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Andy Phelps Proposes 'B-Sides' For Games 40

Posted by Zonk
from the has-to-be-better-than-big-rigs dept.
Andy Phelps has once again begun blogging. A recent post of his to the Corante Tech site suggests an intriguing idea: B-Sides to major commercial games. "I think there is an interesting opportunity here: stick some "B-Side" experimental games on the DVD with the big title. Little Flash games, or student games, or Internet games that haven't taken off yet. Don't advertise them on the box, sell the "big game" just like always." Thanks to Hylton Jolliffe for the submission.
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Andy Phelps Proposes 'B-Sides' For Games

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  • Not Interested... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alaren (682568) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:37PM (#10350513)

    Meh.

    I believe this is what we commonly refer to as a "solution in search of a problem."

    The old B-Sided records (I'm too young to remember, but my dad used to talk about them) were significant because the "B-Side" represented a unique channel of distribution. There weren't a lot of other ways for the "B-Side" content to get out. Maybe if you knew someone who worked at a radio station you could get some local distribution, but for the most part "B-Sides" presented people with something a little odd, a little interesting a little experimental, that they couldn't get elsewhere.

    The kind of content being proposed here is widely available online. Not only that, but go into any computer store and look for the $5 and $10 CDs full of Master's Thesis crapfest games.

    Yes, some of them are good. But most of them are junk and frankly adding them to a big retail game just gives the publishers an excuse to print "value-added!" on the box when in fact little or nothing of value has been added.

    Now, don't get me wrong. This B-Side renaissance stuff is not really a bad idea. It's even kind of interesting. But I don't see how it would do anything for resurrecting "innovation in gaming" any more than new channels of distribution (e.g. the Internet) are already doing.

    • by torpor (458)

      bah. on one hand, your 'sense of history' fashions the statement 'represented a unique channel of distribution' as a lecture of pre-modern 'media'.

      on the other hand, your flimsy argument dismisses all that implies, entirely, when applied to 'back of the DVD scan-in' "alternative-channel" video games/hacks.

      the point is, video games mfr's have "MORE CHANNELS THAN THEY KNOW", in that they can create a sub-market/culture/environment with sneaky 'B-side' style thinking in their box delivery channel. do for v
  • by xneilj (15004) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:39PM (#10350532)
    Companies would start to fear seeing the words "The B-Side game is actually better" in the reviews for their next AAA title...
  • Unlikely (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deliveranc3 (629997) <deliverance AT level4 DOT org> on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:41PM (#10350546) Journal
    There are tonnes and tonnes of really inovative and great free games out there.

    The chances of publishers letting you know that are tiny!.

    Mod makers do most of the work that goes into a complete game (except the engine which can be freely downloaded.

    If they had another medium for distributing their work they would be releasing the game for free and creating new engines and games, this would spell the end of big video game business in relatively short order as people get pissed about subscription services, ridiculously high prices, backwards distribution policies, unpleasent anti-piracy measures, adware, gamespy arcade... the list goes on.
  • by SansTinfoilHat (759207) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:42PM (#10350552)
    If the industry wanted this, they could easily do it out of the profit margins of the larger titles. Easily. So if the industry really believes itself about the lack of innovation that it touts at GDC every year, put your money where your mouth is, and offer some incentive for experimental throw-away games. The way you innovate is make 20 totally different different games and find the one (or parts of some) that works. No one in the art world has every really had a different model.

    But that's the thing - the industry doesn't want it. Only game designers and hardcore gamers really care about "innovation". As a game designer myself, I'd love this and heard this suggested in no less than four other places, but the truth is that it isn't really a profitable endeavor.

    Why spend X dollars on a B-side that isn't neccessarily related to the A-side game at all when you could spend those X dollars to make the A-side game better (or, in most case, bigger)?

    If you can figure out the answer to that which would convince an executive, I'd love to hear it so I can get to work on some B-side games.


    By the way, if you are looking for a fun and innovative game, go pick up Katamari Damacy for the PS2. I just picked it up this week and it is the freshest, most original fun I've had on a console in a while - and it is twenty bucks. It gives me hope for this concept in the form of EPs (shorter, cheaper standalone games) rather than B-sides.
    • As a fellow game designer, I have to agree that "Why spend X dollars on a B-side that isn't neccessarily related to the A-side game at all when you could spend those X dollars to make the A-side game better (or, in most case, bigger)?" is probably the biggest reason why you don't have B-side titles. Trying to make the core game interesting and fun is tough enough by itself, let alone having to ensure that a bunch of little extras are themselves fun. This sort of energy should circle around the main attrac
  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:42PM (#10350556)
    Pack games on the disk and don't advertise them on the packaging? While I can see a point to that (to reduce criticism), I'm sure marketing won't let anyone get away with packing in features and not advertising them. Marketing would make a bullet point out of the number of times the lead coder sneezed if that'd interest anybody. They sure as hell wouldn't let the opportunity to write "includes 5 additional Full Games as a bonus!!" on the box pass by.
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothic_Walrus (692125) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:50PM (#10350606) Journal
    Say what you will about the games being available through other distribution channels, but remember that that doesn't hold true for everyone.

    Not everyone has a high-speed internet connection.

    Not everyone has internet access, period.

    Not everyone is willing to leave their computer on all night for a download when they're being billed for the amount of time that they're connected to the internet.

    Not everyone has access to a GameStop, EB, or a store that sells more games than the big-budget titles that Wal-Mart sells.

    Not everyone feels comfortable buying games online.

    Beyond all of this, the fact remains that publisher pays the development team, even a relatively small amount ($10,000, perhaps) might more than cover the costs of making the game.

    Really, who loses out if a company decides to try this? All we'd lose would be the pretty screenprinting on the top of the CD, and that's not a very big loss...

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Vampyre_Dark (630787)
      >> Not everyone feels comfortable buying games online.

      Not everyone feels comfortable buying their girl tampons at the store, but that doesn't mean you get them as free pack-ins with Tomb Raider! Seriously though, I doubt any publisher would go for this, that's what their jewel case value software divisions are for.
  • by tktk (540564) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:51PM (#10350609)
    In music, B-sides are either incomplete tracks that the artist never finished or thought to be worth finishing. Or they're songs that they were just playing around with and had no real intention to release.

    it already sounds like a few games that I've played.

    • Actually thats an awesome idea!

      So say you've got Star Wars Battlefront for the PC. What would the B-side be?

      So by your definition it would be a game that was never finished...

      Sam and Max 2!

      I'd buy it!
    • "In music, B-sides are either incomplete tracks that the artist never finished or thought to be worth finishing. Or they're songs that they were just playing around with and had no real intention to release."

      Huh? They were primarily the songs the labels considered good but without as much sales potentional or songs the bands really fought to get included. Same thing, really: songs rightly or wrongly viewed as riskier bets. Many bands ended up with their best tracks as B-sides. That was 45's; with CD single
  • by BluhDeBluh (805090) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @04:58PM (#10350649)
    And they have in lots of games, whether as Easter Eggs, unlockables or just fun minigames. Presumably, these are side projects thrown in to add something to the mix

    These major ones spring to mind:
    Pyoro 1 and 2 in Warioware Inc. Fantastic fun little things
    The lightgun game Demolition Racer for Dreamcast. Lovely fun little game
    The useless VMU games and both Pocketstation games that no-one ever played
    Galaxians in the Ridge Racer loading screen
    All the retro games in modern titles (PoP and the NES games in Animal Crossing)
    NiGHTs and Puyo Pop for GBA in PSO and Billy Hatcher for GC
    Blackhole Assault with an inbuilt pong game

    After Googling, there's a whole FAQ full at http://www.steverd.com/faqs/hiddengames.htm - dates back to 1999, but the point is still there.
  • Nice idea. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BigZaphod (12942) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @05:08PM (#10350719) Homepage
    It sounds like a cool idea to help independents get a start. Which is probably why it'd never happen. Does any major studio want to encourage independent game developers? This is a billion dollar industry we're talking about. I'm not sure it would be in their best interests. Although it would make for an easy was to do market research of their own fringe ideas. I just doubt indies would get much exposure.
  • Loading... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jobby (135237) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @05:36PM (#10350884) Homepage
    You know what's great? Little mini-games you can play while the main game is loading. Too long have we been fobbed off with high-res ingame shots or unused coverart! Give us scrolling text that adds to the story, or a mini-game to occupy us - because sitting still for more than 30 seconds is *hard*.
    • Re:Loading... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by moonbender (547943)
      I tend to agree, but 30 seconds of leading time are fairly rare (as they should be!) and a mini-game isn't worth it for the 2 to 10 seconds more often seen. Scrolling text IS great though, it doesn't even have to add to the story for all I care. Many developers have notices that and added that and a lot of games now have text in the loading screen. My only gripe is that it usually doesn't take very long for you to have seen all the texts and you get repeats all the time. They should be easily extensible, he
    • EA's NCAA Football games (and I assume other sports games, though I don't have an extensive EA library to test this) have "quick hints" on load screens--these hints are usually poorly written (as if a CS major instead of an English major did the proofing) and none-too-useful for a person who actually RTFM, but is helpful for those who might be picking up the controller for the first time in a round-robin impromptu tournament common at my university.

      I would rather they put programming out-takes (similar to

  • Ridge Racer 4 (Score:4, Informative)

    by alphaseven (540122) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @05:53PM (#10350979)
    R4 for the playstation had an interesting "b-side", on one disk they had a tech demo of the original ridge racer redone at 60fps, it was done to test the feasibility of doing a racing game on the playstation that could run at 60fps. It turns out they could but they wouldn't have enough resources to put in more than one car. Full Spectrum Warrior also included the prototype "military version" as a bonus.

    I think why this isn't more common (including early tech demos) is that they are usually terribly buggy and there isn't enough time to fix them to meet quality control. The developers of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay had wanted to include the early prototype of the game as a bonus but they would have missed their deadline getting the bugs worked out.

  • by darthtrevino (812116) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @06:03PM (#10351027) Homepage
    We can also have games released on vinyl, because it would "sound better" and make the vinyls like $150. Then we can release singles of games with different dj-mixes and club beats. Maybe we can make one bigass game, but split it up into two releases (each with its own b-sides) and release them both at the same time. One company..two games. One game can be called "Bullet" and one can be called "Stealth"
  • by MiceHead (723398) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @06:04PM (#10351043) Homepage
    I love DVD commentaries that talk about how a movie was produced. I'd like to do something similar for our upcoming title [dejobaan.com], (which I'm supposed to be working on right now instead of posting to Slashdot). Since it's an independent production, we have a good amount of leeway in terms of what random gunk we can add in, though we end up starving if we put in the wrong stuff. My thoughts were to include the following:
    • The crude-but-playable prototype [dejobaan.com] from two years ago. There's a clear line of ancestry there, but it's always nice to see how things have evolved.
    • A bit on how the game's focus changed, and why we incorporated building elements into it.
    • A segment on the actual development process, from the initial concept to media development, coding, and refining.
    • Outtakes! Maybe you'll get a chuckle seeing the early AI as it forced the multi-segmented Parade Dragon to loop in and collide with itself.
    • How you can create artwork without a budget or artistic talent [synthscribe.com].
    • Why I think (hope?) indie studios can earn a living.
    So, the question that follows from Andy Phelps' article is: will added meta-content make an enjoyable game much better, or should developers spend their time on the game proper?
    ____________________________ ____________________________
    Inago Rage [dejobaan.com] - Bound between rooftoops and create your own 3D arenas.
    Give the Stress Test [dejobaan.net] a whirl, and let us know if you enjoy it.
  • Similar idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joeljkp (254783) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (rekrapkjleoj)> on Saturday September 25, 2004 @06:06PM (#10351053)
    I think it's a cool idea, but could go beyond experimental games. What about including old classics along with the newer games?

    I think it would be cool if id included the entire Commander Keen in the box with Doom 3 or something. It'd just be a little bonus to say "thanks for buying our game." Or if Epic put the original Unreal in with UT2k4.
    • It happens a bit already.

      In WarioWare, they included a "remixed" version of Dr. Mario--called Dr. Wario. It was the same game with a pic of Wario in place of Mario.

      In Metriod: Zero Mission, they included the full version of the orginal Metriod, which was, in my opinion, a cool extra that actually helps justify the purchase of the game.

      That's all I can remember off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are many more games that have cool little extras like that.

      • Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox included all 3 original Ninja Gaiden games that you could unlock after finishing the game with certain items in your inventory.
      • So you're saying it happens a bit already with Nintendo games? Nintendo have a huge backcatalogue on which it can do this, it probably costs them next to nothing to do so. Which is great when they throw old stuff into a new game (Animal Crossing is another of the top of my head example. It can backfire though, I can't remember the name, but there was an Atari car racing type game that had a load screen where you could play pong (either 1P or 2P). My flatmate and I played Pong longer than the actual game...
      • excitebike 64 contained the original 8-bit
  • shmubject (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spyrochaete (707033) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @06:08PM (#10351068) Homepage Journal
    I think software companies should bundle REAL things in the box, like manuals, action figures, cloth maps, anything to reward people for purchasing the package. A bunch of tossware would be pointless.
    • Re:shmubject (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bob65 (590395) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:03PM (#10351395)
      I think software companies should bundle REAL things in the box, like manuals, action figures, cloth maps, anything to reward people for purchasing the package. A bunch of tossware would be pointless.

      Unfortunately they stopped doing this a while ago for a good reason - paper, books, generally anything physical is expensive. Gone are the days when desktop publishing software would come with a 200 page manual describing the concepts of good publication design, when adventure game software would come with a 100 page color manual describing the history, culture, and civilation of the world created for the game, when operating system software would come with a dummie's guide to programming in BASIC, and teach basic programming constructs, when graphics manipulation software would come with an introduction describing how the human eye perceives color, textures, and shadows, and the history behind drawings and paintings in society.

    • I would consider action figures and cloth maps tossware. What are most people going to do with action figures and cloth maps? Most people don't get so into a game where they want action figures and cloth maps hanging around the house. I like the consol model, small neat packaging. I would rather see the money spent designing and making that crap used to either make a better game or pay the game designers more.
      • Most people don't get so into a game where they want action figures and cloth maps hanging around the house.

        See, I think that might be part of the reason people don't buy video games anymore. I don't get excited about most games. I only buy a few games a year because I have limited funds, and prefer to get my money's worth. If I do actually buy a game, its because I am excited about it, and I wouldn't mind getting a few perks for my purchase. Example, Neverwinter Nights came with a cloth map and a re
  • The "B" side (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hai.uchida (814492) <hai.uchida@gmail.com> on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:03PM (#10351392)
    The LP as we know it wasn't a common thing in the 40's through early 60's. Artists would release music a '45 at a time (and if one of the first couple didn't take off, they never got to make more.) The "A" side was the commercial effort and the "B" side was a chance to take a chance and experiment a little, to cover another artist or whatever. The reason the "B" side songs were usually lesser efforts is that they weren't taken very seriously by DJ's or the public, and it was better to save their best work for the next single.

    When an LP was finally released, it was really a "greatest hits"-- a collection of popular singles (like, say, "Meet The Beatles".) Now, of course, you're expected to make a full album, whether you have the material or not-- which is why most pop CDs have one or two decent songs and a lot of filler. But the labels make more selling a CD than a single, so...

    Anyway... I can't see how there would be a correlation as far as games go. Games are such team efforts, requiring so much more investment in man-hours and money than recording a song, that it's just not feasible to make a "labor of love" (and who's labor of love would that be, anyway?)

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