the fire, and you wind up with a company in financial trouble that can be acquired relatively cheaply by another game company -- who will look at the games under development, see that they're going to have to have more money thrown at them for a year or more to pay off, and cancel them because they can't immediately serve as a source of revenue to pay off on the acquisition.
        • You mixed up your legendary Game designers. :-)

          Will Wright started the Sim line, primarily focused on SimCity and "The Sims"

          Sid Meyer created the "True" Civilization line (Civ I, II, and III, Call To Power I&II were created by others before Sid could get the copyright back) During the copyright battle, he also created Alpha Centauri.
  • by Bonker (243350) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:40PM (#4586056)
    Look at the technology and effort that went into Daikatana.... without anybody ever playing the game to see if it was fun.
    • technology? (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Daikatana used the Quake 1 engine, and came out long after Q2 (and 3?)

      That was a case of a development company trying to behave like rockstars while they're supposed to be engineering software.
      • Re:technology? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:05PM (#4586155) Homepage
        Very few of the criticisms of the game I've heard had anything to do with the game engine, as I recall. The criticisms I heard (just like I didn't need to see Water World, I felt I was ready to learn from other people's pain and never played it) were that the gameplay was tedious and uninspiring, the plot meandering and silly, and the game itself buggy.

        After all, what are two of the most popular and critically acclaimed games of the past 2 years? The Sims and GTA, neither of which could be said to be bleeding edge in terms of grapbics technology.

      • Re:technology? (Score:2, Informative)

        by i0chondriac (310892)
        That is not correct, daikatana used the quake 2 engine. But it did get pushed back until the quake 2 engine was obsolete.
    • Look at the technology and effort that went into Daikatana.... without anybody ever playing the game to see if it was fun.

      Ah, but that implies that there was actually *effort* put into it. Far more effort was made marketing the game than making the game...Suffice it to say that anyone who shelled out $50 on launch day for that game was certainly made John Romero's bitch.
    • The game was *average*. If it had come out on schedule, it would have been great, but it was delayed for a loooong time (Ion Storm had some severe internal problems). Daikatana's biggest problem, outside of the time that it took to get it out, was the volume of hype that it had accumulated. "John Romero's Going to Make You His Bitch" type stuff. And then when it came out, it didn't live up to what gamers were expecting.
  • by Robber Baron (112304) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:43PM (#4586068) Homepage
    Why Websites Fail. It appears to be slashdotted already.
  • Gameplay (Score:2, Interesting)

    by arcadum (528303)
    After all the eye candy losses its novelty gamers quickly realize that the game plays counterintuitivly, and or the story is vapid, and lacking any depth.
  • Page 1 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:43PM (#4586073)
    Why do games and their developers fail?

    All Images

    It is a cold hard fact that the games business is just that, a business. When push comes to shove if you aren't making money then the game is over. There are times, however, when I begin to wonder if the people with the money actually know what's going on. I remember buying a DVD when the technology was just breaking in the UK and finding one of those stupid marketing research pamphlets on the inside. Glancing over the questions one has always stuck in my mind. The question was to tick what was the primary reason for buying a particular film over another and among the list was 'the studio'. I couldn't, and still can't, understand how someone would think "Oh, that film was made by Warner Bros, it must be good, I'll get it." What made it memorable was that some marketing monkey boy must have believed that to be case. To me it showed a complete lack of understanding between the people releasing the DVD's and the people buying them. It has taken years of marketing research by the studios to realise that the kinds of people who like to buy DVD's want extra features about the making of the films and interviews with cast and crew. If they had just asked me at the start, or any other film fan, I could have saved them time and a whole lot of money. I guess I've only myself to blame as I never did send back the pamphlet. In the same regard I often wonder about the people in charge of which games get made, and which do not.

    Now, a lot of games companies don't succeed due to a number of reasons, but most fail because their games aren't particularly good. Corporate natural selection, as it were. There are two other types though, that make no sense to me. One kind that make or are potentially making great games, but still fade away. Then there is my favourite enigma, the kind of company that seem to be making a game that almost the entire gaming audience can see failing right out of the gate.

    Let me talk about the first kind as a sort of epitaph to the death of a good friend. The most recent example of this was the tragic demise of Appeal, the Belgian developer that had made Outcast. Outcast was a tremendous game in so many ways. Graphically it was unique thanks to the voxel technology they used so well. It had extremely sophisticated effects for the time, including software bump mapping, depth of field blurring and even some screen anti-aliasing. It's soundtrack was an auditory masterpiece thanks to the Moscow Symphonic Orchestra. The gameplay a brilliant mix of adventure and action. Yet despite critical praise, and reasonably good commercial success, somebody somewhere decided that the sequel would not be.

    In Appeal's case, one of the problems was the initial choice of using voxel technology. Whilst it gave the game a very organic landscape, the engine took a long time to develop. For the sequel they wanted to move to polygons and so it was a case of back to square one as they worked on a new engine. But from the screenshots that are still available on the website that sits like an eerie ghost town, it looked very advanced. By aiming for the Playstation 2 platform as well as PC it would have given them a more stable platform as well as a huge market. After all, more and more games are becoming more open and free form for the player. But what may have been a huge hit was cancelled so Cutter Slade, the saviour of Adelpha, is no more.

    Another company that went under despite critical praise was Looking Glass studios who developed System Shock 2, and the Thief series of games. In their case Eidos Interactive's decision was very strange as many of the employees were rehired by Ion Storm to work on, Thief 3. So evidently someone inside Eidos believes in the title.
    • Re:Page 2 (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Why do games and their developers fail?

      All Images

      The Wing Commander games were going from strength to strength, a home-grown property within the industry so no restrictive licensing was applicable. Each title met with critical and commercial success. Then Origin just stopped making them and the final serving of that brilliant universe was the spin-off movie that left a bitter taste. One can at least appreciate that the game series went out on a positive note.

      A game license that broke my heart when it was cancelled was the planned Babylon 5 game. It was in production during the height of the show's popularity. It was to be a space shooter with the unique ship handling that characterised the Star Fury's of the show. When the Star Wars games had been so successful why cancel this promising project? It's interesting to note that the great TV series suffered similar problems from the mysterious people in charge. J Michael Stratsynski was messed around as to whether the fifth series would be green lit. Thus the fourth series had the narrative crammed into it leaving the fifth with little to do, only truly reaching its high in the final episode "Sleeping in Light". Why was this series messed around with? Well, the powers that be wanted a spin-off series, too blind to see they were destroying the very thing they wanted to prolong. The spin off was an abysmal failure.

      There will of course be information that we are not privy to in each of these cases. Perhaps the games were vastly over-budget. The games cancelled mid-development may have been further from completion than I believed or were over ambitious in their scope and rather than scale back, cancelling was preferable. Or maybe it was simply personal or creative differences. For whatever reason I certainly would have loved to see the games come to fruition and I wonder what inner politics during development led to their downfall.

      Now we come to the second type of company and no matter how strange the first are, the second are even more curious. Their are a few examples that spring to mind in this category, from Eidos' impossible release schedule that destroyed the Tomb Raider series by not giving sufficient time for innovation, to the merciless march of the Army Men. Two prime examples stand out above all others, a lovely pair of double D's, Daikatana and Duke Nukem Forever.

      I want to make it clear that I am not out to vilify the companies or individuals responsible, far from it. I have the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who has the energy, enthusiasm and courage to go out and create a game and release it to the unforgiving public. For those of you not familiar with the story of Daikatana it was the brainchild of an id Software employee called John Romero. He left id to form Ion Storm alongside Tom Hall with grandiose ideas about big epic games, large teams, fantastic designs, plush offices and all the cokes you can drink. Back in the optimistic technology boom he got it.

      The game was being developed for the Quake engine, then when Quake 2 was released they decided to switch engines to keep Daikatana looking competitive. This was not an easy move. The team suffered personal and technical difficulties and was burning money rapidly. The game suffered lengthy delays and when released was a critical and commercial failure. Now Daikatana had some commendable design elements that just didn't quite work together.
      • Re:Page 2 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Trusty Penfold (615679) <jon_edwards@spanners4us.com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:47PM (#4586094) Journal
        Why do games and their developers fail?

        All Images

        How did this game ever reach the shelves though? In November 1998 the game was a year behind schedule and eight key team members, dubbed the "Ion Eight", walked out on the company. Surely that should have sent alarm bells ringing at Eidos that all was not well in the glass tower. I wouldn't advocate firing the personnel, instead why not take the talent and put them to work on other projects. After all, Ion Storm was also working on (in separate offices) Deus Ex and Anachronox. The fact that Daikatana was finished despite all the problems is a credit to John Romero's passion and drive for the project and I personally would like to see him return as a lead designer for PC games.

        Finally though let us talk a bit about one of the most long awaited games ever, Duke Nukem Forever. As the saying goes, he who does not understand history is doomed to repeat it. And Duke Nukem looks a lot like Daikatana from where I sit. It has suffered huge delays. It has an ambitious design, probably unrealisable. It has a following whose hopes are so high that it could not possibly meet the expectation. Evidence of this point can be seen looking over the forums at 3D Realms website where one blind worshipper believed that once released Duke Nukem might destroy the games industry by raising the standard beyond everyone else. Has this fool been living in a dream world, has he not played some of the amazing games that have come out in the five years that Duke has been in development? Ironically 3D Realms made the decision way back in 1998 to switch to the Unreal engine to save time! How many other Unreal-powered games have been released since then?

        I'm going to go further than 3D Realms are prepared to, and make an educated guess that it will be out by the end of the second quarter of 2003 or it will never see the light of day at all. How have I reached this conclusion? Well, given that the 3D Realms website contains no new information for that past two years about the game (and the movie/screenshots no longer cut the mustard) I base it on two premises. One, if it was going to be released for this Christmas we would have heard something, anything, about it by now. Two, if it is not out by the end of the second quarter 2003 then Doom 3 will be all too nigh on the horizon. And if the brief history of computer games has told us one thing it's that nobody can beat John Carmack on his own turf.

        I would like to believe that Duke Nukem Forever, or the next Tomb Raider, will be great. That they'll make me eat my words. But when these games come out, all I'll be able to think about is how great Outcast 2 or Babylon 5 might have been. I suppose I have the better of the two worlds in this instance. In mine I can pretend that Outcast 2 was a monumental epic game that rivalled all before it. In Duke's, the game as always, will have the final say and all the hype and expectation will only add salt to the wound.

        Now I've had my say, I'd like to hear your thoughts. What do you think of those pulling the strings in the games industry, are they making the right choices and the right games? What about Duke Nukem Forever, a destined failure, or potential ground-breaker 3D Realms suggest. Use the comments form below to vocalise and discuss.
    • Re:Page 1 (Score:5, Informative)

      by LordZardoz (155141) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:13PM (#4586179)
      Having programmed professionally on the PlayStation2's hardware, I can tell you one thing right now. Attempting to make a Voxel Engine run well on a Playstation2 is like using a hammer to drive a screw.

      The Playstation2 hardware is designed much differently then a PC game is. It has an ungodly amount of memory bandwidth, and very little VRAM. It cannot store much in the way of textures, or models. What it can do is draw huge amounts of polygons quickly. Its rendering hardware uses a Depth Buffer, and it can take huge amounts polygons and render them correclty to that depth buffer very quickly.

      Voxels are essentially 3d pixels. While the PS2 can be made to render objects using that technique, it cannot take advantage of its specialized hardware when doing so. PC's tend to be more flexible, but since GeForce type cards are becomming the standard, if your using OpenGL or DirectX to do your rendering, then you cannot take advantage of your video card to draw yoru polygons.

      END COMMUNICATION
  • by thisisatest (120597) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:44PM (#4586079)
    This is about a minute and a half after the story was posted, mind you.

    The page cannot be displayed
    There are too many people accessing the Web site at this time.

    Please try the following:

    • Click the Refresh button, or try again later.
    • Open the www.ferrago.co.uk [ferrago.co.uk] home page, and then look for links to the information you want.

    HTTP 403.9 - Access Forbidden: Too many users are connected
    Internet Information Services

    Technical Information (for support personnel)

    • Background:
      This error can occur if the Web server is busy and cannot process your request due to heavy traffic.
    • More information:
      Microsoft Support [microsoft.com]
  • slashdotting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:47PM (#4586090)
    Why do games and their developers fail?

    It is a cold hard fact that the games business is just that, a business. When push comes to shove if you aren't making money then the game is over. There are times, however, when I begin to wonder if the people with the money actually know what's going on. I remember buying a DVD when the technology was just breaking in the UK and finding one of those stupid marketing research pamphlets on the inside. Glancing over the questions one has always stuck in my mind. The question was to tick what was the primary reason for buying a particular film over another and among the list was 'the studio'. I couldn't, and still can't, understand how someone would think "Oh, that film was made by Warner Bros, it must be good, I'll get it." What made it memorable was that some marketing monkey boy must have believed that to be case. To me it showed a complete lack of understanding between the people releasing the DVD's and the people buying them. It has taken years of marketing research by the studios to realise that the kinds of people who like to buy DVD's want extra features about the making of the films and interviews with cast and crew. If they had just asked me at the start, or any other film fan, I could have saved them time and a whole lot of money. I guess I've only myself to blame as I never did send back the pamphlet. In the same regard I often wonder about the people in charge of which games get made, and which do not.

    Now, a lot of games companies don't succeed due to a number of reasons, but most fail because their games aren't particularly good. Corporate natural selection, as it were. There are two other types though, that make no sense to me. One kind that make or are potentially making great games, but still fade away. Then there is my favourite enigma, the kind of company that seem to be making a game that almost the entire gaming audience can see failing right out of the gate.

    Let me talk about the first kind as a sort of epitaph to the death of a good friend. The most recent example of this was the tragic demise of Appeal, the Belgian developer that had made Outcast. Outcast was a tremendous game in so many ways. Graphically it was unique thanks to the voxel technology they used so well. It had extremely sophisticated effects for the time, including software bump mapping, depth of field blurring and even some screen anti-aliasing. It's soundtrack was an auditory masterpiece thanks to the Moscow Symphonic Orchestra. The gameplay a brilliant mix of adventure and action. Yet despite critical praise, and reasonably good commercial success, somebody somewhere decided that the sequel would not be.

    In Appeal's case, one of the problems was the initial choice of using voxel technology. Whilst it gave the game a very organic landscape, the engine took a long time to develop. For the sequel they wanted to move to polygons and so it was a case of back to square one as they worked on a new engine. But from the screenshots that are still available on the website that sits like an eerie ghost town, it looked very advanced. By aiming for the Playstation 2 platform as well as PC it would have given them a more stable platform as well as a huge market. After all, more and more games are becoming more open and free form for the player. But what may have been a huge hit was cancelled so Cutter Slade, the saviour of Adelpha, is no more.

    Another company that went under despite critical praise was Looking Glass studios who developed System Shock 2, and the Thief series of games. In their case Eidos Interactive's decision was very strange as many of the employees were rehired by Ion Storm to work on, Thief 3. So evidently someone inside Eidos believes in the title.

    The Wing Commander games were going from strength to strength, a home-grown property within the industry so no restrictive licensing was applicable. Each title met with critical and commercial success. Then Origin just stopped making them and the final serving of that brilliant universe was the spin-off movie that left a bitter taste. One can at least appreciate that the game series went out on a positive note.

    A game license that broke my heart when it was cancelled was the planned Babylon 5 game. It was in production during the height of the show's popularity. It was to be a space shooter with the unique ship handling that characterised the Star Fury's of the show. When the Star Wars games had been so successful why cancel this promising project? It's interesting to note that the great TV series suffered similar problems from the mysterious people in charge. J Michael Stratsynski was messed around as to whether the fifth series would be green lit. Thus the fourth series had the narrative crammed into it leaving the fifth with little to do, only truly reaching its high in the final episode "Sleeping in Light". Why was this series messed around with? Well, the powers that be wanted a spin-off series, too blind to see they were destroying the very thing they wanted to prolong. The spin off was an abysmal failure.

    There will of course be information that we are not privy to in each of these cases. Perhaps the games were vastly over-budget. The games cancelled mid-development may have been further from completion than I believed or were over ambitious in their scope and rather than scale back, cancelling was preferable. Or maybe it was simply personal or creative differences. For whatever reason I certainly would have loved to see the games come to fruition and I wonder what inner politics during development led to their downfall.

    Now we come to the second type of company and no matter how strange the first are, the second are even more curious. Their are a few examples that spring to mind in this category, from Eidos' impossible release schedule that destroyed the Tomb Raider series by not giving sufficient time for innovation, to the merciless march of the Army Men. Two prime examples stand out above all others, a lovely pair of double D's, Daikatana and Duke Nukem Forever.

    I want to make it clear that I am not out to vilify the companies or individuals responsible, far from it. I have the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who has the energy, enthusiasm and courage to go out and create a game and release it to the unforgiving public. For those of you not familiar with the story of Daikatana it was the brainchild of an id Software employee called John Romero. He left id to form Ion Storm alongside Tom Hall with grandiose ideas about big epic games, large teams, fantastic designs, plush offices and all the cokes you can drink. Back in the optimistic technology boom he got it.

    The game was being developed for the Quake engine, then when Quake 2 was released they decided to switch engines to keep Daikatana looking competitive. This was not an easy move. The team suffered personal and technical difficulties and was burning money rapidly. The game suffered lengthy delays and when released was a critical and commercial failure. Now Daikatana had some commendable design elements that just didn't quite work together.

    How did this game ever reach the shelves though? In November 1998 the game was a year behind schedule and eight key team members, dubbed the "Ion Eight", walked out on the company. Surely that should have sent alarm bells ringing at Eidos that all was not well in the glass tower. I wouldn't advocate firing the personnel, instead why not take the talent and put them to work on other projects. After all, Ion Storm was also working on (in separate offices) Deus Ex and Anachronox. The fact that Daikatana was finished despite all the problems is a credit to John Romero's passion and drive for the project and I personally would like to see him return as a lead designer for PC games.

    Finally though let us talk a bit about one of the most long awaited games ever, Duke Nukem Forever. As the saying goes, he who does not understand history is doomed to repeat it. And Duke Nukem looks a lot like Daikatana from where I sit. It has suffered huge delays. It has an ambitious design, probably unrealisable. It has a following whose hopes are so high that it could not possibly meet the expectation. Evidence of this point can be seen looking over the forums at 3D Realms website where one blind worshipper believed that once released Duke Nukem might destroy the games industry by raising the standard beyond everyone else. Has this fool been living in a dream world, has he not played some of the amazing games that have come out in the five years that Duke has been in development? Ironically 3D Realms made the decision way back in 1998 to switch to the Unreal engine to save time! How many other Unreal-powered games have been released since then?

    I'm going to go further than 3D Realms are prepared to, and make an educated guess that it will be out by the end of the second quarter of 2003 or it will never see the light of day at all. How have I reached this conclusion? Well, given that the 3D Realms website contains no new information for that past two years about the game (and the movie/screenshots no longer cut the mustard) I base it on two premises. One, if it was going to be released for this Christmas we would have heard something, anything, about it by now. Two, if it is not out by the end of the second quarter 2003 then Doom 3 will be all too nigh on the horizon. And if the brief history of computer games has told us one thing it's that nobody can beat John Carmack on his own turf.

    I would like to believe that Duke Nukem Forever, or the next Tomb Raider, will be great. That they'll make me eat my words. But when these games come out, all I'll be able to think about is how great Outcast 2 or Babylon 5 might have been. I suppose I have the better of the two worlds in this instance. In mine I can pretend that Outcast 2 was a monumental epic game that rivalled all before it. In Duke's, the game as always, will have the final say and all the hype and expectation will only add salt to the wound.

    Now I've had my say, I'd like to hear your thoughts. What do you think of those pulling the strings in the games industry, are they making the right choices and the right games? What about Duke Nukem Forever, a destined failure, or potential ground-breaker 3D Realms suggest. Use the comments form below to vocalise and discuss.

    By Richard Clifford

    • Re:slashdotting (Score:3, Informative)

      Why was this series messed around with? Well, the powers that be wanted a spin-off series, too blind to see they were destroying the very thing they wanted to prolong. The spin off was an abysmal failure.

      Close.

      Warner Bros. sent strong hints about cancelling B5 after its fourth season, so JMS basically packed much of the 5th-season storyline into the final half of the 4th season. WB did, in fact, drop the series, but TNT picked it up, and even ponied up money for some TV movies that ranged from good to wastes of film.

      Your statement is, however, accurate in relation to the Crusade spinoff. TNT demanded more sex and violence along with new opening episodes, ordered a costume change, after five episodes were already in the can, JMS resisted, and eventually Turner cancelled the series after seriously screwing with the continuity.

      Everything up to "Racing the Night" was TNT-demanded, then the next five were the original episodes. There's a definite difference in the CGI quality, as well. The CGI in the TNT-ordered episodes have a very rushed look, and the jumpgate graphics in the original five are the same as the jumpgate in "A Call to Arms"; the TNT episodes have the old jumpgate effect.
  • Repetition (Score:2, Insightful)

    Can't read the article since it appears to be already slashdotted, but...

    Most games that manage to finally get published are rehashes of already popular games, and often just a quick game version of something already popular in another medium already (tv, movies, books, etc.). For one of those to succeed, it has to *really* be well put together, with great art and marketing (like, say, Spiderman). It's surprising when a game like that doesn't fail. Hopefully the article spends more time discussing the whys and wherefores of games that aren't going to have an obviously high chance of failing (Black and White, say).
  • or this was posted earlier today, pulled and reposted.

    If you remember this too, let me know. I wouldn't want to be the only one caught in a paradox of time and space.
  • by SensitiveMale (155605) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:51PM (#4586108)
    then I wouldn't call that a failure.
  • Ubiquitous? (Score:5, Funny)

    by meringuoid (568297) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:56PM (#4586125)
    the ubiquitous Duke Nukem Forever is also touched upon... This is the first time I've heard of something that doesn't exist yet, and that probably never will, being ubiquitous.
    • by Alea (122080) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @01:49AM (#4586957)
      >> the ubiquitous Duke Nukem Forever is also touched upon...
      >This is the first time I've heard of something that doesn't exist yet, and that probably never will, being ubiquitous.


      Hmmm... God?

      (Atheist humour... I'll probably be modded into hell itself...)
  • by the_other_one (178565) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:56PM (#4586128) Homepage

    is to add more frogs.

  • by nsafreak (523874) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:58PM (#4586132)
    It's because of the upper management that keeps trying to get a product out the door as soon as possible. Doesn't matter if the game is bug ridden, plenty examples of this, or has other issues that need to be fixed first. The folks at the top and the investors want to get their money as soon as possible. Problem is that it's pretty tough to produce a decent game (believe it or not) within one year most of the time. An example of a gaming company doing the right thing is Blizzard Entertainment. The folks that own them right now (Havas Interactive I believe) understand that Blizzard knows what it's doing. So when Blizzard says the game is not ready to ship yet they adjust their schedule accordingly. Blizzard will not ship a game until it is done, even if they could make more money by releasing it earlier. Sure their games have a few minor bugs, but I can't remember any major ones in them. And can you name one title that was a flop for them? Because I sure as heck can not. More game publishers should follow Blizzard's example. To quote an article from PC Gamer on Blizzard's 10th anniversary Blizzard's strategy is this, "The game comes first". Why more game publishers have not adopted this approach after the large amount of success that Blizzard has seen may never be known.
  • by JanusFury (452699) <kevin.gadd@gmail. c o m> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:59PM (#4586134) Homepage Journal
    My guess is games and game studios fail because of something us in the industry call 'sucking'. This is a very hard to describe phenomenon, and can be caused by a number of factors. One common factor is the 'movie tie-in' in which a game is based on a (usually crappy) movie and thrown together in about 6 months. Examples of games which exhibit 'sucking' include:
    "Daikatana"
    "Blood 2"
    "Disney's Lilo And Stitch Interactive Pop-Up Book" (or whatever the heck they call the tie-in for that movie)
    "CowboyNeal, Space Crusader"

    We here at the Fullashita University Interactive Media Department have devoted years of time and careful study to this phenomenon. We are currently in the process of developing 'anti-sucking' technology, based on a scientific phenomenon we call 'Gameplay'. This 'Gameplay' has proved to be extremely useful in protecting against 'sucking' in most of our tests.

    - Kevin Gadd, Head Researcher, Fullashita University Interactive Media Department
  • by hype7 (239530) <u3295110.anu@edu@au> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @08:59PM (#4586136) Journal
    The thing is, there are some absolutely brilliant games out there, that nobody ever hears about.

    I remember the Journeyman Project II - I got number II as a birthday present - and I swear, it was the best game I ever played (along with Marathon... but that's another story :). There was plot, humour, intelligence, and it took you back in time to interesting places. It was hard to finish. And you couldn't just look up on the net for cheats.

    I was filled with the most enormous sense of satisfaction when I completed that game.

    Then, I hear the news about a month ago that Presto Studios, the makers of the game, have just shut down. A real shame. I for one will remember and appreciate their work, if only on that game.

    -- james
    • One of the funnies games I ever layed was called "Eric the Unready". I laughed my ass of while trying to solve some pretty hard puzzels. Yet I can not find anybody else that has played it....
      • One of the funnies games I ever layed was called "Eric the Unready". I laughed my ass of while trying to solve some pretty hard puzzels. Yet I can not find anybody else that has played it....


        Well, I definitely enjoyed the JP II, but I wouldn've gone so far as to sleep with it... :P

        Seriously, I know what you mean. There are these brilliant games out there, and I guess other than pot luck or lots of good reviews, it relies purely on marketing muscle or a good reputation.

        It's a shame, because we all miss out as a result.

        -- james
  • 1)Money

    2)Money

    3)Money
  • by geek (5680) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:03PM (#4586148) Homepage
    As in build a better mouse trap.

    The release now patch later philosophy obviously doesn't work. Couple that with the extreme arrogance of some of the prima donna game makers and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

    Marketing pushes these games so hard, nothing could live up to the hype. Why announce a game 4 years before release? Why announce it 6 months before release?

    I'm not the biggest fan of Blizzard but at least they have cool beta programs and test their products. I can't count how many games I've bought over the years and had to toss in the trash because they were so bad (SIN comes to mind).

    In the end it's developers such as Epic, Id and Blizzard who survive because they actually care about what they are releasing.

    It's gotten to the point where I don't buy games until six months or so after the release when the first 3-4 patches have come out and I can read the reviews to see how bad it sucks.
    • Have you played any recent Blizzard games? Diablo 2 comes to mind. That was a release now, patch immediately, patch some more, and patch a few more times just for good measure. Half of the "bugs" fixed in their patches were gameplay tweaks.

      1)Release Game.
      2)Release Patch.
      3a) through 3n) Release Patch.
      4) Profit!

  • Pac-Man anybody? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CatWrangler (622292)
    How many days of play did most of us get out of that game. Well, those of us that are old enough anyways.

    I have bought $50 games on 6 CD's that have bored me to tears after a few hours. I often find myself playing real.com games like diamond mine and alchemy as opposed to the latest greatest bloatware on the shelves.

    Perhaps if a company would attempt to actually make the game enjoyable as opposed to just pretty, the industry would be doing better.

  • by MantiX (64230) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:03PM (#4586150)
    Games are just another market like many others, be it retail, anything. In order to sell, you have to have a couple of key components:

    1. What it is your selling must be quality. If its a software game, people must believe that besides the graphic illustrious factor, the game is quality to play. Take the recent release of Battle Field 1942. Theres a game I have seen crash more people's pc's than most.

    2. Attention to Multiplay. Developers out there are, and I can't quite understand this because its so BLOODY OBVIOUS, are continuing to develop games in single player, when it can be easily seen there should be a multi player aspect. Need for Speed hot Pursuit 2 on the Playstation 2 recently released, won't support online play, but the PC version does. If you want a game to succeed, MAKE IT MULTIPLAYER, at least then you can play humans.

    2a. Now on the server side, one can learn a great deal from id here. Make it so the server binary is freely available, and can run easily on windows and unix platforms. The fact that quake3 and its off shoots are STILL going from (how long ago was it released?!?) demonstrates that this can definately be a factor.

    3. Pride. Gamedevelopers: Stop projecting your point of view as if you thought it was the entire communities. It seems to be, that you are developing without listening to the community. There are certainly some development houses that are releasing beta previews etc...and this is a great idea, however make feedback interactive, get people INVOLVED in this, not just, send email here, we MIGHT look through it. Set up websites, with multiple answer radio buttons, so users who aren't terribly fantastic at communicating these things, can simply fill it out. You will retain a lot of players this way.

    4. PRICE. Here in Australia, we pay up to $100 AU for a game. Work from the point of view that our average salaries might be the same in terms of figures to those in the US, now work with the fact you get 2 of our dollars to your 1. This is DEFINATELY a factor in Australia, I am not so sure about the US.

    5. Poor programming. Some games I see developed, look visually stunning, but the attention has clearly been focused on 3dsmax side of things, rather than the actual coding. The responsiveness of an action game can sometimes be classed as worse than a dogs breakfast. Developers, CONSULT PEOPLE, I wonder how many games get released because the boss pushed the developers to get it out, and no one asked public gaming people to have a look at it. Now it fails, developers get fired...etc...

    What do YOU think?
    • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:28PM (#4586237) Homepage Journal
      The sheer size of some modern games is part of the problem; I've been playing Morrowind [morrowind.com] since it was released and its an amazing game, but its _huge_, and I can't imagine that they managed to play-test the entire game (given that its an open-ended, self-directed game). As a result there are a few plot bugs or glitches here and there (most of which are either fixed now in patches or are patched by community add-ons) and it seems that the area you start the game in is much more well refined than those you meet later on (since you're already hooked by then).

      However, its major redeeming features include _having a story_, _being self-directed_ (the player can do whatever the player likes, even if its detrimental to the game / plot, althoug the game notifies you of this) and comes with the tools used to create the game in terms of placing objects and scripting the NPCs so the user can easily tweak / change / edit / make new features for the game.
    • by leshert (40509) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:50PM (#4586297) Homepage
      I disagree with #2. A game doesn't have to have a multiplayer component to be successful. Recent examples include The Sims, Deus Ex, Tropico, and Railroad Tycoon II (which has multiplayer, but it's practically a different game).

      I would agree, though, that you have to decide up front whether you're making a multiplayer game or not. Some games (Deus Ex, Tropico) just don't lend themselves to being multiplayer games. That's OK--just done try to pound a single-player game into a multiplayer hole. Your reviews and sales will suffer badly.
    • by Eccles (932) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @10:49PM (#4586485) Journal
      Developers, CONSULT PEOPLE.

      As a former game developer, I'll point out what should be obvious: the developers are rarely making the decisions. Ain't up to us to arrange to consult people, that's up to the people writing the checks. And they're the ones who tell us to stop coding so they can release the package, even when we really want to fix that last bug, or improve that section.
      • by Tim Browse (9263) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @11:24PM (#4586601)

        As another game developer, I'd like to second that. I'd mod it up if I had any mod points :)

        Clueless comments in this story like "games fail because the programmers/artists/designers just don't care" just make me grind my teeth in frustration, especially when I usually come up against lots of other people in the industry who are the ones who really don't care [guyswithtowels.com].

        Sure, it's sometimes the case, but it's pretty damn rare. Games developers are well known for working long hours. If they didn't care, I don't think they'd bother with that. If you think they get paid overtime, dream on.

        Tim

      • Games are not the only type of software for which this is true. Unless you're dealing with a very very small software company, chances are that you have:
        * A code development team
        * Artists
        * application designers
        * Project managers
        * Executive staff

        I would say that the application designers are in charge of figuring out how the program is supposed to work; artists are in charge of providing graphical work and models; coders are in charge of implementing the vision presented by the designers; and the project managers and executive staff are there to keep everything flowing nicely within the big picture. There's more people invovled usually (QA teams, for example), but let's keep it simple.

        If you wanted to hold someone responsible for making bad software, I would divide responsibility pretty evenly between the executive staff and the application designers. Coders write code, and should be responsible for as much but not more. And it doesn't matter whether they make games, spreadsheet programs, or database systems. Games are basically another type of application, so this would be true for games as well.

        If they make shitty code and the program crashes all the time, that's a coder issue. If the software isn't exactly useful or interesting, don't blame the coder. Blame the designer, and blame his bosses for letting shit end up on the store shelf.

        Oh - I haven't bought a game in 3 years. Nothing out there that I like at all. Sad, really. I stick to Freecell.
    • Re: #2

      On the exact opposite of the coin, fucking developers keep de-emphazing single player mode for multi-player and online modes that I could care less about. I don't do online games. I don't do multiplayer. PERIOD. Sure I am the minority of the market, but a rather big one (would say ~30% judging on the gamers I have known over the years). Before you object, think of all the games you play single player and enjoy ... would you prefer Metal Gear Solid 2 or GTA multiplayer online..hell no. You want the story and play of single player.

      More and more developers are making shoddy stories and short campaigns for single player mode expecting you to want to go online or play against of people even though plenty of us don't want this.

      The problem with games and a reason they are failing is that they are ignoring large minorities that will actually purchase the game. There is still a market for turn based and single player games. Sure these markets won't take you to top 10 selling list, but you will still turn a profit.
  • Since its an IIS server and it clearly can't handle Slashdot, could someone post the content here?
  • by updog (608318)
    Glancing over the questions one has always stuck in my mind. The question was to tick what was the primary reason for buying a particular film over another and among the list was 'the studio'. I couldn't, and still can't, understand how someone would think "Oh, that film was made by Warner Bros, it must be good, I'll get it." What made it memorable was that some marketing monkey boy must have believed that to be case.

    While I thought that this article was fairly nteresting, this conclusion bothers me. Did the author ever think about the possibility that the question was put on the survey with the intention of validating the accuracy of the survey? You need to put some bullshit questions on a survey to test if people are blindly checking off boxes, or are really answering truthfully and thoughtfully...

  • Business decisions (Score:4, Informative)

    by Paul Komarek (794) <komarek.paul@gmail.com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:10PM (#4586167) Homepage
    Every comment I've read yet examines the game design and execution to determine why games fail. I expect that this is only 50% of the story. I believe the other half comes from the publication structure in the game industry.

    I am told it is hugely impractical for a (regular?) game compnay to finance its own games. This is partly because of the crazy amounts of Hollywood-style glitz and polishing that the market pays for these days. The result is that game companies get "loans" from game publishers like Activision or Electronic Arts to complete the games.

    At this point, the publisher is more-or-less in control. The publisher can cancel the game or change its budget. If the game is released, the game company has to pay back the publisher. Part of the deal assigns some portion of the game copmany's royalties to publisher. In the end, the game company can have a very successful product but barely break even (remind anyone of recorded music publication, or book publication?).

    And that previous paragraph described a "good" situation. Imagine that the game company has crappy management and doesn't handle the narrow margins well; that the publisher decides to cancel the project; that the publisher goes bankrupt; that the publisher doesn't effectively market the game. I'm sure there are many more bad scenarios than good.

    -Paul Komarek
  • Well, somebody got through. The sixth reply to the article over on their site is this:
    Slashdot (02/11/2002 18:57:41) Reply, Report
    Your website, needs more bandwidth. it can't handle traffic from slashdot

    How kind of someone to take the time to tell them that...
  • Unfortunately, the very issue (corporate involvement) that seems to allow games to either become more complex or develop a better story/technology often end up screwing the whole system up. One only has to look at the history of Bungie. The had some great technology, fantastic story lines and overall killer applications. They had two programs in the works, Oni and Halo when Microsoft came calling. Once Microsoft bought them out and assimilated Bungie, Oni became a shadow of what it once was to focus all efforts on getting Halo out of the box. Halo also became more diluted in concept to fit in with the console paradigm Microsoft purchased them for (The X-Box). Additionally, Microsoft cancelled all development for the Macintosh and Linux at the time and only recently has Westlake Interactive Westlake Interactive [westlakeinteractive.com]started porting Halo, originally intended for the Macintosh to the Mac platform. Westlake by the way is an impressive little operation that has been bringing the best games to the Macintosh market for years now.

    I personally prefer to find the smaller game development guys who write quality stuff and provide them with my $$'s. Guys like Jesse Spears who is providing the world of naval simulation with Harpoon Harpoon3 [harpoon3.com] Westlake also deserves many kudos for their dedication and quality of work.

  • by Flamesplash (469287) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:21PM (#4586202) Homepage Journal
    I think one problem with current games is that their story lines are just lame. For some reason in my experience making a game for the computer is much different than a console. For a console having a simple side scroller where you just have to make it past the baddies and to the end is okay, but on a computer it is not.

    One reason is probably that a key board interface is much worse than a game pad and proportionatly very few computer game players own game pads. So on a computer game you have to have some type of good/unique interface, but that alone is not enough, you have to have an actually genuine story line. I would even go as far as to say that for most games you could put more necessity into the story than the graphics. It's the whole book vs. movie idea. The mind can make much more vivid images than a screen if given a good story. This is one reason that I think the Myst line made out so well. The interface was Ok at best compared to a lot of other games, but the visuals and the story really did suck you in. It really did become your world as the game tag line went.

    I'm not saying that this goes for all games but it _definetly helps_. For instance First person shooters don't really require a plot, ie. Doom, or even much of an intracate one, i.e. Half Life. But a really nice one that has everything the other games has will do better. Marathon was this. It was an amazing game and I think one of the few reasions it didn't catch on quite as well as say doom is that it started out on the Mac.

    It's like a really good movie. It isn't all flashy and smooth graphics, it's the good story along with all that.

    Just my thoughts. :)
  • And I mean REALLY bad movies. Movies so bad, they never made it to the theatre, despite their multi-million dollar price tag. Movies that went straight to video instead...

    I guess it boils down to concept/script, and execution/production. If the concept sucks, it doesn't matter how nice looking it is, and if the execution falls through, it isn't worth even trying.

    Lesson: producers are eternal optimists (and damn bandits to boot.) Before the hyped-up, money laden days of the dot comers, movie producers (and game producers by extension) had the shady accounting, super hype, sell the idea (instead of the product), raise and spend some else's money thing down pat. That they rise and fall on almost a daily basis shouldn't surprise anyone.
  • Blame the people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nobley (598336) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:22PM (#4586212) Journal
    Games fail because the game buying public have failed,.. What people have supported with their $$$ over the years has led the game designers to have to put their investment into the flashy graphics using the latest 3D cards and such before gameplay and origionality,.. Before the age when 3D cards were the mainstay we get things like Star Control 2, Quest for Glory, Civilization and the likes,.. New and origional concepts were coming out all the time, granted you can do only so much new stuff it does not seem so much the trend these days,.. as for 3D over gameplay, look at what happened to Star Control 3, it was an absolubte joke, #2 is still playable now, #3 wasnt even fun when it first game out.
  • by Sivar (316343) <charlesnburns[@NOSpAM.]gmail.com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:24PM (#4586219)
    Now there's a game that lives up to its name.
  • Worst game ever (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SkulkCU (137480) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:25PM (#4586222) Homepage Journal

    In my opinion, the most disasterous game ever is still E.T. [snopes.com]
  • 4 words (Score:3, Funny)

    by legLess (127550) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:26PM (#4586228) Journal
    "John Romero's Shampoo Budget"
  • by The Optimizer (14168) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:28PM (#4586238)
    All the /.'ed article does is ask the question "Why do game studios fail?" and muse about possible reasons for a few specific games. The author's musings are those of an outsider and don't really provide any insight.

    I make this assessment as an Industry Insider and someone who helped build a very successful Game Studio from almost nothing, and has insider information on some the companies and games he muses about. /plug For those wanting references, just check my link, or know that I programmed significant portions of all of the Age of Empires games, and my latest game, Age of Mythology, just hit stores this weekend. I've also spoken many times at industry conferences, written numerous articles, and had my writings on multiplayer cheating subject me to the slashdot effect on multiple occasions. Along the way, I've gotten to know many, many people in this business and see how a lot of different companies operate. /end plug

    What that said to establish my knowledge, know that I would love to write my own version of the question with a detailed look at what I consider to be the real answers. However, that would take weeks and result in about a 20,000 word novella.

    That said, there are a few big themes that loom over the industry that I can summarize. (This is not a complete list)

    1) Production Values and feature demands for an "AAA" title in 2002. In a word: HUGE Moore's Law applies here too.
    2) The large number of titles (PC and consoles) released that compete for the player's dollars and attention.
    3) The cost of development. Because of #1 and #2, you get pressure to out-do your competition. This leads to #4
    4) A "Tiering effect" of PC games (and console games). You have the "best" titles taking home the lion's share of the money, shelf space, review space, and mindshare. The majority of titles can't make money at the top level of production values leading to #5
    5) A substantial (majority?) of game projects don't make back the money used in production. This means you either a) eventually close shop or b) have a system where successful titles subsidize the unsuccessful ones.
    6) The side effect of 1 through 5, that causes publishers to be conservative in an effort to stay profitable. That leads to increased emphasis on franchises and less support for innovative and risky titles.
    7) How talent is defined and treated. Many, many companies are created by their owners as vehicles to make wealth for themselves by most efficiently exploiting their workers. Game developers and programmers especially consider themselves to be more than mere assembly line workers. This is why you get a lot of churn of staff and people that consider themselves exploited. This is partially the fault of the employees because...
    8) A lot of people get into the Game industry because they love games, and approach it as a passion, not a business. Reality (life, family, needs, mortgages, etc) intrudes with personal maturity. If the initial setup was exploitive, you see a lot of burnt-out, disillusioned people leave the industry.
    9) The production demands of an extreme niche of the software industry on people. That is 90 hour work weeks as normal only to have something shipped despite your protests because to make a release date.
    10) Equitable distribution of credit, recognition and compensation. John Carmack's Ferraris may have inspired thousands of dreams, but the state of the business has left a trail of broken promises of royalties, credit, recognition, or even a sane working environment.
    11) Companies that believe that the games are produced by the top people; the C?O's, the management and marketing people, not the artists, designers, sound engineers and programmers. (*cough*) Believe that "Those people" are just there to mechanically realize the vision of the "creative" people, and they get what they deserve.
    12) I'm getting tired of typing... :)

    !!! Nothing in the above list is an absolute that can be applied to every single company in the industry. They just are general issues that push my hot buttons.

    * The opinions expressed here are those of the Author and do not reflect or represent his employer in any way.

  • Hint, hint... (Score:2, Insightful)

    An observation from a casual gamer:

    The sequence seems to be: (1) publish a game, (2) publish a "cheats" book, (3) watch the game's staying power approach zero.

    My only serious computer games were Zork (I,II,III) and most other Infocom text adventures, Lemmings (I,II,III, Tribes), Doom, and Quake (with mission packs 1 & 2, I think). For one Infocom game (Starcross) I used a hint book... it was a total letdown. Why pay good money for a game then cop out by using cheats?

    One cannot blame the publishers but their prefered sequence might be: sell a game, sell a cheatbook for that game, sell another game, sell a cheatbook for that game, and so forth to infinity.

    Apparently, at some point the money stops flowing.

  • Fun versus Pretty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unfortunateson (527551) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:45PM (#4586284) Journal
    The emphasis today is on special effects and graphics -- without 3D animation and full-motion video clips seamlessly (cough) integrated into the game play, the execs figure it won't sell.

    We have PCs, NES, SNES, Genesis, PS, X-Box in the house, and my kids spend more time playing old FUN games such as Dragon Warrior IV, Solstice, Landtalker, Shining Force II than they do Final Fantasy XI or Baldur's Gate.

    I still think Civ II is more fun than Alpha Centauri or Civ III -- I may later change my mind, but I still need more experience with C3 before it gets fun -- Civ II was fun out of the box.

    Do games keep needing to get harder?
  • The issue is.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m0i (192134) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:47PM (#4586290) Homepage
    ..a game is hardly the result of producers/developers; it's like humor, you can't have a recipe that works 100% for everybody. When there was passion and a few core geeks that developped games for themselves, the result had to be convincing. Now, with Hollywood budgets, planning, CG and all, how do you want a game to remain fun? Proof is, a lot of people still enjoy playing NES :-) As far as I'm concerned, "keep it simple".
  • by FearUncertaintyDoubt (578295) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @09:55PM (#4586310)
    This is not a problem limited to video games. In any creative industry (maybe an oxymoron), there is the problem of creating something with mass appeal. You have to make it original enough to stand out, yet not so unusual as to put people off. There is additional creative tension from the artists, who are usually not particularly thrilled with just re-hashing the same stuff for commercial gain, yet they need to make it appealing enough to the masses to obtain the backing to make the work.

    This process occurs in movies, TV, books, music, theatre, and, of course, video games. There are surprises both ways. The Blair Witch Project was a movie that was not expected to be successful, but was hugely so and has changed the movie industry. Citizen Kane was an important film (often considered the greatest American film) but a commercial failure. Yet Orson Welles was given unprecedented freedom from the studio to make the picture, not because they respected him as an artist, but because they thought he would make them a fortune.

    Sometimes the alchemy of commercial appeal and artistic daring produces a wonder. Sometimes they fight, and the result achieves neither ver well. But there is no formula -- there can't be, because every work changes the landscape, and the bigger the work, the bigger the change. And of course, originality and formulaic are opposites.

  • I'll tell ya why. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SaturnTim (445813) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @10:01PM (#4586327) Homepage

    Games fail for the same reson records fail.

    Some of them are mass market crap following a formula... First person shooters are the boy bands of the computer gaming world.

    Some of them are from small companies that don't have the money to break into the market, so many games die a poor death as shareware.

    But I think the reason most games fail is because the board room mentality that builds them. Why take a risk on something new and untested, when you can slap some new graphics and tweek the engine on the old game?

    It happends with music, movie, beer, etc. The board room mentality will be the death of them all... Creativity is dieing because of meetings where people are afraid to take a risk.

    okay, back to drinking my microbrewed beer... made from people more concerned with making the best beer possable, instead of making the most profits.

    --T
  • Hey!

    The first part the problem comes when these companies set completely unrealistic goals for themselves.

    I mean, look at Daikatana!

    The second is when they lose the balance between skill, knowledge of the platform, and enthusiasm for the product.

    IE:

    For the skill and knowledge, it's usually either they don't have enough, or go ultra-anally in the opposite direction, to the detriment of the gameplay.

    For the enthusiasm portion, it's much the same. They're either so OD'ed on their own hype that they lose perspective, or they simply lose interest and are only going through the motions of creating a game.

    Now take a look at Rock Star Games and see what they're doing RIGHT in the console arena!

    GTA3 was absoloutely INCREDIBLE!

    GTA:VC is even fscking BETTER!

    You can tell that they're putting out product they'd actually want to play! And I don't think anyone can fault the skill with which they're doing it.

    And while the game is not completely new or horrendously revolutionary, it's still kicked up at LEAST a couple notches from it's already excellent predecessor. In multiple ways no less!

    It's unlike UT2K3. While UT2K3 is visually quite nice, when I first began playing it, I could have sworn I was playing a game of Q3 for the way the gameplay reacted. It no longer FEELS like UT.

    So, basically, the game is prettier, but less playable. And MUCH less replayable.

    What's the Skaarj term for "fuck that noise"?

    Well, I'd been waiting on UT2K3 for a while now. Too bad it's such crap. Ah well. At least I didn't pre-order it. So I won't waste my money on it.
  • I think Microsoft should have a java or flash version of Minesweeper come up when the site is at capacity...

    That way, we can actively reflect upon games that suck and games that don't by playing something fun that only took about a day to code rather than five years.

  • Really this isn't any different that the rest of the entertainment industry. Maybe not different that any industry.

    If you focus on any industry to the point where you follow the preproduction and production of games that won't be released years from now, you should expect a low success rate.

    At lot of movies make it to various stages of development and die. The same is true in every industry from cereal to music. Really you should be shocked when any particular studio keeps cranking out hit after hit.

    I would surmise these successful outfits all follow a common strategy of exploiting a niche they dominate or remixing past products to save development and advertisment costs.
  • Why Games Fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Herkum01 (592704) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @10:12PM (#4586359)

    The reason most games fail is becuase of the people developing them and who they develop them for. The thing is that I know a ton of talented programmers, and they all love games. Some would love to program game, others love the engine but ultimately they love the technical side of it but don't have a handle on the not non-technical aspects of creating a game.

    You could probalbly break games that fail into one of four categories,

    1. Bad or unbalanced game play
    2. Bad story line development
    3. Lack of marketing
    4. Program instability

    I think the most common item of failure would be Lack of marketing, there are some people that can make a good game but lack the backing of a distributor. This hurts alot of small game developers and caters to large developers. A good example is GameSpot, any game that they follow and cover is Always given a good score. They are also the games that have the most marketing power. A good example is the Age of Mythology, they had been covering and hyping that game for almost a year, you think that the score for that game was even going to approach less than really good? Other games that they review are more objective, so they have good and bad ones in there but a good scoring game is far from proving it will get good sales. An example was a game I loved which was Kohan. Great game, no marketing so did not do so well overall in sales.

    The second biggest killer is game instability. I cannot count the number of games that have just been crappy, not ready to be sold but pushed out the door anyways, just to make a few bucks. I can only assume that these games are pushed out too early and that they programmers for these games are not just bad, but considering the number of people who are interested in making a computer game, this also a realistic possibility.

    While some people don't care if a game has a story line, if the game play is shallow you are going to need a story line to draw a person into the game. Like a mentioned before, alot of programmers would love to make a computer game, the problem is that they want to program a game, not a story. They don't have writing skills to develop a good story.

    Unbalanced game play. This also another big one, alot people know how to play games, it is another thing to fine tune a game. Most people are not able or not willing to make the time to balance out their games to make them interesting which always result in games that become dull once you find the "Secret".

    Another thing that I want to include but that is not on the list is that programmers will often program something for themselves, and totally disregard everyone else. This can result in a poor overall gameplay, or documentation for mods. This is often a complaint about some open-source projects but I think it really comes down to human nature. When making computer games becomes more accessible to those people who are not as technical, game quality will improve. When you limit the number of people, you are ultimately limiting the talent pool of potentially good game makers.

    • Re:Why Games Fail (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cenobita (615440)
      Very,very true..in addition, the *why* plays a big part, too. Far too often, we see games based on weak licenses, or in some instances, games with incredible potential dumped on lackluster development teams.

      A friend of mine dealt with this first-hand, unfortunately. He got his dream job; designing game levels. He was good at it, too, and the programmers at the company were very, very talented. The problem was 3-fold. The games their executives chose to work on were lame, niche-market licences. Among them was a game-adaptation of Hellboy..strong potential *if* marketed properly (which it wasn't). Hence, it was essentially left to Hellboy fans to hunt it down. Add a rush job near it's final completion, and..well, you get the picture.

      The company i'm referring to, for those unaware, was Cryo Interactive. At one time, they had the license to the Aeon Flux game, which was inexplicably cancelled at some stage in development. Shortly after Hellboy was released, and Aeon Flux cancelled, they aquired licenses for a few "classic monsters" type games (i.e. Dracula, etc.) It never even started development before Cryo's parent company in France decided they weren't worth continuing, and closed 'em down.

      What led to Cryo's downfall? Here's what I think:

      1. Bad licensing deals. Whether this is attributed to Cryo's bargaining power as a developer, i couldn't say. Nonetheless, i've rarely seen companies do well that don't create wholly original games somewhere along the line. Virtually *any* game has potential if it's well-written/produced..however, even the best games can be doomed if they lack..

      2. MARKETING! As Herkum01 meticulously pointed out, a lack of marketing has been the downfall of multiple games, both good and bad. Of course, we've also seen *bad* games get amazing marketing, only for everyone who bought/rented it to find out it sucked holy ass. Oni, imo, is a really good example of this. It's also a good example of:

      3. Good Idea, Bad Execution. Even companies who get a good project once in awhile, as with Cryo/Aeon Flux, can muck things up beyond belief. The aforementioned Oni is a good example of this, however, in that an action-based anime-style game *could* make for a really cool game. As far as i'm concerned, it's play control was so awful, it was unplayable, no matter how good it's graphics/sound/errata. In the instance of Aeon Flux, I can only speculate that it failed because nobody quite knew how to properly market it, or perhaps they just didn't know where to start? Is it an action game? Should it be a first-person shooter or what? It seems that there are a lot of games that have no sense of where they should take the player, or what type of game they should be.

      Just my .02, though. Also, to add another nod of agreement with Herkum's post, it's far, far too true that open-source developers frequently write poor documentation, and not just with gaming. I use the waimea window manager extensively, but i've found it's documentation to be absolutely terrible.

  • testers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @10:20PM (#4586389) Homepage Journal
    I used to work in games QA (quality assurance).

    Lemme tell you: nobody pays any attention to the testers.
    I can't tell you how many times I've seen the words "not a bug" "not a defect" or "will not fix" (!). Seriously, if a team of people are spending 60 hours a week (yeah, 60) on average playing your game, you might want to listen to what they have to say.
    If we say the enemies sometimes see you through the walls in a level where being seen means game over, then LISTEN you %$#@ stupid programmers/VP/marketing drones!
    Seriously, the testers can tell you if the gameplay sucks, we know, we spend a lot of time playing it. If any part of it sucks, we'll notice, and you should listen.

    I'm ranting, I know, but serioulsy, developers, listen to your testers.

    And, also, try to schedule enough time for testing. Giving a week, a single week of testing time, is not smart. Not smart at all. Finding bugs is one thing, fixing 'em is another (and fixing a bug will very often create 2 new bugs).

    I used to love testing game (I was good at it), but there's so many times a guy can be blamed for someone else's mistake before he's had his fill (testers are the bottom of the barrel, guess wich way the shit goes when trouble brews).

    /rant
  • by Viewsonic (584922) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @10:25PM (#4586409)
    If you look at some of these sales, the GameBoy Advance is selling literally hundreds of thousands of copies of their games *easily*. Everyone is all on the lame 3D bandwagon. If people would just focus on making GOOD games, then it would probably be better. I mean really, look at Castlevania .. They made it 3D and it sold terribly. The 2D versions on the PSX and the GameBoys are selling like CRAZY. THERE IS A HUGE MARKET FOR GOOD 2D GAMES FOLKS - QUIT DEVELOPEMENT ON YOUR LAME 3D SHOOTER AND MAKE A ***FUN*** 2D PLATFORM GAME. ! Sometimes you gotta go back to your roots to really appeciate GOOD games. I've been digging up all my 2D games lately and franky, they STILL blow away 90% of the lame 3D console games I own.. Blegh. Yes, Super Mario Brothers is *still* fantastic to play. Good grief, use some common sense, devs!
  • Modding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Metalhead01 (587101) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @10:48PM (#4586480) Homepage
    One major factor that contributes to a game's quality is based on how easy it is to mod. A lot of times, game companies do anything possible to keep people from tampering with the game, as if the coders believed that their creation should not be tarnished by some snot-nosed 15 year old punk who wants to put flying nuns into his WWII FPS. If people can't mod the game that easily, then its shelf life will be drastically decreased. Don't believe me? Look at Total Annihilation; that game is what, five, six year old, and people are still cranking out new maps, units, mods, etc. for it.
  • One thing to add (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Canfield (548473) <slashdot&chriscanfield,net> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @10:52PM (#4586497) Homepage
    For a broad, insightful comment, see The Optimizer, about 100 comments from the top.

    But there is one that he, and many other people, have missed: an effective marketing system. I don't mean just a way of convincing the magazine buyer that the main character has a big sword, but a system by which a person without a desire at this moment to find out about games, can find out about games. In a month everywhere you turn will be filled with images of the Lord Of The Rings, from books to TV to Instant Messengers to billboards to "news" programs, a media saturation that no gaming company can hope to achieve. The best our game recieved was a mention on Sports Center.

    Perhaps without this notion that any random company that catches the magazine's fancy can become a AAA title, we will see fewer titles given development hell-sized budgets and more innovative, cheap, existing-technology titles created. Perhaps then more AAA titles will break even, and developers will appreciate those who come to them with sub 10-million dollar size aspirations.

    Of course, all of this involves gaming coming out of the shame closet that this culture holds it in... That will come with time.

    • There is truth in what you saying. However, you need to remeber that it is a liability as well as an advantage, because all that marketing and promotion costs money. Big money.

      If a game sucks as a game but is heavily promoted, it will suffer a backlash of bad word-of-mouth and review publicity making it harder to recoup the money spent on the marketing. It also does damage to a franchise's reputation.

      On the other hand, it can really help a great game from an unknown source.

      It's not that a random company can't make an AAA game, its just that for *anyone* to do so these days requires spending a lot of money to make competitive content. If they are going to spend serious bucks, then you can assume some of that will be spent on marketing and distribution, making it sort of self-fufilling.

  • The best games... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sielwolf (246764) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @11:41PM (#4586652) Homepage Journal
    are not ambitious. They decide to do what current games do but do it well. Take Half Life, most popular FPS ever. Sure, most of that is due to CS but why can a game then be rereleased in three different iterations and still do well? I mean, c'mon! Valve Software has released one product!!!

    And why was it successful? It was neither too complex or too simple. It was rewarding at introductory levels yet, as your skill improved, you could find new avenues to challenge yourself on (i.e. downloading CS and playing it). Basically everything said on Dave Sirlin's site [sirlin.net].

    Most innovative games are forgotten. Die by the Sword? Killer UI for 3rd person sword fighting... yet the rest of the game was lacking. Dozens of other games can be listed that fall in the same category.

    Unlike music or film, games are much more of a... viceral form of entertainment. A strong, ground-breaking element cannot make up for piss-poor gameplay (unlike making up for a bad story in movies or bad musicianship in music). How often would you play a game that looked photo-realistic yet crashed every 5 minutes and corrupted your HD?

    The best games are focused. The worst ones try to be the omni-game. The be all and end all.
  • by ChuckMaster (595275) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @02:21AM (#4587067)
    Games are TOO expensive to make anymore. In the last 4 years, dues to increases in technology, people want games to look cutting edge. Now you have three times the number of staff working on content and you're selling the game for the same price you did three years ago. When you did 2d, you had a cell animator to make a character. Now you have a texture artist, a 3d modeler, and an animator to make a character.

    So all the publishers have consolidated down to four, half the dev companies have gone bankrupt, and the only games publishers want to make are sure-fire hit sequels. Innovation is too risky, that's why presto studios quit even though they were ahead.

    You guys can talk about bad ideas and programmers until you're blue in the face but the real truth of the matter is that it takes too long to make a game anymore and the chances of making the money back on it are getting slimmer. Game developers work on average 70 hours a week and make less than equivalent jobs in the IT field. I'm not kidding, go ask a few.
  • by Dakini (622434) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @02:47AM (#4587139)
    Something no one has mentioned yet is an issue a former-games-producer friend of mine told me of, as one of the two main reasons he left the industry.

    The first is obvious: the investors' terrified greed. When you throw a minimum of $5 MILLION dollars at a project, you get real conservative -- you want your money back, with interest. You only go with projects you KNOW will succeed, and so we get stuck with tired-out versions of InitiallyAmazingGame XVII.

    The second reason is more insidious: Walmart. If Walmart won't carry your product, you LOSE. Period. They're the biggest chain around; most of your sales will come from your average American family browsing through Walmart. That means Walmart gets to dictate what's on the cover, how much it costs, what 'rating' it has, etc. Walmart doesn't care about innovation or game playability any more than the investor does; they both just want to make their money back, and then some.

    Couple those two ball-and-chains onto any bright young company trying to make a new or innovative game, and it's no surprise computer game companies keep failing.

  • by Crepusculum (135302) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:09AM (#4587185)
    Mr. Prichard has most of the bases covered but I thought I'd quickly share my very recent and personal experience in the matter.

    September 18th, 2002. 9:27 am:

    Payday.

    I'm standing in front the office rubbing my sleepy eyes and dimly wondering why my key won't open the door. The thought that the locks have changed does not cross my sleep-addled brain. Leaning forward to find a glare less angle, I pause to consider the Kinko's-printed canvas sign leering down on me.

    "Tremor Entertainment."

    The logo is a dingy red Blizzard facsimile, poorly conceived and executed.

    The door opens. I nearly tumble backwards in surprise. Grasping at teetering iron I manage to steady myself. The railing below has rusted out at its bases which are now milling with fire ants.

    Karen, our CFO, is standing in the doorway, flanked by armed guards. She is wearing an expression of practiced concern and, oddly, poorly-masked triumph.

    "There are no paychecks. The company has been shut down until the contract is renegotiated with Microsoft." Her first performance of the day.

    We're told to get a few of our personal things, whatever we'll need or want while the company's on hiatus. I don't realize that I'll never see my Mr. Coffee, Thinkgeek caffeine mugs, and Rage Against the Machine CDs again. "I know it's not your fault," I tell the surly guard "but this is really insulting." He nods: a solemn, practiced, patronizing nod. Karen returns, this time demanding our now useless building keys.

    "Do I have to turn in my hall pass too?" No response. The guard tells us to leave. Karen's told him we're not to touch the computers and he's getting jittery. His hand slides involuntarily to the holster on his belt. This is fucking ridiculous.

    Standing in the parking lot an hour later, beer in hand, I realized that it was over.

    As it turned out there were no 'renegotiations with Microsoft'. The first they heard were our frantic cell phone calls. Our Floridian CEO took the payroll money and ran. All it takes is one A-Hole.

    The Tremor team included a number of brilliant, talented individuals; all of them underpaid for their dedication. The team was there for each other and for the project, not for money. This team included the Lead Designer of Starcraft, designers and artists from Warcraft 1& 2, Diablo and Sacrifice (among others.) The project, The Unseen (irony: located), was unassailably special both visually and in terms of gameplay. The contract was with Microsoft, a first-party development contract: the holy grail of game contracts. (I'll save the story of how Microsoft later rammed us in our collective cornhole with a red hot poker for tomorrow night, kiddies.)

    In the end all it took was one man to destroy what so many had struggled so long to create.

    Currently, the displaced employees of Tremor are involved in a civil lawsuit to recover unpaid wages. CEO Steven Oshinsky is under investigation by the FBI. He looks like Joey Buttafuco. www.tremor.net is still active, it appears.
  • by Keylarn (622425) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @07:53AM (#4587618) Homepage

    should be how do some games studios succeed.

    Consider how hard it is to build a game.

    Firstly you must come up with the concept. It must be sufficently original and innovative that your not dismissed as a clone but not so innovative or original that nobody is sure whether they'll enjoy it or not. Then you've got to build proof of a concept for stage two...

    Begging for help. You must convince other people your game (which currently consists of a design plan) will be seriously sweet, will sell like hotcakes and will have manageable costs (people with money usually like money and if they give it away, they want to see it come back).

    Thirdly you must find developers, artists, programmers, etc who are willing to work on your game for the money you can offer (which will probably be meager unless your idea is one of those mythical "guaranteed sell-outs") and who are capable of doing the job. Consider how high some of the studios have set the bar and that's a hell of a job.

    Forthly you have go though the development phase without having your game managled by the development phase. As well as the regular dilbertisms you've also got to avoid many truisms unique to game development [gameai.com] and avoid having your product adjusted for political reasons (censorship, sensitivity to minorities, new management doesn't like old management's projects on the priniciple, funding runs out and nobody wants to give you more) etc.

    Finally you have the game and it's all that you hoped for, your set right? Well no. Marketting has to spread across the world and convince geeks with money that they want to shell out for your game. If you lucky the marketting department will put out a somewhat accurate image of your game, game reviewers will be having a good day and enjoy it when it reaches their magazine/web site and people will have the spare cash to buy the game.

    Then you can still get screwed should say your game not appeal to enough people, be overshadowed by another game of similar type (let's face it, if you release a first person shooter in the same season ID does, your going down) or by a totally different type (if everyone's buying the latest FPS by ID they're going to be playing it instead of your neat, low violence RPG).

    So really, even if you have the idea of the century and you get support from other people the chances of you finishing up with a decent quality game with good marketting and high enough sales to generate a notable profit (to be distributed among all investing parties) is pretty damn slim.

    Quite frankly it's a miracle any studio stays in business for more than one production run. It is most definitely no business for the faint of heart, the dispassionate or those who need a realiable income.

  • by Ulwarth (458420) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @01:12PM (#4589043) Homepage
    The many reasons posted so far make sense; but most of them are either a symptom, such as the game sucking (why did they make a game that sucks?), or reasons why a game company fails (which is really just one of the many ways a company in any industry can fail).

    With almost a decade of experience working in the game industry, let me share my theory.

    A game itself fails because it is a piece of art, and good art is very difficult to make. It requires focus and direction; it requires a visionary who imagines an end product which will communicate something unique to the audience. Normally this is done by a single person, and in other types of art (painting, photography, music, writing, etc) one person can create a finished piece themselves. But modern games cannot be made by one or even just a couple of people; most often it is a team of 15 or 20, and you have people joining and leaving the team throughout the project. Oftentimes the team is completely different at the end than it was at the beginning.

    So how the heck can you have a focused piece of art when you have so many people (many of them just drifting in and out of the project more or less at random) working on it? You don't see novels written by a team of 15 writers, or songs written by 15 musicians. (Go look at the writing credits for your favorite band's songs; in most cases, they are all written by one or two key members of the band.) But games simply require too many elements, both technically and artistically, to be done by a single person. They are highly interactive, compared to other forms of art which are generally not even slightly interactive. So you have a catch-22 - they need the direction and focus of a single person's work, but require a huge team in order to produce the required art and technology.

    There are two ways to do it. One is by dumb luck (this one rarely happens). The other is by having a dedicated leader who puts his or her heart and soul into directing the rest of the team, picking a chosing the art and gameplay that fits with their vision and throwing out the rest. This method is how most good games are made. However, it has many production-level downsides; everyone on the team will hate them (because they throw out 90% of the art that is produced) and the management/investors will hate them (because they throw out perfectly good work, causing production of the game to be 10 times as expensive as it would be otherwise).

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.

Working...