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Death to the Games Industry 615

Posted by Zonk
from the damn-the-man dept.
Greg Costikyan has an article up on The Escapist railing against the current state of the industry. Bigger budgets, obese publishers, and creatively dead franchises that continue to see publishing are snuffing out the opportunity for innovation in an increasingly mainstream market. From the article: "For the sake of the industry, for the sake of gamers who want to experience something new and cool, for the sake of developers who want to do more than the same-old same-old, for the sake of our souls, we have to get out of this trap. If we don't, as developers, all we will be doing for the rest of eternity is making nicer road textures and better-lit car models for games with the same basic gameplay as Pole Position. Spector is right. We must blow up this business model, or we are all doomed. What do we want? What would be ideal? A market that serves creative vision instead of suppressing it. An audience that prizes gameplay over glitz. A business that allows niche product to be commercially successful - not necessarily or even ideally on the same scale as the conventional market, but on a much more modest one: profitability with sales of a few tens of thousands of units, not millions. And, of course - creator control of intellectual property, because creators deserve to own their own work."
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Death to the Games Industry

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  • by phloydde1 (528605) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:28PM (#13455897)
    pretty graphics
    good gameplay
    small budget ..pick two...
  • by rob_squared (821479) <rob AT rob-squared DOT com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:28PM (#13455898)
    I call it the Strangle-Hold Model. People who don't have power seek it, people who have power seek to keep it. Industries that thrive on personal ability will always suffer it. Its just a matter of scale.

    So here's to the next revolution. I can't wait for more indy games, movies, music.

  • Marketing led (Score:4, Insightful)

    by carndearg (696084) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:28PM (#13455905) Homepage Journal
    I'm afraid when you let the marketeers out of their playpens and run an industry this is the inevitable result.

    The most important people in a game publisher or development house are the games testers because their input is most relevant to shaping the product as it will apear to the users - people like them. Sadly the "important" people are the marketeers.

  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:28PM (#13455907) Homepage
    The problem here is not about bloated, vapid monopolies stomping on creativity: programmers like Carmack will always exist, and will revolutionize the gaming industry through sheer willpower alone.

    I for one conjecture there just aren't enough good programmers in the world, otherwise we would see more games as revolutionary as Doom and Quake popping up on the interent.

    When is the last time a solid freeware game caught the imagination of millions? About 15 years.

    Don't blame it on corporations, blame it on the fact that genius is rare!

    Maybe people are just too demanding: they want something new every week and the gaming industry doesn't move fast enough to satisfy the short attention spans of young adults. WHy? Because you just can't write a winner every 6 months!!!

    Realize that inspiration only comes once in a great while, and for god's sake, find another hobby!

  • by IcyNeko (891749) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:28PM (#13455908) Journal
    If they truly want to "challenge everything", they can start by bringing wing commander back and putting an end to the failure they call Ultima.
  • Uh, no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101.gmail@com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:29PM (#13455913) Homepage Journal
    And, of course - creator control of intellectual property, because creators deserve to own their own work.

    The person who pays for the work deserves to own the work. This is the same idiotic logic where we have photographers owning the rights to YOUR wedding pics, even though you paid for them. If the creator wants to own the rights, then the creator should PAY for them.

    Artists should have the same rights as any other tradesman. Does the carpenter own the rights to your kitchen just because he builds the cabinets?

  • Hot air (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MBraynard (653724) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:32PM (#13455946) Journal
    The industry is growing quickly, outpacing the size of Hollywood. Yet the industry is 'dying' as more and more people are now buying gaming-capable systems - not just consoles but cell phones - and the growth spreads across all demographics (older people, women) to nationalities (China).

    Just because you can make a good game, Warren, (or can you - blackandwhite) doesn't mean you are somehow an economist in of the industry.

    These wankers should stop paying attention to the 'industry' and just look at themselves and ask - 'How can I make the most money possible?' The inevitable answer is to make great games. Build it and they will come. Taking that step alone will address all of their concerns about the 'industry.'

    What better example than Blizzard?

  • by DigitalBubblebath (708955) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:32PM (#13455952) Homepage

    Most creative industries reach this cookie-cutter, shrink-wrap product stage because people just buy it.

    Why innovate or take risks? The business model has evolved to a guaranteed-sales stage. People are stupid. They're happy with top production values and no emotional depth or innovative concept.

    Please stop buying crap, people!
  • by provolt (54870) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:33PM (#13455959)
    This doesn't really seem like a problem. If there are enough developers that feel that they don't want to work for a giant company, why not start your own?

    The main reason not to start your own company is that you are risk adverse. Big companies are also risk adverse. It's a natural thing. Why start your own company, when you can work for an established company? Why try a new game format when you have a formula that makes a lot of money.

    There might be other reasons not to start a new company. Many developers are not business types. That's fine, find a business type and make them a partner. If no business type will touch your business plan, then that probably is your answer as to why such a company doesn't exist.

    I think there probably is room for smaller game development shops that make lower budget games. However, if that's what you want, then buck it up and start your own businees. Don't just piss and moan that someone else should do it.

    As for me, I'm going to go play some Unreal Tournament and wait for Civ 4 to come out.
  • by mrbooze (49713) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:35PM (#13455992)
    This doom and gloom stuff from game industry people is becoming officially tiresome. So the game industry is becoming like other mass media industries. Whatever. Just because Hollywood spits out Fantastic Four or War of the Worlds doesn't mean someone still isn't making lots of smaller perfectly good independent films. And it doesn't even mean that the big budget hollywood films are always bad. (Though IMO they generally are.)

    I could really give a crap about the latest Madden release or Final Fantasy XXXIV or most of the big gaming franchises. I still find lots of games coming out that I want to play, more than I even have time to play.

    So yes, shocked, shocked I am to discover marketing and profiteering going on in this establishment. But so the fuck what? If you're in the game industry and you don't like games with billion dollar budgets and bleeding edge graphics, then make your own damn game on the cheap and publish it yourself. What's that? It's hard to get reliable income that way? Oops! Welcome to the entertainment industry. Where independent filmmakers have for decades been living on ketchup soup and maxed out credit cards to try and get their films in front of people.
  • Re:Uh, no (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:36PM (#13456003)
    "Does the carpenter own the rights to your kitchen just because he builds the cabinets?"

    No. But a carpenter could own the rights to the design of the cabinets in your house.

  • by sqlrob (173498) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:37PM (#13456015)
    How many of those are sequels?
  • by Musteval (817324) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:38PM (#13456020)
    Well, of course, the massive quantity of new games makes it inevitable that there are lots of turkeys. There are still quite a few fun games out there for Xbox, PS2, and even Gamecube. (N-Gage, not so much.) Of course, it seems to you that there was a much higher percentage of good games back then, but that's mainly because - guess what - you don't remember or replay the bad games!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:40PM (#13456044)
    Any company should be able to make games for any games console without payment to the games console. Its just like any other restrictive market, it needs to be broken open. Selling a console below cost is dumping.

  • by notdanielp (244035) <dpritchett@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:42PM (#13456061)
    Or EA could
    -buy them out
    -crowd them out of the market by buying up a relevant license
    -kill sales by pre-announcing a similar product

    The PC market is much more resistant to these tactics of course, people can go public with a finished game without EA ever even knowing about it. The barriers to entry in the console market are comparatively huge.

    This is why you don't see EA dominating the PC space as much. God bless PC gaming.
  • Re:Marketing led (Score:3, Insightful)

    by superpulpsicle (533373) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:42PM (#13456065)
    First step is to declare EA a monopoly. There is yet a standard Anti-Monopoly trust in the video game industry. Sure there is the Sherman Anti-trust act, but some politican needs to bend the same rules to apply it to EA.

    All these politicans waste their time talking about video game violence and bad values, they should wake up. They should break up EA and use the big company benemoth as a cornerstone example.

    If a democratic station like CNN is forcefully dominating all TV stations, Bush would have a fit. No one up high gives a fuck cause it's video "games". Let's call it video "media", then they'll care.

  • When is the last time a solid freeware game caught the imagination of millions? About 15 years.

    That's because with today's hardware and the expectation of modern day gamers, it is not economically feasible for a couple guys in their garage to make a massively popular game.

    Game development costs are huge. It takes as much or more money to make a AAA title as it does to make a Hollywood movie. And when an innovative and original title comes out and is met in the market with a yawn and no sales (Ico, Res, Katamari Damacy, Animal Crossing - great reviews, no sales), it makes it that much more unlikely that publishers will finance another one.

    It's not that there are original ideas are rare, it's that those ideas don't sell a million copies, and that's what you need to finance a game today.
  • by Drooling Iguana (61479) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:47PM (#13456111)
    Like what happened when other companies started to outdo EA in their football games?
  • by cbreaker (561297) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:48PM (#13456133) Journal
    The same old tired arguements like this tend to reappear in 6 month cycles. "New games suck. No creativity."

    I call bullshit.

    In the entire history of video games, there's *always* been the leading games with something new, and dozens or hundreds of copies. How many games appeared that were similar to Pac-Man? How many games were similar to Pole Position? How many games were just like Mario Bros?

    You can't point at today's games and say there's a problem. This has always been a "problem" (I don't think it really is one.) When a successful formula is created, a lot of people follow because it's what people want. FPS's became immensely popular - and people wanted more. Game publishers were happy to accomodate them.

    Think about it in terms of the technical aspects. A game like Doom wasn't really very original. You killed monsters in an A-Z fashion to the end of the game. The only reason it gets recognition is because it was one of the first mainstream FPS games. But it was really evolutionary - we have two eyes, we see in 3D, and so it makes sense to make 3D games as soon as computers are fast enough. There were lots of 3D games BEFORE Doom - especially in the arcades (albiet many of them utilizing vector diaplys.)

    It's all been a big process of building on top of the ideas that other people came up with. This isn't a bad thing, it's a GOOD thing. Little steps. There will be a fair share of crappy games, but that's always been the case.

    To say there's been no creativity in games of recent times is to admit that you haven't played any.

    I mean, what do you expect from games? If you're looking for the Holodeck, you need a reality check.
  • by ilyaaohell (866922) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:50PM (#13456159)
    News like this always makes me laugh.

    Just because a mass-market game is earning a lot of money doesn't mean that game developers have stopped creating more innovative games. There are ALWAYS new, original and exciting games coming out. And this will NEVER stop. Creative games don't need $10 million budgets, therefore there's nothing stopping a smaller company from making them.

    Similarly, people always whine about the Hollywood movie industry. They whine about how all the movies coming out are big summer blockbusters. They are NOT the only movies coming out, they're just the ones that get the most public exposure. There are and always have been smaller original movies, it's just a matter of knowing where to see them.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:52PM (#13456186) Homepage
    There's a fool born every minute.

    Gaming's not dead. It's not dying, either. It just seems that way to people who've been through a few decades of iterative improvments yielding diminishing returns. People get old, they grow up, and they realize that the games they're buying today don't offer anything new. Well, so what?

    There are new suckers being born every minute, and Doom 3 is NEW to them. The industry can just keep selling the same old crap to young new gamers who don't know any better, and a few years later they'll come out the other end of the process, just like the author of this article has now, jaded and thinking that everything's the same old recycled ideas and crappy invocations that have lost sight of the fact that games were supposed to be fun. They're right, of course, but as long as there's enough fools being born every minute, the industry can sustain a business model of cranking out unimaginative crap updated with the latest graphics engine.

    That might not mean that the industry has much to offer YOU, the veteran gamer, but you can still enjoy a game of PacMan, of Pitfall!, of Super Mario Bros., of any game that you've ever enjoyed. New games may suck to you, but you're on to the old tricks. If the games were truly better then, why ever leave that era?

    Why must you always buy something new in order to have fun? Rejoice in the fact that you'll never have to buy another video game and revel in the library of great console and PC games you've enjoyed for years. Free up that entertainment budget and put it towards your retirement.
  • Re:Marketing led (Score:5, Insightful)

    by provolt (54870) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:53PM (#13456192)
    No one up high gives a fuck cause it's video "games"


    I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone who is 'high up' probably doesn't 'give a fuck' because games are completely inconsiquential.

    Personally, I'd be pretty pissed if our leaders spent time worrying about the amount of creativity in amusement activities. If you want more creativity in games, buy creative games. If there aren't any creative games, then don't buy bad ones and go do something else.

    The job of the government is not to ensure you are entertained. You could argue that it is the job of the government to provide schools that will teach you the difference between "cause" and "because", but that's an entirely different conversation.
  • Re:Hot air (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:53PM (#13456195) Journal
    "These wankers should stop paying attention to the 'industry' and just look at themselves and ask - 'How can I make the most money possible?'"

    Unfortunately, this will not always drive innovation. If you have consumers who desire innovation, who will take a stance and NOT purchase games that don't innovate, then it might happen.

    Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who either
    (1) don't place a high premium on innovation or
    (2) are young, and don't realize that the 'new' game they're playing is redundant.

    Faced with the choice of purchasing a sequel to get at least *some* new gameplay, or not purchasing any games at all, most video game players will go ahead and purchase the sequel.

    Game developers understand this, and take full advantage; furthermore, production costs for a sequel can be much lower than an original game. Finally, non-innovative games are attractive because they engender less risk.

    When a developer asks, "How can I make the most money?" the answer is, a lot of the time, "By putting out a tweaked version of a previously successful game."
  • by infonography (566403) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:55PM (#13456209) Homepage
    Everybody in for a chorus of 'Dead Thing Pie!' [geocities.com] as well as storm the castle of the evil (but lame) game developers.

    But are we the buyers are to blame here. Beyond that the market has fragemented. Anyone who expects that there will a killer game that everybody would like is a fool. The tastes of the market are far to varied now. That games are getting lame is because people buy lame games. I have noticed that on Broadcast TV it's sucks. That's because the people who were interested in good shows were willing to cough up a few bucks a month for cable/Sat. Now cable and Sat are starting to suck because of torrent and netflix.

    What's it mean?

    [Shrugs]

  • by sTalking_Goat (670565) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @01:56PM (#13456227) Homepage
    We' he's talking about is developers -- as gamers, 'We' are doing fine, thank you very much.

    Are we really? I trade a 100 Doom 3 and Quake 4, FEAR, Far Cry or GTA clone for one Homeworld, Black & White or Freespace .

    All we get are clones with a new (usually graphical) gimic, while real innovative games get left in the dust. I'm not doing fin at all.

  • by sqlrob (173498) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:00PM (#13456267)
    Give away the razor, sell the blades. It's an old model.

    Don't want to play with that, publish the game on the PC. The games market is not closed.
  • by rbonine (245645) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:02PM (#13456285)
    It's just that most game companies take the easy way out and try to make the game as pretty as possible while skimping on gameplay.

    Look at Diablo II, for example. When it first came out - in 1999 - it was a sprite-based anachronism and was slagged for its lack of 3d graphics. Now, six years later, there are still 30,000 or more people playing it every night on Battle.Net. It was on the top 10 sales list for years.
  • by shotfeel (235240) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:07PM (#13456326)
    IMO "good gameplay" is the only one that counts. But then I grew up on Asteroids (don't take that too literally).
  • by alecks (473298) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:12PM (#13456378) Homepage
    what you fail to realize is that all those games you just mentioned, WERE innovative on their first version.


    Has anyone considered that maybe all those awsome games back int he day, were awsome just because gaming was relativelly new?

    Maybe, we are reaching the point where there simply aren't any more new ideas to do.
  • by unfortunateson (527551) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:18PM (#13456472) Journal
    Big screens, entertainment rooms, etc. make playing games on even a 19" monitor on your desk less than optimal. This makes people more likely to want to play games on a PS42, Xbox reloaded, etc. From the developer's point of view, a known platform, where you don't have to adjust to resolutions, video card limitations, etc. etc. is a big boon.

    What sucks about developing for the consoles is the locked-down marketing environment, where you've got to get approval and shelf space from Microsoft and Sony (Nintendo? Nintendon't).

    That immediately raises the baseline costs, which justifies a bigger budget to try to pull in a bigger audience, and make those licensing fees a smaller percentage.

    The PC market still makes it possible to have low-budget, high-fun games, such as Hamsterball Gold (yeah, it's basically marble madness, but well done), that tar-ball game I forgot the name of, FreeCiv, etc.

    And there's work being done there, as described above. It's not dead, but it's not mainstream.
  • Re:Marketing led (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ignignot (782335) * on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:19PM (#13456485) Journal
    When you see games like World of Warcraft reaching 4 million subscribers recently, I doubt you can really say the gaming industry is dying. Assuming 1/2 payed for the boxed game, that's 100 million up front, and at 13$ a month, another 520 million a year. That is almost as much money as Episode III got. There is simply no way Blizzard is spending half a billion dollars a year on the game, or even half that. I'd say that some companies are doing quite well.

    Yes we all bemoan the closing of some great software makers. Yes, may of the conglomorates churn out trash. However, there is a market for solid games that is expanding instead of contracting. Companies just need to be both innovative and aware of the current business environments. The days of programmer gurus acting as CEO are over. This indicates a maturing of the industry, not some loss. Marketers have their place. So long as the new heads of the gaming companies still listen to their programmers, and leave the creative development to the creative people, they will succeed. Companies like EA are destined to failure.
  • Re:Seriously. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rnx (99293) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:21PM (#13456498)
    i'm afraid that has more to do with you getting old than with the quality of games.
  • by j450n (678096) <jason@s2games.com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:23PM (#13456529)
    Gameplay doesn't really factor into the equation like that. You don't need big budget to design a fun system of play, it takes a little inspiration, planning and polishing. Content is the thing driving up budgets almost entirely on it's own. Programming work, even on the graphics side of things, hasn't increased in volume nearly at the rate that content creation has. Especially if you consider the fact that so many modern games are made with largely recycled code (be it a licensed engine or one developed in house that is incrementally improved), something you can't really do with art assets.

    Creating a huge world full of detailed props with multiple high resolution textures on each one just takes a lot of man hours and there is no way around it. Sure, there is some noise about procedural assets right now, but in most cases those ideas are quite far from being useable. (Maxis' upcoming "Spore" is probably the only really notable exception).
  • by iocat (572367) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:23PM (#13456544) Homepage Journal
    Bottom lime: all Greg seems to do is write gloom-and-doom articles about the game industry. If it sucks so bad, go get a different job.

    I'm sorry, I'm in the game industry, and I see all the problems he discusses. But it's no different than film, animation, book publishing, etc. It's always going to be a slog to survive commercially while realizing creative visions that don't appeal to the mass-market.

    I mean, really, as far as gamers seeing stuff they think is cool, go hang out at an actual EB with actual, money-spending gamers. They see stuff they think is cool ALL THE TIME. No, it may not appeal to the videogame design elite, but the average consumer is being well served, voting with their dollars, and growing the industry.

    It's cool to say the game industry is doomed, but I haven't seen very good evidence of it.

    I was just playing Flatout this weekend. It's a simple game made by a small team. In essence, it's like Pole Position with better textures and a better damage model. But you know what, it's really freaking fun. Looking at their home-grown ragdoll physics stuff is great. The music is cool. I got my $50 worth. The notion that there's somehow something intrinsicly wrong with the "Pole Position" model -- simulate a real world car race -- is totally elitest and fucked, in my opinion. (Oh, and somehow the Flatout team, laboring in the slave world that is the game industry, managed to cram in some totally funny -- and innovative -- mini games... I guess because it's not Katamari, though, it doesn't count as innovation.)

  • by Rycross (836649) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:25PM (#13456560)
    Sometimes I have to wonder if the fact that game designers are avid game players doesn't help the fact. Most of the time, when I talk to people in our game developement club, their original and creative ideas involve taking x game and adding feature y. Said feature y probably comes from game z.

    It makes me wonder how much having a large game library hampers your creative process. When you're exposed over and over to certain ways of implementing game ideas, do you tend to think out of the box less and less? I see this a lot with software too. How many open source projects are truly revolutionary, and not just a better implementation of something that already exists?

    One of my friends told me that the creator of Katamari Damacy, possibly the most creative and innovative game in the past couple of years, had never played video games (and actually hated them). Is this true?
  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:43PM (#13456777) Homepage
    This doesn't really seem like a problem. If there are enough developers that feel that they don't want to work for a giant company, why not start your own?

    That's not really the problem. Imagine the following: Before, all it took to be an author was a cheap printing press. Today, books must come with an extremely expensive and rare cover design. Not because the cover actually adds that much to its creative value but because customers have gotten used to it and can't really imagine buying a book without one. You can either make an uncreative book with guaranteed sales or start your own company that can't afford the cover and not get anything sold. Wouldn't you say that's a problem for the industry and society as a whole?

    Now replace books with computer games and cover with eyecandy. The barrier to entry of making a game that doesn't look dated just keeps increasing. Now you might argue that consumers should simply look past the eyecandy, but it just doesn't happen and the market couldn't sustain a high number of high cost games. Because niches simply aren't big enough to justify the costs, you get nothing but rehashed sequels.

    Kjella
  • by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:47PM (#13456809)
    Actually, the NFL approached EA on the exclusive licensing of the NFL. From their perspective it made sense to unify yourself with the company that made the number one selling football game.

    And I don't care what anyone says, if the NFL came to you and asked you if you would like exclusive rights to their property for ANYTHING (Towels, plates, games, butter, whatever...) you would be a foolish business man to say "No, I think I like my competition having an equal footing with me. It spurs innovation."

    Plus, Madden isn't going to live forever, and EA needed another property to attach it's football game to, and you can't beat the friggin NFL.
  • Markets (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Urmane (2213) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:49PM (#13456821) Homepage
    Markets don't serve "creative vision", markets serve customers. What you want is irrelevant. Sorry.
  • by Tyler Durden (136036) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:54PM (#13456884)
    I keep seeing this complaint about games. That we're evolving the technology, but the overall creativity of games is diminishing. So I ask, what exactly are people expecting, creatively that they are not getting now?

    Errrrr.. if you're going to give people just what they're expecting then you're not being very creative, are you?

    A great video game does something that nobody expects and totally expands views of what's possible in the genre. Great people go out to create new expectations and mediocre people try to fulfill them.

    I grew up during the dawn of arcades. During that time, you'd very frequently see a new game come out and say to yourself, "Wow, I never knew they could do that," or, "Gee, I never thought of that before." (Think Tempest, Punch-Out!!!, Zaxxon or Dig-Dug for examples). Nowadays this feeling comes much more rarely, even considering the sophistication of modern games.

    Nowadays people are only willing to make safe bets on the games they're willing to put out. It's time the industry grew a pair of balls and were willing to create something for the sake of doing something damn cool and just hoping that potential buyers feel the same way. It's not all that risky when you're willing to forego bleeding-edge technology and instead focus on innovative gameplay to shrink your budget.

  • by blincoln (592401) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:55PM (#13456891) Homepage Journal
    So I ask, what exactly are people expecting, creatively that they are not getting now?

    Nothing.

    It's the overdone, familiar genres that make money. Therefore those are what most people are expecting.

    There is a vocal minority of gamers who complain that there are so few innovative games out there, but when they're actually released, they sell like crap:

    - P.N.03 (and its cancelled sibling Dead Phoenix) for the Gamecube
    - Rez and Ico for the PS2
    - Beyond Good and Evil
    - Battlezone and Sacrifice for the PC

    The only kind of oddball games I can think of that sold well recently were the original Soul Reaver (which seems to have been a fluke - its sequels didn't match its success), and the Metroid franchise, which is pretty much its own formula now anyway.

    What makes tons of money?

    - The newest FPS
    - The newest licensed sports game
    - The newest racing game
    - The newest fighting game
    - The newest knockoff of whatever is popular at the moment (e.g. GTA clones now, RTS games a few years ago)
    - Knockoffs of 25-year-old arcade games for cellphones
    - Movie licenses

    All of these have an implied "good" attached, e.g. Fight Club the Shitty Game is not going to outsell Soul Calibur 2 just because it's newer.

    If unusual games were profitable, there wouldn't be a shortage of them.
  • Scratch an itch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SnprBoB86 (576143) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @02:56PM (#13456908) Homepage
    If artwork and technology are causing exponential development costs, developers need to work smarter.

    Right now the game industry is in a transitional phase where great graphics are expected, but hard to produce. The solution is to make it easier to produce great looking games and Middleware is the key.

    Middleware solutions are growing fast and have enabled spectacular feats. GTA3+, for example, runs entirely on RenderWare with a proprietary background-loading/streaming system. Rockstar took existing technology (RenderWare) and existing game play stuff (racing, 3rd person shooters, crazy-taxi, etc) and blended them together with something new and unique and CREATIVE (a vast, free roaming game world). Sure the development costs were high for the GTA3 series games, but I can bet you that had they been forced to reimplement RenderWare, there would be no GTA3 games to play today. The cost would have just been too prohibitive.

    Now that Rockstar has come up with this free roaming world game play style (and people clearly enjoy it) either rockstar, or someone else, should release the technology as middle ware and poof, its now easy for people to add new innovations to that.

    There needs to be more art-related middleware such as http://www.speedtree.com/ [speedtree.com] and improved tools such as ZBrush (being used for bump map creation in Unreal 3) from http://pixologic.com/home/home.shtml [pixologic.com]

    A lot of time is spend reproducing work. We need to work smarter, not harder. We need public domain high resolution 3d models for common real world objects, character model generation software, facial expression engines, animation engines, tons of stuff!

    There is a big itch that people need to start scratching! And you can make a lot of money doing it.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @03:06PM (#13457011) Journal
    I keep seeing this complaint about games. That we're evolving the technology, but the overall creativity of games is diminishing. So I ask, what exactly are people expecting, creatively that they are not getting now?


    Adventure games.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @03:06PM (#13457016) Homepage Journal

    But it's no different than film, animation, book publishing, etc.

    There is a difference. Anybody can self-publish a film or animation by selling DVD-R discs online. Anybody can self-publish a book through a so-called vanity press. But in console game publishing, only the console makers can make a legitimately bootable disc, and they don't talk to smaller firms. And before you suggest developing for PC, remember that there are a lot of genres, such as same screen multiplayer, that don't translate well to the PC.

  • by Jane_Dozey (759010) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @03:16PM (#13457123)
    I wouldn't exactly consider myself "videogame design elite" (more a casual gamer) but I can see the problem. There seem to be more games produced today that at any other time and they're all getting a little "samey". I'm far from saying that there isn't ever anything new or innovative, IMHO there is but the gaps are getting bigger.

    I absolutely love it when I find something that's unlike other games I've played. The games industry needs less formula copying and more creating. If they don't they won't collapse but they'll get stale and that's not good for anyone involved.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2005 @03:38PM (#13457316)
    I've seen several people making comments along the lines of "Big whiners, don't they realize that Hollywood/TV/etc has exactly the same problems?"

    Here's how the game industry is different than Hollywood:

    The lowest ranking person on the status totem pole of Hollywood production is the writer. A writer working on direct-to-video features makes about $100K a script. A decent feature script goes for around $200K. "Big" scripts start around $500K and can go into the millions.

    Compare to the salary of most programmers and artists working in the game industry, much less designers or writers (and I should point out that many game companies do not consider writers cost-effective, despite marketing bullet-points trumpeting the depth of their "interactive storylines").

    Or take the example of "above the line" personnel such as actors and directors, who routinely get a back-end percentage of the gross. The day anyone in the industry who actually made a material contribution to the development of a game (and no, not voice actors) gets any kind of royalties is the same day that Larry Probst takes a vow of poverty.

    Oh, and isn't Hollywood unionized as well?

    Let's face it, game development is a 21st century sweatshop where a few people realized that they could make a whole lot of money off the backs of a lot of other passionate, dedicated people. Given that, the fact that games seem to have become rote, cookie-cutter affairs in many ways should not be a surprise to anyone -- after all, factories produce widgets, not works of art.
  • by faust2097 (137829) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @03:39PM (#13457327)
    Midway's "Blitz: the League" is coming out this fall and it has a lot of stuff that's never been seen in a football game like a storyline. Also hookers.

    No NFL license doesn't mean you can't make a sports game, in fact, Pro Evo/Winning Eleven has been kicking the official FIFA games butts for the last few years. If the game is good enough the lack of license doesn't matter.
  • by Robotron23 (832528) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @03:54PM (#13457495) Homepage
    Ultima Online was a game EA pretty much turned into a failure inside of a year. It originally belonged to a smallish firm called OSI, which was tied to Richard Garriot, who invented most of Ultima's concepts. UO was one of the first MMORPG's and was very popular...until EA took over.

    As soon as Richard Garriot sold up, OSI was referred to sarcastically as O$I by a great deal of UO's playerbase, it was a joke at first...till the real changes began. One of EA's first updates to the game was "Publish 16", a large patch that basically Diablo-ified much of UO, changing the game mechanics profoundly. It also encouraged farming/hyperinflation, you had to have like a million coins for decent armor. Then came Age of Shadows, which pushed these changes further, introduced materialist crap like Bulk Ordering and customizable housing. One of the sole good EA-additions in my opinion was champ hunts - you gather up like 5-8 people and spent like 3 hours in Felluca (Pvp realm) fighting tonnes of monsters.

    Not to say that the playerbase weren't fussed before that. I knew a lot of dudes in UO that believed that 1998-9 was its "Golden Age", anything after that was just spoiling what was the first truly brilliant PVP game. Anyway, by 2004, nothing was untouched by EA, even the previously tough gain system was fucked with...and users began to leave. An employee at EA was sacked for duping in game and selling gold/items on eBay. A lot of the guys I spoke with before I quit in spring were just staying for the 7th year vet rewards (I think they turned out to suck aswell). Since then they've brought out more expansions, andcreated more crappy incentive items/clothes (pixel-crack as many users called em' :).

    Point is, is that EA generally fuck most things up, usually after a decent start. Take Medal of Honour Allied Assault, it was EA produced and marked the beginning of a swathe of WW-2 (later Vietnam/Gulf war) themed FPS's. But it was a geniunely good game, and if EA hadn't made about 2 expansions and then another 3 or 4 MOH games to follow it then it would have been remembered as a standalone hit, not just the start of something which would later come to derision among many magazines and websites.

    Here's my suggestions to how games can improve :


    Cut the budgets to about 1/10 their current size.


    Keep staffing teams very high, allow brainstorming sessions within dev teams. In the case of RPG's, use literature as inspiration - all a good RPG needs is a story and gameplay. If you care for the characters/plot twists then your playing a great RPG.


    Stop making sequels. Even GTA is starting to get somewhat spoiled now - because labels just force programmers to make sequels too soon and too quickly. Make a maximum of 3 games in a series. Further to this, stop making copycat FPS's.


    Do away with lengthy working hours, and put little or no pressure on the devs. EA's games suck for a reason - too many wage-slave caffiene fueled all night coding sessions.


    Yeah, bring Wing Commander back, and also bring back real-cinema cutscenes like we saw in C&C Tiberian Sun. Who cares if the actings a little cheesy? Wing Commander IV rocked because Mark Hamill and that dude from Back to the Future put their all into a canceled TV series. If a canceled TV series can do that much for a games cred, think of what a well-planned, filmed production could make - a legend perhaps?


    Petition for EA's breakup. Its too large, too cumbersome and obsessed with profit over innovation. Gaming can't be allowed to go the way of music - where big firms make crap...and get away with it.


    Lastly, stop paying attention to graphics. Focus 60% on gameplay/plot, 25% on sound and 15% on graphics/overall look, scenary etc. I'd prefer a plot akin to FF7's than some shiny windscreens and nice scenic views.

  • by zoomba (227393) <mfc131.gmail@com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @03:58PM (#13457543) Homepage
    A console game is the game industry equivalent of a studio backed and distributed film. They have the resources, they have the lock on equipment and stars, as well as a virtual lock on theaters.

    The PC is the platform of the indie developer, always has and always will be. The only barrier to development is your own ability to learn given all the free tools out there. You can put a game up for sale on your website and use PayPal for order handling. So what if there are a lot of genres that don't translate well to the PC? Same screen multiplayer isn't a genre so much as a hack to bring MP games that have been enjoyed for years on the PC to the console market.

    The only genre that doesn't translate well to the PC is the platformer, but that is solved by getting a good control pad
  • by iocat (572367) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @04:40PM (#13458014) Homepage Journal
    The reality is if it wasn't for those "samey" games that only appeal to the mass market, there wouldn't be any dough to make "innovative" games. Although this has been a pretty dry summer, I think the ratio of innovative games has been pretty good over the life cycle of the current-gen consoles. Not every movie can be Napolean Dynamite, because people like car chases. Not every game can be Katamari, because people like playing simulated Football.

    I think you'll always see a dip in innovation at the end of the cycle, as more teams move onto ramping up for next gen, but that will be followed by a rash of bizarre games at the very tail end of the cycle (like the Sea Monkeys game on PSP, or Easter Bunny's Day out).

  • by donscarletti (569232) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @06:37PM (#13459173)
    So that's what I want to see, more games that blend strategy and first person combat in large persistent environments. What do you want to see?

    Ah, so in fact you actually do want Battlefield 2 (which blends strategy with first person combat in a large environment with persistant rank) but have been prejudiced against it because it has the number 2 after it. Battlefield 2 has a squad and commander system that makes it easy, intuitive and fun to play as part of a team. It also has been designed to make teamwork florish over individual work by its balancing of outfit kits and making vehicals heavily enhanced by additional passangers. Battlefield 2 may not be a revolutionary step, but it is a clear evolutionary step in the field of group tactics and team strategy. I picked up a copy three days ago and I am very glad I did.

    As for the other game you mention, Half Life 2. I found that game increadibly innovative in that firstly, it is the only game I have ever played that has physics simulation as an integral part of the gameplay and not just an afterthought. In HL2 there are puzzles (albeit not overly challenging ones) based on clever usage of physical objects with really great effect. It is the only game I have played where one's most powerful weapon is picking up part of the scenery with a special weapon and flinging it at enemies at high speed with accurate effects on impact. Later on it becomes the first game I have played to allow a players to hurl enemies at other enemies. Half Life 2 is also the first game to have a large section of it played in an unarmed semi-amphibious watercraft where one needs to both navigate an artificial canal and clear obstructions on foot in some fairly cool senarios at dams, locks and sluices. To my knowledge, none of these things have been done before, making HL2 far more innovative than it's predecessor.

    It occurs to me that much of the whining about lack of creativity in games at the moment is done by people who rather than judging it by its content, judge it by its enumeration. Get over the numbers and give the damn game a try; games need something to build on and a game is basically a sequence of numbers anyway.

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