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No, You're Wrong!
March 3rd 2003, 00:30 CET by Eric T. Cheng

Gamespy recently posted an article on what Seamus Blackley, the man who promoted Microsoft's Xbox and now a vice president of Capital Entertainment Group, thinks about the relationship between game developers, publishers and gamers.

"The industry has evolved into a broken state that's holding us all down. There's stuff that's just plain broken. There's stuff that has evolved into brokenness. And there's stuff that's just our fault," says Blackley. He started off his assessment of the broken state of the business by discussing faults in the design process. "The number one problem we have with design is that we don't know who we are designing for. Are we designing for ourselves? Are we designing for publishers? Are we designing for EB salespeople? Are we assigning for reviewers? Are we assigning for the audience? The problem right now is that we're designing for publishers and not the audience. Designers are thinking about what will look good to a publisher and this is just remarkably stupid because designers have no idea of what publishers are actually looking for and why."


So will the game industry be more and more like Hollywood, where games were be formulaic, decided by marketing suits and focus groups, and eyed to be franchises in order to churn out sequel after sequel? And will the only innovative games be produced by indy game developers, much like indy filmmakers, who have little to lose to risk trying something new and different with their small budgets?
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#1 by CheesyPoof
2003-03-03 00:37:46
So will the game industry be more and more like Hollywood, where games were be formulaic, decided by marketing suits and focus groups, and eyed to be franchises in order to churn out sequel after sequel?

Yup.  Most of the games I got in the past year are sequels and my most anticipated game is a sequel.  Blizzard is an example of this, develop a property and sequel it forever.
#2 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 00:37:47
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
So will the game industry be more and more like Hollywood, where games were be formulaic, decided by marketing suits and focus groups, and eyed to be franchises in order to churn out sequel after sequel?

How is this different from now?  Try and get an innovative game idea published... just try.  You can only do it if you're self funded basically.

My avatar is better than YF's in every way.
#3 by Matthew Gallant
2003-03-03 00:44:51
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
Weird how all the self-funded people are making sequels, though.

"People have asked “why did you choose to have a sister for Link this time?” The reason is a good motivation for challenge in a new life and a new adventure."
#4 by ynohtna
2003-03-03 00:47:52
ynohtna@ynohtna.org http://www.ynohtna.org/
So, Seamus, do you think the industry is broken?
#5 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 00:49:34
In an ideal world all games would be Trespasser.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#6 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 00:58:17
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Weird how all the self-funded people are making sequels, though.

True enough.  I guess given the choice, people still tend to go for the money makers.

My avatar is better than YF's in every way.
#7 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 01:21:10
erictcheng@hotmail.com
Wow, my submission got approved very fast!

How is this different from now?


The early days of computer/video games was less like today when it took a few programmers and artists to make a game without the publisher breathing down their necks (the Atari 2600 E.T.: The Extra-Territrial probably was the beginning of the end with the publisher rushing to churn out a licensed IP).

With publishers owning more and more inhouse studios there's less need for third party developers, short of contracting out for ports.

Try and get an innovative game idea published... just try.  You can only do it if you're self funded basically.


So it's essentially next to impossible today for a start-up game company to try to do an innovative game?

I have to agree with you. As the cost of production rises to several millions of dollars, publishers are less likely to gamble on risky gameplay ideas unless there are experienced and well known game designers backing them up (eg. Will Wright and The Sims).

I was watching the Special Edition of The Usual Suspects DVD the other night and director Bryan Singer said that they had a lot more control and could risk doing something different because the studio didn't really give a shit about the project because the movie had a small budget (I believe around $4 million), thus little risk if the movie made little to no money at the box office. Now Bryan Singer is working on X-Men 2 with a $100 million budget and the studio suits have more control over the project (they got rid of Bryan's writer-buddy David Hayter, who was the screenplay writer for the first X-Men, and initially didn't bring on Tom DeSanto, the producer for X-Men, who got Bryan Singer interested in the project).

Epic, id, Valve and 3D Realms are some of the few independant game developers who can afford to self-fund their own projects with little to no interference from the publishers.

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#8 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 01:22:19
erictcheng@hotmail.com
In an ideal world all games would be Trespasser.


Yes, I agree! All future FPS games should have female leads and the health meters are tattoos on their breasts!

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#9 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 01:23:02
erictcheng@hotmail.com
Weird how all the self-funded people are making sequels, though.


Valve's making a sequel to Half-Life?!

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#10 by Creole Ned
2003-03-03 01:26:50
Do you seriously expect that Valve would not be working on a sequel to Half-Life? In any case, they're working on an announced sequel already -- Team Fortress 2. Then we have:

3D Realms: Duke Nukem Forever
id: Doom III
Epic: Unreal Tournament 2003 (and probably another Unreal-branded title to follow, although Warren may be able to correct me on that)

"I don't bemoan the great paste" - LPMiller
#11 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 01:33:06
erictcheng@hotmail.com
My bad. I forgot my <sarcasm> tags again... ;)

Half-Life came out in 1998 but Valve hasn't released anything new since. At least 3D Realms released Shadow Warrior after Duke Nukem 3D.

BTW, Epic didn't Unreal Tournament. They got Digital Extremes to do that and Unreal Championship. Epic is working a "secret project"...right, Warren? ;)

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#12 by Bailey
2003-03-03 01:49:47
What? Epic didn't what Unreal Tournament? Say it motherfucker, I dare you! I double-dog dare you!

The Internet! One big bandwagon of mediocrity.
#13 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 01:54:28

Bryan's writer-buddy David Hayter


Random Trivia: Who also did the voice of Snake in MGS/MGS2.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#14 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 01:54:42
erictcheng@hotmail.com
Fuck... I mean Unreal Tournamanet 2003. Well, I'm partially right 'cause Digitial Extremes did part of Unreal Tournament (and Unreal too I believe).

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#15 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 01:56:07
I think the Unreal branding has gone overboard and is quickly reaching a point of consumer confusion.  That is all.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#16 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 01:59:16
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
BTW, Epic didn't Unreal Tournament. They got Digital Extremes to do that and Unreal Championship. Epic is working a "secret project"...right, Warren? ;)

I must have imagined the 6+ months I worked on UT2003 and the wretched crunch time I suffered through then.

*donkey punch*

My avatar is better than YF's in every way.
#17 by Bailey
2003-03-03 02:00:31
I bet that all-leather cow interior in your solid gold ferrari makes the crunch time a bit more bearable.

The Internet! One big bandwagon of mediocrity.
#18 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 02:01:14
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Speaking of donkey punches, Splinter Cell is awesome on the PC!  I liked the XBox version, but the PC version blows it away with the mouse/keyboard controls.  I had to upgrade my video drivers to stop the shadows from fucking up, but once I did that, it's been great.

I can't push it over 800x600 though or my frame rate goes to shit.  Those shadows come with a high price apparently ...

My avatar is better than YF's in every way.
#19 by Marsh Davies
2003-03-03 02:01:19
www.verbalchilli.com
Jus' outta interest, is there a predicted date (within a year or so) for Unreal Warfare, or whatever it's going to be called?

#20 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 02:02:08
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Jus' outta interest, is there a predicted date (within a year or so) for Unreal Warfare, or whatever it's going to be called?

No, nothing has been announced and we aren't talking about it yet.

My avatar is better than YF's in every way.
#21 by Bailey
2003-03-03 02:02:23
Unreal Welfare: Battle the bloated social assistance program in over 24 new blood-drenched technofuturo maps.

The Internet! One big bandwagon of mediocrity.
#22 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 02:16:06
erictcheng@hotmail.com
I must have imagined the 6+ months I worked on UT2003 and the wretched crunch time I suffered through then.


My bad. I thought you guys at Epic didn't do crunches?

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#23 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 02:19:01
On the whole sequel thing..I don't think sequels are a problem.   Many of my favorite games of all time are sequels: the Zelda sequels, Metroid Prime, Soul Reaver, Quake 2, GTA3, and on and on.

As long as the company makes a QUALITY sequel that expands upon the original, or takes it in a slightly different direction, I have no issues whatsoever... and there are plenty of really bad non-sequel games released all the time.


Sequel != Suck
Bad Game == Suck

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#24 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 02:19:59
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
My bad. I thought you guys at Epic didn't do crunches?

The fuck?

My avatar is better than YF's in every way.
#25 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 02:22:11
I've yet to hear of any software company anywhere that didn't do crunches once in a while, with the possible exception of those folks who write the software for space shuttle control.

The 'good' companies just limit the crunch so it never lasts more than a month, at most (and ideally 2 weeks or less).

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#26 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 02:24:52
erictcheng@hotmail.com
My bad. I thought you guys at Epic didn't do crunches?

The fuck?


Okay, I'll shut up now. I need a nap.

I thought you had said in another topic/thread to Caryn about reconsidering about working at a company that forces crunches on employees...or something like that (I'm too lazy to look up the specific quote by you right now).

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#27 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 02:27:45
Well some companies are in near constant crunch mode because of poor management.  You don't want to work for such a company.  Not only does it mean long hours, but it means you're going to be working with lots of incompetent people because if they ever had any good ones, they would have left a long time ago for better jobs.  

All in all a losing proposition, but sadly it isn't that rare in all sectors of the software industry.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#28 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 02:35:30
erictcheng@hotmail.com
From the Gamespy article:

Lastly Blackley discussed how developers and publishers aren't properly targeting their audience. "Compared to other entertainment industries we are probably the worst at understanding and delighting our customers. We need to look at our audience and realize who are buying games. There's a glaring disparity between people who buy games and the people the review and sell them. There aren't a million people buying your game that are also running a fan site on it," says Blackley, "The average person walking into Wal-Mart to buy your game does not own a complete set of Resident Evil action figures and does not know what DICE is."


Most game developers are diehard gamers themselves so we tend to make the games "for ourselves" and not Joe Wal-Mart. I personally don't want to (nor could) do childrens' games because I'm not a father (yet) nor a kid, so I wouldn't know what would be fun for a child without insulting or confusing the child. So similiarly, it may not be very fun for most game developers making games for the lowest denominator (meaning: Joe Wal-Mart) as the hardware requirement and gameplay will have to be dumbed down for those not willing to invest dozens of hours in a game.

From the Gamespy article:

He feels that more of a focus should be made on the mass-market consumer and that, "gamer culture is new and frankly has a strongly negative social connotation." Adding, "Most gamers cite lack of time second only to social pressure as their reason for leaving gaming. Yet we make games that require 10, 20, 30, or more hours for the gamer to fully enjoy."


I have a stack of games I've bought which I have either haven't finished or even started. I just don't have the time to play the games unless they're the type of games which you can sit down and play a "quick" skirmish like multiplayer games such as Battlefield 1942 or Counterstrike.

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#29 by Bailey
2003-03-03 02:36:00
I'm thinking of going into Business Management in a couple years and becoming your boss.

I, Complainicus
#30 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 02:41:30
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Okay, I'll shut up now. I need a nap.

I thought you had said in another topic/thread to Caryn about reconsidering about working at a company that forces crunches on employees...or something like that (I'm too lazy to look up the specific quote by you right now).

That comment was in reference to Xero who was saying that "sleep wasn't an option until the weekend".  That's insanity.  Yes, we have crunch times at Epic, but we try to keep them as short as possible and we let people sleep when they need to.

My avatar is better than YF's in every way.
#31 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 02:41:31

Most game developers are diehard gamers themselves so we tend to make the games "for ourselves" and not Joe Wal-Mart. I personally don't want to (nor could) do childrens' games because I'm not a father (yet) nor a kid, so I wouldn't know what would be fun for a child without insulting or confusing the child.


Did you pop out of the womb at age 12?

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#32 by Eric T. Cheng
2003-03-03 03:03:37
erictcheng@hotmail.com
Did you pop out of the womb at age 12?


Nope. Then again I don't like a good number of console games because I feel they tend to be dumbed down as well for those who have attention deficiency.

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#33 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 03:05:39
But at least they don't usually have save anywhere.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#34 by Sgt Hulka
2003-03-03 03:05:44
Capital Entertainment Group won't return my phone calls.  They must be super busy or frightened.

#35 by ...an ethereal being...
2003-03-03 03:09:25
Well some companies are in near constant crunch mode because of poor management.  You don't want to work for such a company.  Not only does it mean long hours, but it means you're going to be working with lots of incompetent people because if they ever had any good ones, they would have left a long time ago for better jobs.  


I was once offered a job by a manager who used 55 hour weeks in his project scheduling.  Somehow he managed to keep his core team together for several years.

Read, Understand, Post: Choose any two.
#36 by ...an ethereal being...
2003-03-03 03:11:31
Most game developers are diehard gamers themselves so we tend to make the games "for ourselves" and not Joe Wal-Mart.


Is Joe Wal-Mart related to Joe Compaq?  Which one is higher on the computer-user food chain?

Read, Understand, Post: Choose any two.
#37 by Sgt Hulka
2003-03-03 03:20:06
I'm not sure, but let's not forget about Joe Blow, Joe Schmo, John Doe, Average Joe and Joe Sixpack.

#38 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 03:22:41
Well Joe Compaq has a computer by definition, whereas there's a 30-40% chance Joe Wal-Mart does not.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#39 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 03:27:56
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Capital Entertainment Group won't return my phone calls.  They must be super busy or frightened.

Sho'nuff suga!

My avatar is better than YF's in every way.
#40 by CheesyPoof
2003-03-03 04:11:46
Weird how all the self-funded people are making sequels, though.

It's funny but it's true.  Since the indies make enough to self fund, why don't they add another project instead of taking it one at a time?  Do the moneymaker with one team and the innovative title with the other.  If the teams can't be bothered doing that, at least send some seed money out to an up and coming development title and help them, something similar to that 3DR did with Remedy and Max Payne.  Innovation won’t come from the publishers.
#41 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 04:17:07

at least send some seed money out to an up and coming development title and help them, something similar to that 3DR did with Remedy and Max Payne.  Innovation won’t come from the publishers.


I actually think Max Payne is a pretty good game, but I'm not sure I follow your reasoning.  How is Max Payne any more innovative than your usual publisher-funded game?

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#42 by CheesyPoof
2003-03-03 04:28:52
Well for starters it wasn't a sequel.

What I'm really trying to say is if an indie developer doesn't want to innovate themselves, then seed a younger developer and see what they come up with.  Was Max Payne the most innovative game ever?  Probably not, but perhaps the innovation there was 3DR helping Remedy make the game they wanted to make (and making some money in the process).
#43 by Bailey
2003-03-03 04:41:31
How is Max Payne any more innovative than your usual publisher-funded game?

BulletTime©!

I, Complainicus
#44 by Bezzy
2003-03-03 04:43:42
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
I think Seamus is right that games are probably a little incestuous, and need to break out a little.

At the same time, I wonder if it's a bad idea to shoehorn a wider audience into games? Do you necessarily want to shove a sellable theme down someone's throat that has nothing to do with superheroics? If it breeds variety, I guess that's a good thing. But if it feeds banality, then that's bad,, obviously. Could go both ways. At once!

And even though there's a larger market out there to grab by the nuts/ovaries, it's important to remember that there will always be players with non average tastes that a developer can develop for. Sure, it's niche, but not everyone is after the bling bling, Jose!

I'm sure Seamus wouldn't deny that that market exists, even if he doesn't mention it too much. To suggest you can survive on nerds alone certainly nutures complacency in a fairly stagnant industry.

I think widening the appeal of games is a good thing, so long as its motivation is not purely greed. Obviously, costs need to be covered so making money still has to be somewhat prioritized, but if it's not providing a true service to people, then it's just the emperor's new clothes. No point overreaching without having the staying power of a worthy stand-up product (apart from if you're quick buck maker, that is, which I'm sure many people will aim to be with shallow gimmickary). So I hope that the desire to branch out a little more is due to the desire to innovate, and bring us new ideas that both hardcore players as well as joe gamer can enjoy - not just because "exciting franchising opportunities await you & your brand new ferrarri!!!"

I don't think I said anything helpful. Sorry.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#45 by TheTrunkDr.
2003-03-03 04:49:51
Since the indies make enough to self fund, why don't they add another project instead of taking it one at a time?

um money... hiring another 30 people ain't cheap, and could easily take the self funding option away from the developer. Also develpers are in it for the money aswell, self funded projects can get better a better deal with a publisher, and so the more it sells the more the developer gets, why not make something that will sell well, instead of gambling and then possibly not being able to self fund the next project.

Sure, it might happen in some fantasy land like Canada or Holland, but not in the real world. - Shadarr
#46 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-03 05:01:19
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
BulletTime©!

Matthew?

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#47 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 06:33:36

Well for starters it wasn't a sequel.


What does that matter?  Sequels can be innovative (GTA3, Metroid Prime, Mario64, whatever) and non-sequels can be offensively derivative.

I don't buy the argument that sequels are inherently bad in gaming.  As I said before, way too many of my favorite games are sequels.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#48 by Your Friend
2003-03-03 06:36:43
To be clear here, I agree with a lot of Seamus' basic points.  Some of the things he's said about game developers being too focused on the hardcore and not the mainstream buying public are things I've said here and on other forums in the past.  

I just think that in gaming sequels get kicked around too much.  There are so many good game sequels (which is quite different than movies) because games can often get better with evolutionary iteration, which just doesn't work for movies as far as I've seen.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#49 by Bailey
2003-03-03 06:37:38
Matthew?

I am Marketor, Son of Gallant! Look upon my fiscal year end forecasts ye mighty and despair!

I, Complainicus
#50 by Petri Jarvilehto
2003-03-03 07:31:55
petri@remedy.fi http://www.remedy.fi
#40 by CheesyPoof

[q]It's funny but it's true.  Since the indies make enough to self fund, why don't they add another project instead of taking it one at a time?  Do the moneymaker with one team and the innovative title with the other.  If the teams can't be bothered doing that, at least send some seed money out to an up and coming development title and help them, something similar to that 3DR did with Remedy and Max Payne.  Innovation won’t come from the publishers.  [/q]

Cheesy, most of the indies cited here are small companies (size under 30), and they've become succesful because they've focused on only a single project. If you start doing two in-house projects simultaneously the development becomes exponentially harder. And the transition from 25 guys into 60 guys is not painless either. Suddenly you'd need to build a lot more company infra-structure. You don't know all the people in the company anymore, you'll need to formalize many of the processes and in general life won't be as much fun anymore.

However, as we've already seen, the 3DR/Remedy style of co-development is becoming an established way of creating games. Id is doing similar stuff with Nerve and Grey Matter, Epic has similar relationship with Legend and IIRC Blizzard got Nihilistic to work on their IP (btw. the difference here was that Remedy and 3DR co-created and co-owned the new IP, whereas Id, Epic and Blizzard are getting new teams to work on their existing IPs).

Anyways, as publishers become more and more risk averse, I'm certain that this style of funding and development will become even more common.
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