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Deus Ex Creator On How a Video-Game Academy Could Fix the Industry 132

Nerval's Lobster writes "In the fall of 2014, 20 promising video game developers will begin a yearlong (and free) program at the University of Texas at Austin, where they will study under some of the gaming industry's most successful executives. 'The idea is to get the best of the best of the best, run them through a Navy Seals boot camp of sorts and not force them to worry about "how do I pay the rent and buy groceries,"' said program leader Warren Spector, who is responsible for creating well-known games such as Deus Ex. 'Fingers crossed, when we start delivering graduates who can contribute in major ways to the development of future games, that philanthropy will continue.' In a wide-ranging interview, Spector also talked about how his future students will be graduating into an industry in which 'every business model is broken, which is either terrifying or an opportunity depending on how you look at it.' Focus groups, analysis of historical trends, and aggregated game review scores may be comforting to number crunchers, but the majority of game projects still end up as commercial failures. Spector ultimately believes the people who actually make the games are going to make better decisions than the number crunchers. 'We've got to be looking forward and any time you start bringing data into it, you're not," Spector said. "I pitched a Lego construction game in 1989, and guess what: Minecraft is basically a Lego construction game. But at the time I was told "no, that won't work." I pitched a western game and the response was "westerns don't sell." And then Red Dead Redemption came out. Stuff doesn't sell until someone makes one that sells, and no amount of data can reveal what new thing is going to sell. The metrics and data guys, and the publishing guys will never come up with the next big thing.'""
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Deus Ex Creator On How a Video-Game Academy Could Fix the Industry

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  • by TrentC ( 11023 ) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @11:40AM (#44226167) Homepage

    Spector ultimately believes the people who actually make the games are going to make better decisions than the number crunchers.

    The people with the money call the shots. How will a year-long boot camp for programmers make managers and number crunchers listen to programmers when they don't now?

  • Re:Minecraft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Russ1642 ( 1087959 ) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @11:45AM (#44226221)

    Ideas are easy. Everyone has a great idea for a video game. Developing that idea into a functional product is nothing like simply imagining the final product and maybe bits of gameplay and then starting to program it. And he was likely the one being turned down, not his ideas, although it might have seemed that way.

  • by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @12:25PM (#44226725)

    Established "vets" like the ones mentioned in the article are a real problem. Most only have one real success under their belt, with a whole string of mediocre or outright crappy games to follow. The idea that they are somehow the lone voice of quality in the industry is just crap. The fact is, these entrenched vets with name recognition are the ones sucking up funding so they can spend 2 or 3 years developing their current pet project that has no more or less chance of success than anyone else's. Setting up a school specifically to breed more of these kinds of people will only result in more "rockstar developers" who are convinced that they are the best qualified for create a new game, and publishers will probably throw money at them as a result.

  • by Dishwasha ( 125561 ) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @12:25PM (#44226737)

    Make sure that they understand that they are going to have to already prove themselves as being able to design and code a completely working and feature complete game from engine to art before they can be accepted in to the program, attend class and study under supervision for at least 80 hours per week, live strictly off of one item from the dollar menu per meal, give them a proper browbeating every once in a while, constantly remind them they are easily replaceable with other students just itching to get in to the program, and then never let them complete a project by tossing them on to other loser projects. But it's all okay because the student breakroom looks like a teenage gamer's wet dream.

  • Fix the industry? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @12:36PM (#44226863)

    Nobody is going to fix the industry. The industry functions quite well just the way it is, grossing more than Hollywood for years now. If we're talking about the precious industry, that financial success is the only thing that matters.

    Now if we're talking about ART... That's a whole different problem. Art is anathema to the industry. But this is also true of Hollywood, so we can assume the same sort of results fairly reasonably. Art will still happen, in spite of the industry, not because of it. It will be accidental. It will be serendipitous. It will be the result of one madman with a vision. It will NOT happen because of some hothouse training program.

    Those of us who have been in the industry think of something else entirely when talking about fixing the industry. The radical instability of development houses is what needs fixing. Nowhere else in the world is there so little code reuse, and so little retention of talent. Maybe the customers could get some of the things they want, like more reliable ship dates, and better code quality if that were fixed. That's a whole different problem from endless sequels and poor design though.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Tuesday July 09, 2013 @12:42PM (#44226937)

    With budgets growing out of control so quickly, what the hell do you expect them to do?

    Learn to budget? Seriously, you don't just "lose" $200M by accident.

    Live within their means? They could try not spending absurd amounts for the rights to have some big name involved, for example. Good games will create their own brands, as we've seen time and again.

    Try alternative business models instead of making often futile and always customer-hostile efforts to fight piracy within the current model? Try radically different pricing models. Learn from both the successes and the failures of subscription models and in-game purchases and DLC and building extensible games with modding communities around them and all the rest.

    Tell the console makers to take a hike? Without games, consoles are nothing, but no individual console represents more than a modest fraction of the market. Why should any studio make a AAA game title and then agree to make it an exclusive on a certain console, unless the maker of that console is basically offering to treble their revenues?

    Try bringing PC gaming back? There's a lot of emphasis on consoles, mobile gaming and social gaming today, but PCs have more flexibility than all of the rest put together, and even if the new generation of consoles is competitive in raw power at launch it won't be for long. And yet many modern high-profile PC titles are nasty console knock-offs that justifiably get criticised for weak gameplay mechanics and poor controls/user interfaces.

    Seriously, there are about a million things that a lot of game studios are doing wrong. Anyone with moderate objectivity and some basic knowledge of the industry and general economics can step back and see them. But the big studios often seem to be run by people who don't want to step back and challenge their views, and until that changes, the rest is academic.

    For now, please enjoy EA Super World Championship Series Sports Game 2016, exclusively on your locked-down XBox 3D Kinect Sports Edition, sponsored by Coca Cola and brought to you in generously compensated partnership with the Super World Championship Series League. Unless the DRM servers are down, that is.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal