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World of Goo Dev Wants Big Publishers To Build Indie Teams 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-a-pony dept.
Ron Carmel, co-founder of game developer 2D Boy, which created the indie hit World of Goo, gave a speech at Montreal International Games Summit in which he encourages large game publishers to put more time and money into smaller, indie-like teams. Quoting GameSetWatch: "'We need a medium-sized design studio. Something that is larger than a typical indie, but has the same propensity for of talent density, focus, and risk-taking,' said Carmel, formerly an employee of major publisher Electronic Arts prior to going independent. Notably, a focus on profit must be eliminated from the equation. 'Creating this within a major developer doesn't present a problem,' said Carmel. With a budget of $1-$2 million dollars, 10 staffers could be hired to work on 'creatively ambitious and forward-thinking projects.' He likened it to the automobile industry, which alongside its mainstream consumer products works on concept cars — few of which enter production as regular models. The concept car is, said Carmel, 'a marketing expense to build your brand, and say, "Look at all the amazing things we're creating."' It also helps with recruitment. Said Carmel, 'there's no reason the larger game companies can't do that.' He also said that developers must move away from the notion that a team comprised primarily of programmers and artists can create a great work. Why do Valve's games have such amazing environments? Because, said Carmel, 'Valve has architects on staff.'"
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World of Goo Dev Wants Big Publishers To Build Indie Teams

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  • innovation? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lanswitch (705539) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @06:42AM (#34194704)

    EA just reinvented the R&D department.

    • Re:innovation? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @07:03AM (#34194786)
      That's the main problem. He is calling for an R&D department; but it's all outsoruced to smaller companies. How do you bring all that together to help the main product?
      • Re:innovation? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by somersault (912633) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @08:08AM (#34194970) Homepage Journal

        The results of these departments work would be the main product, since the main product is games. Creating smaller teams to work on new ideas rather than just have everyone making new Need For Speed/Sports titles would be pretty cool.

        I'll admit I do enjoy a lot of the Need For Speed games, but seeing more slightly quirky original games would be great. EA already published stuff like Mirror's Edge, DeathSpank, and Brutal Legend (and probably more, but those are the ones I know about and enjoyed) in the last couple of years, all of which take a new direction on well established gaming concepts, but I'd like to see more of that kind of thing.

      • Hell, even R&D companies don't have R&D Departments anymore.

        Remember Bell Labs? Didn't IBM recently ditch a lot of R&D? Etc.

    • LMAO!!

  • Not just them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jareth-0205 (525594) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @07:07AM (#34194800) Homepage

    Extra Credits make a compelling case

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/1923-Innovation [escapistmagazine.com]

    • A couple problems with the video:
      • No captions. Not even a transcript.
      • It fails to mention that indies are shut out of certain genres entirely due to lack of home theater PCs on which to run local multiplayer games.
  • No, moron. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058)
    what this guy asks, was the thing which turned gaming from an innovative field into a mass manufactory of profits for shareholders' sake, and ushered in the "SequelToGreatGame XVIII" era. and the rehash concepts.

    if money is put to indie teams, those indie teams will get turned into just other manufactories for profit. and when they dont profit enough they will be shut down as divisions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ikkonoishi (674762)

      The company doesn't invest in an existing indie game team. It creates a indie-like team with more of a focus on innovation than commercialization to serve as a foundation for new series, and gameplay paradigms.

      • by unity100 (970058)
        difference ? company will still be avoiding trying anything risky. and, if they actually invent anything, they will attempt to patent it, and killing innovation on it.
        • If they see a profit from these things though, they will continue to let the indie groups do their thing. If they're not seeing a profit, then of course they should kill off the idea as obviously customers aren't enjoying the results.

          I think they've already been taking risks and trying new things anyway though. As I mentioned above, I noticed some original games coming out from EA in the last few years (especially since people here are always complaining about EA being all about the remakes and sequels). Mi

          • by unity100 (970058)
            youre thinking shallow. as i said, if there is any innovation, they will immediately patent them, and monopolize them. imagine what would happen if rts concept was patented by a company and that company was the sole producer of rts games for the last decade. or, they just didnt want to produce rts games in some period.

            big corporations = bad, with current patent and copyright system.
            • I wouldn't have a problem with that as I find RTS games boring, but I get the point!

              I don't think you can patent a genre though. Saints Row is almost a direct rip-off of GTA (but with some nice improvements actually), but they didn't get sued for it AFAIK. Here in the UK/Europe I don't think any form of software patents are allowed yet.

              • by unity100 (970058)
                of course you can. if you word it correctly while applying for the patent, you can own a genre even before it starts. saints row can happen, because gta didnt patent the genre by the way. but, some company will eventually attempt it.
    • Re:No, moron. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @11:05AM (#34196344) Journal

      if money is put to indie teams, those indie teams will get turned into just other manufactories for profit. and when they dont profit enough they will be shut down as divisions.

      And then more money can be put into a new indie team - and the cycle repeats - Thats what he's saying.

      The World of Goo dev isn't entirely against the big factory type churn out profits game development - he understands that it isn't going away.

      All he's saying is that this small change in the structure will keep the gaming scene fresh - we won't get stagnated by Halo:umpteenmillion or Call of Duty over 9000. If they took a small amount of money that they spend on the bigger titles to help support the smaller shops, they essentially have an R&D Department that can give them a new product to manufacture when the big titles no longer sell.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by unity100 (970058)
        big companies will patent any innovation. imagine what would have happened if the rts concept was patented by a company and monopolized for the last decade.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aggrav8d (683620)
      What the industry has done for many years is buy a promising young studio and grind it into a fine paste. OP is proposing they create an environment in which innovation can flourish and design is paramount. Baby Apples and baby Valves. That environment is, by definition(?), a *rich* environment - that is to say free of the distraction of the bottom line. On the one hand they're killing the golden goose they just stumbled across. On the other they run a farm to raise geese and hope one of them starts la
  • Really? I know they have writers, artists, coders and animators but if they do have architects, i guess all those weird looking houses on TF2 maps are the reason why they hired them XD
  • Word of Goo was amazing, but the thing about small budget games is that you have to keep making them. You can't retire from your one hit wonder, although apparently you can segue into becoming an industry analyst.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zwei2stein (782480)

      Unless you make millions from just selling alpha version access...

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @09:35AM (#34195434) Journal

      And how often do we expect a team of 2 people to crank out hit games?

      World of Goo may have been a "1 hit wonder" that people can't expect to retire off the earnings of .... but I don't think it's fair to try to lessen the value of what they've said/done by complaining that they haven't released more great games already?

      Among other things, I really appreciated the fact that they did both a Mac and a PC version of World of Goo. I spend most of my time on a Mac these days, and it's still disappointing how often a good game title never gets a Mac port. You'd think a developer would realize that to boost sales of a game they spent (presumably) years working on, it's easier to just recompile the code for OS X and get it running well on there than to come up with a whole new idea and crank out another whole game. Mac users may only be 10-20% of the overall market (depending on which stats you use), but they're far more likely to buy YOUR game title you release for OS X than the typical Windows user is! They've got far less to choose from AND they tend to be more affluent and willing to pay for software.

      • by Tr3vin (1220548)
        It isn't always as easy as simply porting it over. In many respects, it is easy to port a game to Linux than to port it to OS X. Porting assumes that you can easily access the same type of graphical APIs. If you used DirectX, which Microsoft pushes heavily, you have to do at least some work to port it to OpenGL. Even using OpenGL can be difficult since OS X doesn't support 3.0. Many of the techniques and functions that should be available on modern hardware simply aren't exposed in OS X. It ends up becoming
        • You CAN just recompile the code if cross platform support was planned from the beginning. Recompiling on a different target OS is exactly how I "port" my code, if you can even call that "porting".

          • by iosq (1084989)
            On the same note though, XBLA offers a similar sort of market size to apple consumers and requires the use of DirectX/XNA. Considered that most gamers fall into either the console or Windows PC demographics, it may make more sense to use one of the aforementioned API's, forgoing the opportunity presented by Apple in favor of apparently greener pastures
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by VortexCortex (1117377)

              it may make more sense to use one of the aforementioned API's

              This is exactly what 2DBoy did.
              They used existing cross platform libraries (and their APIs) such as SDL & Open Dynamics Engine. This allowed them an easy path to distribution on Mac, Windows, Linux & Wii...

              Therefore: It may also make sense to just use cross platform libraries or complete Engines such as Ogre3D and Unreal, foregoing the vendor lock-in provided by Microsoft.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Herkum01 (592704)

        Yes, yes, yes we have heard it all before, why not compile games for Mac, it must be EASY! I tell you what, why use a Mac when all the programs are available on Windows? I am sure that the Photoshop is the same on Windows as it is on Mac, right? That is an easy decision just use Windows instead!

        ***End Sarcasm***

        If it were as easy as you make it sound, every 2 man operation would be making versions for Mac and Windows. The fact of the matter is that it is hard, and not necessarily productive. Sometimes you

        • by VortexCortex (1117377) <(VortexCortex) ( ... -retrograde.com)> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @01:24PM (#34198096)

          Stop spreading the "Cross-Platform is hard" FUD.

          It is hard when you start off writing the game using a system designed around vendor lock in... why wouldn't it be?

          It's NOT hard when you start off using a cross platform tool chain... In fact, it's dead simple.

          My exact same code compiles on Mac, Linux and Windows using Ogre3D or SDL (what 2DBoy used).

          The reason that Mac & Linux don't have Windows games is because the games were designed as Windows games instead of cross platform games.

          Thus I must reiterate:

          You CAN just recompile the code if cross platform support was planned from the beginning.

          P.S. I just love it when someone who is ignorant of the process tells me how hard it is to do the simple process.

          "Of course it's difficult to operate an internal combustion engine, or else we wouldn't all be using steam engines!"

          • by Kjella (173770)

            Thus I must reiterate: You CAN just recompile the code if cross platform support was planned from the beginning.

            Well, doh if you've specifically gone in for using cross platform tools and writing cross platform code it's just a recompile. Otherwise you've pretty much failed at that, haven't you?

            It is hard when you start off writing the game using a system designed around vendor lock in... why wouldn't it be?

            It is hard when you pick the best tool for your primary platform, giving you the lowest development cost, shortest time to market and lowest risk. You neglect that and pretend it's two perfectly equal tool chains and one will give you cross platform and the other not. If they're not equal then the Windows game can be out the d

      • by westlake (615356)

        Mac users may only be 10-20% of the overall market (depending on which stats you use), but they're far more likely to buy YOUR game title you release for OS X than the typical Windows user is! They've got far less to choose from AND they tend to be more affluent and willing to pay for software

        The port to the Mac does not come free. Marketing your Mac product does not come free. Supporting your Mac product does not come free. Reaching out for that last ten percent of the market is often a mistake.

        • I dunno.. it's the last 10% of the market, but at the moment, there are also fewer competitors, and there is also somewhat of an expectation that it might be a slightly more affluent 10% of the market (based the price of typical apple PCs vs. typical non-apple PCs).

          In other words, 10% of the target market might not be only 10% of your sales.

      • by AP31R0N (723649)

        Boo hoo, I moved into this expensive, pretty shack on a mountain far from all you plebes and no one comes to visit me anymore and I can't get basic services!

        Enjoy your self-imposed exile.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blahplusplus (757119)

      The games industry *IS* a hit driven business though, lets face it. In our youth we rented all the average games and only bought *the best*. The game industry model is a harsh one.

    • by Ed Avis (5917)
      Why can't a low-budget game make you enough to retire on? Two million dollars shared between two developers works out just as well as a hundred million dollars shared between a hundred developers.
      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Note that he's recommending that studios switch to making many small games. The model that works for a couple of guys doesn't work for EA.
  • In other news--- (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cindyann (1916572)

    Big publishers want devs to shut up and get back to work.

    That said, many of the R&D departments at companies I've worked for are 0.56% R & 99.44% D.

    Although I worked in the Advanced Development group for one company where all we did were prototypes and researchy projects. Some of them actually made it into product. I think that might be the exception though. Typically though that company bought its innovation and then we had to integrate it.

    I think the lesson is: if you want to innovate, start your

    • by tepples (727027)

      if you want to innovate, start your own company

      Publishers (and console makers for developers who choose to self-publish) prefer not to work with a sole proprietorship or partnership whose owners and employees telecommute from their bedrooms. They want an office. Nor do publishers and console makers appear to want a developer's first game, no matter how polished; they want "game industry experience" (source [warioworld.com]) which I guess translates to past releases on PC or mobile platforms. But not all genres are suited for PC or mobile. Can you recommend a step-by-ste

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nedlohs (1335013)

        I think you already game the steps.

        1. Incorporate.
        2. Create PC or mobile game.
        3. Rent office space.
        4. Work with publisher/console maker.

        You might have to iterate item 2 until you generate enough money - or start with a bunch of money in the first place.

        • by tepples (727027)

          2. Create PC or mobile game.

          This would mean that I would have to find a genre that 1. I enjoy playing (and therefore would enjoy testing) and 2. works well on PC or mobile. Some of my favorite games are best played with two to four gamepads and one screen, and there aren't enough home theater PCs to make a market for those.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nedlohs (1335013)

            Yes, sometimes you actually have to do something you don't "enjoy" before you get to do the stuff you do enjoy.

            I'm pretty sure most small business owners don't enjoy huge junks of the work they need to do to get their business running and then keep it running.

            • sometimes you actually have to do something you don't "enjoy"

              You make the same point as Anonymous Coward [slashdot.org], to whom please see my reply. If I don't like to play first-person shooters, for example, how can I make a compelling first-person shooter? And if not first-person shooters, then which desktop-friendly genre do you recommend for a video game produced solely to pay one's proverbial dues?

              I'm pretty sure most small business owners don't enjoy huge junks of the work they need to do to get their business running and then keep it running.

              But as I understand it, most small business owners don't have to make and sell a completely unrelated product to prove themselves before they can make and sell a product that the bu

              • by nedlohs (1335013)

                Authors often have to make their name writing stuff publishers like before they can actually write the novel they have wanted to do from the start.

                You can manufacture and sell your own console if you don't like the restrictions the existing ones have in place.

                Of course the XBOX 360 has http://create.msdn.com/en-us/home/membership [msdn.com] which requires none of the stuff you've complained about.

                • by tepples (727027)

                  Authors often have to make their name writing stuff publishers like before they can actually write the novel they have wanted to do from the start.

                  No analogy is perfect. Authors of books have the option of self-publishing using a printing service and hiring a publicity firm to promote their books. This works because no specific hardware is needed to read a self-published book. Self-published video games in console-style genres, on the other hand, require specific, uncommon hardware, namely a home theater PC. The cause of lack of innovation is that businesses that prefer not to innovate have better access to ubiquitous hardware.

                  You can manufacture and sell your own console

                  In that case, the cause

                  • by nedlohs (1335013)

                    Who cares about Mac OS X, I thought you needed multiple game controllers around a TV???

                    Who cares about the hardware reliability? You aren't selling the console.

                    Who cares about "per platform"? You've just argued that you can't do the other platforms because the conole manufacturers/game publishers require experience.

                    • Who cares about the hardware reliability? You aren't selling the console.

                      Once the Xbox 360 had been out for a year and people had become aware of the general hardware failure indicated with three red quadrants [wikipedia.org], people started buying Wii or PLAYSTATION 3 consoles instead of Xbox 360 for greater perceived hardware reliability. These consoles have no counterpart to AppHub.

                      Who cares about Mac OS X [...] Who cares about "per platform"?

                      It's called keeping my options open. I've read horror stories about Microsoft burying the indie games in the Xbox 360 menu so that players can't find them to buy them. But if a product isn't an Xbox 360 exclusive,

                    • by nedlohs (1335013)

                      But you're only creating the xbox game to get the "see I have a experience" checkbox so you can get the developer stuff for the other consoles/interest from a publisher, because you didn't want to make one for the PC because you hate every genre that is available on the PC.

                      It's not the final step and that that game isn't portable shouldn't be a problem. You can just rewrite it for the other consoles now that you have the experience checkbox anyway.

  • "With a budget of $1-$2 million dollars, 10 staffers could be hired to work on 'creatively ambitious and forward-thinking projects.'"

    10 staffers that would constantly generate great game ideas that actually sell? Never going to happen, you need fresh ideas often and that takes fresh blood. What you need to do is take a page from venture capital firms: throw a little money out to anyone that come out with an idea that sounds promising.

    Example: I come to you with this great game idea. You ask for a
    • Example: I come to you with this great game idea. You ask for a sample and I throw something together, maybe just a proof of concept. It looks promising, so you send me a money (whatever seems reasonable, between $X,XXX and $XXX,XXX) for a more polished copy. I now have a few bucks to throw around and find freelancer programmers and designers and throw money at them and come up with a decent alpha. You really like it, so you either buy the idea off me or hire me and maybe even the freelancers to continue working on the game with your professional developers. Now a real game comes out and it all started with some guy's idea

      Isn't that pretty much exactly what big publishing houses do already?

      • I think so. The point of sponsoring the team and not the idea is that it gives the team some freedom to explore new concepts rather than requiring the big publisher to approve each idea - Because they almost always only approve old, tried concepts.

    • I have friends who work at a company that produces DS games. When they were starting, about 5 kids working on masters degrees, this is exactly what they did and how the industry does work. Usually this is a playable level or proof of concept, but if it's a RPG or other type of game it may also include detailed story outline, universe background, etc.. Once you have your "demo" level created, then you start shopping around for money and demoing it to publishers. If they think it's interesting, they'll f

  • Too bad they don't have any engineers.

    *rimshot*

  • I love you 2D Boy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joe U (443617) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @09:30AM (#34195396) Homepage Journal

    EA really didn't want Will Wright, Maxis and "The Sims" at first. He had to fight for it. Fortunately for teenage girls everywhere, it was a huge hit.

    Spore would have been the next huge franchise, however EA got in the way and turned it into mush.

    World of Goo could easily be a full franchise like The Sims, or Lemmings, but they're not going down that road, they want to innovate.

    EA doesn't want to innovate, they just want "The Sims 4" now with extra add-on packs, so you can re-buy everything again.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      *cry*

      I wanted SPORE to be good! I would have spent sooo much money on it if it were good...

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Well EA and 2D Boy are both extremes on opposite side of the scale. I don't mean to be like EA that's releasing the same rehash over and over, but the first game in a series is rarely perfect. You probably had some budget/feature constraints, you didn't know what people would and wouldn't like and you hadn't had that much feedback. I think they're being silly in not releasing a World of Goo 2, unless they're really that out of ideas. Some game concepts are good as they are, "archetypes" of games and deliver

      • by werfu (1487909)
        Yeah, I'd be more than appy to buy a new World of Goo 2! This game made open the eyes on indie games. I've bought lot of them lately and enjoyed much more than most tripple A games I found somewhere on my hard drive ***cough***.
  • Skunk Works (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It sounds like he suggesting video game companies set up their own version of Skunk Works. It sounds reasonable, really. A small team cranking out high-risk, low-cost games could make a better profit/cost ratio than a large studio. And, if they bomb a couple of times, there's relatively little profit lost. It sounds like a good way to keep people interested in a company that otherwise just pumps out one big title every year or two.

  • Is that supposed to be the punchline? Does anyone even know what an architect does?

    And yes, "Systems Architect" has actually been my job title at some point in time. Possibly because I got too close to grasping exactly what a "Systems Engineer" does. (something to do with being the gap-filler in an organization, which includes unwrapping boxes, delivering stuff to customer sites, and sometimes odd programming... sometimes).

  • Notably, a focus on profit must be eliminated from the equation.

    Right. Now to just find a business where the focus on profit has been eliminated from the equation! Oh, wait, they probably already went out of business.

    It also helps with recruitment. Said Carmel, 'there's no reason the larger game companies can't do that.

    So, are there really that few people who want to program video games that there needs to be an extra special super duper wiz group to entice recruits? I was under the impression that the under 25 crowd, well, kept being under 25 and still keeps wanting in to the industry, since there always appear to be an unending stream of new replacements.

    I fail to se

  • I've long thought that one day, when I get my own game startup off the ground, that I would grow the company not by throwing more manpower at games, but lots of independent, small, groups.

    I've spent most of my career in tiny shops, and my limited time in larger companies (>100 people even) is that it's really impossible to properly manage everyone--you can't even know everything that's going on.

    There are exceptions, of course, as some types of projects simply require numbers, but not most games, imo.
  • Your efforts to get publishers to create dev teams of indie creators is like a poodle pissing itself in the face of it's masters. You are successful in spite of such anachronistic mechanisms what is your malfunction?

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