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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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  • Before replying... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:18PM (#11980258) Homepage Journal
    Before anyone runs off half-cocked, this article is NOT about the poor employee treatment at development houses such as EA. This article is about one man (Can make a difference? Whoops, wrong show.) stating that Indie developers can carve a market, and that we don't really need the big boys to make good games. He agrees to the fact that most "Hollywood" style games do need big development houses, but he also points out that the Indie can create games with far more depth and interesting gameplay.

    His end point is that we should be creating games for the love of creating games. And while he doesn't say it in so many words, that's what gave us such classics as Commander Keen, Duke Nukem', Wing Commander, Ultima, Wolf3D, and Doom. That vision has been lost, and now game creating is all about making money. Why create games when the same money could be better spent on creating a blockbuster movie or a market investment? i.e. Games != money. Have to agree with him there.
    • by aftk2 (556992) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:30PM (#11980375) Homepage Journal
      I agree with you, but the trouble is that customers only have a finite amount of money. So, if you have limited resources, and you have to choose between Half-Life 2 or Doom 3, and something independent, you're more likely to go with the known property, even if it isn't as creative (or even as good).

      Gone are the days when smaller companies - those that create the games for the love of creating games - could compete with funded games from major studios on the same level.
      • by Rolan (20257) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:34PM (#11980405) Homepage Journal
        So, if you have limited resources, and you have to choose between Half-Life 2 or Doom 3, and something independent, you're more likely to go with the known property, even if it isn't as creative (or even as good).

        That's when the smart consumer reads the reviews from the people who do have the money to buy and play every game out there.
      • by unixbob (523657) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:46PM (#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 RootsLINUX (854452) <rootslinux.gmail@com> on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:12PM (#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.
        • Have a go at Half-Life 2 ;

          Allthough it -is- a sequel, -and- a pretty engine ; It's not all imo :
          With them incorporating the Havoc (gravity) engine, they added a great new layer to the fun the game can give.

          That, and of course the (mod)community which surrounded HL1 has almost all gone to work with HL2 , which is going to bring an entire new generation of great new games/mods/ideas on the market.

          Bit offtopic ; Mods seem to be of great influence, ifnot test-beds these days : Something that's proven in a m

        • by symbolic (11752)

          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 b
      • The smart customer goes for Half-Life 2, then looks for independant mods to get different gameplay. Somewhere like http://www.moddb.com/ [moddb.com] (sorry for the shameless plug) will find a vast swathe of changes to popular games.

        Half-Life isn't the most modded game for no reason.
        • It definitely isn't the most modded game because the original game is that good. It is the most modded game because the modding interfaces are actively supported by Valve but no Shooter can compare to a good deep, complex, story-driven RPG IMO. Actually the praise of the physics engine of one of the other posters in this thread just shows how easily people fall for engines with feature-bloat. Sure it might be fun in the first few minutes when playing around with the possibilities but physics engines won't m
      • by aliens (90441)
        I don't think that's true. I think your level of expectation of profit is skewed. Now a game like HL2 and Halo sells millions and millions of units brining in Millions and millions of $$$. Commander Keen and Wolfenstein did not do that.

        I think that indie game devels have a chance to make money just fine. I don't mind dropping $20-30 on an Uplink or something similar. And those houses are still around. You just don't hear their tales as often. Yes lots of them fail, but lots of businesses fail too. Just bec
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) *
        So, if you have limited resources, and you have to choose between Half-Life 2 or Doom 3, and something independent,

        Why does the independent game have to cost as much as Doom 3 or Half-Life 2? Answer: It doesn't. Most Indie games are delivered via the Internet which cuts out the packaging, shelving, distribution, and paper marketing costs associated with the big names. This allows some good games to be available for $10-$30, quite a bit less than shrink-wrapped games.
      • I agree with you... But, I have money, and used to buy games when I had less; yet now I hardly buy any at all. My view is that the console games are mostly dull sequels, and getting games to work on Windows is a PITA (plus they're also mostly dull sequels).

        My occasional gameplay nowadays consists of playing classic DOS games using ScummVM or Dosbox or Exult.
    • by superpulpsicle (533373) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:31PM (#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 plover (150551) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:02PM (#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.

    • BioWare [bioware.com] is a company that was rated one of Canada's top employers [bioware.com]. They also happened to make successful, kick-ass games such as the Baldur's Gate Series and the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. They also have an incredible dedication to supporting their games after release. Heck, they are still improving their Neverwinter Nights (and releasing new content for $5/download) almost three years after the game's original release.

      Gee, I guess it is possible to combine a good working environm
    • I got to experience first-hand the reason why we get some much repetitive crap. We've been working on a game that is very close to release, and some screenshots and previews were released a couple months back. On one of the sites where they appeared, a group of l33t d00ds (my guess is that the ages ranged in the early teens) took turns flaming and bashing it based upon a handful of screenshots. It was obvious from the comments that they didn't get what the game was about. But take a bunch of comments like t
    • by adam31 (817930)
      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 lament

  • Its actually kind of annoying IMO...

    I mean; come on; the industry has needed radical changes for how long? Like that in just about every industry though...
    • Re:hm... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Monkelectric (546685)
      I mean; come on; the industry has needed radical changes for how long?

      Typical slashdotter :) The industry is making more money than ever, therefore, it does NOT need change.

      If you want innovative games instead of cookie cutter crap start BUYING innovative games and refuse to hand over your money for anything less. I own a GC, ps2, and two xboxes and between them all under 10 games. I've bought 1 pc game in the last 3 years.

      People are perfectly willing to plunk down 50$ for a crappy game, so why shoul

      • Ok, so you say it isn't the game industry, it is capitalism that screwed all this up? I tend to agree with you on that one.
        • Re:hm... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Monkelectric (546685)
          Ok, so you say it isn't the game industry, it is capitalism that screwed all this up?

          IMHO capitalism is pretty much a race to the bottom. Its just the best system there is so far. The only way to beat the bottom is to be informed and vote with your money.

          Since people have demonstrated that they will buy *ANTHING* a corporation puts in front of them -- corporations do just that. If people en masse demanded something -- corps would respond. But as long as we allow *THEM* to tell us what we want, we're

  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:19PM (#11980270) Homepage Journal
    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?"

    Funny how it was, back in the begining that games were developed at home, by individuals, who put in whatever hours it took to get the thing done, usually settled for a set price and/or small additional royalty for their work. If they were working a career job, it wouldn't have justified the hours, but a sudden flood of $30,000 can make people think they've struck gold. Dollar votes separated the winners from the losers. It was a lot like the early rock and roll music scene.

    Now, it is a career profession, so like any other line of work you do what you have to, respond to purchaser demand, follow "me-too" the market leaders and give up on actually writing something which would be fun to play. Kinda like the manufactured pop music of today.

    I stopped by EA at SDWest and asked them when they'd be re-introducing M.U.L.E. or Mail Order Monsters, while some golf and football games were sitting there. The guy didn't even know what I was talking about. That's part of what's wrong, the industry has driven a wooden stake through the heart of it's heritage and buried it.

    "Think we can work John Madden into a new version of Ultima?"
    "You see, the troll here has lots of hit points, but the elf is much faster, so he'll probably try and end-around and ...

    • That's part of what's wrong, the industry has driven a wooden stake through the heart of it's heritage and buried it.

      umm.. are you drawing a comparison between the gaming industries past and vampires.. or were you just that addicted to castlevania? hehe
    • Oh man...Mail Order Monsters. There's a game that needs a remake. That game taught me the word "epoch".
  • No value (Score:5, Insightful)

    by turtled (845180) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:20PM (#11980287)
    There is no real value in most gaming nowadays. Super Mario Brother 35, or Sonic the hedghog 19, NBA basketball 2020. All of it is the same and has been played before. Sure, there are pretty graphics, but, what about game content and gameplay? I miss those years, I do. I like replay value, too. Everything now is, wow, that's cool... next.

    Also, I don't like cross-platform games... Super special secret level on the PSXboxCube version.
    • Re:No value (Score:5, Informative)

      by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <{taiki} {at} {cox.net}> on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:26PM (#11980342)
      The problem with citing Mario, is that mario's actually matured over the years in terms of gameplay. So has Sonic. Sonic 1 is not nearly the same game as Sonic Adventure or even Sonic Heroes.
    • Oddworld Series [oddworldinhabitants.com]
    • There is no real value in most gaming nowadays.

      Yeah, that must be why I play games all day long. Did you try Sid Meier's newest version of Pirates?

      I _loved_ the original, like a religion, it was just so masterful...but the new one is ever better. How? They took the original, and enhanced it with better graphics and music...but they wisely left the gameplay alone. The result was one of the best games I've played in years.

      There's nothing wrong with improving on old formulas by respecting them.
  • That's crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:23PM (#11980315)
    The game industry IS headed into a negative direction for developers and creative people. We're effectively pigeonholing anyone who wants to continue expereimentation with interactivity into a smaller, "indie" category, while letting the larger corporations continue to rampantly milk the larger audience with repetitious products and higher budgets. The only exception to this I can think of is Will Wright being backed by EA, and if it weren't for that I'd lost hope almost completely.

    People bitch because they see movies today, and then see the game industry embracing the mainstream-movie-esque visibility and profit of the same scene. These same people love games and the possiblities within the medium, and do not want to see the industry turn into a generic-blockbuster-factory-for-profict-only show.
    • Re:That's crap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sheetrock (152993) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:34PM (#11980418) Homepage Journal
      People need to stop bitching and stop buying while they're at it. Mediocrity thrives because the public will buy whatever's waved under their nose.

      Demand better games. Buy independent and wait for the $60 mainstream pap to hit the bargain bin before picking it up.

      • Mediocrity thrives because the public will buy whatever's waved under their nose

        I'd call you an elitist prick, except that you're right. Woe be the 10% of the population who actually use their brain right?

        right?

        Do you think marketers would be able to "create needs" in us if we thought for ourselves. Well they could, but I'm sure they prefer the model corporate citizen who fills the unhappy spaces in their lives with buying products who's images have been branded onto their subconscious cortex.

        Don't
      • Re:That's crap (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MBGMorden (803437)
        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 comi

    • We're effectively pigeonholing anyone who wants to continue expereimentation with interactivity into a smaller, "indie" category, while letting the larger corporations continue to rampantly milk the larger audience with repetitious products and higher budgets.

      Are you talking about games, or movies?

      Yes, I know the answer... my point is that gaming is becoming a mature industry like movies, and is following the same pattern. That's because, whether the elitist in you likes it, this pattern works.
    • One thing I've heard from someone in the gaming industry is that about 90% of the games made lose money, and the profitable 10% pay the shortfalls of the other 90%. That doesn't sound like a good picture for those wanting to enter the field. I wouldn't want to work or invest in that industry.
      • I wonder if any of that is from creative accounting like on films where almost all the films lose money, but the production/distributors seem to always turn a healthy profit [guardian.co.uk].

        Although that's probably less likely in the game industry, as far as I know theres not as much profit participation to avoid paying to the talent - but I could be wrong on that.

        They also don't have as much of a long tail of further distribution to add to their take through multiple releases through various distribution channels.
    • The only exception to this I can think of is Will Wright being backed by EA, and if it weren't for that I'd lost hope almost completely.

      Which is a small hope, because they're doing it for the same make-money-screw-all-else mentality. Will Wright just happens to be that kind of genius that can make "experimental, different" and "shed-loads of loot" cross paths. On the other hand, it shows market demand for cool, unique stuff (but we already knew that; the problem is few big publishers are daring enough t
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:24PM (#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 AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:33PM (#11980391) Homepage Journal
      > I don't understand why EA works their employees to death.

      It's called "false economy". EA believes that they'll get more work out of employees for less money by making them put in a rediculous number of hours. The problem is that EA fails to take note of how that impacts inidividual performance, team relationships, and overall morale. Not to mention the amount of experience they lose everytime they pitch out a burned-out programmer.

      Unfortunately, false economy is a fairly common issue in businesses these days. Too many managers think in a linear fashion (more of this == $$$), and fail to take the hidden costs into account. That's why we have hundreds of junior programmers employed in places where there should only be a handful of midlevel to senior developers, windows machines in high reliability situations, and gamer programers working rediculous hours.
      • Re:75% fresh meat? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by OverflowingBitBucket (464177) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:49PM (#11980531) Homepage Journal
        It's called "false economy". EA believes that they'll get more work out of employees for less money by making them put in a rediculous number of hours. The problem is that EA fails to take note of how that impacts inidividual performance, team relationships, and overall morale. Not to mention the amount of experience they lose everytime they pitch out a burned-out programmer.

        Management in such organisations are quite aware of what they are doing. What you say is very true in general. Unfortunately, in the games industry you have people lining up at the door looking for a way in. They can work their existing employees to death and if anyone has a problem with it, there are ten more people fighting to take their place. Hell, they could have daily whippings and there'd be someone who'd see it as a fringe benefit. Experience? They don't care. You need a couple of good developers at the top (and sometimes not even that!) and an endless rotating roster of 100 hours/week wage slaves working the oars.

        Not saying it's right, just saying how things are. I'm trying my way at indie development myself because I hate this state of affairs and deep down, I completely agree with you.

    • I work at an Indy game dev studio and in 2003-2005 I have been in crunch phase for over a year. hours ranged from 55 to 70.. effectively the studio wants crunch phase *all the time*, on every project. Or on any project that rolls, anyway. Other colleages are mostly waiting for cash to drop in and stuff.. Big studios have much shorter crunch periods AND longer content development cycles. The turnover at our company of new people is HIGH, and some people even leave the game because they are fed up with ho
    • I would be curious to see a comparison of profits on games and net profit for your studio vs EA. You see, while you may not have to work as hard, I'll bet they get games out faster, and that equals more dollars for them.

  • by AnalogDiehard (199128) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:26PM (#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...

    • Could someone do the parents comparison with more words?

      Maybe I am just dense and the similarities are striking... but as I see it, Ford was against worker unions and Mihaly is an indie games developer who argues that other (non-indie) developers are unrealistic whiners. Huh?

  • by Urger (817972) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:26PM (#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.
    • Yeah, but look where GTA started out. It was an above view, mediocre graphics, simple controls type game that tapped into something great... People's desire to do stuff they'd never even really thought about. That and the ability to interact with almost anything in their environment (something that made Syndicate great as well, I fired that up *again* the other day... BTW)

      I could have probably coded the original GTA in about 2 months. But it was that idea that made it sell big, not spectactular graphics
    • by nick_davison (217681) on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:32PM (#11981226)
      I doubt that, say, GTA:San Andreas, could have been created without the huge investment that was made in it.

      GTA 1 was the kind of game you could knock out in a couple of months. It also captured the moment and was hugely successful at the time.

      GTA 2 came along, brought even more money in.

      GTA 3: Liberty City moved to 3D and all the rest of it, but probably could have been developed off the profits of the first two.

      GTA 3: Vice City could well have been developed off the profits of Liberty City.

      GTA 3: San Andreas, true enough, couldn't be developed without a large bankroll - but by that point, they frankly had one. Then again, without the experience of the earlier titles, it would probably not have merited that money either.

      To paraphrase the movie industry quote about scripts: Game ideas are like asses - Everyone has one.

      Sure, GTA3:VC was an incredible game. The thing is, most indie developers probably shouldn't try to make it - they'd screw it up.

      Making a successful game isn't about a good idea. It's about having good managers who know how to keep their programmers on track, developing good code without cutting corners. It's about actually, you know, planning milestones and such in advance so you don't have your coders crunching 20 hour days and coding while hallucinating. It's about knowing that good post-launch CS is the key to convincing players to go with your next title. It's about putting in the features that are fun, rather than the ones an obsessive developer has tunnel vision for.

      Those are all skills which take time to gain. An indie developer probably shouldn't be developing a triple-A title. They should be developing the next Counter Strike or the next Turn Based Strategy title, getting the experience while they build their bankroll. Once they have a few hundred thousand in the bank then, sure, they should move on to the next really imaginative idea - like Will Wright's Spore concept and get to the point where they have milions to their name and experience with that scale of title.

      There really isn't any reason why that should be impossible. So why don't we see it happening?

      Because taking risks sucks. Few people mind betting everything when it's just your evenings and weekends outside a real job. The problem is, once you get successful, most developers don't want to feel the risk anymore (and that's excluding those who don't even wait to be successful and simply take a job at EA or wherever in the first place). A big publisher comes along, offers them a big sack of money and they never have to risk their nice big house again. Most of them take it.

      Will Wright started with SimCity, Maxis evolved, got reasonably successful - then sold out to EA.

      Peter Molyneau created Bullfrog, released Populous, Syndicate, etc. - then sold out.

      The Roberts brothers created Origin, built up the Ultima Series, Wing Commander, Wing Commander 2 - then sold out.

      RockStar started small with GTA1 and the like, grew, and ultimately sold out.

      Westwood started small. Built some 2D RTS games, got hugely popular, sold out to EA.

      About the only big names that haven't done so are Id, Valve and 3DRealms. Id has continued, sticking to its core beliefs, much to its credit. Valve had success with Halflife which its publisher (Sierra, now a part of Vivendi) barely advertised initially, built off a bought-in game engine (Quake 1) then went pretty much silent for years. 3DRealms is a good example of a smaller firm that got too successful too fast and now has enough money it can survive having a bunch of people who really don't know how to execute ideas as big as it seems to have for Duke - hence the constant restarting of the project.

      The point is - a developer can start small and work their way big - but most decide they don't want to take the risk and sell out. The big publishers don't want to take the risks either - which is why their games are kind of boring. Still, just because m
  • Common complaints (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nexboy (868907)
    The most common complaint I hear from programmers that used to be in the game biz is that the hours are long and only the bosses made a decent living. My response is that you really shouldn't go into fields like writing, singing, or game dev unless you have a burning passion to express your creativity. If you're mostly worried about your IRA, learn how to write device drivers or accounting software. Not that this is great nowadays, but it's better.
    • So what you should do is do what you like, and not care if you have no retirement to speak of in the end?

      That's stupid.

      That's why we have crappy teachers, for instance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:30PM (#11980369)
    Do it differently yourself. Quit whining about what everbody else is doing, do it different yourself. Yes it will be hard work, but it can be done.

    This is true of other industries. It may be very hard, but it can be done.

    History if full of folks who tried, failed, and tried again to do it differently. The whinners are never remembered.
  • The problem is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShamusYoung (528944) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:30PM (#11980371) Homepage
    As time goes, the games industry is probably destined to look more and more like Hollywood. On one side, you have "fun" work (acting, making games) that lots of people want to do. There are more people who WANT to do it than are NEEDED to do it. So their pay (unless you are a superstar) is going to be low.

    On the other side is a market controlled by distributors. A great game can still do poorly if it doesn't make it onto the shelves at Wal-Mart, and lots of awesome movies get overlooked because they don't make it to the Cineplex.

    This gives the movie studios and the game publishers the power over BOTH sides of the equation. The result is a string of predictable, safe, and highly derivitive products. The industry isn't "broken". You can't fix it. The market just works that way.

    The good news is, it's still easier to make an indie game than an indie movie.

    • The good news is, it's still easier to make an indie game than an indie movie.

      With the declining price and high quality of HD video cameras, alongside the increasing complexity of 3D video game phsyics and graphics, not to mention the gameplay complexity people have come to expect, that's actually a debatable point...

      What's easier, creating a less-than-2-hour story and getting a few actors to do the dialog while you point a camera at them, or creating a fully imersive game world offering 40+ hours of semi

  • 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 Obiwan Kenobi (32807) <(evan) (at) (misterorange.com)> on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:32PM (#11980387) Homepage
    Here are the key paragraph's from Greg's rant. Absolutely classic stuff!

    -Start-

    As recently as 1992: games cost 200K. Next generation games will cost 20m. Publishers are becoming increasingly risk averse. Today you cannot get an innovative title published unless your last name is Wright or Miyamoto. Who was at the Microsoft keynote? I don't know about you but it made my flesh crawl. [laughter] The HD era? Bigger, louder? Big bucks to be made! Well not by you and me of course. Those budgets and teams ensure the death of innovation. Was your allegiance bought at the price of a television? Then there was the Nintendo keynote. This was the company who established the business model that has crucified the industry today.. Iwata-san has the heart of a gamer, and my question is what poor bastard's chest did he carve it from? [audience falls about]

    How often DO they perform human sacrifices at Nintendo?? My friends, we are FUCKED [laughter]. We are well and truly fucked. The bar in terms of graphics and glitz has been raised and raised until we can't afford to do anything at all. 80 hour weeks until our jobs are all outsourced to Asia. but it's ok because the HD era is here right? I say, enough. The time has come for revolution! It may seem to you that what I describe is inevitable forces of history, but no, we have free will! EA could have chosen to focus on innovation, but they did not. Nintendo could make development kits cheaply available to small firms, but they prefer to rely on the creativity on one aging designer. You have choices too: work in a massive sweatshop publisher-run studio with thousands of others making the next racing game with the same gameplay as Pole Position. Or you can riot in the streets of Redwood City! Choose another business model, development path, and you can choose to remember why you love games and make sure in a generation's time there are still games to love. You can start today.

    -End-

    Hahahaha, who's heart did he pull out? Just brilliant!
    • The full rant can be found at his web page here [costik.com]. Scroll down to his post "But It's Over Now" in big blue letters, it's just beneath.

      Good stuff.

      - shadowmatter
    • Nintendo could make development kits cheaply available to small firms, but they prefer to rely on the creativity on one aging designer.

      Or they could say 'f*** you all, let's see you top the changes of the DS.' When even the Nintendo fanboys admit that Nintendo is taking a risk by breaking the mold its hard to say Nintendo isn't trying to innovate.

      People who haven't watched the Nintendo keynote speech should do so ASAP. Compared to Microsoft and Sony's keynote speeches, Nintendo is the new radical in the v

  • by PxM (855264) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:34PM (#11980411)
    We need alternative forms of distribution too. I'm not saying publishers suck, although I do believe that in many cases. [laughter] If the plane went down who would care about the marketing guys? We need another way of getting games out there and in players' hands. If any of you bought Half Life 2 at Wal-Mart, please just leave the room.
    This is one of the major gripes that people have about games. Acquiring a publisher just adds another person in the contract which brings about more legal hassle (remember Valve delaying HL2's Steam release to match the hardcopy release?) and more overhead. Given the nature of software, physical copies are completely overrated unless they have interesting bonus material. It would be much nicer if companies who make games that are primarily online (Q3, CS, all MMORPGS) just dropped the whole physical aspect. They could just tack on a BitTorrent client to a lightweight download/install program and just send it out to everyone. Then encourage people to make copies of the data files and distribute it to friends (since this is impossible to stop) and just sell the CD keys online. This would be just as effective for games that already require an Internet connection. They could also just give out the installer on DVD for free in stores and sell the CD key online or sell physical cards in stores that contain a CD key.

    One of these days, the companies will catch up with the state of technology.

    --
    Want a free iPod? [freeipods.com]
    Or try a free Nintendo DS, GC, PS2, Xbox. [freegamingsystems.com] (you only need 4 referrals)
    Wired article as proof [wired.com]
    • Console me (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027)

      OK, without a major publisher, how is a small development house supposed to talk to the makers of the major game consoles? Or how is a small development house supposed to develop and sell its own console?

    • Going all-online for getting games into people's hands has one huge problem: Christmas. A lot of the reason so many games are bought at Wal-mart is that the gamers aren't buying them, their grandmas are. Gamer-kid says, "Grandma, I want Half-Life 2 for my birthday." If it wasn't at Wal-Mart, gamer-kid instead receives NHL 2006.
  • by Effugas (2378) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:48PM (#11980522) Homepage
    Iron realms makes text adventures.

    Such games have not been published retail in approximately twenty years.

    Players of such games are wildly at the fringes, and would probably happily admit it.

    It would seem unwise to use Iron Realms' games, gamers, publication model, or general experiences as something that's generalizable in 2005.

    Not that I disagree with all of his sentiments, of course.
    • It would seem unwise to use Iron Realms' games, gamers, publication model, or general experiences as something that's generalizable in 2005.

      He admits as much in TFA. But it's no skin off his nose either way; either you believe he has some solid advice for the gaming industry based on his own experience; or you write him off as a fluke, a total genius who's able to run a profitable company using a model that no other company in the industry would be able to pull off. Take your pick.

      • Harry Potter, the book: One author, one year.
        Harry Potter, the movie: Much, much more.

        My point is that text adventures are so aggressively different than the rest of the gaming industry that it begs the question how relevant his conclusions are to everyone else. I wouldn't say this except he makes a really big deal about "I'm successful, so who says you can't be?" It's a different world, and a few disclaimers ain't enough.
  • by creimer (824291) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:12PM (#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 @06:26PM (#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.

    • Because here's the dirty secret of the games industry - well, I say secret, it's not really, but a surprising amount of people don't seem to know it:

      Publishers finance games. In general games developers have no real money - they certainly don't have enough money to finance development of a game on their own.

      Sometimes you get developers that try to change the publishing/distribution model (Valve being a well known example), but most developers just can't afford to turn around to the publishers and tell th
  • rant transcript (Score:4, Informative)

    by gbdmoxy (868986) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:54PM (#11980996)
    Hey all -

    Sorry to interject - just in case it adds to the discussion I recorded and covered the rant session for Gamespot. The Wonderland transcript is great, just incomplete. If you want to see the whole thing, you can find the full transcript here [gamespot.com].

    Galen
  • ...when I read this stuff is how much of the computer hardware industry is dependent on these guys. Seriously, these guys are supposed to be the reason why I should fork out AGAIN for 90% of my components to participate in their next risk-averse eye-candy gameplay-numbered-in-hours DRM crap. How much of the PC industry would just go away without it? I hope all goes the way of the console world and the rest of us with other uses for our PCs can be left to it.
  • A mix. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:33PM (#11981234) Homepage Journal
    The guy makes some good points (you can do a great deal on very little, if you put the effort in), some mediocre points (niche markets exist - so?), some bad points (he seems to claim indie films don't exist) and some truly horrible points (he implies that there's a fundamental difference between "commercial" ventures and "home enterprises").

    Let's start with the good point I saw. Yes, you can produce some excellent games with virtually nothing. Elite is an absolute classic, and is most definitely not a text adventure. Sierra Online started with very little money and highly risque advertising. I'm not sure if US Gold ever had any in-house developers, they seemed to work entirely through contracts with home-based coders.

    Now onto niche markets. There's a niche for text adventures, MUDs, etc. I'd say 99% of that niche is adequately maintained by the free (as in beer) free (as in free speech) software that is already out there. The standard engines meet most of the requirements a person might have for a text-based system.

    Engines that I know of fall into three rough groupings - LP-based MUDs which use a C-like interpreter and "Tiny"-based MUDs which use a simple scripting language combined with triggers. There are also engines which don't fall into any category. A brief list of common engines is as follows:

    • LP-based engines
      • LPMud
      • MudOS
      • LDMud
      • Shattered Worlds
      • DGD
    • Tiny-based engines
      • Tinymud
      • PernMUSH
      • TinyMUSH
      • TinyMUCK
      • TinyMUSE
      • PennMUSH
      • UberMUD
      • UnterMUD (distributed environment)
    • MOO-based engines
    • Others
      • DIKUMud (pre-coded gaming environment)
      • AberMUD (first Open Source MUD, also first graphical MUD)
      • LambdaMOO (produced by Xerox' Parc House research facility)

    Who, sanely and rationally, is going to try and compete in an already crowded market, where the competition is freely available and freely modifiable? There are places you can make money in the gaming market, but you need to carve your own niche, not hang onto the coat-tails of products you can't realisically compete with. If the niche you carve is any good, people will buy your products. Companies like Psygnosis started in this kind of way. They didn't start off as corporate giants.

    Bad Point! Independent products are hard to market. His example was getting them sold in Blockbusters. Well, yeah, and I wouldn't expect to do well trying to get car mechanics to sell cheese, either.

    If you want to sell indie movies, you go to indie movie theatres. That's why they are there. You sell to an audience most likely to be interested. If they're interested enough, maybe invite some movie critics along for the ride. Perhaps look at events like the Edinborough Fringe Festival and Edinborough Film Festival to circulate what you're doing. Meet the markets half-way, and you've a better chance of convincing them to do the other half. Do nothing at all, and neither will they.

    Lastly, the difference between markets. There is no difference. The nike shoes produced by a 10 year old kid in a sweat-shop could just as easily be made by a 10 year old at their home. All they need is a design, materials and energy.

    People make way too much of labels. Labels mean nothing. They used to indicate craftsmen and reliability, but companies have wormed their way out of anything approaching Quality Control and consumer protection. Especially in software, where you can buy a product and have no rights to complain if the product doesn't (and never will) exist.

    the EULAs people happily accept amount to one thing. If you now have an unusable, empty disk - or even an empty box - you have voluntarily waived any and all rights to object or demand compensation.

    They sell you a license, not a product. So long as the license is present and functionin

  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:43PM (#11981291)
    The bottom line is that whoever controlls the money that funds the development ends up with control of all the things that matter.

    - Lions share of the Profit
    - Creative Control
    - Ownership of the IP for the Game

    Game developers want to create kick ass games that are original (as a general rule). Publishers want to create games that will generate alot of money. As long as the balance of power favours the publishers, guess what kind of games will be made?

    We would all like to see more games as original as Katamari Damacy that sell competitivly with GTA3. But under the current system, that happens extraordinarily rarely.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • Personal experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andr0meda (167375) on Friday March 18, 2005 @08:15PM (#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 mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Saturday March 19, 2005 @12:13AM (#11982622) Homepage
    I do not know anything personal and direct about the games industry. I am not in it. But I do know three things.
    1. The people who were complaining and worried about the state of video games at GDC were people I respect. People who have made worthwhile and interesting games, people whose work I admire. This "Iron Realms" guy getting pissy at them? Uh, I've never heard of him or his company. It looks like they make MUD engines? Gee.
    2. The people who were complaining and worried about the state of video games at GDC are not merely passively whining. They are actively trying to buck trends and find other ways of doing things.
    3. I just, like an hour or so ago, got home from a long and unpleasant plane trip. I spent the better part of this time getting myself acquainted with a Nintendo DS game that came out this week called "Yoshi Touch and Go". This game is about as far from both the EA-style philosophies the GDC participants railed against and the "mainstream" as you can get, and it looks like the mainstream is going to shrivel up its nose confused at this game and ignore it completely. It ignores the conventional logic of the contemporary games industry at nearly every level.

      And it is the most wonderful game I have played in years.

      Now, I don't know if the games industry is going to take some path WIl Wright and Warren Spectre drag it down kicking and screaming, or if the EA megacorporate megabudget idiom will take over the industry completely; and either way, I don't know if "innovation", whatever the fuck that is, will result, or if it's a good thing. But looking at my Yoshi Touch and Go cartridge, I think that if what the game industry wants to go with the EA path rather than the Yoshi T&G sort of path, then it can fuck off and do it without me as a customer.

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