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Elite Creator David Braben: Games Like Elite 'Too Risky' For Publishers 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the games-are-business dept.
Pecisk writes "While PC game development veterans are using Kickstarter more and more for their projects (see the already successful Star Citizen Kickstarter project, which already went home with $2 million, or Elite: Dangerous, a sequel of classic space sim series, which has yet to reach its set target), questions arise: why are devs trying this rather risky way of financing, anyway? For a long time there's also been discussion on Slashdot and elsewhere of game publishers like EA have a preference for unlimited sequels (e.g. the EA Sports series). David Braben, one of creators of first classic 3D space sim, Elite, and its sequels, and also the popular Raspberry PI board/computer, has commentary on that: 'Publishers had and still have now, established processes and a key part of that is the forecast ROI or return on investment. For that to work there has to have been a sufficiently similar game in the near past to base the forecast upon Anything else will be "too risky."'"
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Elite Creator David Braben: Games Like Elite 'Too Risky' For Publishers

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  • No reward.

    • Re:No Risk (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:39AM (#42152165)
      tell that to the bankers who got to roll the dice.. and when they won they kept the money... when they lost they charged it to the tax payer.
      • This is what the bankers' methods remind me of: "Nicky's methods of betting weren't scientific, but they worked. When he won, he collected. When he lost, he told the bookies to go fuck themselves."
      • Star Wars: The Old Republic -- "Let's re-skin World of Warcraft!"

        How's their reward doing?

        On the other hand, City of Heroes shut down last night. It was everything those games aren't -- Innovative, fast, cheap, true 3-D travel, very powerful compared to monsters, which come at you in masses.

        And it ran out of enough subscribers, too.

    • Re:No Risk (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iluvcapra (782887) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:47AM (#42152207)

      A 3% return on 20 million units is preferable to a 100% return on 20,000 :)

      I work in the film industry and the story is about the same; this is why we seem to keep making marginally-good $200 million films, instead of twenty $10 million films, 16 of which bomb because they don't find their audience. If you want to do something really edgy an original, you can do it, just don't go to Paramount (or EA in this case) and expect them to front you the money, and you're much more likely getting your money back if you premiere on Netflix.

      I'm not sure this is an Earth-shattering tragedy, it has a lot to do with the way large corporations make decisions, and organize themselves around their distribution chains.

      • If you want to do something really edgy an original, you can do it, just don't go to Paramount (or EA in this case) and expect them to front you the money, and you're much more likely getting your money back if you premiere on Netflix.

        The trouble is that some genres work better with physical buttons than with, say, a touch screen [pineight.com]. Most mobile devices open to indie developers lack a gamepad, and I've been told most users aren't willing to buy a gamepad just for one game. And though Xbox 360 controllers work wonderfully with a PC (or, in fact, a Nexus 7 with a USB host cable), I've been told most PC users aren't willing to plug in one Xbox 360 controller let alone two to four.

        • by bfandreas (603438) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:45AM (#42152461)
          Ummm. We PC types bought flightsticks, HOTAS systems, steering wheels and other input peripherals when console games were just Mortal Sonic Mario Kombat with all analogue thumb twisting blocky controllers.
          I really don't understand why some of the current PC gamer generation don't like controllers. For some games they are great. I can see them working in a space sim. Just don't forget to also have mouse support for menus and such. No Skyrim inventory shenanigans plx :(
          Also port it to Android/Ouya. No publisher needed there. And you can easily get it on Steam/GOG without publisher backing.

          Braben raises money by his name alone and Elite is still fresh in memory. Publishers wouldn't add anything in his case anyway. So why did he even bother? It's not the only way to get funding. Hell, he should even be able to get venture capital. Kids playing Elite grew up to be all sorts of things. Accountants, mass murderers, heads of state, blue-collar workers and ...heaven forbid... venture capitalists.

          Publishers used to be needed for funding and access to the sales&distribution channel. Sales&distribution has become trivial if you don't need to get boxed games to WallMart. A lot of games are digital distribution only and are doing fine.
          And funding comes your way when you pitch it to the right people.

          The classical publisher is going the way of the dodo.
          • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @02:31AM (#42152597)

            The summary is wrong in its implication. Kickstarter is about the most risk-free fund raising you can do. It's a formal way to solicit donations. Non-refundable, no-promises, walk-away-and-keep-it-all money. Legally a Kickstarter project that funds has no obligation to do anything at all. Some percentage of them (so far small, and small amounts of funds) don't.

            Venture capital, on the other hand, will insist you field a AAA-class team, will insist on majority ownership, and will insist on installing a suit as an executive, and will want signatures in blood for your first born if the project fails (or as much of whatever as they can recover, which very likely includes exclusive intellectual property crap like trademarks and any copyrights that have attached). So if you fail, you lose everything and can't even try again. If you succeed, you pay your investor the majority of the profit.

            If your Kickstarter fails, you owe nothing to anybody and retain 100% ownership so you can try again later (though probably not with another Kickstarter). If your Kickstarter succeeds, you retain 100% ownership, deliver on your Kickstarter promises (which is usually a vehicle to get you even more money, if you're doing it right), and keep 100% of the profit.

            The classical venture capitalist could easily go the same way of the dodo as the classical publisher, at least for projects below the level of capitalization that crowd-funding can generate. And that ceiling is already higher than anybody expected. Whether or not it continues is anybody's guess, though the number of successful deliveries is high enough that the odds are good. Venture capital, meanwhile, is also mercurial and unreliable long term. It goes through fads of its own on a regular basis.

            • by Swistak (899225)
              You're very wrong. Kickstarter does not mean donation. There have been lots and lots of articles on this recently (even here on kickstarter), you owe people things you've promised, if you promised them copy of the game when finished. you have to publish it and send them a copy. If you don't deliver you have to refund everybody, or they might sue you (happened in few cases already), so its not a donation and there are real consequences. If you don't complete game, and you don't have money for returns you mig
            • by Pecisk (688001)

              Disclaimer: I'm a author of summary.

              Well, Kickstarter *looks* like it's risk free from finansial point of view. However, if you completely fail to deliver or walk away with money your reputation is tarnished at best. With choosing Kickstarter it's like burning bridges with publishers - while they do like money, they don't like to be talked about like they're ignorant about good bets - and if you went KS, they will put a stigma on you (I know mentality of these guys). And if you collect your money and don't

          • by tepples (727027)

            I really don't understand why some of the current PC gamer generation don't like controllers.

            Because they prefer mouse and keyboard genres (FPS, RTS, MMORPG) that take advantage of the separate view per player that a desktop or laptop offers, as opposed to the multiple-gamepad shared-screen model. Shared-screen is traditionally associated with consoles, but which also works with set-top PCs and even desktops now that desktop PC monitors are bigger than 19".

            Braben raises money by his name alone

            Once he retires, how should an indie developer start to make a name?

            Publishers used to be needed for funding and access to the sales&distribution channel. Sales&distribution has become trivial if you don't need to get boxed games to WallMart. A lot of games are digital distribution only and are doing fine.

            Publishers are still necessary if you want your game to get signed by a cons

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Ouya, Google TV, and Even Apple TV could be big winners for inde developers. Apple TV has Bluetooth so it would be easy to support controlers. While not all games would work ports would be pretty easy. Frankly an Apple TV with the guts of the iPad without the screen or a Google TV with the guts of a Nexus 10 without the screen would be plenty for a lot of games. Seems silly that Google and Apple do not jump into that market.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I've probably bought a dozen gamepads for my PCs over the years, and I might still have half that many, if you count adapters which permit plugging in console controllers. I still have an adapter I bought from Lik-Sang, I think, to let you plug a playstation controller into Xbox, PC, or Gamecube, with a Xbox memory card port. But now I mostly use an Xbox 360 controller, as you say. They're pretty cheap used at Gamestops, and these days you can get repair parts very reasonably so it's not even a bad idea to

          • by tepples (727027)

            I've probably bought a dozen gamepads for my PCs over the years, and I might still have half that many, if you count adapters which permit plugging in console controllers.

            So have I [pineight.com]. But as CronoCloud might say, you and I are edge cases. I'm told most PC gamers associate the PC platform with one mouse, keyboard, and monitor per player, and most players appear to expect major PC games (apart from some token cases [pineight.com]) to be designed around this assumption. A developer apparently must pay his dues by developing successful mouse-and-keyboard or touch-screen games before being allowed to develop games that take full advantage of a capability that consoles are known for and PCs have

            • by Phrogman (80473)

              I am lousy with a controller. I cannot do anything meaningful with one, and have no interest in learning. I have bought and eventually sold several game consoles because I *wanted* to be able to play them, but in the end each time I got rid of it because the result (for me at least) was far worse than playing a PC game with a mouse and a keyboard (or the Joystick I have for games that utilize that).

              Consoles suck ass for me. I prefer PC games and my mouse. I don't think I can adapt, nor do I want to. I can't

              • by karnal (22275) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @11:22AM (#42154423)

                I have a co-worker who told me mouse and keyboard in FPS games was "cheating". I laughed.

              • the Joystick I have for games that utilize that

                By joystick, do you mean a flight simulator joystick or an arcade-style joystick?

                I can't understand how someone would drop the keyboard and mouse and pick up a console controller hooked up to their PC, when the resulting level of control seems to me to be inherently inferior.

                If you live alone and never have anybody come to visit, and you play mostly FPS, RTS, and RPG, a keyboard and mouse may be ideal for you. But if you have multiple gamers in one household, either living together or visiting, a gamepad is better than having no control at all because you're waiting for the player with a keyboard and mouse to finish his turn on a single-player or online game. Even fewer PC games support multiple mi

      • Art that is profitable to the artist, isn't really art.

        • by Z34107 (925136)

          Tell me, what's it like living in a world without art?

        • by Xeranar (2029624)

          Bullshit, the majority of what we've called "artists" never starved and lived adequately. The problem video games regardless of their art status are a mass prodction good that needs to find a serious outlet to recoup their investment. They're arguably more expensive than TV and movies to produce and have only a slightly better success rate than TV but a worse rate than movies. The problem is big game publishers aren't that thrilled to produce every game they see unless niche markets want to pick up the

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Yeah but one thing you are missing is the long tail and lack of competition in this genre. We got a billion "fat space marines that love Chesty McWallHigh" but a good flight sim (needs to work good with keyboard and mouse as well as stick) can be sold for years and years.

        Hell just a few months ago I went out and bought yet another copy (my third) of Freelancer...why? Because i had lost my disc in my last move and thanks to the mods there are hundreds of star systems, and factions, you can go lone wolf and

        • by iluvcapra (782887)

          I've always seen the Long Tail with videogames to be a bit touchy, since game platforms seem to go through periodic upgrades and it becomes more and more difficult to get your hands on $ARBITRARY_GAME, let alone structure a business model to collect revenue from them. The HUGE hits are sometimes kept in bundles and updated to new platforms, but they disappear.

          Movies are quite different in this regard, because they can be replicated to new platforms mechanically -- you don't have to hire developers to keep t

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Uhhh...you go to Amazon, type in name of game, done. And with Steam having even fricking genesis games i honestly don't see why a game can't have a crazy long tail, its not like there aren't hundreds of millions of Windows PCs out, and after a game has been out a year or two frankly even the IGPs (well if you are using AMD, Intel takes longer) will be able to run your game.

            Hell look at Team Fortress Classic...that was originally a Quake TWO mod wasn't it? and it was released...what? 1998 or so? Yet Valve is

        • That reminds me, I've been meaning to fire up my copy of Battelfield 1942 and load up the DC final mod again. Ah those days were fun. BF2 and BF3 have totally failed to recreate what made those mods fun.

          In 1942 your engineers and medics were vital, even though there was no extra scoring for repairing or healing. Now you just sit in a corner for 30 seconds and suck your thumb.

          Nothing as exciting as trying to defend a flag with me as anti-armor against a single T-72. We both are in the flag area, the fl
      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >you're much more likely getting your money back if you premiere on Netflix.

        How do studios get paid by Netflix streaming anyway? Just something I've always been curious about.

        • by iluvcapra (782887)

          Netflix pays an amount-per-view, either against an up-front access fee or not -- it's a small amount, but it's something. their model to charge subscribers a flat fee and simply have such a huge number of titles available that people are willing to pay a premium over what they actually consume, just to have the full-time access to the titles.

          Netflix lost the Starz content because Starz wanted an amount per subscriber-month, like a premium cable channel, and Netflix (probably rightly) deduced that having a p

      • by Dripdry (1062282)

        Yeah or, you know, you could look at Star Citizen.... 100K unique users and 7 million total in funding (not sure why they say it's 2 in the summary, that's completely wrong for the overall total).
        100K clocks in at a need for $6 of profit per copy to equal your 3% on 20 million. Even if we account for cost variances and other things, Star Citizen is going to make a metric fuckton of money for its creators before the game ever even gets out the door.

    • Re:No Risk (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:52AM (#42152227)

      Wrong. Let's see the what the best selling games are (source: vgchartz.com/weekly):

      1 X360 Call of Duty: Black Ops II 1,239,686 [generic FPS, sequel]
      2 PS3 Call of Duty: Black Ops II 1,183,752 [generic FPS, sequel]
      3 X360 Kinect Adventures! 615,283 [sounds innovative enough, risky]
      4 X360 Halo 4 607,817 [generic FPS, sequel]
      5 Wii Just Dance 4 569,302 [sequel]
      6 PS3 Hitman: Absolution 501,081 [sequel]
      7 X360 Hitman: Absolution 488,127 [sequel]
      8 PS3 Assassin's Creed III 471,345 [sequel]
      9 X360 Assassin's Creed III 402,324 [sequel]
      10 WiiU New Super Mario Bros. U 372,169 [sequel]

      MYTH BUSTED! Risk is for suckers, what the wallets want is more sequels.

      • Re:No Risk (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bfandreas (603438) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:51AM (#42152491)
        Ummm. You know we stopped believing those numbers years ago? They do not include digital distribution and only very few games get shelf space.

        Also there is a lot of money to be made in the long tail when you cut out the middle man. Which in this case would be publishers and retailers. So you don't need to be #1. Or even in the top 20 to make back your money. Unless of course you had a production cost rivaling the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Which Braben doesn't need.

        Sales figures alone are meaningless.
        • by schnell (163007)

          Sales figures alone are meaningless.

          Not trolling, genuinely curious... what statistics (i.e. actual numbers with verifiable sources) do you have that are a better representation than sales figures? Or can be quantifiably used to meaningfully modify the value of sales figures? I agree that those sales figures sound incomplete but unless there are other "real" numbers out there, how do we know whether they're only marginally inaccurate or way off base?

          • by bfandreas (603438)
            You don't know how much money they need to make to break even. Darksiders 2 sold a million and reputedly didn't break even, adding to the financial woes of THQ to the point where they humble-bundled their back-catalogue. Orks must die 2 sold nowhere near that much but made Robot Entertainment a nice profit. And that's before DLC.

            Or take for instance the original Nintendo Wii. That thing sold like hotcakes. And yet a huge part for Nintendo's business model didn't happen. the console had an attachment rate
            • by schnell (163007)

              Sales figures measure popularity and little more. You need to look at the big picture.

              Yes... but back to my original question. What numbers are available to tell the big picture?

              If there aren't any, then the "big picture" is invisible because there is no way to reasonably construct it. Everything except the sales numbers are speculation.

              • by bfandreas (603438)
                ...since Valve is mum about Steam sales and Amazon also isn't very forthcoming about electronic sales figures thare is no way for us to tell.
                Publishers/devs also don't disclose their production cost, marketing cost and so forth. Which is why all of this is guesswork. Boxed sales figures still are not enough to represent if a game actually made money or not.
      • by Sir_Sri (199544)

        Markets certainly reward franchises. There's room for innovation, but now is not the time for it. Right now is the end of a console lifecycle and no one wants to go too far out on a limb on this generation.

        Note that Borderlands, which isn't on your list was a brand new franchise not too long ago, Xcom has done very well which is a resurrection of a very old genre. You only need to sell about 500 or 600 k copies to make a decent amount of money on a moderate sized title (you aim for a million for a consol

        • The only big new IP lately is Dishonoured, which is a sort of action stealth game in cyberpunk world

          Are you sure it's not just a slight remodelling of Thief: The Dark Project, which was a stealth first person shooter, set in a medieval steampunk city?

      • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @06:03AM (#42153365) Homepage

        IMHO there's absolutely nothing wrong with a good sequel. Chances are extremely good you didn't get everything right and you didn't have the time or budget to implement everything you wanted to do. You'll probably also learn a lot from the feedback from the first game that you don't get in alpha/beta testing or possibly to late to do anything about it. It doesn't matter if it's the modern games or the classics, I'd be pretty sad if they stopped at Ultima I, Final Fantasy I or Civilization I and said that was it, on to the next thing. Not to mention you have a bunch of fans, people now know what the game concept is and they're hopefully looking for more. By all means if you have a cash cow, milk it.

        That said, if you drop anything that isn't a cash cow today chances are good the customers will eventually get tired of the same old rehashes and you'll slowly head into the sunset. Most cash cows started as a risky proposal. Sure, for example "The Sims" is now out in two sequels and dozens of expansion and stuff packs but the original was a very risky game. I perfectly understand that companies don't want to bet the farm on unknown projects, but in this case I think it's too much next quarter thinking. That chance game that may lead to a decade long series of sequels making us money is probably going to be a loss on next year's performance. It's like R&D for the game industry, except it's a lot more accepted to not do any.

      • by pev (2186)

        No, what the wallets want is good games, end of story.

        However, human beings are risk adverse and if they know a game was good when hedging bets on next (expensive these days!) games purchase they will instinctively head to a sequel of one they enjoyed. However, if they play something new that's really good they'll buy that. That's why games demos / sharing and dare I even sugest piracy is good - it may detract a little from the sales of the production line sequels but it massively raises awareness of differ

      • by Tomsk70 (984457)

        You're demonstrating the assumption of familar=good.

        Mission Impossible 2 did very well *because of MI:1*, not because it was a good film. But by your logic, it was fantastic.

        Which means that Justin Bieber is one of the greatest musicians of all time.

    • by siddesu (698447)
      Actually, it is even worse -- bad prediction models (because past performance does not guarantee future returns, as the disclaimer customarily goes) reward mediocrity, and not only in games. Anything from music to clothing to computer devices is affected. The larger the market, the fewer the players, the more obvious the effects.
    • Not true (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:59AM (#42152265)

      Call of Duty Black Ops 2 did $500 million in sales on its first day alone. The game takes very little risk. It is just another CoD game. Minor tweaks and updates but it is basically the same formula that has won time and time again and yet again it has won big.

      While it isn't true that it was zero risk, they did outlay a fair bit of money (8 figures) in development and marketing, it was pretty low risk. Past CoD games have done very well, there was no reason to believe this one wouldn't too and indeed it did.

      In the games industry, the safe road often leads to great rewards. People seem to want that which they are familiar with.

      • Unfortunately publishers tend not to favor innovation, they are purely a business in it for the money, so what Braben interestingly states occurring back in 1984 still holds true today as he mentions in the article. Lets not also forget the publisher Gametek really screwed them over with an early release of Frontier, in fact David Braben won an out of court settlement against Gametek back in 1999, so its no wonder he is extra skeptical about using them, plus they tend to have a lot of control over how the
      • by Dripdry (1062282)

        WHY IS THIS MODDED INFORMATIVE!?!?!?!

        Ahem. sorry for shouting. Why is this modded informative? Seriously, you people don't realize that those numbers are bullshit, right? Just like album sales?
        I've seen this number trotted out recently elsewhere, but don't we realize that it comes from the total amount SHIPPED TO RETAILERS, not the number of people who actually bought it?

        Sigh...

        • If you want a small sample, go have a look on Steam and see how many copies are floating out there (it is a Steamworks game so all PC copies are on it). Remember that the copy only appears in someone's account after they've paid for it.

          I know there's this irrational need from some people to pretend like the game is a flop because it is a very samey shooter, but it isn't. It is a massive success. I'm not saying that is a good thing, I'm saying it is the truth. Trying to spin it doesn't change anything.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      EA risked 300 million dollars on SWTOR and lost 200 million.

      They will, eventually recoup some of that money, depending on how long it last and how well the F2P transition actually goes. But there's only so much tolerance for risk, and when you gamble and lose big like that you need to lick your wounds for a while.

      There's nothing wrong with some risk but the last big space games were freelancer and the Jump to Lightspeed expansion to SWG, earth and beyond tanked and Eve has 300k players. Star Trek online i

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      But how does the risk/reward equation look for the decision maker? Not the studio. The manager actually looking at studio pitches and deciding which ones he's going to fund.
      • Huge success. A pat of the back a small bonus, and probably contributes to a raise. The publisher rakes in millions.
      • Moderate success. A pat on the back. Probably contributes to a raise.
      • Moderate failure: Commiserations. Won't contribute to a raise. Not a huge problem. Win some lose some. everyone realises that.
      • Huge failure: Called
    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      so true. but Star Citizen went home with $6.8 million, not just 2.

  • by trevorrowe (689310) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:35AM (#42152147) Homepage
    Star Citizen raised over $6 million dollars ($2 million via kickstarter, $4 million via paypal). Since the campaign it has raised nearly $1 million dollars more (total $6.9 million).
    • Re:Summary is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

      by theArtificial (613980) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @12:54AM (#42152235)

      Star Citizen raised over $6 million dollars ($2 million via kickstarter, $4 million via paypal). Since the campaign it has raised nearly $1 million dollars more (total $6.9 million).

      Expect that figure to climb. Star Citizen is also much more tangible than what we've seen from Elite. They just released footage [robertsspa...stries.com] of what one of the space ports will look like. For the early adopters (people who invested prior to 11/26) all ships purchased will be insured [robertsspa...stries.com] for the life of the ship (the insurance transfers with title, hello second hand market value). In addition to that, additional ships may be purchased and accounts may be upgraded for the next 12 months. I wouldn't be surprised it if breaks $10mil. They've given this a lot of thought, one of the points raised was how will this prevent people from simply ramming ships? I recommend reviewing the link and giving the FAQ (and comments) a once over.

      Some of the models they're releasing images of show the insides of the ships which players will be able to move around in. They've got a pirate style 2 man ship which enables the passenger to board a vessel. Very cool stuff if you're into that sort of thing. Now, about that Constellation...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by StarTuxia (2767965)
        I backed both, and interestingly Chris Roberts has also backed Elite and has said he is looking forward to playing in the Alpha and likewise David Braben has said he is looking forward to playing Star Citizen, with such great camaraderie between groups within the same genre I do hope people find it inspiring . Elite cannot use the Crysis 2 engine due to what they intend to do with ED, which is to push what Frontier did much further along. Frontier had the entire Milky Way procedurally seeded onto a single
        • by Armakuni (1091299)
          Braben has some serious ambitions, and he has a tendency to deliver.
          Good points. Would mod insightful if I could.
  • That just looks so sweet, heck yeah.

    • by jools33 (252092)

      Have to agree - Elite was my favourite C64 game (and I played very many C64 titles back in the days). Whoever posted this article - a big thank you! - and I have just reserved my digital copy of this game - wouldn't have done so without slashdot.

  • One of the key advantages of something like Kickstarter is that so many of the "sales" are up front: you don't have to worry about the game being a total flop and selling nothing, because you've already "sold" $2m+ worth of the game before starting! I would've expected major studios to try to get in on some of that pre-order action by mobilizing fan enthusiasm: stuff like, if we get X preorders by $date, we'll make a sequel to $game. Or is it that actual preorders of un-made games have more legal trouble th

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      I believe Obsidian has said that they were approached by publishers to do something along those lines, but they refused. The spirit of Kickstarter isn't compatible with that idea, really. It's supposed to be for projects that otherwise would not be possible or viable to make. Publishers have plenty of money, that they don't want to try making more niche games is their problem. People like Roberts or Braben, while certainly not poor, don't have the kind of money to make games from scratch from their own pock

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      The problem is some games spend so much on production that 1m or 2m in sales at full price are considered a failure. That's basically what AAA means. going full retard.
      A prime example for this would be Assassin's Creed 3. They had to justify the steep price somehow so they added shit on top of shit. Naval battles, board games, a surprisingly competent multiplayer component(yes, I'm shocked too), deer hunting, single player capture the flag and farmville. In fact that game is so unfocussed that you really d
  • Which is the reason we'll probably never see the completion of Freespace.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/107649-Volition-Wed-Commit-Murder-for-Freespace-3

    The space sim is a really hard sell (unless it's that one mission from Halo: Reach) and frankly, even with a joystick, games of this sort can be notoriously difficult. Companies only really want to make games that are like other games or sequels to previous ones since it's more of a business now than a genuine love for games (unless you're "in
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      The only reason why we won't see another Freespace is because Interplay are dicks, and refuse to sell the IP. My hope is that they die a fiery screaming death with all their IP's up for sale so developers like Volition can get their hands on them.

    • by dadioflex (854298)

      The space sim is a really hard sell (unless it's that one mission from Halo: Reach) and frankly, even with a joystick, games of this sort can be notoriously difficult. Companies only really want to make games that are like other games or sequels to previous ones since it's more of a business now than a genuine love for games (unless you're "indie").

      The X series of games trundles on year after year though I don't think they'll ever have a blockbuster hit. There's also the Evochron series, but it's even more niche. Then of course there's Miner Wars 2081 though it's determined to bill itself as Descent's closest relative. Like the article you linked to suggests, any modern Space Sim is going to have to be 100% playable with mouse and keyboard, the way Freelancer was because the joystick just isn't standard for PC gamers any longer.

  • Kickstarter demonstrates again that it is a fantastic vehicle for game development. It's not always about the Mega Millions. For instance The Pinball Arcade used Kickstarter to get financing for The Twilight Zone [kickstarter.com] and Star Trek: The Next Generation [kickstarter.com] tables (both closed and made target). Pinball is a bit of a niche market and there's a pretty good free pinball simulator out there.

    Without Kickstarter to pay the high upfront licensing cost, these tables would not have seen the light of day. There's really no sh

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I wouldn't go as far as saying that kickstarter is fantastic for game development, there's much room for improvement in the system (which is to be expected as the concept itself is young). Rather, a large corporation is inherently bad at game development (and creating music and other arts) because art is stifled by the requirement to profit.

  • Finally. After all these years....
  • But I can't really agree with it.

    As someone who played Elite on the BBC B in the 80s, let's look at the what made different:

    i) massive, open ended universe and freedom to make one's way, within a convincing universe of varying dangerousness
    ii) strong element on trading, and with combat as a means to grab extra goodies and facilitate profitable acquisition of cash
    iii) missions, and a progression of deadliness - that unlocks cooler gear and more dangerous missions and story progression

    Does that not sound like

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      The point is that Elite was groundbreaking, and I think this is what's meant by "Games like Elite". Make a game similar and it's something we've seen before.

      I'm not sure this is really a fair comparison. At the time there was something of a Cambrian explosion of games. Lots of potential niches, lots of scope for new ideas. Elite was a risk and the publishers had trouble getting their heads around it (one suggestion was that the player gets three lives).

      Also, for every huge success like Elite, there wer
  • I have eleite for a couple platforms, its a space shooter with some menus tossed in there ... honestly didnt even know it existed till a few years ago, so I hunted down copies for my retro computers.

    its much less risky than pumping a shit ton of money into something only a small percentage of people will remember, let alone be fond enough to play nearly 30 years after the fact

  • Exciting! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jregel (39009) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @06:38AM (#42153467) Homepage

    Elite was a huge consumer of my time during my teenage years. I'd originally tried it on the 8bit Acorn Electron (the BBC Micro's baby brother), but was a bit too young to really get it and was hopeless at playing the game. But when I got my first PC, I was able to really get into it, spending hours playing when I should have probably been studying for my GCSEs, eventually getting the missions and the coveted Elite status.

    All this was done on the CGA version, low resolution in four colours. On loading, a menu would allow me to select wireframe graphics only, or if the PC was really fast (6Mhz 286 or greater I seem to recall...), then you could select solid filled polygons. I had a 20Mhz 286 so could enjoy the enhanced version. Didn't matter though, because the imagination filled in the gaps.

    When Frontier:Elite 2 came out, I was amazed at all the things we wanted to do in the original could now be done (landing on planets with a seamless transition between space and atmosphere, different ships that could be bought and equipped, more missions). But the flight model was a bit too complicated and lacked the immediacy of the original. I was never really taken with the "Star Dreamer" time acceleration feature either as it was too easy to skip through things (like docking).

    Never played Frontier: First Encounters as I think I had moved onto girls by then, but having read that it was released by the publisher in an unfinished state, it sounds like I've not missed that much.

    But Elite:Dangerous sounds like the sort of game I really want to play! A huge universe as a playground? Flying through the clouds of a gas giant? Mining asteroids? Teaming up with friends to complete missions? Yes please!

    So far I've pledged a little, with the expectation I'll pledge more before the Kickstarter finishes. As a [very] occasional gamer these days, this is something I want to spend my evenings playing.

    • by Armakuni (1091299)
      FFE was indeed released with an enormous amount of bugs. But once it was patched, which happened quite quickly, it was a gem. It had a storyline you could follow if you wanted, but if not, the entire Milky Way galaxy was yours to play with. There was a freedom of play that I've yet to see in any other game. But is seems ED will follow suit - without the bugs.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      The most difficult part of Frontier was fighting through the copy protection, which required entering a specific word from a specific place in the manual, except it was never really clear which lines counted and which it ignored (headings, etc?). I seem to remember we eventually found a list of all the answers on Usenet, which rather defeated the point.

  • Isn't it ironic - someone who has raised money based largely on the nostalgia for what he done in the past... commenting on the gaming industry making games just like the ones they've made in the past.

    Seriously, as much as the Slashdot demographic complains about endless remakes, and the mining of the past... at every possible turn they demonstrate exactly *why* the entertainment industry keeps doing so.

  • What is risky here?
    People give you money, and you don't have to give anything in return but empty promises of delivering a game at some point.

    The alternative is asking investors for money, who will expect a working business model, 4 times as much as what they invested in returns, and who will sue you if you mismanage the money.

  • I think it has good prospects. I believe in "Dangerous" not only can you land on planets but be able to walk around etc. That can lead to "add-on quests" on that planet or even collection of planets to open up new quests etc.
  • The entertainment market is cyclical.

    Genres go in and out of style.

    Successes and failures in other media can make or break you.

    Star Trek and Star Wars have been so long identified with space opera that there is scarcely any room to breathe here. That both franchises are looking rather old and tired isn't helpful.

    The mainstream publisher/distributer takes more chances then the gamer geek is often willing to admit:

    From EA. Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Arkham Asylum/Arkham City. From Rockstar, Red Dead Redemption

    • Mass Effect is on its 3rd sequel. It was also based on the Unreal Engine. Arkham Asylum is a comic/movie license. I'll give you Dragon Age, L.A. Noire. Don't know Red Dead Redemption to evaluate.
  • ...learned this ages ago. "Nobody wants to be first; everyone wants to be second."

  • ....and a whole bunch of piracy from people that don't accept a full-price-game that contains a single change.

    FPS, for example - now with slo-mo! now with hiding-behind-objects! now with (etc.) - bleat about piracy killing games all you like, but when they're nearly all reduced to two or three genres of copying original C64 games, that's not really what most would consider an 'industry' anyway - and it's this problem that means pirates will never really care about costing EA money when that's exactly what E

  • Braben (his huge contributions not withstanding) has to ask if his new game matches the original, or the new equivalent work-a-like, Oolite.

    I played Elite in both solid and wire-frame versions from floppy. Braben's target is Oolite ; he has to beat that, not match it, to meet his prior status.

"Don't discount flying pigs before you have good air defense." -- jvh@clinet.FI

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