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What Nobody Tells You About Being a Game Dev 181

An anonymous reader writes "Alex Norton is the man behind Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox, an upcoming indie action-RPG. What makes Malevolence interesting is that it's infinite. It uses procedural generation to create a world that's actually endless. Norton jumped into this project without having worked at any big gaming studios, and in this article he shares what he's learned as an independent game developer. Quoting: "A large, loud portion of the public will openly hate you regardless of what you do. Learn to live with it. No-one will ever take your project as seriously as you, or fully realize what you're going through. ... The odds of you making money out of it are slim. If you want to succeed, you'll likely have to sell out. Just how MUCH you sell out is up to you.' He also suggests new game devs avoid RPGs for their first titles, making a thorough plan before you begin (i.e. game concepts explained well enough that a non-gamer could understand), and considering carefully whether the game will benefit from a public development process."
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What Nobody Tells You About Being a Game Dev

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  • Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @04:17PM (#42083053)

    People didn't know this?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @04:19PM (#42083067)

    I fully agree about not making the first project an RPG. A good RPG needs good story, graphics, game balance, hopefully multiplayer and there are a lot of "gotchas" to be found. Plus any good-sized RPG will end up being huge. Almost any other type of game is probably easier for a single-developer studio to create.

  • Re:Um,,, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @04:29PM (#42083117)
    Elite too.
  • Re:Um,,, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fph il quozientatore ( 971015 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @04:33PM (#42083135)
    I know almost nothing about Minecraft, but why should it be absolutely mentioned? Is it the first of the genre? The most successful? Is it an innovative modification of the original idea?
  • by blogagog ( 1223986 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @04:44PM (#42083201)
    " If you want to succeed, you'll likely have to sell out." I'm fine with that. What are the steps required to sell out? Count me in.
  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by loneDreamer ( 1502073 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @04:58PM (#42083269)
    Why are you playing an MMORPG if you prefer not to interact with other players? You would probably be better with a plain old RPG.
  • Re:Infinite (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nationless ( 2123580 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @05:21PM (#42083403)

    In fact surely by definition an infinite world will repeat itself due to it being infinite and therefore an infinite amount of repetition?

    Isn't it like saying the second full rendition of Shakespeare that was just created is a bug and the infinite monkeys will be adjusted accordingly?

  • Re:Um,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @05:21PM (#42083405)

    ....and almost none of that has anything whatsoever to do with the procedural generation, which is actually pretty boring as far as it goes. Games have been doing complex procedural generated terrain since.... well, I don't even know (Rogue, at least), with complex variations much more sophisticated than Minecraft. Minecraft is insanely popular, but as far as good procedural generation goes, it's really not at all spectacular. I mean, hell, Dwarf Fortress (while non-infinite, it could be made so, if it was practical to do so as far as gameplay goes) procedurally generates weather pattern effects on terrain and political/economic shifts in population over an indefinite (user-set) period of time.

  • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @05:21PM (#42083407)

    Young people never listen to other people's advice.

    It's very good, because it means young people will sometimes succeed where older people failed.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @05:44PM (#42083521) Journal
    "Selling out" means half your idea is good. Then someone tells you the rest of your idea sucks, and if you listen to them and make it better, it's "selling out."

    So start by coming up with a half-good idea.
  • Re:Infinite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @05:45PM (#42083529) Journal

    In fact surely by definition an infinite world will repeat itself due to it being infinite and therefore an infinite amount of repetition?

    The set of integers is infinite; but has no repeated elements. There isn't anything forbidding an infinite world from being repetitive; but infinite size does not require repetition.

  • by griego ( 1108909 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @05:48PM (#42083549)

    If I were a game developer and nobody hated my game, I might be worried about that. If all the public does is collectively shrug its shoulders at your work, you might be in trouble.

  • Re:Infinite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @06:07PM (#42083639)

    There is a slight disconnect of what is meant by calling something "infinite". Technically, it means "without boundary", which in this context simply means I can walk in one direction and never reach an end. You don't need to generate the whole thing or store it in memory all at once (that would be absolutely impossible), you just need to be able to generate as much as would ever be needed. That is still a technical challenge. I'm guessing that if you really expanded far enough, your computer would run out of memory. Either that or he destroys segments of the world that aren't in use. There is literally no other option. As others have pointed out, the world can and probably will repeat over some segment, that isn't actually a problem or a qualification for infinite at all.

    You can never generate something that is actually infinite, it will always have some boundary. You can, however, extend that boundary as far as your physical limitations (computer memory, in this case), will allow. In that sense, it is infinite (indefinite in size is a better word and is what he actually means).

  • by Runesabre ( 732910 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @06:12PM (#42083665) Homepage

    After reading through the first couple paragraphs, the tone of his whole article feels sensationalist and stereotyped to the point I really didn't care what he had to say. While it's fun to spout of hyperbole like "my computer illiterate producer who's only game play experience is Bejeweled" as if it represents what one thinks a whole industry is like regardless of reality, it's not very useful or constructive except for generating page hits.

    I've spent 18 years in the game development industry (LoL, UO, TR, SWG, LOTRO, DDO) and while there are those occasional low points, it's not the norm.

    One piece of advice he has which all budding indie game developers need to take to heart is do it for love and passion and don't expect to make any money out of it. If you do it for love and passion, players will notice and provide the greatest possible path to financial gain if your product is worth it. Regardless of financial world, you will have something that you created with that's genuinely yours and can leverage to land you bigger and better paying game gigs down the road. The key is to create something you love.

  • Re:Um,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zalbik ( 308903 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @06:31PM (#42083753)

    Most successful? Someone at Blizzard [] might not think the same way...

    Yes, most successful

    Diablo I sold 2.5 million million copies
    Diablo 2 sold 4.2 million copies
    Diablo 3 was not by any stretch of the imagination procedurally generated.

    Minecraft has so far sold 11 million copies. Almost double what Diablo 1 and 2 ever did. And it's still selling very well.

    Stats sourced from here [] and here []

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @07:15PM (#42083959)

    Why are you playing an MMORPG if you prefer not to interact with other players?

    I'm happy to interact with other players. Doesn't mean I want to interact with every single asshole in the game.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bfandreas ( 603438 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @12:15AM (#42085069)

    well.. daggerfall, an older game in the elder scrolls series, is actually much bigger than skyrim(iirc about the size of england in real life), because it uses generated content. which on that days graphics and level complexity worked pretty nice.

    No, it didn't. The generated dungeons very often had unreachable segments that contained the McGuffin you had to find for the mages guild. It was a soulless game all in all. I wouldn't call it a successful application of procedurally generated content but rather a cautionary tale.

    TES has had a rightfully deserved reputation of shallowness. Especially RPGs live and die by carefully crafted worlds. Given the choice between Planescape: Torment and Daggerfall I know which one I'd choose.
    Of course there is the other extreme of RPG where you are basically on rails and you are basically relegated to the position of spectator. Or the game isn't about the world but constant repitition of the same old. MMOs and ARPGs fall into the latter category.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner