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Frustration and Unhappiness In the Games Industry

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-blame-the-schools dept.

Businesses 422

Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander recently wrote an editorial about the atmosphere of irritation and dissatisfaction that pervades all aspects of the video game industry. Developers are often overworked and unfulfilled, gamers have no qualms about voicing their disapproval (sometimes quite warranted, sometimes not), and the media, in trying to please both groups, often fails to satisfy either. Why is there so much strife in an industry ostensibly focused on having fun? From the article: "More and more developer sources I talked to suggested that fatigue, hostility, being at odds with one's employer and questioning one's career course is frighteningly common in the game industry. That being the case, it seems natural that elements like emotional detachment, anxiety and a lack of fulfillment make their way, even subtly, into the products the industry creates and into the ecosystem around the industry and its audience. 'Because of the secrecy and competition, a lot of development teams end up having a siege mentality — batten down the hatches and refuse to come up for air until the game's done,' says [an] anonymous developer. 'Game development has a way of taking over your life, because there's always more that can be done to improve perceived quality. I've seen a lot of divorces in my time in the game industry. I feel like it's much greater than average, but I have no statistical evidence.'"

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Welcome to the Real World (2, Insightful)

waambulance (1766146) | more than 3 years ago | (#33021976)

work is work. work sucks. nobody promised you work would be fulfilling. get over it.

Re:Welcome to the Real World (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022078)

That's actually the truth, of which we will be gently reminded by the current economy. Work usually sucked throughout human history. Non-suckful working conditions are not the norm.

The way labor gets to vote is to leave for greener pastures.

Re:Welcome to the Real World (5, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022454)

I think it says a lot about how much people have internalized the "management"/corporatist/Randroid line when someone argues with a straight face that living with constant anxiety about your employment and having working hours that afford you no personal life are simply "the norm."

Re:Welcome to the Real World (3, Insightful)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022528)

There is a difference between how things should be and how they are.

For the foreseeable future there will be no full employment, so employers will start degrading working conditions ... it shouldn't be normal, but it is still the norm.

Re:Welcome to the Real World (2, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022574)

GP was using "norm" in the sense of normative, you are using "norm" in the sense of prevailing local conditions.

Re:Welcome to the Real World (1)

Skreems (598317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022622)

Only for unskilled labor. For skilled labor, there's no reason to settle for that BS.

Game idea (4, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 3 years ago | (#33021986)

'Because of the secrecy and competition, a lot of development teams end up having a siege mentality -- batten down the hatches and refuse to come up for air

Sounds like it would make a great game!

then came open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022250)

and allllll da wittle p.woblems went away

Re:Game idea (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022354)

Are you kidding? With the chili dogs and other crap those guys eat the stench would make the bean eating scene in Blazing Saddles seem like a fresh summer breeze!

As for tfa, someone here (sorry I can't find your post) said it best when he pointed out, using the classic /. car analogy, that the game industry is like car manufacturers deciding to ONLY make Bugatti roadsters. Problem is especially in this economy that is starting to smell and bloat, there simply aren't enough people spending Bugatti money to keep the companies afloat. This adds to the pressure and tension, as every game is now a "give us a hit our we're DOA!" case, and when you know your job is on the line and the company could go tits up needless to say that isn't a pleasant work environment.

I personally think it's stupid the way they kill themselves and blow crazy money on the bling bling graphics anyway. Most of the newer games I play simply aren't any fun and pretty graphics don't save shitty gameplay. I still whip off a game of NOLF or SOF 1&2 or GTA III because those games are FUN and I would have NO problem buying a new PC game with 2003 era graphics if it had great gameplay and AI that would put up a decent fight like the first Far Cry. I'm sure I'm far from alone in feeling that, and as an added bonus there would be a lot more people with the system reqs to play your game!

Re:Game idea (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022448)

Oh there are fun games even now, they're just hard to find, even more if you prefer older game designs (for example first person shooters that don't involve hiding behind cover and aiming for heads). Saints Row 2 is a good recent GTA-like that doesn't screw itself up with too much realism. I think it got kinda ignored as GTA4 got all the attention (and made people angry) but hey, it's really dirt cheap now (the PC version costs a fiver) and not nearly as serious as the box art might suggest.

Some people who felt that modern gaming wasn't worth bothering with really liked New Super Mario Bros Wii.

Fill in the blank with your own industry (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33021992)

"fatigue, hostility, being at odds with one's employer and questioning one's career course is frighteningly common in the _________ industry"

Re:Fill in the blank with your own industry (5, Interesting)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022068)

Is this common in your own industry?

FTFC Joel Payne says:

Two decades making games. I've seen a computer fly through a window, I've seen an ex employee trying to sledgehammer through from one companies adjoining wall to ours so he can get to his office and get his "stuff" back, I've seen one of my friends, a long time game vet kill himself on his birthday because nobody would listen to his brilliance . I've seen a barefoot art director tromp down the hallway like a baby to complain to his bosses when his concept art failed to look like the real-time model he expected when the limits of technology at the time wouldn't permit the level of detail he expected. I've had someone say he wanted to kill me and eat me, I've had anonymous threats when I attempted to suggest that we work together and share better ways to make the game better but.. because I was an "artist" my opinion was considered destructive to the game design hierarchy. I've had CEO's and coworkers claim my ideas without mentioning the source. I've had artist apply for a job with my artwork featured in their portfolios when I was the interviewer. I've been told that I had to work a 48 hour day, sleep on a company couch at work or "families will suffer when the company can't pay it's bills when the deliverable isn't met, Joel we're counting on you" I've been a part of countless layoffs, herded into a room with 300 brilliant talents and told that "**blank*** has F*'d us so we have to lay you all off effective immediately.... now" I've shown up to work and handed a glad trash bag and told that our 200K payroll had been stolen and that I'd have 15 minutes to collect my stuff before the company closes forever. I've seen an employee rob another when he was at lunch, deny it, and the discover he was being video taped.. I saw a a man lose his career, his wife and his company when he opened the door of his company to a guy who knew nothing about the game industry offering to help the company go public, but turned out to be a criminal connect to the mafia who ultimately fired every executive, robed the companies payroll and stole the workstations taking them to Florida where they were later found on bails of hay in a barn on his ranch. I've see racism, sexism and some of the most egotistical people in the world in the game industry and yet..... through it all I always remembered something Chuck Jones told me.. "Joel, the entertainment industry is 90% pain and suffering and 10% pleasure, Just make sure the pleasure shows in your work and you'll be fine." He was right.

Re:Fill in the blank with your own industry (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022208)

I believe you need to write a book.

Re:Fill in the blank with your own industry (3, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022214)

Is this common in your own industry?

had CEO's and coworkers claim my ideas without mentioning the source.

Yes, that one's very common.

To video game developers I have only one thing to (4, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022294)

Say: "Welcome to show business.". All of the things in the parent have happened to me in the film business, and they were de rigeur in the theater as well.

May I recommend you form a union? Or maybe just a guild/mutual benefit society that allows you all to prevent your employer from working you 80 hours a week for no overtime? Just like in show business, there will always be some 17 year old in his garage with no wife, kids or mortgage that would be happy to do your job for less money, more hours and no complaint. Something generally has to be done before the labor pool destroys itself and the ONLY people you can find to do the work are 17 year old greenhorns; the video game medium will never develop artistically if the work environment is actively hostile to people who want to spend a lifetime doing it.

Re:To video game developers I have only one thing (2, Insightful)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022618)

I work on the fringes of both industries at the indie level and I agree completely. Video gaming still has a lot to learn from Hollywood. In 20 years it might actually be a good place to work. Until then, I'll stay indie.

Re:Fill in the blank with your own industry (4, Insightful)

xmundt (415364) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022306)

Greetings and Salutations....
        Hum...this sounds as if it could be applied to almost ANY industry, not just the gaming industry. Think back to the days when Dave and Bill were running HP and it was rated "the best company to work for". For every ONE HP there were thousands of companies that treated their employees like slaves, and were rampant with the sort of evil doings listed here. That remains true today, alas, and may be MORE true with the stresses of the economy being what they are.
          It has been my experience that MOST companies are run by greedy, thieving bastards, and the best the employee can hope for is to not get screwed too badly as the company is drained into the pockets of upper level management.
          pleasant dreams
          dave mundt

Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (4, Interesting)

drHirudo (1830056) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022000)

The newest games are crappy recycles of old games. Same ideas recycled over and over again for ages. There is almost nothing new in the gaming industry and nobody takes the risk to experiment with innovative ideas. That is why the retro gaming scene gained so much popularity. Especially in Europe there are lots of fans of the retro games produced before year 2000. I have seen people in the train playing Super Mario on NES emulator on their ultra fast laptops. Some people does not have a single PC game installed on their Windows or Linux computers, but wide variety of emulators for gaming. This speaks magnitudes about the appeal of the recent games.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022024)

Whoa same thing with music.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (1)

Simulant (528590) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022060)

Same thing with art & culture in general. That's how it works. Every now and then, something really different will come along but mostly you get minor variations.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (4, Insightful)

vell0cet (1055494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022120)

Unfortunately, this is what happens when an art becomes a business. The MBAs come in because they understand business and take all the art out of it. They get the art mass produced by factories based on numbers and shove it through with marketing.

And since making games now is so expensive, you're not going to get a lot of risk. That's why every thing that comes out doesn't deviate from the formula.

But... indie games... lots of stuff going on there...

Yeah! Submarine games! I miss those. (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022072)

I wish someone would modernize 688 Attack Sub and other submarine games - I can't even remember them all. They had them for the Apple II and Dos. The PC version of 688 Attack Sub (I think that's what it's name was) had multi player mode back then, too. The last submarine game I saw on the shelves years ago was some sort of underwater fighters game - it was like you "flew" this submarine in the 31st century or some such nonsense. I want WWII German Wolfpack or Cold War shit!

If there's something like that now for today's machines, I haven't seen it.

And they need to can the back story "video" shit. I don't want to see how the character got the job or whatever.

See, that's why I haven't played a video game in years.

Re:Yeah! Submarine games! I miss those. (1)

Narishma (822073) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022132)

Didn't Ubisoft release one such game just last year? Or was it this year? I don't remember. The only reason I remember it is that it was the first to use their new DRM scheme that requires being connected to their servers in order to play the game.

Re:Yeah! Submarine games! I miss those. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022242)

Get the pirate version, it works offline.

Pirate version? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022464)

Let me see, the pirate version of a submarine game is one where you are sent to the Somalia coast to capture the pirates there?

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022074)

Just so you know people in the 90s were saying this about 80s games, and in the 2000s saying it about 90s games. It's not that games suck now, you just got old. My parents still listen to the music that was popular in the 1960s. You could argue that music peaked in that decade or maybe that's just what old people do.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (2, Interesting)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022228)

You could argue that music peaked in that decade or maybe that's just what old people do.

As a guy born in '89 who mainly listens to 60s/70s music, I go for the former.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022352)

well the figures say otherwise buddy. getting old plays a part in it sure, but there's something else going on in the industry and its stupid to deny it.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022130)

One word: nostalgia.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022318)

How can you be nostalgic for something you weren't there to experience? You might have an affinity for an older and apparently simpler time (eg. ren faire), but you can't be nostalgic for it. Unless, of course, you're nostalgic for the time when you used to go to ren faires, but now you don't and your long for the past days of fun with your playtron friends as you wandered through the fields dressed like extras from the Princess Bride.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (2, Insightful)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022180)

The piles of console trash that fill up brick-and-mortar stores have always been terrible. Remember that the vast majority of game releases in the 90s were garbage; you just recall the great ones like Half-Life, Quake 3, and UT99. Well the 2000s have seen many more quality releases.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022188)

There's *always* been rehasing of old ideas in gaming. Ever played Pitfall? the Mario before Mario, I guess you could say.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (3, Insightful)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022194)

I totally agree with the above poster. Everything is classified into convenient genres and too much money is spent on replicating the exact same experience over and over nowadays. Game producers need to learn to take risks again. Studios need to spend much more efforts on creating something unique, not necessarily in terms of gameplay mechanics but in terms of intelligent plots that are compelling for the primary target group (=adults) and stories that really allow for immersion. Procedural content generation and randomized missions/campaigns would be the way to go, yet most studios choose to go the easy and secure but ultimately boring path of creating short, cinematic games that do not offer anything new except better graphics.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022438)

They need to learn to scale back.

Granted, this means if they make a simple game that never gets old (think Tetris), it's hard to build off that premise and any future games would have to compete with that, too.

Plots are nice but ultimately limits replay (a plus for publishers). There's nothing wrong with that but I have a hard time thinking of a game series that built up from game to game both the story and the appeal while maintaining a satisfying end to each chapter. I'd rather they go back to having a smear of a plotline and do whatever hell is fun.

In the meantime, I'll stick with this bonanza of flash games at http://ragdollcannon.net/ [ragdollcannon.net] . I don't mean to come off as a spammer but you know what? They're short. They're challenging. They're free. They don't take up 15GB a game and they don't demand I stay online.

And I say this as someone who used to play the hell out of Command & Conquer games (before they went 3d), brainy shooters (System Shock 1&2, Thief, Deus Ex), WoW, and the usual assortment of Nintendo games (Metroid, Eternal Darkness, Marios of most types, Zelda, etc.)

Because they're console exclusives (0, Redundant)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022304)

I have seen people in the train playing Super Mario on NES emulator on their ultra fast laptops. Some people does not have a single PC game installed on their Windows or Linux computers, but wide variety of emulators for gaming. This speaks magnitudes about the appeal of the recent games.

Or it might speak more about PC game publishers' failure to think outside the FPS/RTS/MMO box. Due to the historical lack of large PC monitors until the rise of HDTV, major companies tend not to publish PC games in genres traditionally associated with consoles. Apart from Street Fighter IV, most fighting games are made for one or more consoles but not the PC. So are most "party" games like Mario Party. These people who emulate Super Mario World might be playing a comparable PC platformer if only one existed.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022310)

flash gaming is where the action is. its growing at a ridiculous rate and mostly at the expense of the crappy consoles. its really no wonder jobs wants to kill flash.

i've worked in flash games for about a year and spirits are very high indeed.

obviously the big firms are trying to muscle in (e.g. EA) but i doubt they will get anywhere - people have gotten used to high levels of creativity and won't put up with anything less.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (3, Insightful)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022356)

Really, nobody takes any chances? Online only games aren't taking a chance? How about taking a chance on a new platform like iPod touch? Or games that have in-game addons for purchase?

I think people are too down on "the games industry" or maybe too focused on a certain segment (which indeed may be worthy of being negative about).

I think there's lots of crap like there has always been, but there ARE gems. You just have to find them, as has always been the case.

Re:Today's gaming is not fun anymore. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022594)

If you believe there's nothing new try finding a recent FPS that plays like Quake or such with a handheld rocket launcher, jumping like crazy and shooting stuff out of a full run. Seriously, that type of game has been "innovated" away, now everybody has to have all the latest tings like paper-thin health that regenerates when you look away for a second, bullets that only deal damage when they hit the head, no weapons that don't shoot hitscan bullets because any form of explosives is for "noobs", 90% of the equipment locked away and requiring you to grind for XP to get access to it, maps with no powerups to pick up that you wander aimlessly trying to find someone to shoot, loadouts that can contain at most two guns because the console controls allocated only one button to switching weapons, ... And if a game lacks these "innovations" people start crying that it's primitive!

Well, at least throwing grenades with a separate button is standard now and we don't have to change weapons for one shot, then change back so it's not all horrible...

Gee.... (4, Insightful)

NetNed (955141) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022014)

I can't believe gamers are unhappy being charged upwards of $50 a game and having to pay for every little add-on that used to be free or handled by a modding community that did it for enjoyment. No the companies have to lock down their software and lose a part of what made certain series of games sell, at least on the PC side, the modding. Who would have thought the console would wreak gaming on a PC too.

Re:Gee.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022312)

I certainly don't like paying $50-60 for a game only to be asked to whip out my credit card to access a certain quest in an RPG, or to download a few new maps in an FPS.

And something tells me that the guy coding it didn't like it either, but naturally he's forced to say, "Yes sir, right away Mr. Kotick."

Welcome to a highly competitive industry (4, Insightful)

SashaMan (263632) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022058)

My guess is that there's not much that can be done to combat this given that game development is such a highly competitive industry. I bet you'd find a similar atmosphere in Hollywood - the millions of wannabee actors and actresses that move to LA all dream of being the next Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise, but the vast majority will end up bitter, dejected, and many will be making porn.

Similarly, all those game developers dream of building the next Warcraft, but the vast majority will end up bitter, dejected, and many will be making porn sites.

Re:Welcome to a highly competitive industry (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022076)

Thus leaving the rest of us staring at the porn clips and trying to decide whether or not it really is worth it to give these people our credit card numbers...

Re:Welcome to a highly competitive industry (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022164)

the millions of wannabee actors and actresses that move to LA all dream of being the next Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise, but the vast majority will end up bitter, dejected, and many will be making porn.

Now a days, the successful actors and actresses do both.

Re:Welcome to a highly competitive industry (3, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022198)

It is not just it is highly competitive, it is also the expectations of the people coming in. With game development, some people want to do because they have fun writing video games. They may have some skill, and may get a job, but what they don't realize is that to earn the money they have to write the games that others enjoy, not just the elements they enjoy, and have to do it such a time frame that the game gets released in a reasonable time.

So in some ways it is like Hollywood, in some ways it is not. In some ways it is like other industries, mostly not. A financier is in it to make money, and is not going to throw a fit because the grue is the wrong color. An engineer is mostly not going to have a temper tantrum because someone modifies his truss. In most other industries there are measurable. We might get frustrated but life goes on.

This is mostly a case of not confusing a hobby with a job. If one wants total creative control, have a hobby. If one wants revenue, get a job. I think many game developer think they can maximize revenue and simultaneously keep it as a hobby.

In other words, it is work (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022370)

Too many people think that just because something is fun to do as a hobby means it'd be fun to do as a job. Not even close. When you are doing something for fun, as you say, you do just the parts you want. If you don't like it you don't do it. That keeps it fun. With work? Not to much.

You can see this in a lot of OSS software. Some programmer threw together an app he wanted because it was fun. However it has a shit UI and no documentation, because that is not fun (for the programmer at least). Fine, but at a job that is probably not an option. A UI designer will look over the UI and say "Make these changes, " and you'll do it, like it or not. You'll be required to write up at least rough draft docs to go on to the technical writers and so on.

No different with games.

Also, for some people, doing something as a job can make doing it as a hobby no longer fun. I used to screw around with things like overclocking and so on. Saved money, was fun, and I'm a tech guy, I can deal with the problems. No longer. The reason is I support computers for a living now. Diagnosing and fixing problems with computers, software, network, and users is what I do all day at work. Thus I seem to have no patience for it at home. I want my computer to work and let me play.

That is why I'm not a game tester. It was a career I'd seriously though about. I love video games, they are by far my main form of entertainment. I also have a good understanding of how computers and programs work, though I'm not a programmer (I do know how to program, I'm just not good at it), I can document well, and so on. I'd be pretty good at it. However I'm also a realist. Testing games doesn't mean playing games, it means TESTING games. You try to break it. You do things over and over to isolate bugs, play on very broken early versions, etc. It is work, not fun. I worried though that in taking a job, where games were work, it would make them no fun for recreation. So I decided not to.

The games industry is a fine place to work, so long as you are realistic about what you are doing. By and large you are NOT making games. The only real person that is true for is the designer, and even then most games have multiple designers who work together, and other people they have to take direction from. If you are a programmer, then that's hwat you do: you program. Your code will become a game, but your job is to code, to solve problems by coding.

Re:Welcome to a highly competitive industry (5, Interesting)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022396)

Engineer here - I wish I could say that you were right about engineers. Believe you me, we have just as many argumemts; however, the stakes are often higher and so the politics fall by the wayside in the face of numbers and simulation. That doesn't mean trivial things don't blow out of proportion, though...

Bizarrely, the first spat I was involved in at my current place of employment revolved around whether a stiffening section could be correctly referred to as a 'truss' (as I called it), or whether it was a 'strut' (as my boss called it). I pointed out that a truss is made up of struts, but I was quickly admonished by my boss and told that a truss consists of pin-jointed members only, whereas this was a single piece of material with cutouts in it and it therefore could not be a truss. Now, I disagreed and cited numerous texts which provide examples of trusses (such as the box truss) which support moments at corners - and that was when my boss fired me. As it was, we realised that it was ridiculous and I was immediately rehired, but you can see how something as minor as terminology can get out of hand. Ultimately, we compromised and referred to it as a 'web' in the documentation.

Re:Welcome to a highly competitive industry (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022278)

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." --Hunter S. Thompson

You can replace music with any entertainment industry and it will be accurate.

Re:Welcome to a highly competitive industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022288)

I like the making porn part.

Re:Welcome to a highly competitive industry (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022292)

"... the vast majority [of aspiring actors] will end up bitter, dejected, and many will be making porn."

So what you are saying is, they finally see the light and end up making an honest living, in short a happy ending? Amirite?

Re:Welcome to a highly competitive industry (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022366)

and many will be making porn sites.

Care to site your sources? ;-)

A new fun game idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022080)

We now need a version of Wii, Move, and Kinect domestic violence. This will solve all our problems.

The Biggest Issue With Journalism (4, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022084)

If gaming journalists didn't want half of the flames they get, maybe they could actually try doing their job a little better. Don't get me wrong, I know full well that sometimes committing your feelings and thoughts down to a piece of paper can be a daunting task. Yet, a lot of reviews we all see never jive with their arbitrary scoring system. Why is that if three-quarters of your review is negative, the game still gets an 8.0? An 8? 8 should be considered good. Not great, but well above part. Likewise you'll also see massive praise, but the game will score a 7. Come on. You can't find something negative to say? Something clearly wasn't working for you, so figure it out or up the score.

And then all the reviewers do is complain that people piss and moan about their articles. Well shit son, if I wrote like you did on a consistent basis, I'd deserve all the flames I was receiving too. Yet, when you point these very things out to them, it goes right over their head.

Really, are we readers possibly asking for too much when we want their arbitrary scoring system to coincide with what's written?

Re:The Biggest Issue With Journalism (4, Insightful)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022152)

Really, are we readers possibly asking for too much when we want their arbitrary scoring system to coincide with what's written?

Yes, you are asking too much when you expect an arbitrary scoring system to be anything but arbitrary. They're idiotic because they are made for idiots. Read the reviews, read the critiques, ask your friends, play the demos, and forget the stupid score card.

Re:The Biggest Issue With Journalism (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022248)

So true - in fact, I read replies to letters by the reviewers themselves saying just that in other words. It's just expected so they have to do it.

Re:The Biggest Issue With Journalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022272)

The reason why you see the wacky ass scores is for two primary reasons:

1. The journalists do not want to lose favor with the big publishers by giving their latest so-called AAA title a bad score, even when the game is garbage. Not only do they stand to lose advertising money, but they also stand to lose their "exclusive" access to information. What happened to Jeff Gertsmann when he dared give Kane & Lynch less than stellar reviews pretty much justifies these fears.

2. Journalists also do not want to lose favor with their readership, and unfortunately, the gamer they described in the article (ungrateful, entitled, bigoted, etc.) IS their target readership. What this means is that the magazine will likely not give the latest installment of a "beloved" franchise anything less than an 8.0. Hell, some people were frothing mad when Twilight Princess got 8.9, or as another example, when MGS 4 got a 9.3.

Obligatory PA: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/6/13/ [penny-arcade.com]

They don't want to lose readership for giving latest Final Fantasy spin off a 6.0 (even if it is completely deserved).

Game dev is technically difficult and challenging (5, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022090)

Why is there so much strife in an industry ostensibly focused on having fun?

The focus is fun for the gamers. For the developers its work and/or business. While the products can be fun the development side can be some of the most technically difficult and challenging. I've worked on software for embedded devices, telecommunications, molecular modeling and visualization, and games. Modern games are far more difficult than most outsiders imagine.

There is hardly a traditional area of computer science where in depth knowledge and proficiency is not required. Architecture, data structures and algorithms, artificial intelligence, database, graphics, numerical methods, ... Add to this the competitive pressures where you have to maximize performance for a given hardware platform. There is little room for error in any of the areas.

That said, the greater the challenge the greater the satisfaction upon success.

Re:Game dev is technically difficult and challengi (4, Insightful)

Targon (17348) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022398)

You miss the role that management has on the overall feeling at a workplace. A bad supervisor, manager, or executive can suck the fun out of ANYTHING, and a good boss can make a bad job at least not seem to be all that bad. This applies to everything from software engineering to customer service, and all the way down into fast food. The harder the boss pushes employees who are normally motivated, the worse things will be, and productivity goes down as a result.

Now, if you treat your employees from the bottom to the top like they are a vital part of the team, and you encourage them in a POSITIVE way by showing how vital they are to getting the product out the door, they will WANT to work a bit harder to get things done right, without needing to force them. If you treat employees as just "resources" to be used, they will feel your lack of understanding, and will not want to work there. Now, how many of these business classes teach how to motivate employees in a positive way, because not a single person with a business degree I have ever seen seems to understand that basic idea. The role of management is to get the most productivity out of your employees, and the BEST way is to make the employees happy so that they will want to work overtime to get the job done properly.

Re:Game dev is technically difficult and challengi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022500)

You're assuming games developers are writing their own engines and everything from the ground up. That's complete bollocks and those days are long gone. Why do you think there are more asset types involved, those creating the artwork and sound, and theatrics than there are actual programmers? Programmers are using existing tools and libraries, and are mostly writing glue. The fact they're dumb enough to work crazy hours on artificial deadlines is there own problem. We've all been there and done it, but those that grew up soon told them to fuck off and left.

The new game is the old game (2, Insightful)

Gareman (618650) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022094)

You have the same problem in the venerable table top game industry: people (fans really) willing to work irrationally hard for the chance to be close to their hobby without commensurate compensation. When the industry begins to fade, and it's clear what they do is actually work, there is inevitable disillusionment. What's the solution? Also like the tabletop gaming industry, economics is telling us there are too many companies. Yes, fans want an enormous selection, but the business model is unsustainable. However, also like the tabletop gaming industry, there will always be some shmoe willing to work for a buck an hour for the chance to be a game developer. Smart people, those who can do anything else, those that don't see games as a calling, would be wise to flee.

Re:The new game is the old game (1, Insightful)

bazorg (911295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022190)

Also like the tabletop gaming industry, economics is telling us there are too many companies.

what, all 3 of them?

Re:The new game is the old game (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022192)

A lot of money goes into marketing and a lot of other things except game development sound, graphics, and plain code. All you get is expensive low grade, low satisfaction games. They cripple games by trying to capture as many areas of the market by removing certain feature, oversimplification being a key word, the golden era of games came and went. Look at the games on abandonware sites, see how original they were, you'll find nothing like it today. Most of them are clones of clones of clones ...

Re:The new game is the old game (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022334)

Most of them are clones of clones of clones

Dang right. The last new genre was in 1996 when Parappa the Rapper for PS1 launched the rhythm game genre. Even Katamari series is just Bubbles (1982) redone as a 3D platformer.

Re:The new game is the old game (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022458)

Also, there is more emphasis on making games that are hollywood blockbuster-esque titles, which are 'reliable' than on innovative small games that cost a fraction of the price. This is why small indie developers are gradually gaining a foothold in the market - their development costs don't run into 7 digits, but they can still make money. And, because they are focusing on fun gameplay mechanics first and foremost (rather than catering to an existing segment), their appeal is broader and longer-lived.

organization type... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022098)

Maybe its because of the organization type.

Back in the day when music started to become an "industry" it was done with buddies and pals or they knew somebody and they had talent and then they made music. It was about personal relationships and people put faces to names and names to groups and songs in albums etc...

We had a personal relationship with Lord British. We kind of had that van halen effect when Carmack went on his ego trip and destroyed id. Blizzard gave us a personal relationship with Battlenet and supporting their games but went all Metallica on us by suing the b.net guys and charging us our first born child for wow and making us grind. For the rest of the industry its been turned into a no name chum factory, not really listening to us but pushing more of the same crap with little or no value.

The music industry now has 1 good song per album and 7 songs of crap. The LP art is gone and we get nothing for our money. They are starting to get the picture now that we wont buy there peddled crap and lowering prices....but the software industry still needs to learn that lesson. We wont but halflife 43 just because it supports 100 gpu graphic cards.

What has to happen software teams to be rock bands and then they will get paid like them... work out deals like musicians if you have a good game...otherwise churn out muzak

Re:organization type... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022328)

Quote The music industry now has 1 good song per album and 7 songs of crap. The LP art is gone and we get nothing for our money. They are starting to get the picture now that we wont buy there peddled crap and lowering prices....but the software industry still needs to learn that lesson. We wont but halflife 43 just because it supports 100 gpu graphic cards.

Very true. Back in the day we used to read every detail of the sleve notes. Pour over the Cover graphic especially if they were done by Hipgnosis, Roger Dean or Storm Thugerson. Think if thr iconic artwork on many Pink Floyd Albums from the simple Prism to the man on flames. Pure Genius.

Fast forward to today. What do we get? SFA that's what.

The games industry are going down the same toilet at the Music one already has. Recycling old stuff at hugely inflated prices.
Then there is DRM. All in the name of anti piracy. Well, if you really produced something totallt original then perhaps this latest 'Be on-line all the time' might be justified. IMHO, you sick just like the Music Industry.

Yes, I play Super Mario on my PC via an emulator. Lots of my gaming friends do the same. We don't buy the recent releases because the SUCK. And SUCK Bigtime. Why should I have to be online to play a game while I'm on the train during my moring commute? Especially as there are several tunnels and dead spots on my journey. No thank you STEAM, Valve or whoever.

I'd rather play DRM free stuff thank you very much. Oh yes, I will pay for the privelege. I don't pirate apart from giving a new one a trial. If I like it then I buy it.

All my gaming friends have the same stance.

How long have I been gaming?
Well, I started out playing Adventure on a dumb terminal connected to out VAX 11/780 circa 1980.Nowadays, I don't play anything regularly that is newer then 2003.

Gaming Industry! Are you litening? I doubt it.

Oversupply = Exploitation (4, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022112)

The vast majority of those interested in programming these days try to go into game building. After all, it's not sales reports and data-entry screens that motivate most.

This means there is an oversupply of game programmers, which results in long hours and exploitation.
     

That's not exploitation (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022200)

That isn't exploitation, it's simply that the developers aren't as valuable as they would like to be, because there are plenty more ready to take their place (the aforementioned oversupply).

Re:That's not exploitation (2)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022236)

Even the good ones may be exploited because there are plenty of other good ones to replace them for the same money.

Re:That's not exploitation (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022260)

But that's not exploitation; that's what they're actually worth. They just wish they were worth more.

It's an odd disconnect (3, Interesting)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022160)

My weirdest experience with gaming has been with the Left 4 Dead series.

In both games, Valve has spent the first two or three weeks after release fixing any bug big bugs. After that they basically only fix a bug if it ends up crashing the game client. Bugs that allow you to lag out the players, crash the server, change maps when you're not supposed to, get maximum scores for an entire map even when your team dies, and spawn extra infected AI bots exist for both games, and never get fixed.

After those first few weeks, the only changes they make are ones that are trivial to implement -- very minor balancing fixes like changing the damage things do, or adding game modes that vary what weapons/monsters get spawned. None of the changes the community actually requests are ever added, like a working lobby system. There is basically no communication between the developers and community.

It's an odd disconnect. Especially for an industry that likes to hire directly out of it's hobby modding community.

Re:It's an odd disconnect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022258)

More power to them to develop the game that they want to develop and tell the story as they see it. Give everyone exactly what they want and you end up with plots that don't make sense, no challenge, and over balancing characters / classes for mass market appeal. What you end up with is Everquest: Planes of Power. If that analogy is too narrow just think the The Star Wars prequels compared to the original trilogy.

Re:It's an odd disconnect (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022486)

I fail to see how a working lobby, lag-free play and server stability would detract from the story-line.

News at eleven. (2)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022162)

Working in the entertainment industry is stressful. Big budgets. Big egos. Tight deadlines. Unless you have the magic touch of a Pixar, most of your projects will crash and burn.

Re:News at eleven. (4, Insightful)

Targon (17348) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022416)

The magic of Pixar is that the management understands that you want a positive work environment. Most corporations have clueless managers and executives who have never understood how to motivate people without threats.

Inflating expectations (2, Interesting)

Xelios (822510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022166)

I guess part of the problem is the pressure created by the rising expectations of a "successful" game. Big publishers like EA and Activision aren't content with a game earning back twice what they put in, they're looking for a small fortune from each franchise. It's a problem that's been plaguing the entire entertainment industry recently. Where you used to have hundreds of smaller publishers and developers, all of whom would be thrilled to see a product making a profit at all, you now have a handful of huge, lumbering giants that demand every penny be squeezed out of a project. Companies with entire departments whose only job it is to go through every project and cut costs to the bare minimum, then go through them again and cut the costs even further. At the same time these giants are stifling the smaller competition by flooding advertising mediums and buying up any IP that shows signs of being successful.

Capitalism may be the lesser evil, but I just feel like it's running out of control these days.

Why I Respect Jagex (1)

Mr Pleco (1160587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022168)

I'm a very very long time player of RuneScape. Many scoff when that game's name comes up, but there are few, if any, other games that offer such a widely varied array of activities and freedom of play.

Why do I love that game so much? Their style of game creation has always been one focus, to make a game that they would want to play. That's how RuneScape was born, and it became a literal overnight sensation. That's why their profits are so low per player compared to other games in the industry. They don't care about profit, they care about fun.

I started playing RS as a teenager, I went to college to study language because I thought it would be useful, but now I'm switching to computer science. Why? Because I've played a game for the past five years that two men built not to make money, but because they wanted it to be fun. I'm currently building a series of tools for RS players to give me the skills to create my own games that fill yawningly empty gaps in the gaming industry. I want to do what jagex did and build something fun.

If other game development studios would realize that it's about the gamer having fun and not about the executives making big bucks then they would be a lot happier with their work.

Re:Why I Respect Jagex (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022522)

Sadly, it's very enticing to sell out. Money talks and rich men who want to be richer will always seek out talented people doing good work, so they can benefit from them. For the talent, it's great - they get more money than they could ever have expected and then get support to produce the sort of work they're passionate about. But then the money men start demanding return on investment and guaranteed dividends and suddenly it doesn't look like art, but it looks like work... work for someone who doesn't give a shit how fun the game is. Suddenly you have two different groups of people wanting two different things. But without the executives, the talent would never be able to have the support they need to make the games in the first place. It's this way in every field of human endeavour.

Re:Why I Respect Jagex (1)

Mr Pleco (1160587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022612)

Don't get me wrong, if I started a company that grew to be as successful as, say, playdom, I would totally sell out. BUT I would sell the business entirely, quit my position and totally distance myself emotionally from that business.

Then I would take my share of selling out and start another business making different games likely, but I wouldn't try to convince myself that after selling out I had any significant influence over the direction of my business anymore, simply because it wouldn't be my business.

The industry needs its come to Jesus moment (4, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022202)

Game quality is often taking a back seat to graphics. Case in point, Final Fantasy 13 versus Final Fantasy 7. The story and game play took a back seat to the cinematics. FF13 was just an action game with RPG elements, with a perfectly linear gameplay and lost a lot of what made the game play of Final Fantasy games what they were.

In business terms, this is a loss of **value**. Get that, business people? A spit-polished, so shiny it burns your retina turd is still a turd. Game companies would be far better off focusing on reusing existing technology and focusing on the **content** instead.

This insane focus on bleeding edge everything is killing the actual products.

Re:The industry needs its come to Jesus moment (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022506)

Er, I played F7 on the PS years ago, and there was never any strategy because you never died (being impossibly easy). You just kept going on and on through the storyline. Compare that to say, Mystaria (Riglord Saga) on the Saturn where you at least had to try a bit.

Re:The industry needs its come to Jesus moment (1)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022514)

FWIW, FF1 is still my Final Fantasy. I wasn't old enough (26 now) at the time it came out to appreciate it for what it was (and how they fit all that game play into the constraints of an NES cartridge), but I realized when FF7(IIRC) came out and I needed a Voodoo2 to enjoy it... the magic somehow died just a little. Everyone was talking about how 'pretty' the game was, but that was never the point of FF up until that release.

Then again, they seem to have done well selling to casual gamers and console gamers since then, so I can't complain; the franchise is still around while others have died a slow and painful death.

Stop playing JRPGs (2, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022608)

While I agree there are some games that suck because they focus only on visuals, there are plenty that don't. Square seems to be annoyed you want to play a game, they just want you to watch it. Fine, fuck them. Get Mass Effect. It is a beautiful game with a very compelling story and good gameplay.

You can have good content AND gameplay. Also don't act like good visuals are worthless. Part of a game is creating a fun, immersive, experience and good graphics and sound help.

Substitute "iPhone apps" for "games" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022282)

I see the same things happening with iPhone application development so I walked away. Management will never listen to reason as long as someone younger is willing to step in and work insanely hard for no other reason than just being able to tell people that they work on "X" technology.

The price of richness (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022284)

A-title games today are large, rich worlds with great detail and complexity. That requires an army of people building the world, one tiny bit at a time. That's a factory job.

Developers need a union. Like The Animation Guild [animationguild.org] , which represents the workers at Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, etc. Union contracts have tough overtime provisions. The key point is time and a half for overtime; double time for a seventh day. That makes "crunches" expensive to management, and discourages unnecessary overtime. As a result, film staffing and scheduling is much more realistic than game scheduling.

Re:The price of richness (2, Insightful)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022558)

Developers need to stand up for their rights, but unions (especially those that dominate an entire industry) can themselves become like the bureaucrats they're supposed to fight against. I'm not usually one to argue for new laws, but I think I'd rather have employees' rights protected through specific legislation than be forced to join or otherwise be represented by a union before being allowed to work for a particular employer.

Romero is to blame (1)

ProfanityHead (198878) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022316)

It all began with John Romero trying to make himself out to be a rockstar instead of a game designer.

The fad caught on. Now people realize they are just geeks.

The Problem is the Internet (0)

Petersko (564140) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022350)

I was born in 1970, and in the 80's bought a lot of video games. Unless I subscribed to gaming magazines - which I did not - my experience of a game involved taking it home, and playing it with some friends. If we didn't like it, which wasn't often, we shelved it and moved on. No big deal.

Now the internet lets hordes of jackasses participate in a mass-evaluation of a product, including the vast number of ways it could be better. The experience of the game is somehow tainted because some unrelated moron with a web site gave your new game a rating of 7. Listening to people bitch about how a slightly twitchy steering system for a racing game is "completely broken" and how the company should just give up lowers perception of the game.

That's bad enough but these days it's not even necessary for the game to be out before people are already expressing their dissatisfaction. Huge web sites spring up years in advance of release just so that sad, sorry gamers can bitch about how the textures in pre-pre-pre-alpha screen shots seem glitchy.

Finally, we have the shitheads who freeze a shot in a game just so that they can find and reveal every last visual discontinuity. It's not important that you'd never notice it while playing, it's just something people do when they want to make perfectly sure they cannot enjoy their purchase.

Frankly, I don't know how the companies do it. If I were developing games, and some outlier twit gave me a 7 in the midst of an ocean of 9's, I'd want to drive over to their home/office, throw a big 1980's style C++ programming guide in their face, and say, "YOU do it, you talentless fuck."

Re:The Problem is the Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022580)

Frankly, I don't know how the companies do it. If I were developing games, and some outlier twit gave me a 7 in the midst of an ocean of 9's, I'd want to drive over to their home/office, throw a big 1980's style C++ programming guide in their face, and say, "YOU do it, you talentless fuck."

I'd bitch slap you with the guide (which would knock you senseless as it is a big 1980's style guide), tie you to a chair, and then proceed to give you a point by point rundown on why your game sucks so fucking hard because you're the talentless fuck who could have improved the game it if only you had taken some time to think about what you were doing and taken some time get it right.

So many games today are released in awful states since developers figure they can just patch the worst problems. And if they fix problems that's all they tend to work on, the very worst of the worst problems. They seldom go back and take time to fix all the little details that they got wrong yet which would show that they care enough to set them right.

Seriously. You want to fix the worst bugs? Fine. Go ahead. Be my guest. I'd not dream of stopping you because those do need fixing. But you know what else needs fixing? All the little things. Please, please, please assign at least one person to fix the little things, the details, that you did not get right the first time. I mean the spelling error in an item description, the one menu item that the tooltip doesn't pop up for, that place where a tree is floating six inches off the ground, etc. Little piddling things that would in most cases take mere minutes to fix. One person could handle a good deal of that stuff in a day and since solving and patching your major problems is likely to take many days having that one person fixing little stuff could make a huge change in the perception of your game.

Hostility (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022360)

More and more developer sources I talked to suggested that fatigue, hostility, being at odds with one's employer and questioning one's career course is frighteningly common in the game industry.

And this is different from every other industry how?

Peter principle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022374)

I blame most of it on helpless managers. The producers, directors, and upper management are generally clueless about the technical disciplines and therefore prone to frequent panics when things aren't going as planned or on schedule. They in turn make life hell for everyone else. /15 years in the industry

Big Money (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022406)

There is big money if you can be first to get a game to the public that is a hit. There is also the potential for huge pay for programmers. That means great pressure and that almost always means trouble. Put that together with the fact that there are a few very, very gifted programmers who are highly sought after and have a distinctive artistic type of personality and you might as well hand out sabers and grenades.

this is happeneing not just in the games industry (5, Insightful)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022428)

I am a mechanical engineer (MIT) by schooling, and one of the first things we learned when actually *designing* and *building* something (as opposed to just messing around with equations) is that you should avoid over-constraining your design both in the dimensions you specify on your drawing, and how you actually bolt things together. Alas, the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] is woefully lacking on the subject, so I shall briefly try to explain what this means: if plate A and plate B are bolted together in one spot, and this bolt constrains the plates from moving relative to one another in the X direction, that means that if you place another bolt further down in the X direction, one of the holes it passes through should not be a hole, but a slot oriented in the X direction. This is necessary because you can only drill holes with limited precision. I'm sure many of you have seen first hand why over-constraining with fasteners is bad if you've ever tried to mount a motherboard and use all the screw holes.

The problem this article talks about is industry-wide and not just limited to games development. One thing I have tried to pound into people's heads (but nobody listens) is, you can constrain the feature set you want, or you can constrain a release date, but you can't constrain both. You need to pick either one or the other. Without even checking, I would guess that game developers at Blizzard are happier than elsewhere, because this is a company that clearly has a grasp of this concept - they hold their guns on quality and features, but do NOT stick with release dates. They only announce them when they've entered the polishing phase (and boy do they polish), when almost all the serious development is complete.

Many of us developers are made to suffer at the hands of those who do not appreciate the inherent unreliability of estimation. We are just expected to suck it up, work very long hours, stress out, and - WRONGFULLY - accept responsibility that the project is falling behind schedule. Being a happy developer requires that you grow a pair and just say no, I will not give up my life, and work insane hours, simply because someone doesn't understand that they can hold a schedule, or hold a feature set, but not both.

Bobby Kotick (4, Insightful)

FlynnMP3 (33498) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022456)

"For the love of money is the root of all evil."
    -Quote from a somewhat popular book

It would be reasonable to say that a significant percentage of people involved in the game industry do it for the love of being part of the game creation process. Programmers, QA personnel, and managers put in crazy hours to fulfill their personal dream of inspiring somebody else with their game. Once they get a great game that sells well, all of them are on top of their game (pardon the pun). Their eyes start filling with visions of being able to live the good life and being able to do what they love. Time passes and more great selling games get made and these people are rightfully feeling like gods of their own domains.

Enter the investors and business people. Their sole purpose is to make money. They do not care how it is made, what widgets are used to make people shell out money for said widgets, only that the widgets generate the maximum amount of profit given the amount of resources used to make said widget. A very significant percentage of business people are only interested in the game of making money, nearly everything else is secondary. Specialized (and sometimes even general) knowledge of those widgets is not necessary at all.

In the case of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick is on public record stating these very things. http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/01/activisions-bobby-kotick-brings-cash-but-not-heart.ars [arstechnica.com] When he talks, he isn't talking to the consumer, he is talking to the investors - although I do believe those type of people delude themselves into thinking they are talking to the consumer base. The investors are the most important people you need to make happy to be able to make those large sums of money. By now, the consumer base is so large that a few missteps in execution will be absorbed by the sheer number of consumers. Just as long as the quarterly balance sheet is an improvement over same quarter last year all is well in the money making world.

Meanwhile, the people who have sweat blood and guts getting the company to where it is are dismayed at the change of direction the company is taking. They like the extra money and the even better benefits because the families they have now demand such things. They internally file this under mid-life crisis and buy a big toy for themselves to sooth the ego bruised dream of making a difference in the world through their passion. By now, the patterns of malcontent from the consumers and the many compromises in game design is way too frequent to ignore. The more brilliant people of the core team that made the company great have seen the writing on the wall and have already formed new opportunities for themselves (exit strategies), while the ones not so confident are basically biding their time and polishing their resumes. It is no longer a joy to leap out of bed ready to attack the day with finishing up whatever game related task you may have. You go into work dreading whatever the new edict comes down from upper management. Your life has reached The Dilbert Level(tm). Congratulations.

Eventually, the game company spends of all the consumer good will that was accumulated during the glory days. Even the "sheep" consumers are leaving because there are better games out there. The investors spit up the company and sell the pieces and leave with their bags bulging with money while the soon employed ones are left wondering what the hell happened.

I just hope that Diablo 3 has enough of it's roots in the pre Activision days to be a good game. I already know that it will be the last ActiBlizzard game that I might purchase.

Read the article comments (4, Insightful)

ddt (14627) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022472)

Behind the stress is mostly flooded markets and a lack of cash to go around for everybody.

We've been producing a game called Beakiez (http://beakiez.com), which is a super hardcore bubble pop game. Indie team, no funding, just using savings and odd jobs to fund it. Despite getting reports that it's a lot of fun and that going for the high scores is quite addictive, we've been denied by all the major casual game portals for the following reasons: a. it auto-patches when new versions come out, b. it talks to a central server to list high scores, and c. it's a bubble pop game. Almost all the major portals have strict guidelines that don't allow external server connections or auto-patching, and one really major portal normally associated with being indie-friendly has an issue with bubble pop games, as they've been deemed a "dead genre." As a result, we got rejected from some of the biggest portals out there.

This means we have to get every single player to come to our website and to buy from us directly. As you can imagine, this isn't easy. It can be really hard on morale, but you have to let go and not be angry.

This isn't really just about the game industry at all. One thing that's become extremely obvious to me as a game designer is that capitalism features extremely poor balancing and pacing. Imagine if in WoW, 50% of the players never leveled their characters once, as it was excruciatingly difficult to get to level 2, and really only 5% made it to level 5. From there on out, levels 6 to 80, levels get progressively easier to get past, to where you can literally wake up and find that you've gotten through 8 advanced levels in your sleep, equivalent to waking up and making $100k in interest income, for example.

Capitalism is essentially the world's oldest MMO, and the rules (laws) are so complex and hackishly patched that you have to rent people (lawyers) to interpret small corners of them. The more money you have, the more people you can hire to navigate and circumvent those rules, so you get a lot of cheaters at the top. In an MMO, this would lead to a mass exodus from the game to a competing game, but capitalism doesn't really let you leave. It's the game we all have to play.

I keep hope alive that someday our elected representatives and lawmakers will be accomplished game designers. They know how to motivate people better than just about anyone. They make addictive, balanced, and fair systems for a living. I frankly think our industry's best designers could run circles around today's top politicians and lawmakers.

In the meantime, I think we all just need to keep our noses to the grindstone, lower those burn rates, and try to eek out what satisfaction we can in our work and personal lives.

Breaking news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022526)

Working is hard. Film at 11.

'fun' does not make a good job (or industry) (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022532)

Think about it. You like to have sex, but would you like to make a job of it ?!?

Submarine Games (1)

machinaex (1863834) | more than 3 years ago | (#33022568)

You know, Sonalysts (I work there!) has a collection of sub sims, which I think are available on Steam. However, they are pretty dense.

mod do3n (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022584)

rules Ar3 This

Big buisness and big prices suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33022630)

The many complaints seem warranted. There's obviously way too many overpaid executives and greedy investors, too many top down, undemocratic, irresponsible decisions, way too much DRM and too little good product. I really wonder if corporations are even capable of providing good products and services at fair prices.

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