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How I Saved the Gaming Industry

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the lazy-is-an-attribute dept.

Programming 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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But You Can Be Like Activision! (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940260)

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 [joystiq.com] 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.

Re:But You Can Be Like Activision! (4, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940322)

Yeah, I'd say this guy doesn't know anything about the realities of the business. At what point did he think that EA or Activision wanted to make enough money for anyone but the top Execs?

Re:But You Can Be Like Activision! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31941264)

Damn gaming industry it keeps dying and being resurrected by someone every other week...you just can't leave it unsupervised.

Re:But You Can Be Like Activision! (5, Insightful)

svanheulen (901014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940326)

Don't forget about firing your top employees instead of paying them what you owe.

Re:But You Can Be Like Activision! (3, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940906)

That's only after they worked for years putting in 80 hour weeks trying to make a rushed release date with the vague notion of promotion hanging over their heads.

Re:But You Can Be Like Activision! (0)

qoncept (599709) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940490)

I'm not sure what your motivation for this little rant, but comparing a couple guys coding in a basement for a privately owned company selling niche games to the biggest, publicly traded video game company in the world doesn't really seem relevant.

Ignoring the fact that they are in completely different markets, for a private, small business, making more money means for the owner "I make more money." For the publicly traded company it means "I either get paid more or the company pays more taxes." You can blame the guy for taking the money, or you can tell me what happens the next time you have the opportunity to give 10,000 people $10 more a year or yourself $100,000 more a year.

Re:But You Can Be Like Activision! (3, Funny)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940970)

Dude, if you're going to get high before you post, you're supposed to be more entertaining than this.

Re:But You Can Be Like Activision! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31940602)

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 [joystiq.com] 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.

I think you're just jealous....

I should have posted sooner (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31940264)

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

Re:I should have posted sooner (4, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940298)

But then you couldn't do it because your single hand became busy?

Not as busy as your LEGS while you ran Roman (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31940608)

http://developers.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1622780&cid=31904240 [slashdot.org] LMAO - that's where Roman_Mir opened his big trolling mouth on subjects he had no clue on and it forced Roman_Mir to begin his training, lol, for his status as an "All American Sprinter", and TROLL, lmao, as he RAN from that post never to reappear again. Why? Because Roman_Mir obviously doesn't know JACK about computing when it comes to anything past making webpages, lol!

Re:I should have posted sooner (4, Funny)

nate_wilbanks (887778) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940422)

That's funny. I was going to post about how I double-handedly saved the porn industry.

Re:I should have posted sooner (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940582)

That's impressive. Most chicks use both hands and 4 orifices.

Chew on that one for a while.

Re:I should have posted sooner (3, Funny)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940872)

4?! I thought nasal sex was limited to dolphins...

Re:I should have posted sooner (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940876)

Did it really take $15 million a year?

No one wants to be behind the times (-1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940270)

Will everyone who wants to be known as the backwards studio whose graphics suck please step forward? Anyone?

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (3, Insightful)

skine (1524819) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940384)

If they can get the storyline and gameplay right, create great immersion, reduce bugs, loadtime, need for 'farming,' etc, then I have absolutely no problem with buying games from that company.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940932)

They have free demos. Check them out and decide for yourself.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (5, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940424)

I'll take an ugly but fun game over a pretty but boring game any day. I like high-end graphics as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of gameplay.

I can imagine something looks better than it does...I can't imagine it's more fun to play than it is.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

mujadaddy (1238164) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940664)

I can imagine something looks better than it does...I can't imagine it's more fun to play than it is.

Very deep. Quoting in lieu of mod points.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940754)

Exactly. Back in the 90's there was a space fighter combat game that was ugly as hell but was incredibly fun AND kept it difficult because it had real dynamics. If you thrusted in a direction, you kept going that way until you thrusted in another.

It even had the ability to do multi player across 2 computers using a rs232 cable.

Today? the closest thing we ever got to was Parsec and that died on the vine. everything else today is utter crap where you fly a ship that act's like a airplane. Yuck.

Give me game play OVER pretty any day.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31941104)

Star Control?

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941252)

You might be interested in Vega Strike, an OS project. Think I saw it on Sourceforge.net or Fossfor.us

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940762)

Sure, everyone wants games that play well. On the other hand, the games that make the money are the ones that look graphically impressive on a 30-second trailer. Sure, a game can take off later through word of mouth, but initial sales are critical if you don't want the company to shelve the whole project as a failure before word of mouth has a chance to work its magic. Initial sales are pretty much entirely based on how good a game looks.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941096)

you are incorrect. Casual games like bejeweled make money hand over fist. The idea that big flashy games are where the money is at is a myth.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941046)

I'll take an ugly but fun game over a pretty but boring game any day. I like high-end graphics as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of gameplay.

And I'll take a pretty and fun game over an ugly but fun game any day. You can have both, and I don't think there's anything wrong with putting a lot of effort into the graphics engine and art as well. Artistry is artistry.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941208)

Oh, I entirely agree. Games like Trine, Mirror's Edge, Trials HD...sometimes, the visual style plays a HUGE role in my enjoyment of a game.

For myself personally, I'd put it at 85% gameplay to 15% visuals, in terms of importance.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941058)

Its not an either or though. Sure, his graphics and engine are not so great. They are limited. But its just him doing the work. There is nothing stopping a 15 or 20 man gaming company from using the same tactics with a more modern engine and graphics created by people who are better than jeff vogal (no offense to the guy, I like his games and they are impressive).

Amborsia Software is a pretty good example. They could do more than they have, but at least the released, what 3 Escape velocity titles on pretty much the same engine (tweaked certainly but not completely re-written and redesigned).

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941156)

Maybe its like Starcraft were being able to run the game on almost any computer will always win. You have 1% of the market, but that market is hundreds of times larger then the market of high end rigs.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31941196)

The original Super Mario Bro's on 8-bit Nintendo still remains one of the most enjoyable games to play. It's more enjoyable than the newest Mario on Wii. In fact quite a lot of those games are way more enjoyable than the current string of games that are out. I still to this day enjoy the old school games on a more consistent basis than some brand new larger than life wanna-be blockbuster that HugeGameStudio put out. Tekken 3 is antiquated but yet still better than the latest Tekken. Final Fantasy Tactics rips XIII a new hole in story alone, and it didn't need Dolby Surround to do it. Sadly most game studios have failed to see that innovation is the true push behind making games fun. Making you think in a new way and having to work to imagine a story you are interested in or a new way of accomplishing getting to the end of the level will always be FAR MORE ENTERTAINING than shiny lipgloss on my screen.

Strategic Conquest (2, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940494)

Man, I sure miss Strategic Conquest and Crystal quest. So no I don't care if the graphics are old school. they remain awesomely engaging games. they just don't run on intel macs.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940628)

Well he has a point, and he sorta doesn't at the same time.

He made a mention to the Dragon Age engine, about reusing it to make 10 games with it.

Well AFAIK The Dragon Age engine is based on the same engine used for KOTOR and many other Bioware games, just updated for the modern era.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (1)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940944)

Well AFAIK The Dragon Age engine is based on the same engine used for KOTOR and many other Bioware games, just updated for the modern era.

Actually, it doesn't.

Mass Effect uses the Eclipse engine. This is considered a wholly new engine (although it doubtlessly shares some code from earlier projects, just because it is the same development house and performs similar functions).

Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2 and Jade Empire used the Odyssey engine. This in turn was based on the Aurora engine, first used in the Neverwinter Nights games (as well as a number of third-party titles).

Prior to that, of course, Bioware used the venerable Infinity engine, which powered Planescape Torment, the Baldur's Gate and the Icewind Dale games.

Re:No one wants to be behind the times (2, Informative)

besalope (1186101) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941194)

Well AFAIK The Dragon Age engine is based on the same engine used for KOTOR and many other Bioware games, just updated for the modern era.

Actually, it doesn't.

Mass Effect uses the Eclipse engine. This is considered a wholly new engine (although it doubtlessly shares some code from earlier projects, just because it is the same development house and performs similar functions).

Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2 and Jade Empire used the Odyssey engine. This in turn was based on the Aurora engine, first used in the Neverwinter Nights games (as well as a number of third-party titles).

Prior to that, of course, Bioware used the venerable Infinity engine, which powered Planescape Torment, the Baldur's Gate and the Icewind Dale games.

Close. Mass Effect actually uses the Unreal 3 engine.

Story Graphics (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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 :-(

Re:Story Graphics (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940986)

Not for everyone.

This guy has a niche market. If any EA game had his sales it would be viewed as a commercial disaster. Some people love the story based games but far too many people will go for graphics over gameplay every time.

It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940288)

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.

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940332)

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

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (3, Funny)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940404)

I don't understand, could you rephrase it as a car analogy?

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (3, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940736)

You know how after 3 or 4 six-packs you get in your car and think of doing something you would never even think of sober (like seeing if you can jump across the bridge that is out, 'cause you saw 'em do it many times on the Dukes of Hazzard), and you tell yourself "What the hell -- let's try it!" 'cause you have absolutely no common sense at all? Well, BadAnalogyGuy is a lot like that...

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31940778)

Let's say you were driving on a highway every day of your life and saw all the cars around you. Sure, they're all different in their own ways, but in the end, you come to the realization that they're pretty well all just four-wheeled devices that use some manner of fuel to propel their passengers down the road. Suddenly, it all seems so much the same. The four wheels, the driving, the road; at this point, you think to yourself that you'd like to see someone else do something different with transportation, just to break up the monotony.

Then, someone comes running up to you while you're driving and tries to sell you homeowner's insurance and a fishing license. That someone is BadAnalogyGuy.

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (1)

dskzero (960168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940572)

Well we are talking about *engines*.

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940610)

I don't get it, could you try explaining this in some other manner I might understand?

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (1)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940630)

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:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31940796)

This recursive analogy about an analogy fills me with glee.

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (2, Insightful)

flanders123 (871781) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941106)

You could learn from PizzaAnalogyGuy [slashdot.org] . Here's a guy who reuses his Pizza Analogy Engine for every post, thus making him more profitable (with his moddings, if you will).

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (3, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941228)

PAG is long dead. But by all means, tell me more about his "profits".

Stupid Flanders.

Re:It's a heavy burden, to save an entire industry (1)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941176)

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.

In a world (1)

the_one_wesp (1785252) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940304)

where graphics aren't the highlight of a game and game play and story line are the key elements, a game engine only needs to be built once and tweaked per game.

But in todays "OMG SHINY PONIES!!!" game development environment, where it's clear that game play and story take second seat to graphics, the engines need continual extension/modification/rewrites in order to be shiny.

Re:In a world (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940798)

Here's the thing though, is that really the case or is it just the developer's version of a dick measuring contest.

I can tell you right now I enjoy playing Team Fortress 2 as much as or more than I have any of the games I've purchased since then. And while Valve has tweaked stuff on the engine as time has gone by, for the most part they've just added more content and tweaked balance, not completely redid portions to pull out the "Shiny".

In fact, Valve is pretty much the anti-thesis of your statement. Half-Life's GoldSrc engine and it's derivatives lasted far longer than they had any right to by the "Add shiny shit to make it sell" mantra. And so has the Source engine.

It's entirely possible to make a good game, a sellable game, without needing to be on the bleeding edge. The problem isn't that you HAVE to be on the bleeding edge, it's that many companies use being on the bleeding edge as filler for the stuff they are actually missing.

It's not just games (4, Informative)

pcraven (191172) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940316)

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.

Re:It's not just games (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940936)

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, which usually means you make some critical design flaws and end up with a kludge anyway only with less mature code. If I get to pick, I prefer a greenfield project over a rewrite any day of the week. Or at least some narrowly scoped functionality that can be severed from the beast hopefully without too many problems.

Kind of an Anecdote (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940328)

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.

Re:Kind of an Anecdote (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940650)

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:Kind of an Anecdote (2, Informative)

Zumbs (1241138) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940794)

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 (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940336)

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

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.

Re:Article Is Win (1)

flanaganid (900938) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940808)

There may be few open source games, but there are certainly a lot of proprietary-source games that use open source engines. This is one of the few areas where a symbiotic relationship between open source and closed source actually works. For devs who aren't concerned with game design beyond making sure everything works, there are game engine projects. And for devs who simply want to make games, the engines already exist for just about any type of game for any platform.

It gives indy devs the opportunity to release games on-par with the big boys because they don't have to devote so many resources to how the game works, and can instead focus on how it looks and plays. Which, in the end, is what players are looking for anyway.

The pros do that all the time (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941308)

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, it seems to be rather standard practice to have a company that is good at engine development write a game engine, and then to license that for your project. There are, of course, games that use custom engines but I'd venture that the majority license another engine.

Reason is probably just as you state, so that they can spend time writing a game, not an engine.

Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940340)

The Quake engine is the canonical example, it's powered more first-person shooters than anything else. It's the basis of Source [wikipedia.org] , 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:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (2, Informative)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940512)

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.

Re:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940806)

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.

Re:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940824)

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. If you're kicking out first-person shooters then users expect new graphical gimmicks. So the sprite-based Final Fantasy games involved games written to an engine, while somewhere in 3d-land we got engines (presumably heavily leveraging existing code, given the complexity, but with significantly new rendering engines to take advantage of new platforms) designed to suit a story. Grand Theft Auto is another series which makes heavy reuse of content, including models. And today, in the age of DLC, we're seeing whole games which are based almost entirely on the assets of previous titles, GTA IV being possibly the best example, with two more or less game-length sequels which expand on the functionality of their predecessors.

I'd like to see the full development tools opened up for some of the older consoles, especially the TG16, since it had a credible handheld, and there's tons of the TV-attaching units lying around. 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) and because they use tractable Motorola processors.

Re:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (1)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940894)

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 this design new stories and level designers design new levels (maybe with new models and textures but in the exact same Hammer Editor).

HL2 came out in what...2004? L4D2 came out in late 2009 and there is supposed to be some portal sequel eventually (not to mention the inevitable HL2 ep 3). That is a pretty good run for an engine. I know that valve tends to be a company that gets things "right" and that this guy is railing against the big EA/Activision type devs...but I am surprised he didn't think they deserved a mention.

Re:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (1)

Chatsubo (807023) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940776)

And the Sierra games...

Re:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (1)

sa1lnr (669048) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940822)

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

Could it be Air Quake?

http://planetquake.gamespy.com/View.php?view=Quake.Detail&id=344 [gamespy.com]

Re:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941008)

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 engine was also used to make the game Heavy Gear, while the sequel to that title was based on the engine used in Interstate '82. This led me to look up Interstate '76 in Wikipedia... yep, it's based on the Mechwarrior 2 engine also.

He is talking about assets, but he's very much talking about engines as well. There is plenty of history of both.

Re:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (1)

Oldstench (1180217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941118)

quantum leaps

I don't think this means what you think it means...

Re:Aren't there plenty of engines used this way? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941232)

I don't think this means what you think it means...

Please go take a flying leap [wikipedia.org] . While there you may attempt aviary copulation with a ventrally rotating toroidal pastry.

[...]The popular and scientific terms are similar in that both describe a change that happens all at once (revolutionary), rather than gradually over time (evolutionary), but the two uses are different when it comes to the magnitude of the change or advance in question.

In real physical systems a quantum leap is not necessarily a large change, and can in fact be very insignificant. A good example of this can be taken from the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom, where the observed energy shifts associated with shifts of different quantum states (quantum leaps) span a wide range from large to small (when compared to the energy required to completely free an electron). In the popular sense, the term is usually applied to mean a large or significant change, which is thus not strictly correct.

Emphasis mine, sliced at the appropriate place for emphasis as well. See link for more information. The observed energy shifts associated with different quantum states span a wide range, and the popular and scientific terms are similar in that both describe a revolutionary change.

Lucas Arts for example (1)

sog_abq (960133) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941278)

let us not forget the SCUMM!

Exactly right! (4, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940408)

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! (3, Informative)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Exactly right! (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940594)

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.

Re:Exactly right! (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940924)

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.

Re:Exactly right! (1)

qoncept (599709) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940720)

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.

The problem is that the gameplay is exactly the same as 16 years ago and, new levels or not, it feels like it. I actually much prefer playing the old levels to new ones when I play Doom with friends, which does happen for a couple weeks at a time about every other year.

Re:Exactly right! (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941336)

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.

TFA made plenty of sense (2, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940432)

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.

Re:TFA made plenty of sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31940586)

Infocom wrote their games in ZIL (Zork Implementation Language), a Lisp-like language that compiled to one of the the first really portable virtual machines, known as ZIP or the Z-machine. [wikipedia.org] There are some secretive people out there who still have the source code to the games, but it's been said they didn't really have a good library or re-use code that much.

Re:TFA made plenty of sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31941348)

That's no gamble: even now you can use the infocom adventure game engine.

Less games, more political activism! (0, Offtopic)

DeepHurtn! (773713) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940458)

"It's not the heat, it's the humidity. It's not the voltage, it's the current. It's not the meat, it's the motion. And it's not the pipe - it's the will." -the Scorched Earth Party

Re:Less games, more political activism! (1)

DeepHurtn! (773713) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941064)

Off-topic! Whyioughtta! The Scorched Earth Party was Jeff Vogel's usenet running gag back in the early and mid 90s.

Now get off my lawn!

Compliment (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940474)

This guy is cocky. And that is a compliment. He is prolly right about his business model being a working one, where others go under. And "cocky" tends to be a compliment in other sectors, too. E.g. the military, where "cocky" generals are, most of the times, the best ones.

Im 100% behind this guy. Story IS king. (2, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940478)

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 :

http://slashdot.org/journal/249254/Mass-Effect-2--Can-you-say-Eye-fck---Dumbed-down-?art_pos=1 [slashdot.org]

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.

Re:Im 100% behind this guy. Story IS king. (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940684)

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-game books.

As for lengthy dungeons, Jeff Vogel (who you're praising here) uses lengthier dungeons and less dialog then Dragon Age. Do you even know what you're talking about here?

Re:Im 100% behind this guy. Story IS king. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940820)

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.

Interpreted languages (1)

AthleteMusicianNerd (1633805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940614)

This is why Microsoft! (I love doing that) came up with C#. I know Sun came out with Java first, but Java sucks. If hardware developers keep changing the hardware dramatically, (F-off Sony) and you are developing for Next Gen systems, you are stuck developing new engines every few years. Until Microsoft really get's XNA together, which doesn't appear to be far off, that is the reality of the business.

Re:Interpreted languages (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31940832)

Java doesn't suck, you suck.

Vogel fan (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940642)

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?

Re:Vogel fan (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941020)

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?

Re:Vogel fan (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941062)

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.

Re:Vogel fan (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941134)

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.

Re:Vogel fan (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941246)

On that I agree. I prefer the Morrowind/Oblivion approach where food gives a small stamina refill, but isn't necessary for survival.

So long as no claims to... (0)

Bourdain (683477) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940704)

... have single-handedly invented the internet because everyone Al Gore did that :)

According to the RPG Codex article ... (4, Insightful)

quietwalker (969769) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Aren't the biggest names already doing this? (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#31940950)

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.

Re:Aren't the biggest names already doing this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31941382)

Yeah but this guy is bringing that development model to shitty games.

Could Linux reuse code more? (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941006)

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 are so popular.

Hilariously Ironic (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941010)

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. (2, Interesting)

indre1 (1422435) | more than 4 years ago | (#31941052)

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 whatever actually don't care about the looks after first 2 days.

Not just games (2, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#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... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.)

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