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The Almighty Buck Games

EA Says Game Development Budgets Have Peaked 157

Gamasutra reports on comments from Electronic Arts VP David Demartini indicating that the company thinks AAA game development budgets are not going to continue their skyward trend. "If [a developer] happens to make a lot of money based on that budget, great for them. If they come up short and have to cover some of it — y'know, they'll be smarter the next time they do it. That's kind of the approach that we take to it." Certainly this has something to do with a few major economic flops in the games industry lately, such as the cancellation of This Is Vegas after an estimated $50 million had been dumped into the project. Another example is the anemic response to APB, an MMO with a budget rumored to be as high as $100 million. Poor sales and reviews caused developer Realtime Worlds to enter insolvency and lay off a large portion of the development team.
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EA Says Game Development Budgets Have Peaked

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  • APB, Fallen Earth... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Beardydog ( 716221 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @01:26AM (#33365698)
    I never saw APB advertised, or evenmontiioned anywhere but Steam. If the software had been free, with a brief trial before a subscription stage, or if the software had cost, but the game was free to play, I might have given it a shot. Too many companies, and EA in particular, seem to see MMOs as both magical money machines and silver bullets against piracy. In my mind, MMOs in particular have to prove themselves before a sane humanwould join up, even if they have a reasonable price structure.

    I also wanted to give Fallen Earth a chance. Oh, well.
  • Re:Bout time... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @02:35AM (#33366058)

    Yet a game like eg Torchlight which is hardly state of the art graphics wise got a ton of praise.

    Do I have a top-end graphics card? Yes, I do. But my first and foremost concern with a game is whether it is *fun*. Gameplay is king. Does it tickle my brain, does it make me laugh, does it make me cry, perhaps even pound my head on the keyboard in frustration?

    Graphics look sweet for about 5 minutes and after that you have to deal with their downsides for the remainder of the gameplay.

    Besides, there's more to big budgets than just graphics. EA lined up a whole bunch of celebrities for Mass Effect 2 to do the voicework. Yet another case of "cool for about 3 minutes". Nice for the marketing guys to play around with, but the fact that the ingame character you're talking to was voiced by Martin Sheen ends up adding very little to the actual game in comparison to how much it added to the bill...

  • Re:Bout time... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MozzleyOne ( 1431919 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @03:06AM (#33366178)

    To be honest, most of the gamers in that mindset are moving to the consoles, and I really don't have a problem with that. I have been enjoying the recent round of indy-style games immensely, and hope the trend continue.

    Some of my favourite, non-graphically intense recent games:

    • Alien Swarm
    • World of Goo
    • Braid
    • Osmosis
    • And Yet It Moves
    • Plants Vs. Zombies

    For 3d games, Half-Life 2's Source engine is the sweet spot. From then on, graphics have been good enough, and what makes a game "good" is the gameplay.

  • Re:Bout time... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @03:12AM (#33366200)

    Extremely fun games, raving reviews, appallingly bad graphics.

    And still not successful []

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @09:17AM (#33367868)

    I am also continually mystified by the refusal of developers to port even a single MMO to a console. Every developer is spending a fortune to make the PC-only WoW-killer and losing their shirts when it inevitably either fails or flounders. Meanwhile, not a single modern MMO has been developed for a console (and modern consoles have more than adequate hardware to handle it). Considering how many console-only or console-primary gamers that are out there, that seems like a downright bizarre oversight. Everyone is treading the same well-worn path as everyone else and ignoring the one blindingly obvious path that no one has ever went down.

    I know a lot of people say that MMO's are somehow impossible to do on a console. But I remember when people used to say that about FPS's and RTS's too.

  • Re:Bout time... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @10:34AM (#33368764) Journal

    I know people say "Gameplay is more important than graphics" and I agree with them - lets get that straightened out, but lets clarify exactly why it seems to be that so much money gets dumped into graphics.

    Before you can even start much of anything else for your game, you need an engine to run it in. You can either dump a ton of money into licensing one, or you can dump a ton of money into building one from scratch. The latter is of course going to take more time - and the former is taking from people who basically program JUST the physics and graphics, in fact, its in their best interest to have the most aesthetically pleasing engine out there.

    Next, you've got 2 big core parts: mechanics and design. The mechanics is usually the hard, tricky to understand bit because not everyone likes looking at code, and debugging something running in an engine is not exactly like event driven command prompt. You have to apply some serious logical thinking in order to transpose how you want a certain gameplay element into something the player executes, and in cases where you want to be innovative: There is no prior existing code (just ask how many devs on here copy and paste code. No wheel to reinvent with games).

    Now I'm not trying to belittle the design stage. It takes a special kind of person to pull off the high quality concept art that you see for a lot of games. I value these people more than I value the actual modellers, and in case you're wondering why, I'm going to tell you. Modelling itself is not something difficult to learn. I had about 1 modules worth of Maya way back when I was in High school, and I've just recently taken online Youtube tutorials in Blender. Essentially everything required to make a game work; I've learned in a few hours. But seeing how a new game will require all new models: This is a bulk of the workload. This is also what most game dev programs at colleges will focus a good part of the program on. So when you get 100 graduates, and EA is pumping out a new game, they want to get all this modelling and texturing done, so they hire these people and put them in the monkey position of creating all the new models that will be required. (First years to trees and blades of grass! How fun!)

    In summary, there are far more people willing to get into character design and modelling for a game, because what they do is far more tangible when their component is completed. So when the big shops are working on something, their team of a dozen coders will spend a year working out the code to make the game run exactly how they want it. Then it'll take the design team of 99 modellers and texturers the same amount of time to get their part done, but because there are so many of them, they can get a lot of work done.

    PS - The other part I forgot to include is Animation for the models, which is another time consuming but not particularily difficult thing to learn, its actually very similar to using Flash.

  • by The Living Fractal ( 162153 ) <> on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @12:23PM (#33370222) Homepage
    I agree with most of your post except the beginning. This is certainly a real problem, and it definitely affects many games' development, but it's not the only real problem. In one sense it comes down to simple statistics: Half of all games made are worse than average. That doesn't seem to be concomitant with development cost either. In fact they don't appear to be related at all. Somehow extremely bad games are still getting funded for millions of dollars and only then, after the money is spent, do the developers realize that during all this time they forget to actually make it fun.

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