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What Happens When Gaming Auteurs Try To Go It Alone? 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-one-is-an-island dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As news that Cliff Bleszkinski, Epic Games' legendary former creative, sets off to found his own studio, a new article takes a look at how six other gaming auteurs have fared after leaving a major developer or publisher to go it alone. The results, surprisingly, are mixed: while some, such as Double Fine's Tim Schafer, have gone on to far greater success, it doesn't always work out that way: just look at John Romero's Daikatana. The article also makes a good point that Peter Molyneux is striking out with a start-up for the third in his career now, but it may not be third time the charm: Godus has been far less well received than Black & White or Fable. Can Cliffy B avoid making the same mistakes?
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What Happens When Gaming Auteurs Try To Go It Alone?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's no one to tell the big man that what he's doing is a bad idea.

  • Can you please implement something where submitters have to type the title in three times, and actually spell check it.

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      uh, what's wrong with it?

      • by Eddi3 (1046882)
        I believe he thinks Auteurs isn't a word. For what it's worth, I had to look it up.

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/auteur [reference.com]
        • by Anonymous Coward

          and, for those who prefer to just see information rather than needing to click a hyperlink:
          auteur [french] :
          a filmmaker whose individual style and complete control over all elements of production give a film its personal and unique stamp.

      • I think someone might not be aware of the loanword "auteur" [wikipedia.org].
  • The "auteurs" in the featured article had already worked in the industry for a long time. Is there an analogous article about auteurs who have broken into the industry without having worked for a well-known video game studio?
    • It is really hard to do it all on your own without a studio. The analogy is trying to out compete Coca-Cola with your own brand of similar soda. Just because your formula is good doesn't mean you get success. There are other factors. First you need to get the overhead to even produce the soda. Then you need to marketing so people know your cola exists.

      There's not a whole lot of money in it for amateurs compared to how much work goes into them. There's also a degree of luck involved. I think the p
      • by Xest (935314)

        "It is really hard to do it all on your own without a studio. The analogy is trying to out compete Coca-Cola with your own brand of similar soda. Just because your formula is good doesn't mean you get success. There are other factors. First you need to get the overhead to even produce the soda. Then you need to marketing so people know your cola exists."

        Nonsense, this couldn't be further from the truth. Indie game development is easier than ever whether you're using someone else's engine like Unity or Unrea

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      Derek Smart and Battlecruiser 3000AD.
      Now there's a fellow that brings back memories.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Friday July 11, 2014 @06:23PM (#47434921) Homepage Journal

    The results, surprisingly, are mixed

    Why is that surprising?

  • by doctor woot (2779597) on Friday July 11, 2014 @06:24PM (#47434929)

    ...pay enough attention to game design to consistently produce quality games. Not that they can't, mind you, but it seems pretty clear to me that game devs tend to have their attention split between designing a game's mechanics and appealing to a broad audience. You end up with a game that isn't too far afield of what you tend to see these days, but that tries to compensate by having gameplay features designed to be marketed as 'innovative' and conducive to creative and emergent gameplay. A good example is Watch Dogs, marketed as a game centered around hacking but designed as a GTA clone with a hacking gimmick.

    Games are an awkward state of limbo these days, publishers know they have to start pushing out the impression of creativity and devs try to figure out how to do that without alienating the average player. The mentality sticks, and developers everywhere end up glossing over technical details, focusing instead on the impression a game will make.

    • > Outside of Valve I don't think many developers ... pay enough attention to game design to consistently produce quality games

      That's because a game is too dependent on Art + Tech. You can have the world's greatest designer but if they don't understand how to capitalize on Tech & Art _tailored_ for their project you're dead in the water.

      There are few Game Designers that are recognized as delivering the goods. Sid Meier, Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright, etc. How many of these game designers do the gen

      • > Outside of Valve I don't think many developers ... pay enough attention to game design to consistently produce quality games

        That's because a game is too dependent on Art + Tech. You can have the world's greatest designer but if they don't understand how to capitalize on Tech & Art _tailored_ for their project you're dead in the water.

        There are few Game Designers that are recognized as delivering the goods. Sid Meier, Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright, etc. How many of these game designers do the general public even know??

        I don't see how that matters, the point is games are homogenized for the sake of market friendliness.

        > Games are an awkward state of limbo these days,

        AAA games maybe, but not indie.

        Okay.

        Content creation costs are spiraling out of control.

        Why did you bold that and then not follow up on it

        People are getting fed up with grind-for-gear ooh shiny with shallow gameplay.

        Minecraft just reach 54 million across all platforms.
        https://twitter.com/pgeuder/st... [twitter.com]

        Well that's a contradictory statement if I've ever seen one.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          How is that a contradiction?

          If 54 million copies of minecraft have been sold then people must be getting fed up with the grind-for-gear ooh shiny with shallow gameplay that it epitomizes by now.

          • Just reached. Sales are continuing.

          • by rochrist (844809)
            Gameplay isn't necessarily shallow. Which is kind of the point to it's success. It's a sandbox that becomes largely what you make of it. I played it for awhile with a group of friends on a private server where we constructed a city over a span of months. It was incredibly detailed and had some absolutely incredible constructions (not really by me).
            • You can make a city as elaborate as you like, it does nothing to determine your success as far as the game's win/lose conditions are concerned. It's just dicking around, the gameplay itself is incredibly unimpressive. Dwarf Fortress, by comparison, actually does involve the designs the player manages to come up with directly in determining their success or failure, and is by far the better game.

              • by rochrist (844809)
                Some games aren't necessarily built around win/lose conditions. Some games are sandlot building games. I understand that YOU don't find the gameplay compelling. 54 million in sales says that you aren't representative of everyone. /I/ had literally hundreds of hours of enjoyable gameplay from my $15 purchase. By far one of my best ever game purchases.
                • Some games aren't necessarily built around win/lose conditions. Some games are sandlot building games.

                  You're talking in circles.

                  54 million in sales says that you aren't representative of everyone.

                  Irrelevant.

                  /I/ had literally hundreds of hours of enjoyable gameplay from my $15 purchase. By far one of my best ever game purchases.

                  Well I am very happy for you.

                  • by rochrist (844809)
                    How am I talking in circles? Do you claim that hard win/lose conditions are required for a successful game? Again, I'd say that 54 million sales says that your wrong. You can claim it's irrelevant, but that would be you, being wrong. It's rather the opposite; it's the only measure that IS relevant.
                    • You're talking in circles because you're making a point that was already raised and addressed. Going back to it doesn't further this discussion.

                      It's irrelevant because it's only tangentially related and mentioned only as an antecedent to a completely different point. I'm not going to address your argumentum ad populum.

                    • > Do you claim that hard win/lose conditions are required for a [successful] game?

                      You are conflating the issue. Remove the word successful.

                      A game by definition has a wining / losing condition, otherwise you have a digital toy.

                      Will Wright considers Sim City to be a toy.

                      "I have no mouth and I must design"
                      http://www.rpg.net/oracle/essa... [rpg.net]

          • Minecraft is about _user-driven narrative_, not designer driven narrative.

            Skip the first 2 minutes of this epic talk on Game Design

            * Attention, Not Immersion: Making Your Games Better with Psychology and Playtesting, the Uncharted Way
            http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1... [gdcvault.com]

    • It is called throwing spaghetti to the wall to try and see what sticks. If you find people like a certain mechanic, you make a game around it. Another excuse is there are a bigger casual audience than ever, so the simplification of video games keeps getting more and more real. These start up companies barely have enough resources to put together anything. Just look at the Flash games on web portals. A lot of Flash games on web portals aren't as good as games you played in the NES. And there really isn
    • Games are an awkward state of limbo these days, publishers know they have to start pushing out the impression of creativity and devs try to figure out how to do that without alienating the average player.

      Well, there is the Naughty Dog way: stick with a proven formula and polish the SHIT out of the implementation.

    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      ...pay enough attention to game design to consistently produce quality games.

      You're saying this mostly because of Portal. Without that game, you'd be left with the taste of Half-Life 2, which showed they were losing their touch because they had to have enemy spawn points that never run out of bad guys.

      It also was a very linear game, where even the more open sections were just an A->B->C->D path for the player...there was no side exploring of any consequence. In particular, you very rarely left a building by the same way you entered. You would often see areas where you w

      • Actually I hadn't even considered Portal. It's an entertaining game but offers a rather narrow difficulty curve.

        I don't really care if a game is linear or not, infinite spawns, etc. All that really matters is what options the game puts in the player's hands and how well opportunities presented by those options are exploited by the game itself. I think the game could have been improved in a number of ways (in particular, the acceleration curves found throughout the game were awkward. Vehicle sections could h

  • I don't know much about what he actually did at Epic aside from some of Unreal Tournament's best maps (it was pretty awesome that it showed the author name when you loaded a map) and I don't know what his job was the other companies at all. Was he a coder? Designer? Producer? Artist/art director? Nothing but level-design-o-rama?

  • Cliff Bleszkinski's about to make you his bitch. Suck it down.

  • What suprise? (Score:5, Informative)

    by erice (13380) on Friday July 11, 2014 @06:39PM (#47435045) Homepage

    The results, surprisingly, are mixed: while some, such as Double Fine's Tim Schafer, have gone on to far greater success, it doesn't always work out that way

    This might be a surprise to people who know nothing about startups or business but it should not be to anyone else. Here's the reality: Startups often fail. In fact, the overwhelming majority of startups fail. Being an "auteur" may improve the odds of a soft landing significantly but it does not remotely guarantee success because there is no way to guarantee success.

    The reasons for failure are many including poor business skills (there is more to running a company than running a project) and unconstrained egos. The usual bad luck and mayhem that sink projects can also sink companies that only have one project.

  • If these guys go it alone, we will learn that the rest of the people in the teams they left behind can make good games without them. I think the main benefit of having a big name in charge is that you need a creative authority figure to keep the corporate types from messing up the end product.

  • 47.9 million via crowdfunding. 'Nuff said.
  • They're basically the same game repackaged with different graphics. If he came up with something unique once in a while, he wouldn't have had to switch jobs 3 times.
    • Molyneux's games fail? Fable is one of the most popular games on Xbox. Every iteration of it has been fun for me. I know others who loved his other games, they just weren't in my genres.
  • I like how everyone brings up Ion Storm's Daikatana and never mentions Ion Storm's Deus Ex.

    Especially when they cite Carmack as contributing actual games instead of the actual same exact game over and over as a tech demo for his new engine after Romero's departure. It really speaks to the level of understanding the average game pundit has about games or game design, or indeed even success: None.

    Let's ask H.P. Lovecraft, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Keats, Edgar Allen Poe, Kafka, and a miriad of other creators who c

    • by drsquare (530038)

      Romero didn't make Deus Ex though, he just hired the people that did whilst he worked on Daikatana.

  • He was with Epic when it was making isometric shareware games. He was a big part of the reason Epic became one of the most influential AAA development houses on the planet, and that grew out of a startup. So he has already been there, he knows the path, and he has helped create some of the best and most influential games in the history of gaming. I'd say he has a damned good chance at making it again considering his premier game with the startup is a multi-player shooter. UT 2004 is still a hell of a lot m
  • Its too expensive to pull the starving artist living in a studio apartment and eating macaroni unless you likewise keep the games extremely simple and something that can be done entirely by ONE person.

    The instant you start pushing beyond that you need cash flow and that means you need a business.

    These game makers are often masters of their craft but they're first and foremost artists and creative type people. Just because you're a master in one thing doesn't mean you're competent in anything else. And from

  • The results, surprisingly, are mixed

    That's not surprising at all. SIx people in vaguely similar situations do a vaguely similar thing and the results are on a broad spectrum of success-failure.

    Isn't that exactly the sort of thing one would expect to happen?

  • An interesting article, really great! through

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