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Games Entertainment

Game Industry Opinion Continues to Burn 270

Posted by Zonk
from the throw-down-the-gauntlet dept.
The Game Developer's Rant session held at the GDC continues to reverberate through the industry. GameDev.net and Greg Costikyan's site have more details on the session itself, while Terra Nova's original thread on the subject has been followed up by an open letter to the participants from Matt Mihaly of Iron Realms Entertainment. From Matt's letter: "Anyway, please, just stop the whining. Stop telling people about how horrible the games industry is. Stop telling them that they can't succeed without radical industry changes. It's bunk and you should know better. Are you intentionally trying to discourage people from getting into the industry?"
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Game Industry Opinion Continues to Burn

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:24PM (#11980323)
    I am part of a small studio who makes first party games for the playstation2. I don't work 80 hours a week. During crunch time I might get up to 60 hours, but that's rare.

    I don't understand why EA works their employees to death.
  • by AnalogDiehard (199128) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:26PM (#11980331)
    "Anyway, please, just stop the whining. Stop telling people about how horrible the games industry is. Stop telling them that they can't succeed without radical industry changes. It's bunk and you should know better. Are you intentionally trying to discourage people from getting into the industry?"

    Seems that remark resembles comments [detnews.com] made by Henry Ford and GM's Alfred P. Sloan...

  • by Urger (817972) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:26PM (#11980340) Homepage
    While it is true that an indy developer can (and do) create great games, with excellent play and graphics and the whole whatnot, it is also true that you need big developers to bankroll games. I doubt that ,say, GTA:San Andreas, could have been created without the huge investment that was made in it.
  • by superpulpsicle (533373) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:31PM (#11980381)
    You don't need bigboys to make big game titles. Right, it's not about software development. However, in the unfortunate video game industry, bigboys can afford big lawyers. Which equals to buying big licenses and claiming ownership to intangible things.

    Player associations, porshe and ferrari licenses are just for starters in 2004/5. I guarantee you 10 years from now, someone company would have draw out a contract for guns. Thompson, Springfield, M16, colt handguns... these will only appear in exclusive war games. Afterwards maybe the government will impose a tax on using U.S military vechicles in games.

  • by TLLOTS (827806) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:32PM (#11980384)
    These comments don't give me any desire to try and get into the industry. Admittedly I did use to want to develop games etc. previously (since about the age of twelve was when I decided it), but with the state of the industry I really don't see much reason to put myself through it all. Of course I still intend to make games, just small ones with my fiance, rather than big games in a large office where I may not even get an adequate say in how many hours I get to toil away each day.
  • by unixbob (523657) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:46PM (#11980507)
    Last year I bought Doom 3 and was totally dissapointed with it. What was initially a great horror game became a repetitve formulaic (?) shooter. After that I still haven't got round to buying half life 2, halo 2, or even World of Warcraft (although I'm getting nagged by friends to get online with Warcraft)

    The only games I've spent money on in the last 12 months have been indie games. Why? Because I got bored with sequels and pretty gaming engines. Games are meant to be fun and IMHO they are becoming products to be churned out. With the indie stuff I tend to find that more thought has gone into the level design and tuning the gameplay. Thay are never going to be the prettiest titles around, but I never feel cheated or dissapointed after a purchase. Pretty graphics only go so far . . .
  • by plover (150551) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:02PM (#11980625) Homepage Journal
    But I think he's missed the point of the "whiners". The point is if you work in a giant corporate game factory, you're going to get treated like dirt.

    If I were a cashier at Target, I'd expect that kind of treatment. If you go into a job with no real training needed, just the ability to breathe and put barcodes in front of a checkout scanner, you probably aren't expecting a career path that goes far.

    But these are professional developers, men and women who have college degrees in Computer Science. They DO HAVE expectations of decent rewards, but they're being treated even worse than the cashiers, in terms of uncompensated mandatory overtime. A cashier in these big companies isn't allowed to work overtime, or work through their breaks. Their managers know that if the employees complain about overwork there's going to be hell to pay, because of the violations of labor laws involved.

    Sure, there are independent shops, just like there are Mom'n'Pop grocery stores. But remember, Mom'n'Pop's employees almost never get rich. Sally may have worked the register for 20 years, she might be loved like family, she probably gets invited over for dinner, but she's never going to be driving a Ferrari as a result.

  • by mikael (484) on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:03PM (#11980632)
    There's an article [bbc.co.uk] in the BBC's technology section relating to the progress of the UK games industry.

    The sad truth is that the actual number of developers in the UK declined by 6% last year. Every time a company goes bust, the animators/programmers are forced to relocate. And given the difference in the cost of living across the UK and the world, it's preferable to move abroad.

  • by RootsLINUX (854452) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .xunilstoor.> on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:12PM (#11980687) Homepage
    The only games I've spent money on in the last 12 months have been indie games. Why? Because I got bored with sequels and pretty gaming engines. Games are meant to be fun and IMHO they are becoming products to be churned out. With the indie stuff I tend to find that more thought has gone into the level design and tuning the gameplay

    I could not agree more. I really miss the old games (SNES-era) where companies didn't put the majority of their focus on games looking jaw-droppingly realistic, but rather they put their effort into making the game fun. It seems that this old-spirit has been pretty much extinguished in large dev houses and replaced with the mantra "Make games faster! Make more money!". Which is one reason why I decided to take things into my own hands and start developing a RPG game with the old-spirit.
  • by creimer (824291) on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:12PM (#11980689) Homepage
    One of the questions about whether students could still make it in such an industry starting off on their own sparked a response from Jason, saying that first of all students need to stop cloning games for their school projects. He hates seeing how almost every student, when given an asignment to create a game, makes some damn Brickout or PacMan clone. Sure, they can't do anything hugely new, but this is really their chance to innovate and try something that's not the status quo.

    I think the reason why students intimate past games for their projects is they really don't have time to do something new and it's easier to code off of a working example. Creating something from stratch can be a hugh undertaking sometimes. Most students are concern with getting the project done to get the grade.
  • by aztektum (170569) on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:26PM (#11980776)
    Why don't developers make their games and sell directly online? What the hell is the point of being in an industry driven by the "latest and greatest in technology" when your distribution model is based upon last millennium foundations.

    Unless you're OWNED by Vivendi/EA/Activision (or under some long term agreement), there's no reason why you should feel you HAVE to play ball with them. If your game is good enough people will pay to download it. If it sucks, sorry Charlie, that's natural selection for you.

  • by 88NoSoup4U88 (721233) on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:57PM (#11981018) Homepage
    In my opinion, it's hard to distinguish a honest review from a bought review though : Defenitely if they are about blockbuster-games.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @08:27PM (#11981203)
    My wife works in a technical position at a well-known game company. I'm going to be a bit vague here so that she can't be identified and this is also why I'm posting as an AC.

    I am constantly appalled by the stories she tells me. It seems that the coders at her company have never worked at a real software company - by "real" I mean a company that produces specs, codes to standards, tests patches BEFORE checking them into the source tree, doesn't lose patches because of poor software revision control, and actually has more than two people in the QA group. In fact it seems that the sole function of the QA people is to record bugs as they arrive from whoever find them, send them where they need to go for analysis, and note when they are marked fixed.

    In addition the management sucks - it's mostly people who have never coded a game "but have some good ideas". They seem to have no idea just what those "good ideas" translate to in terms of implementation time and cost. There is constant bitching by the people who do the work that they get new instructions from "on high" without any warning, usually in an email, and without any chance to give feedback on the changes. They don't even get asked for a time estimate - the due date is provided also. And as there are no serious specs, everything gets messed up between the producers, the designers, the programmers and the artists.

    However, surpringly, my wife says this is better than other games companies she's worked for - at least she gets written instructions on what she's supposed to do. At a previous company she spent three weeks playing games all day because management was "reviewing work assignments" and then she had to work weekends (no overtime of course) to catch up with the schedule.

    Salaries are depressed because there are thousands of kids who want a job at a game company. Job security is nonexistant, and turnover is around 30% per year. There is a serious lack of management understanding for people who put their life before their job. There are constant issues with office politics, particularly amongst management, with everyone jockeying for a better job on the next game.

    Now I ask you, why would anyone want to work in this sort on environment? And the answer: because she loves games, despite all the agro.
  • by pommiekiwifruit (570416) on Friday March 18, 2005 @08:38PM (#11981268)
    Jason Perkins perhaps? Anyway, we NDA NDA NDA NDA NDA Caledonian Road. Oops.

    The same announcement that development went down by 6% announced that employment in "the games industry" went up by some amount - I guess they mean retailers. The amount of money spent goes up but employment goes down; why is that? It's because people ignore reviews (according to a recent article in MCV) and just purchase the top few hits (another article) which are mostly sequels (another article, or just look at the top 20 any week and try to find a title that doesn't have a number in it) that marketing tells them to buy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:05PM (#11981419)
    Soldat [soldat.pl], Pontifex [chroniclogic.com] and Starscape [moonpod.com] are three of my personal favourites.

    Which reminds me, what about the Roller Coaster Tycoon games? Weren't they largely a one-man effort?
  • Personal experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andr0meda (167375) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:15PM (#11981473) Homepage Journal

    I read many comments from people related to an in the game industry, who all say the same thing: management sucks. I can only agree with this, I work in a game dev studio for nearly 3 years. I started as one of the first employees, and since then I have seen a HUGE amount of work being done by a crowd of young and motivated people. From the 25 people or so that started the studio, only a handfull remain, even if we grew up to 50 people at some point. Another studio nearby went bankrupt and the studio was only happy to acquire all those "people with experience". We`re back at 35 people. We have finished 2 games on 2 platforms, which both would make good budget titles. Alas, they have been in our closet for over a year, since no publisher wants to 'co-publish', since we don`t get title-id from mirosoft because our management fucked up some discussions with Infogrames, and because we may have serious copyright troubles with parts of the content (story, names,artwork..) That`s right. 3 years of existance, and not a penny has come in. A lot of good people have moved on to other companies, other jobs, other industries. Management is still fooling itself with good news stories every day, and frustrations sometimes run skyhigh with people exploding because they want to make things better and can`t.

    Despite all this, I must say I have enjoyed working in this industry because I learned a whole fucking lot. The knowledge that I have been with every step of the development process makes me more confident. I know what is important in the development of a giant component based puzzle, how to organise it. I can estimate my development time, I`ve researched stuff I otherwise would probably never research. I`ve had a lot of fun seeing unpredicted behavior act out on the screens, and most of all, I finished a game with my name in the creds. Not many people can say this. It was always my dream to do it. When I got the chance, I didn`t say no, and to this day I don`t regret it. The experience *I* have is not all negative. And I would do it again. But I also have the feeling that the game industry is not forever and that I should start thinking about a stable exit route.

  • by symbolic (11752) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:15PM (#11981475)

    Two things---I have some sincere respect for the talent behind some of these games. WoW is as much a work of art as it is a game. I feel the same way about Lineage 2 - minus the apparent T&A fixation. The problem is that they all use the same premise: kill stuff, get stuff, level up, kill more stuff, get more stuff, level up some more. At least Blizzard started to introduce some variety into WoW's quests, but even they entail a lot of "kill an undetermined number x and bring y back to me".

    That having been said, I still think there's a social element that provides some cohesion, despite the gameplay, at least for MMORPGs. And, there's also the competitive aspect - get up to a higher level, and you can start to make a difference during raids, castle seiges, or whatever. What I don't like is the fact that that once the "online" is gone, the game is done. In other words, you buy the game, but it's useless without the online service. You can't play with other players individually, and you can't play solo- it's an all-or-nothing proposition. I guess that's just the nature of the beast.

    Maybe I'll consider giving a few indie games a try.
  • Re:That's crap (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @01:36AM (#11982685)
    Everything "independent" isn't good and not all the big-name stuff is bad. SW: KotOR, Warcraft 3, PS Torment, Baldur's Gate 1 & 2: all were made by big name companies. All were great games.

    I say that instead of "buying independent" we all just buy what we want to play. That's what's happening now, and I'm sorry that you seem to have picked unpopular games. Heck I can related myself in that I love a good 3d space fighter simulation a la X-Wing or Wing Commander (and it seems none of those are coming out these days), but if the market isn't buying your type of games, that doesn't mean that they're buying whatever is given to them: they're buying what they want. Most of today's popular games cost a fortune to develop. If the game companies could sell just as many copies of the types of games the whiners claim to love then they would do so in a heartbeat.

  • by Fussen (753791) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @01:39AM (#11982696)
    That's exactly what happened to me!

    I got DoomIII, and was all geared up for it, but after a while it was just filler. Sure moving those barrels around with that cargo gripper was pretty spiffy, but once I hit "Hell" and was just shooting dead babies.. it sort of fell apart.

    Now I'm being presured to get HL2, but from the recent dissapointments, my motivation to shell out the cash just hasn't been there.

    And then I look at awesome indie games. For example one of my all time favorites is Elasto Mania [elastomania.com]. I swear I've lost months of my life from swinging ledge to ledge with my front tire. This stuff reminds me that a game can rock, even when it doesn't have music!
  • by adam31 (817930) <.adam31. .at. .gmail.com.> on Saturday March 19, 2005 @02:53AM (#11982929)
    It's not that simple.

    Mr Spector, over a decade ago, hired a team and moved them all down to Texas for a project that was cancelled within the first week. He was in a position where he could either take a stand and invest in the project personally, or he could just fire the whole team... so he fired the team.

    Since then, he's seen the same machinery that put him in that position take over the entire industry and I think he still burns from his decision long ago. Now, he's decrying the industry and lamenting his own helplessness now that he feels he has some power. However, as the saying goes, 'talk is cheap'. When he says distribution, he's talking PC games which represent a tiny sliver of the industry... and console games have no alternative distribution, nor will they ever. That's the end of that.

    Greg and Chris's talks were very interesting. Greg said, "they tell us things will get better because poly-counts will be through the roof" and Chris said "they tell us things will get better because we'll have 256 GFlops". The common thread here is not that no one cares about gameplay... it's that because of the expectations the industry is pushing the baseline to have enough art at high enough resolution being rendered on a fast enough engine is SO HIGH and costs SO MUCH MONEY, that there are no left-over resources for tuning gameplay. Thus, content-rich fun-poor.

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