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Programming Games

How I Saved the Gaming Industry 252

Jamie found a nifty blog entry where indie game designer Jeff Vogel writes about game engine and art re-use. He is criticized for not rewriting his core engine for a decade. It's an amusing little rant with thoughts that actually might apply to anyone working in engineering.
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How I Saved the Gaming Industry

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:35AM (#31940260) Journal

    Most people will dismiss this idea out of hand, saying that I don't know anything about the realities of the business. And they are probably right. I'm just a dumb, little nobody. But I am running a profitable game company. But Electronic Arts and Activision (the company that owns Blizzard!) are losing bazillions of dollars.

    Maybe you should pay yourself $15 million a year [] and then hire a bunch of middle management and pay them more than the developers that do all your actual work. Be sure to insulate yourself from any actual work. That's when you can be considered "in the know" about the gaming industry or more specifically "in the money laughing as consumers suffer through your titles." Then you too can siphon off funds while your company languishes in the red just like the big guys.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:35AM (#31940264)

    I was going to post my blog entry on how I single-handedly saved the porn industry.

  • Story Graphics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:38AM (#31940286)

    Here we have a game developer that noticed that good gameplay and good stroy > fancy technology. If only the major studios would come to the same conclusion :-(

    • by e2d2 ( 115622 )

      If only the entire software industry could figure that out. They're always too busy creating the next cluster fuck to be bothered making something solid. Well, most of the commercial houses that is. Open Source seems to stress quality over speed to market.

  • I, for one, know what it's like to try to save an entire industry as well.

    Before I arrived here as BadAnalogyGuy, I saw Slashdot sinking quickly into an ugly morass of old car analogies.

    I try to bring a broader perspective to Slashdot analogy making. And I like to think that I've been successful so far.

    It's a tough job, but god knows if left to your own devices, you slashbots would simply keep talking about cars and roads.

    • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )

      I've read a lot of your analogies, and I have to confess, they are indeed bad. Well done, sir!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MadKeithV ( 102058 )
      I don't understand, could you rephrase it as a car analogy?
    • I don't get it, could you try explaining this in some other manner I might understand?

    • I, for one, know what it's like to try to save an entire industry as well.

      Before I arrived here as BadAnalogyGuy, I saw Slashdot sinking quickly into an ugly morass of old car analogies.

      I try to bring a broader perspective to Slashdot analogy making. And I like to think that I've been successful so far.

      It's a tough job, but god knows if left to your own devices, you slashbots would simply keep talking about cars and roads.

      So what you're saying is that you're the Anti-Henry Ford come to save us from our assembly line ways?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by flanders123 ( 871781 )
      You could learn from PizzaAnalogyGuy []. Here's a guy who reuses his Pizza Analogy Engine for every post, thus making him more profitable (with his moddings, if you will).
    • It's like a motorcycle. Why get a new motorcycle every year? It's a lot cheaper just to keep using the same one, with the same engine. Just replace the oil, tires, brakes and other things that can be replaced. Maybe when you get really bored of it, you can paint it.

      You can do exactly the same thing with your girlfriend or significant other, except for the oil, tires, brakes and other mechanical things. The paint too. Otherwise: exactly the same.

    • I'm not following. Can you somehow relate this to me with an analogy, preferable about cars?
    • by Surt ( 22457 )

      Man, every time I see you post, I think to myself ... why did Meept have to leave us?

  • It's not just games (Score:5, Informative)

    by pcraven ( 191172 ) <.paul. .at.> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:40AM (#31940316) Homepage

    It's not just games. In the finance industry I've witnessed many failures of projects to re-write systems from scratch. Some of the best teams just keep updating their old lumbering system, occasionally slapping a web interface or window dressing on it. But it works! And they ship on time! And they make money! And that money goes to fund these colossal re-write failures.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      The biggest problem with rewrites is that the systems you want to rewrite are the ones that you have least clue what do. They're made of ancient code in ancient languages with shoddy documentation, architecture and more tentacles than you realize. To know what exactly you are trying to rewrite, you'd have to tear it apart and figure out what's what, and if you did it wouldn't be such a monster system. Instead you just start off with a new system and hope that eventually it'll be better than the old one, whi

      • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:38PM (#31942214)

        Na, The biggest problem with rewrites is that the people who want to do the rewriting are generally the ones least capable of doing it.

        Fortunately for them, once they're getting near 'completion' another new technology comes along and they can say "we need to rewrite it in that now" resulting in a never-ending path of technology toys, dreams and thankfully, no actual work.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:40AM (#31940328) Journal
    This guy sounds like a really good storyline author for games. In addition to that he is evidently a talented developer. Most people running game companies don't need this, they need business skills. So I'm going to guess he's got a little business know-how as well. To be good at all three of these things is rare and I suspect that his position is unique. Hats off to him, though.

    He is criticized for not rewriting his core engine for a decade.

    So he's on the far end of the spectrum making it work. I guess if I where him I'd point out the (far opposite end of the spectrum) Duke Nukem Forever style of business where you couldn't settle on a damned engine if your company depended on it. But the truth is that there are plenty of in between companies among the big fish that are using the rehashed Unreal engine or some Flash game engine for a social game. They are probably closer to him than the "must rewrite everything" crowd. I'm impressed with this situation and profits but I'm not sold that this extreme is the best answer. Everyone has a happy medium where they feel most comfortable and big companies probably feel differently about rewriting pieces since they are expected to produce wildly new things with their large revenues. I certainly grow tired of the rehashed music game that seems to be the same damned thing to merely a different song every title.

    • Plus, he's got continuity of ownership. Epic Rewrite Syndrome is often a consequence of bringing in fresh people to replace a burned out team, who - untainted by experience - reckon that they can do better, and that a complete rewrite will "pay for itself later".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zumbs ( 1241138 )
      According to TFA, he actually does some rewrites of the engine:

      When I start a new game, I spend 3-4 months rewriting the worst or most dated part of my engine, and then I take that old (but solid) engine and make the coolest story I can with it.

      This allows him to not only tune the engine for performance and stability, but also to take advantage of new technology. On the flip side, the engine is not likely to be redesigned, which can be a problem if the design itself gets dated.

  • Article Is Win (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:41AM (#31940336) Homepage

    Reminds me of the excellent Write Games, Not Engines [].

    A lot - and I speak from experience - of prospective games developers get so wrapped up in tweaking their engines that they never actually get around to writing one game, let alone a series. And that's why the Intartubes are littered with the sad corpses of hundreds of open source game engines, some of them rather good, in various states of disrepair and abandonment, and so few really outstanding open source games.

    • You find that custom engines for games is the exception, not the rule. Most games start with an existing engine and go from there. Unreal Engine 3 is by far one of the most popular these days. Not just for shooters either, RPGs (Mass Effect 1 and 2, Lost Odyssey, etc) Racing games and so on have all used it. Gamebryo is another real popular one. Firaxis uses it for all their strategy games these days (like Civ 4 and Pirates) and Bethesda uses it for their RPGs among many others.

      In the big money game world,

  • The Quake engine is the canonical example, it's powered more first-person shooters than anything else. It's the basis of Source [], fer chrissake, if you go back far enough into the past. And then let's not forget that there's probably more total conversions for Quake than for any other game, and with pretty amazing scope considering their QuakeC limitations... Battletech Quake and Quake Rally come to mind immediately... and wasn't there a jet fighter "sim"?

    But then you have to think about the Final Fantasy and Gran Turismo series... While there are some major leaps here and there it's clear that we're not talking about total code abandonment except when quantum leaps in hardware technology are made. Platform games also spring into my head immediately; numerous platformers had sequels based on minor codebase revisions, especially Mega Man. For that matter, Super C didn't exactly appear to replace the code from Contra. And then we can bring up Metal Gear. Don't get me started on Madden or NHL or any other sports game.

    Or in short, this is a very valid point, but it's SOP to reuse an engine and fiddle with it eternally. I know I'm not the only one who played through all the Quake mission packs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 )

      Note carefully that the author is also talking about re-using most of his resources - models and UI - and only adding new story content.

      OK, Source is derived from Quake, but does Half Life 2 look like Quake 1?

      It's an apples to Bad Analogies comparison though, since RPG audiences are not FPS audiences.

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        I play both RPGs and FPSs. I've said before that I'd love to pay for new episodes of Doom. I've looked at some of the free ones, but haven't found anything as good as what id did back in the day. I had no problem paying for HL: Blue Shift or HL: Opposing Force. Both were great, especially OpFor. Though, you're probably right. I'm not typical of most gamers.

      • OK, Source is derived from Quake, but does Half Life 2 look like Quake 1?

        My point is indeed that the amount of revision in the engine is based on the state of the art. We got the aforementioned four mission packs for Quake because it was changing slowly. Hell two weren't even official, but they got boxes and releases from major publishers. The author is developing 2d raster RPGs, and the state of the art hasn't changed significantly there since the Super NES brought us hardware-assisted scaling and rotation, with the exception of the Playstation bringing us quality digital audio

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          I'd like to see the full development tools opened up for some of the older consoles

          The NES has been blown wide open. I've made a few games for it such as Concentration Room [], and I'm not the only one. And some people are working on mastering the Super NES.

          That might produce a few more titles like this, but targeted to a hardware platform. The Genesis or Super Nintendo would probably be the most attractive to potential developers, because there are scads of them worldwide (not least in the umpteen-in-one units at the flea market)

          Cartridge connector repair might pose a problem.

          and because they use tractable Motorola processors.

          True, the Genesis used a Freescale processor (MC68000), but the Super NES's 65C816 was a Ricoh second-source version of a WDC part.

          • and because they use tractable Motorola processors.

            True, the Genesis used a Freescale processor (MC68000), but the Super NES's 65C816 was a Ricoh second-source version of a WDC part.

            Hmm, my bad. I wonder where I got that mistaken impression. At least I was right about the Genesis :p

            The NES is a little too restrictive for me to be interested in developing for it, and I think a lot of other people feel the same way. The SNES is really where I consider the graphics to become acceptable for what I'd want to put effort into. This, of course, is totally subjective.

      • HL2 doesn't look like quake 1, but it looks and plays an awfully lot like CS:S, DoD:S, TF2, L4D, L4D2, Portal, and of course all of the DLC.

        Even though taking it back to quake's engine is a bit extreme (maybe for HL1...source is pushing it though), it seems that Valve has gotten this idea. They have made engine tweaks and updates along the way--but they are a much larger team than this guy and when you already have the team of graphic designers on salary...might as well let them work while guys like th

    • And the Sierra games...

    • by sa1lnr ( 669048 )

      "and wasn't there a jet fighter "sim"?"

      Could it be Air Quake? []

      • Yeah, I remember the name, I don't even have to go look. Also, I just remembered another classic, epic series in PC gaming that had multiple sequels at [almost] every generation and which made heavy reuse of in-game assets for those sequels: Mechwarrior. And let's not forget Mechassault, which was a ground-up rewrite... but which also has a sequel reusing assets. There were a couple sequels each for both Mechwarrior 2 and Mechwarrior 4; before that, there was even a sequel to Battletech. The Mechwarrior 2 e

  • Exactly right! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:45AM (#31940408) Journal

    This guy has it exactly right. I don't need a new engine, just new levels or a new story. I would LOVE to pay for new high quality episodes for the original Doom engine. Game after game comes out on the Adventure Game Studio engine, and I love it. I never heard of this guy before, but the Avernum series seems to be supported by Wine (platinum!) so I'm going to give it a shot. When your formula is good, "more of the same" is a great thing.

    • Re:Exactly right! (Score:4, Informative)

      by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:51AM (#31940500)

      Avernum (I played it in the 90s when it was "Exile") is quite fun. I have pretty much played all the Exile and Avernum games. I'm not a sci-fi type guy, so I didn't like Geneforge.

      If you like a game where really the story takes precedence - as well as the general fun in gaining experience and leveling and new skills, etc - then you should indeed like Avernum...

      No, I don't work for him... just have enjoyed his games for 12-13 years now. :) Also, I really like his shareware mindset... giving, for free, a large portion of the actual game (like 20%), to me, was very effective. If I didn't like the game, I didn't pay for it. If I did like the game, I really wanted to know the end of it so I paid for it.

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        Yeah, I figured that someone who's been doing this for so long must be doing something right. Should be a nice change of pace from all the console RPGs I play.

        • Yeah it is. I enjoy RPG's and even one online one, but I enjoyed playing the slightly slower, less frilly Avernum 6 recently, too (released in March). I like "visually stunning games" just as much as anyone else, but Avernum[/Exile]'s 2D/isometric (is that the right word? hehe) visuals have never been a hindrance to me enjoying the game.
    • by qoncept ( 599709 )

      I would LOVE to pay for new high quality episodes for the original Doom engine.

      Wow, really? There are more than enough levels out there for you to pick and choose "high quality." It wouldn't be hard to find a high school student failing English class to write up a story as good as Doom's original (and far better than the movie).

      Have you looked at the ports of Doom? Some of them have some ... I want to say "pretty impressive," but they just aren't given the current gaming landscape ... added features that would put them about on par with the RPGs the original article discusses.


      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        Yeah there are a lot of free levels, but most of them aren't very good. I'd rather just pay for a professionally made game than sort through the crap myself. As for the gameplay, it's as fun today as it was 16 years ago. IMO a lot better than these cover shooters we have today.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:47AM (#31940432) Journal

    Sorry, I actually read it. It got me thinking of the classic Infocom text games. Yes, there was an "engine" of sorts. It was, AFAIK, some kind of scripting language designed for text games. I bet they tweaked and reused it in every game too.

    • by Z8 ( 1602647 )
      In case you still want to play text games, the genre is called interactive fiction [] and many authors are still interested in it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drspliff ( 652992 )

      Or the SCUMM engine which was originally developed for Monkey Island and now ScummVM boasts a repertoire of [according to the Wikipedia page] 28 from Lucas Arts & Sierra On-Line games and nearly 40 games from other developers. A huge proportion of them are still extremely playable and enjoyable today because the SCUMM engine let people focus much more on story, art and interaction than software.

      Sure there were some changes over the years (better graphics, CD audio, speech, higher resolutions), but they'

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:50AM (#31940478) Homepage Journal

    this piece is quite in line with what i has been complaining of in my little rant about mass effect 2 last night in the journal item i posted to slashdot : []

    Mass effect, Me2 , Dragon Age : Origins are SO good in implementation, details and polish but SO weak in the MAIN story that, they really leave a sour taste for the buck in your mouth. Dragon age is, basically 'Hey ! A new blight has come. AGAIN. lets beat this blight and wait until the next time bioware needs to issue an expansion'. Whereas, all the side details, ie, background stories of characters, side quests, other events unrelated to main story are all good and galore.

    Dragon Age also isnt helped at all by torturous, neverending, lengthy dungeons in which you kill enemy after enemy (Similar enemies) and then a brief respite until you get into the next dungeon sequence in which you will get bored.

    • To each their own. I love the Mass Effect and Dragon Age stories. I went out and bought the Dragon Age novels because I liked the story so much.

      You suggest Dragon Age doesn't have side quests, background stories, etc. I don't know what to tell you. Every companion has a fully-fleshed out background. I enjoyed finding them out. The world has tons of background info found in in-game books. Even better, these get stored in a compendium so you can read them at your leisure without having to carry all the in-gam

      • He was saying how the side stories are much better than the main storyline, so he didn't feel compelled to play it much or was disappointed when he did.

        I think the only one I've truly enjoyed was the Original Mass Effect, its sequel and all Dragon Ages haven't really kept the balance of good gameplay and storyline rolling. There is either too much to absorb, with little gameplay, or the story is blandly predictable.

  • I loved his old Scorched Earth website. I love his Poo Bomb book. I like his games. I also don't think it is a sin to reuse what works and focus on story when making RPGs, but would it kill him to take another existing engine and use it?

    Since he obviously pulls from Ultima games, why not use Exult or GemRB for instance?

    • but would it kill him to take another existing engine and use it?

      why ask "would it kill him" ... how about, would it help him?

      • Exult is an engine designed first and foremost to run Ultima 7, though it can be used to make new games from scratch.

        It has more features, better graphics and just as low of an entry point for game design.

        Exult has lots of little "immersion" features, such as the ability to smelt ore and smith your own weapon, making cloth and then cutting into bandages, sheering sheep, baking bread, etc.

        These little immersion features might help bring people into the world and appreciate the story even more.

        • Perhaps, although I know Jeff has decided that he decidedly doesn't like the micro-management stuff... like having to always lug around lots of food, etc.
          • On that I agree. I prefer the Morrowind/Oblivion approach where food gives a small stamina refill, but isn't necessary for survival.

            • Same.. I really liked the Oblivion approach to "character" upkeep, although constantly repairing one's equipment was annoying eventually... but I guess probably a quasi-realistic addition that helped promote non-long dungeon crawls. Jeff used to have a food system but he stopped it eventually. At any rate, I agree he could look at using a different engine... but only if it really gains him something that he doesn't have right now.
  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:18PM (#31940942)

    ... the defining method to determine if a game is an RPG or not is if game engine itself penalize someone by denying access to some game content. No joke:

    "Where then does that leave the modern RPG? The game where making choices actually results in missing out on things? The game where you don't get to use the best axe because you're focussing on guns instead? While RPG becomes a modern marketing phrase to slap on titles in the hopes of selling additional units and some companies are making real efforts, the truth is, the core mechanics of the most successful RPGs released by the main-stream developers are becoming less and less RPG like."

    Two more gems:
      - Games that use the same game engine are not new games, with the implication that they are therefore not worth playing 'again'.
      - the claim that any company that produces a game labeled as an RPG will go out of business in short order because of that decision.

    I could do a point-by-point, but there's no ...erhm... point. I'd just ignore this posting if I were Jeff.

  • Isn't Epic doing this with the Unreal Engine?

    Isn't Valve doing this with the Source Engine?

    Engines aren't as important as the games themselves. Particularly for a franchise. If Super SF4 used the same engine as Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, then I would be really, really, really sad.

  • Code reuse can save lots of work, and open source does it fairly well at the source level, but increasing it would reduce work a lot. To increase it requires some work and planning. Object-oriented magic, and a dozen other things, were supposed to magically make all code reusable. Never worked. It's not easy to do, but waste of resources in programming can indeed create quite a lot of problems. And it can be done. One trick is obviously "don't change the base too much". Explains why old binary emulators a
  • The big game makers are always striving to present the latest and prettiest games, while their businesses are topheavy archaic slugs (modeled on the entertainment industry).

  • Graphics? No thanks. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by indre1 ( 1422435 )
    Is it just me or are "good" graphics overrated? No matter what they do, in the end the overall looks are still not real and only the textures are prettier.

    Remember that people played (and still actively play) MUDs - they are not played for the nice looks (ASCII maps is all you have to look at!!!), it's the story that catchy.

    I think that the players who are there for the graphics play the games for the shortest time. The more valuable customers that are there for the story and would buy a sequel, updates
  • Not just games (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:32PM (#31941170)

    This is good advice for practically every field. If you've done a good job of defining and documenting clean interfaces, it is almost always better to reuse a wheel than to reinvent it (usually badly). The only time a rewrite is in order is when it would actually take more effort to accommodate an existing subsystem.

    (This applies mainly in a business context; for free software that is unconstrained by the need to turn a profit, the main question should be which choice will better serve the users, not which choice is quicker and easier for the developer.)

    As far as games go, many of the games I've enjoyed most have had relatively primitive graphics but superb gameplay, while I've seen plenty of games that were visually stunning, but not all that much fun to play. For game developers, I'd recommend developing the game first with minimal placeholder graphics and then play it. Is it fun? If yes, then upgrade the graphics. If not, then no amount of eye-candy will save it.

  • Snicker... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:33PM (#31941180)

    Actually he did rewrite 5 games at least once, the first 3 Exiles games were re-hashed with his "new" engine and his "new" (and crappier) game mechanics as Avernum I-III, and he also re-did Nethergate, which I actually originally liked as being a nice change from his bland Exile world. OK, he did add some things to the "new" versions of Exile aka Avernum, but still... give me a break here. Oops, I said 5, and the one that I haven't mentioned yet is Blades of Exile cum Blades of Avernum.

    Same so-so graphics for years, same tired old engine when it would/should have been entirely possible for him to move along to something a little more modern. e.g. Minions of Mirth using the Torque Game Engine and licensing a good deal of art, graphical effects, and commissioning other pieces is leaps and bounds ahead of Jeff's stuff yet still not entirely graphically pleasing, but good enough for more CRPGers I think. (Music was donated for Minions of Mirth AFAIK.) If he wanted to he could EASILY pick up any one of several OSS engines(e.g. Torchlight showed off OGRE pretty well IMNHO) or for little cost, license an engine like Torque(preferably the newer one), and given MoM's art he should be able to get good enough artwork to justify his grossly inflated prices for what is a VERY OLD creaky engine with artwork from the late 80s/early 90s. i.e. IMO Jeff is just being lazy and cheap. He's comfortable with crumbling old game engine, meaning that he has to spend little effort with each game actually programming, along with the endless re-use of the same graphics. (OK the graphics bit isn't so bad as you would expect some continuity in tilesets between games set in the same geographical region(s), however I've grown more and more to appreciate first person centered single character CRPG games, and 3rd person for party based all with 3D graphics.)

    Actually given his commentary about re-writing the oldest portions of his engine every game, I'd bet that using some other OSS or other game engine would enable him to spend even LESS time on it once he got things going the first, as he could rely on commercial or OSS updates along with more testing. (Apparently he's never even bothered to look at other engines given his commentary on their "costs", yet apparently quite of few of these AAA games can afford expensive 3rd party engines, have a price point $12 or so about Jeff's and MANY of them still turn a profit, sometimes a VERY good profit.)

    A new engine would allow him to implement a FAR more robust scripting engine than what he has, making something like the Blades games actually useful and possibly actually getting some people to create mods for it.

    Anyways, my beef beyond the technical/art/mechanics aspects was the way he moved to his "new" engine re-releasing old games that I had already purchased while simultaneously jacking up his prices to unreasonable levels given the quality. (I stopped caring, mostly about Spiderweb after being burned by Avernum I. Go look at his current prices for his games, I paid little more for Drakensang which was a FAR better CRPG than any of his efforts, and better looking to boot while being produced on a budget which amounts to peanuts today.

    Geez! He's just so arrogantly full of himself in that article, that it's er... disconcerting... I think that in the end is that he is so 1-person company centric and afraid to take any sort of risk that his commentary is just marginalized. I'm surprised he didn't work in something about PR and hype while he was rambling on there. OTOH Minions of Mirth was also made by, primarily, 2 people. Jeff really just comes off as a whiny wannabe in the post.

    (End note: as to graphics, I still play alot of older CRPGs, and alot of roguelikes generally in TEXT mode, although for some I will use a graphical tileset if there's something halfway decent avilable, so graphics aren't everything but once you start putting yourself into a certain price category you WILL be compared to other games in the same general range, e.g. Drakensang v. Avernum/Geneforge.)

  • Case in point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:57PM (#31941464)
    How many times did Duke Nukem Forever switch engines and start all over?
  • Geneforge is great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Z8 ( 1602647 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:58PM (#31941490)
    I happen to be in the middle of playing one of his games (Geneforge 5) and I'm really impressed. The crappy graphics took an hour or so to get used to, but the complexity of the world and faction system makes the game worth playing. You really feel torn between the ideals of the different factions, and get to know the personalities of the major players. I think it compares quite favorably to modern big-budget games in that regard. Also the fighting mechanics were solid and didn't get in the way of gameplay.
  • The point of the engine rewrite treadmill in large companies is not to create better games, it's to raise player expectations and build a high enough barrier to entry that only the largest companies/IP-holders are left in the market.

    Just like the movies, if you have the money to attempt to dominate the market, you don't win on good scripts because anyone could come along out of left field and write one of those, you win by having production values/effects/names that no small player can afford to match.

    It do

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.