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A Plea For Game Devs To Aim Higher

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the chest-slow-them-forehead-stops-them dept.

Games 179

A recent article written by Mike Acton of Insomniac Games challenges video game developers to broaden their ambitions and fight to get back to their rebellious roots. Quoting: "[W]hy is it that game developers are beginning to drown in a culture of fear, or more specifically, a fear of change? Is it because the gaming world has gone too corporate and is no longer exclusive to small teams of genius misfits and creative underdogs? Is it because the demographics of game players—once made up almost exclusively of teen boys—has widened to include nearly everyone from 5-50? There are people who would deny that it’s fear of change that keeps them where they are. There are those that are content with the status quo because they believe that they have a formula 'that works' and there’s no good reason to risk a major change when they already successful with what they’re doing. ... Game developers are, at their heart, futurists and this is what they need to do now—put themselves ahead of the times so that they can surpass the stale leadership and old models that are holding them back"

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Film industry (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 3 years ago | (#36397934)

Formulaic... like the film industry has been numerous times in the past (and perhaps today)? This sort of thing breaks down as soon as the audience gets bored of it.

Re:Film industry (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36397988)

>>This sort of thing breaks down as soon as the audience gets bored of it.

Indeed... but Rockstar has been making a killing at repeating the GTA formula (four times, and then again in the old west and again in the 1950s) even though most people get only about halfway through their games before they get bored. I beat Red Dead Redemption, but even I was feeling the drag as they kept going, "Oh, but just one more mission, Marsten!!" over and over.

My wife wanted me to pick up LA Noire today, but I just couldn't summon the excitement any more. But it's leading sales for this year...

Re:Film industry (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398144)

Much more than four times if you count Vice City, San Andreas and the various Stories games and expansion packs.

I still love the open world format more than linear games :)

You should try Saints Row 2 (I never actually played the original as I just assumed it was a cheap rip-off of GTA, but it seems I was wrong). It's a lot like the GTA 3 series, but with more variety in the mission types, plenty of humour, and 3 main plot lines. The co-op play is also good fun.

Re:Film industry (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398304)

I think he was counting VC and SA since GTA and GTA 2 weren't Rockstar, they were DMA at the time, and the formula was much simpler and quite different. For example, there were no cutscenes in GTA1 and 2 (besides the end-of-city screens), they were both top-down 2.5D and took place entirely out doors. Most of the missions were driving missions and there was little or no gunplay in them. Infact, guns generally were used in pedestrian slaughter, something that GTA 3 onwards really downplayed.

the 4 games he's talking about are GTA 3, VS, SA and GTA IV. The X-City Stories series and GTA Advance also count. Although GTA Advance was closer to GTA 1 than any of the others it still kept closer to the GTA 3 formula, just in 2D, and I've not played the City-Stories series but I understand that they're similar in gameplay to the main GTA 3 series.

Then you have the GTA IV DLC, of which I believe there were 3.

They are milking it, it's quite obvious. Rockstar stopped making other games when they realised what a cash cow GTA is.

Rockstar are the Pulp Fiction (the genre, not the film) of the Games Industry. Churning out stories with mass appeal and satisfying gameplay. I've played through every GTA game and enjoyed each one on it's own merits (although SA's whole Gansta vibe at the start was a bit off-putting, it thankfully deconstructed it in the second act) and for all GTA IVs annoyances (NIIIKO IT IS YOUR COUSSIINNN LETS GO BOWLING!) I still enjoyed it and played it start to finish without feeling like it was a chore.

They're not literary greats, but they work, I enjoy them and that's all I can ask of them.

Re:Film industry (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398502)

They didn't stop making other games. Apart from Manhunt (and perhaps Bully, which I haven't played), they just like making very open, freeform games. Manhunt sucked, and I am not a big fan of Midnight Club compared to say Burnout Paradise (though I didn't give it much of a chance), but the other games are all great fun:

Notable games published
Grand Theft Auto series (1997–present)
Midnight Club series (2000–present)
Max Payne series (2001–present)
Manhunt series (2003–2007)
Red Dead series (2004-2010)
Bully (2006)
L.A. Noire (2011)

Red Dead Redemption has quite a different feel to it. It's very atmospheric, and obviously the setting is completely different, being rural instead of city based. I love it. I also love the GTA style as you say. GTA is like modern comedy gangster flicks like Lock Stock, RDR is like a western, and I'm presuming LA Noire will be like Noir films, obviously - though I plan on waiting until the price comes down a bit before getting it, and I have plenty of other things to play in the meantime.

I felt GTA IV was milking it somewhat, but from GTA 3 through to San Andreas, they were adding new gameplay concepts and expanding the capability of the game engine. GTA IV felt like a step backwards. It looked more realistic, but was less fun, in part due to people texting you all the time. I started feeling like it was a chore (because I wanted all the perks from keeping your friends happy, though I probably didn't really need them) and never finished it.

Re:Film industry (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398590)

Uh, Rockstar just put out LA Noire, a game that is pretty much unlike any other game ever made and has limited mass appeal. And neither of their two upcoming games follows the GTA formula. And it's not like they were ever like Activision, cranking out a new Tony Hawk/Guitar Hero/Call of Duty every year. They spent extensive dev time on every game, pushed the limits of every console, expanded the formula every generation. I don't even really like Rockstar games that much, but your criticism is pretty unfounded.

Re:Film industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399326)

Now that you mention it, I wonder why Postal 2 never caught on.

Re:Film industry (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399744)

Every now and then you get some real gems out of pulp fiction though -- for example Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft were both published in pulp magazines of the day. As in the original Conan tales were pulp fiction, as was all of H.P.L.'s work.

As for Rockstar games, Saint's Row 2 basically ruined GTAIV for me. GTA4 tried to be too "realistic" for it's own good. SR2 didn't. That, and of course your character in SR2 was a psychopathic badass, which dovetails well with how most people *actually* play GTA-style sandbox games.

Re:Film industry (3, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398446)

But to be fair a lot of the "GTA style" games isn't about actually doing the missions but just seriously fucking off. One of my absolute favorite games is Just Cause II, which if you have never played it brings "just fucking off" to the height of crazy. You have this crazy hookshot grapple hook thing that lets you do crazy shit like tie a bad guy to the bumper of a chopper and use him for a fricking wrecking ball, tie two cars together while going 100 miles an hour on top of a third, totally crazy shit. Frankly I quit giving a shit about the story after like the third mission because I was having too much fun going nuts to really care.

If anyone here watches Zero Punctuation [] old Yahtzee pointed something out that is really wrong that I hadn't even noticed before. He said basically "we are awash in a sea of brown chest high walls surrounded by thick neck marine types" and frankly he is dead on! Too many of these developers seem to forget that ultimately its a game and games are supposed to be fun not a dragging your ass around while following the numbers snoozefest. I swear if I see one more WWII shooter or one more game featuring thick neck marines with convenient chest high walls I'm gonna scream!

Ultimately it wouldn't be so bad if games ripped off one another if they just did like Just Cause II and remembered that games are supposed to be fun. If they would have made the game in ANY way realistic it would have been the uber suck. After playing Stalker I already know how I would do in a real war, very very badly. So how about make it fun! Give me AI that is a challenge without obvious cheating, like how EA shooters will have grunts that can instantly spot you even when you are behind cover and snipe you from 1000 yards away with a pistol while taking more rounds than the T-800, give me something to shoot other than the same damned weapons everybody else has, like the sneaky crossbow in NOLF II, or even the "angry kitty" bomb! Who cares if that "would never happen in real life" because it ISN'T REAL LIFE it is a fricking game!

You don't have to give us five legged kittens riding purple ponies devs, just quit rehashing the same old shit, okay?

Re:Film industry (1)

heathen_01 (1191043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399060)

It sounds like you're only really complaining about games on rails, graphical stories where you click next to continue. I don't have a problem with "realistic" games, thick neck marines or chest high walls. However I do have a problem when I don't get to choose which chest high walls I get to use however.

Re:Film industry (5, Insightful)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398162)

Yes, it's the same problem as the film industry: Increased budgets means more money is at risk, meaning you're only allowed to play it safe.

When you're playing with your own money, you can do whatever you want, either in independent films or independent games, and only need to sell to customers, who desire innovation and fun. If you need to finance your project externally, you need to sell your not-yet-started project to your prospective backers, who desire monetary returns with reduced risks.

Re:Film industry (2)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398666)

It's so short sighted though. This quote from the summary just makes me shake my head:

"There are those that are content with the status quo because they believe that they have a formula 'that works' and thereâ(TM)s no good reason to risk a major change when they already successful with what theyâ(TM)re doing."

Isn't this the same industry that's already whining about decreasing revenues and AAA studios whining that innovative new mobile games are a danger to them?

I don't understand how on one hand they can use the excuse that the formula works and they're succesful and the on the other whine about how they're struggling, complain for tax breaks, impose DRM to prevent second hand sales and so forth.

If anything it seems clear their model isn't working from the amount they bitch and moan. Either way they can't have it both ways- claim everything is rosy when consumers say they want something new, and claim these are dark days when they want more profits.

Re:Film industry (2)

archen (447353) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399214)

It's a cycle that's in a lot of industries. You take a circle of influence with the hardcore dedicated at the center, and people with a passing interest at the edges. Those at the fringes easily tire and drop away and it looks like a drop in sales. Instead of trying to better expand that market, their logic is that they need to do more of what made them successful and further concentrate on that thing. From that point it can go into a death spiral with more and more people losing interest each iteration, and they just keep pumping out the same stuff. The music industry seems to struggle the most with it until they stumble on something "new" which restarts the whole thing. TV, comic books and probably the current state of anime also come to mind.

Passing the blame has nothing to do with it other than showing a symptom of an industry that doesn't know what to do (like something different).

From the title... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36397940)

I thought this was about aiming at FPS games and how due to the bullet/missile trajectory you have to aim a little higher than your target?

Re:From the title... (2)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398228)

Nah, that joke will only work if there comes a time when Game Developers Lead the Industry again.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36397968)

... What?
He claims that the indie industry is booming, more people are gaming than ever before and games are taken seriously as a medium and an industry...

And this is somehow evidence that game developers are drowning in a culture of fear of change?

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398106)

It's not about sales. It's about innovation growing stale in triple-A game development. Developers and publishers don't want to take risks anymore so you'll see more copying of ideas being done than innovating for themselves. It is the indie market where the real innovation is being done these days.

The reason for this is simple though. Many indies work on their games as part of a hobby or on relatively small budgets, where taking a risk is a choice they can make all by themselves. A game developer that works on a $100 million+ title can't afford to take risks because that scares away investors. Investors don't want risk. They want profit.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398354)

No. He's saying the evidence of stagnation is when you walk past the PC games at E3 and you cannot tell them apart because they're all soldiers running around with guns.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398702)

Soldiers running around with guns are what people buy, though. I don't think CoD is the record-breaking sales monster it is because people lack a choice. They are making their choice and developers are responding, there's still plenty of choice for people who don't care for FPS. The bigger issue for me is not the genre of game people are making, but the way games are so formulaic within their specific genres.

Re:What? (2)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398926)

The whole point is that the current AAA titles are all aiming for the *median* gamer. The indie market covers MORE than the AAA titles, for the simple reason that 20 hits at 5% groups usually hits wider than 1 hit at 50%... and the real figures are way over 20:1.

But it's a trap for AAA: everywhere the go from there current local maxima means higher costs and lower income.

Indies don't have that problem, plus many of them will fail thereby leaving those that remain to further seek out great new directions and signal starting points for newcomers and reboots.

Best of all for PC gamers, there is little monopolisation and lock-in distorting the market: you're free to play MW, CoD, DoD CS, and NetHack all on the same hardware (you probably don't even need the latest drivers for NetHack). Angry Birds is on every mobile device (even Nokia). Console gamers aren't too oppressed even.

Re:What? (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399504)

I spent last evening playing Angry Birds in my Google-Chrome browser.

I was going to point this out (I've been reading through the replies but haven't seen this obvious point), these simple $3 games for mobile devices can translate over to PCs, especially technologies like flash. Many are small, easy to play games that can hook a wider audience. This is the pac-man and tetris hook - the games are very simple, but also very engaging.

When people are working on those AAA games you mention, there's a team of developers and huge investments. They're not looking to innovate, they're looking for a good ROI. You will not likely see "epic" scaled innovative games... if innovations are to happen, they're going to start at the small level and work themselves into the epic games slowly.

Re:What? (2)

mike2R (721965) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398644)

I'm with you on that. Sure AAA games from the major publishers may be somewhat bland (still good in many cases though), but the Indie scene is making the running so well that it hardly matters.

It also is something of a US/western thing. I'm becoming a real fan of Russian game development, there have been some absolutely fantastic Russian games in the last few years. Ice Pick Lodge's The Void for example firmly answers the question "can computer games be art?"

Honestly, this is a great time for computer game development, at least on the PC. We've got good, solid AAA games with huge budgets, and a burgeoning Indie scene turning out more innovative new types of games than I've ever seen. Added to that is maturing games industries in Eastern Europe and Russia bringing a new perspective on games. Hopefully this carries on, or we may look back at 2011 as a golden age.

It's an industry now (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36397970)

Back when Ken and Roberta Williams founded Sierra game development was a very different scene from today. (Read Steven Levy's Hackers.)

Today game development is an industry, employing a huge amount of people. Much like movies, games need to sell for people to pay their expenses and live their lives.

It's likely that games, like movies, will develop an art scene where things are developed independently or funded by grants beforehand. But the mainstream stuff? Let's just say that the ship has sailed. Apologies for my cynicism...

Re:It's an industry now (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398006)

It's likely that games, like movies, will develop an art scene where things are developed independently or funded by grants beforehand.

That's already happening of course, and on a pretty big scale too. Even mainstream gamers play the occasional indie every once in a while.

Re:It's an industry now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399620)

Agreed, that is mainly what happened with games like "World of Goo" or "lost in shadows".

Indies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36397986)

A weird time to post something like that, right when after ten dry years we are in the middle of a huge storm of great indie games, such as Minecraft, SpaceChem or Terraria (just to name a few).

Re:Indies? (3, Informative)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398860)

I was with you until you mentioned Terraria, a game that just rehashes Minecraft in a rush to make a buck.

dev costs certainly a factor I'd say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36397994)

If your new game costs tens to hundreds of millions of $ do make, you are just a lot less likely to go very far out on a limb....

Re:dev costs certainly a factor I'd say (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398494)

The easiest answer would be to not make a game that costs that much, then. A 200 person team and photorealistic graphics are not necessary to make a good title, and too often I find that such goals make for pretty eye-candy but crappy gameplay. For example, have you ever played Crysis? Looks great, but I can name a half dozen shooters that were twice as fun to play.

Re:dev costs certainly a factor I'd say (0)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398828)

Then play those half-dozen shooters. Or play one of the indie games with an even smaller budget. In general, the budget of a project is inversely proportional to the amount of risk it will take. No one is going to gamble a $10M development budget on an untried concept, but people are much more willing to gamble with a $10K budget. A game company can afford to throw a team of 4 people on a concept for a few months and not worry too much if it's a flop. There are companies like PopCap that do this. And there are also companies that put hundreds of people on a game for a year or more and end up with something that is almost guaranteed to sell, but and guaranteed not to be particularly groundbreaking. If you want to encourage more of the former, buy games in that category, don't complain about the existence of the latter category.

A PLEA for game developers to STOP RIPPING 80's. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398000)

Everything on the market is a rip-off of 80's games to re-orient into a 3D world while filing patents and copyrights stealing that gameplay.

Much of the original concepts in games originated in the HOMEBREW COMPUTING culture, that has verry much married itself with Ham Radio operators.

It pisses me off when I see original American computing technology that has become a soulless foreign-fabricated ASIC. America is now among the Pyramids, Great Library, Pantheon, First Christian Church, and Stonehenge to a bunch of immigrant foreigners ripping it all off for money they can't make in their own shitty countries.

And what's worse is the US Government encourages all this because TAXABLE means revenue to expand government. It's like US Government isn't even American, but the name of a corporation in DC created by foreigners to make the money flow.

"I hear the Americans have immigration problems... " -Chief Eagle-Claw Â8b

Re:A PLEA for game developers to STOP RIPPING 80's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398382)

Put down the keyboard and back away.

Yes, please make a good party game for the console (1)

janimal (172428) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398012)

Where's the equivalent of You Don't Know Jack for modern consoles? Buzz is a good start, but you can do better, I'm sure! Is that too high budget? I'm 34. I play with my wife and sometimes with friends. I PAY for my games. I demand some respect!

For some reason the expansion of the target audience to 5-50 caused game model ideas to revert to the stone age. It's a greenfield people! It's your next frontier for excellent games. Get to work!

Re:Yes, please make a good party game for the cons (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398316)

Who needs a console? spin the bottle.

Oh wait, that's no fun at the sausage fest parties you probably attend.

Re:Yes, please make a good party game for the cons (1)

Nirvelli (851945) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398606)

I got your new Jack right here. []

This Reminds of Bruce Sterling's Speech (1)

geegel (1587009) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398028)

... from a very, very long time ago. It deals with the same topic, but it's much better. So good that I chose to take it as a mantra of my own. Definitely worth reading: link []

Re:This Reminds of Bruce Sterling's Speech (2, Interesting)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398342)

It's a bit longwinded, but indeed a very good read. I really liked this part, it gives deep insight and is still true today:

"But even that isn't enough, you know.... There's talk nowadays
in publishing circles about a new device for books, called a
ReadMan. Like a Walkman only you carry it in your hands like
this.... Has a very nice little graphics screen, theoretically,
a high-definition thing, very legible.... And you play your
books on it.... You buy the book as a floppy and you stick it
in... And just think, wow you can even have graphics with your
book... you can have music, you can have a soundtrack....
Narration.... Animated illustrations... Multimedia... it can
even be interactive.... It's the New Hollywood for Publisher's
Row, and at last books can aspire to the exalted condition of
movies and cartoons and TV and computer games.... And just think
when the ReadMan goes obsolete, all the product that was written
for it will be blessedly gone forever!!! Erased from the memory
of mankind!

Now I'm the farthest thing from a Luddite ladies and gentlemen,
but when I contemplate this particular technical marvel my
author's blood runs cold... It's really hard for books to
compete with other multisensory media, with modern electronic
media, and this is supposed to be the panacea for withering
literature, but from the marrow of my bones I say get that
fucking little sarcophagus away from me. For God's sake don't
put my books into the Thomas Edison kinetoscope. Don't put me
into the stereograph, don't write me on the wax cylinder, don't
tie my words and my thoughts to the fate of a piece of hardware,
because hardware is even more mortal than I am, and I'm a hell
of a lot more mortal than I care to be. Mortality is one good
reason why I'm writing books in the first place. For God's sake
don't make me keep pace with the hardware, because I'm not
really in the business of keeping pace, I'm really in the
business of marking place.

Okay.... Now I've sometimes heard it asked why computer game
designers are deprived of the full artistic respect they
deserve. God knows they work hard enough. They're really
talented too, and by any objective measure of intelligence they
rank in the top percentiles... I've heard it said that maybe
this problem has something to do with the size of the author's
name on the front of the game-box. Or it's lone wolves versus
teams, and somehow the proper allotment of fame gets lost in the
muddle. One factor I don't see mentioned much is the sheer lack
of stability in your medium. A modern movie-maker could probably
make a pretty good film with DW Griffith's equipment, but you
folks are dwelling in the very maelstrom of Permanent
Technological Revolution. And that's a really cool place, but
man, it's just not a good place to build monuments.

Okay. Now I live in the same world you live in, I hope I've
demonstrated that I face a lot of the same problems you face...
Believe me there are few things deader or more obsolescent than
a science fiction novel that predicts the future when the future
has passed it by."

Re:This Reminds of Bruce Sterling's Speech (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399574)

20 years is a "very, very long time ago"? You must be very, very young.

Two Words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398030)

Frozen Synapse

There are so many interesting things happening in the Indie Games scene at the moment, you just have to look beyond the AAA titles.

Re:Two Words (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398292)

Frozen Synapse

Looks interesting. Is there a demo? It's not quite clear to me what the gameplay is supposed to be like.

Re:Two Words (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398348)

There's a demo (I believe) and it's on Steam anyway.

It's kinda like a X-COM/UFO turn-based shooter but where both players turns are submitted independently and then played out simultaneously (so your perfect plan that you submitted may go awry because your artillery gets shot from behind before he can move by someone you couldn't see).

Each "turn" is 5-seconds of gameplay and you can only issue orders in between turns (and take as long as you like - it can be anything from 10 seconds to play-by-email timings until your opponents sends *their* turn) with the next 5 seconds decided by a central server depending on the orders given and what happens in the world in those 5 seconds.

Units are few and maps are all the same "electric blue" but with different layouts, objectives, mix of units, etc. Certainly good fun and very nice if you miss X-COM-by-email from the past.

Re:Two Words (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398776)

This "WTF is Frozen Synapse" shows the gameplay pretty clearly: linky [] .

Gotta warn you though, the guy is pretty damn enthusiastic, but with reason ;-)

Re:Two Words (1)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398986)

It exports matches to YouTube and cost $10 (in lots of 2), so don't bother with the demo! Buy it if you like any game on the axis between Chess and Day of Defeat.

Re:Two Words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398456)

One word - Flash!

There's a very good reason that Flash gaming is worth more than all the other platforms put together ya know.

The content is produced by individuals & small teams without the direct interference of the corporations and assorted suits that kill creativity on contact.

Oh damm, we're not supposed to talk about flash around here - master jobs will beat us if we do..... shhhhhh!

Re:Two Words (1)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399004)

Ugh. Give me Unity (3D not the gnome p.o.s) any day.

Go Indie... (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398050)

"Is it because the gaming world has gone too corporate and is no longer exclusive to small teams of genius misfits and creative underdogs"

While its true you have large corporations producing last year's games with better graphics, you shouldn't discount the indie scene.

I got the last humble bundle (and the ones before that) and its amazing how fun and different certain game concepts are. Support smaller developers who you feel are creative enough for your likes, and the industry will get better. If everyone keeps buying 'generic shooter with better graphics VII', then the industry will churn out more of those.

Re:Go Indie... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398880)

I didn't even hear about the last humble bundle... and I bought the previous two. Asked about it and got some crap about spam but it wasn't there of course.

Easy question (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398054)

[W]hy is it that game developers are beginning to drown in a culture of fear, or more specifically, a fear of change?

Because the average AAA game development budget is now eight figures. Next question?

Re:Easy question (2)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398726)

Thats the jist of it, but there is a reason why the budgets are so bloated, its because they think a game wont sell unless it includes a full feature Hollywood piece.
Its been detrimental to gameplay, because they dont trust in niches and genres to bring multi million sales, Its all about accessibility's now, homogeneous soup to tap into every possible market and they try to make it up with cinematic content.

"Button -> Awsome"

Re:Easy question (1)

NinetyOneDegrees (2237352) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399750)

That's true, but the reason that the budget is so high is because we of the need for product differentiation. If your game is largely the same as all the others, it needs some way to stand out. It needs huge levels, amazing graphics, a killer soundtrack, and all the rest or nobody's interested.

A more original concept is also product differentiation, and people are way less concerned about it looking anything more than decent. Decent is a lot cheaper than amazing.

rant (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398064)

Having once considered myself a heavy gamer, i now actually prefer to steer clear of mainstream games, save for the occasional big title (D3? yea... waiting for that one)

I just dont see the appeal in yet another badly painted-over idea in a different clown suite. it gets annoying. really. There are soo many awesome ideas around these days, that somehow lose sight of what they set out to achieve... dunno... blame lack of income forcing harder release schedules or somesuch, but it really doesnt excuse the fact that any good idea in a game will almost inevitable end up being released early and ...well.. fucked up. (Brink is the ideal example of this. how many of us watched the trailer those months back and thought "OMGOMGOMG awesomes!!!1!one", then bought it and though "... meh" ), or releases halfway? take Dragon Age. It was released half done... with the rest coming along in the DLC's

But what about the actual worthwhile titles that make it through? awesome... until you want to lan it. Even if the idea is sound and the gameplay is good enough to keep me entertained for more than a few days, your still stuck to adhering to a model that no longer supports the elements and ideas that made gaming great when we started. Its more a case of "ooh we dont have THAT feature...quick! you! add it! and while your at it, add multiplayer... it looks good on the box"

No, ill stay back here until someone decides to pull their thumb out of their ass and do something awesome again /rant

It's all about the Money (1)

Jawdy (864553) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398078)

When it comes down to it, it's the money. That's it.
And I don't necessarily mean it's about the big companies wanting to turn over a $billion on their latest iteration of some regurgitated franchise with non-inventive gameplay or anything like that.
But even us Indie devs... we WANT to make innovative, new, fantastic games that push the very boundaries of what one perceives as a "video game", but we're bogged down by the one thing - money.

We have the technical skill, many have the experiential drive and knowledge and oft put together teams to satisfy every criteria except one - money. Someone has to pay for it, and unless you're an ace at marketing or speaking "bank manager-ish" you don't stand a chance. Government funding, grants and even venture capital is drying up. No-one wants to take a risk.
And if they're not risking their money, then (many) video games developers aren't risking their companies, teams and time to develop these games.

Shame, really.

Not True (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398084)

Portal 2, Guitar Hero, Kinect Games, Wii Games.. etc. etc.

They are all groundbreaking genius games. Not sure what sort of change the submitter is hinting at.

Re:Not True (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398958)

The vast majority of what the Wii sees is shovelware that imitates anything decent Nintendo puts out themselves, this is happening all over again with Kinect and Move. As fun and original as Guitar Hero was, they've managed to kill the series in a few short years because they milked it so hard it's heart and lungs came out.

Chronogauss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398098)

That game is weird:

"because the gaming world has gone too corporate" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398118)

that's why. the phenomenon is identical to that of the film industry. bloat and reduction of substance; filled with air - costsome air.

has anyone seen or played homefront ? (1)

KingBenny (1301797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398138)

I didn't get the impression those guys drowned in a culture of fear, considering the topics they tackled and the approach they took with the story.

Re:has anyone seen or played homefront ? (2)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399050)

GG in au gave it a pretty mediocre 7, IIRC, for exactly the reasons in TFA: formulaic, relying of bells and whistles over good character development... the usual AAA f-ups. just another soliders with guns game, just based on the ludicrous premise of a starving third world nation becoming a superpower. Nazis with dinosaurs make more sense.

The big studios? Certainly. (1)

Goragoth (544348) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398142)

I agree that the big studios are just rehashing the same ideas (and often badly at that) but there is plenty of innovation coming from indie developers and mod makers in the community. Look at DotA, which started as a simple UMS map in Starcraft, got ported to Warcraft 3 and has managed to spawn an entire new genre. Or in the indie space we have games like Minecraft and Terraria that are forging the way for yet another new genre of games where the player has the freedom to rebuild/shape his entire game world. That's where I'm betting we will see some really interesting and fun games appear in the future, some more sandboxy like Minecraft and some more like real games (similar to Terraria).

For the big studios it is simply to risky to invest in new (unproven) ideas when they have to recoup millions in development costs. But once a concept is proven in the mod or indie space the big studios will eventually pick it up and polish it. Again, look at DotA, a small mod project, and now we have Heroes of Newerth, League of Legends and DotA2 all competing in that space. Once the concept was considered proven big studios decided to invest in it.

I just really wished that they would stop forcing console UIs on to the PC versions of games. Just watched a video review of Dungeon Siege 3 today and the whole UI looked like a big console-port clusterfuck. Is it really too much to ask that you have separate UI implementations for the console and PC versions of games? Really?

Re:The big studios? Certainly. (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399380)

I concur. I played Oblivion on the XBOX 360 and it felt great. Then I played it on the PC and the controls felt lame and too much like a half-assed console re-do instead of a proper PC setup.

I have a mouse. Why the hell cant I use that mouse to click on an item to pick it up? Or on a chest to open it? Why do I need to press keyboard keys to activate the chest or pick up the item?

Focus Groups and Historical Trends (1)

oldrepublic (2242356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398148)

I have a bad feeling the corporate bigwigs look at track records of 'what sold' every other time and thus basing it on what looks good in the frame of an advert or commercial and not what will give the gamer a lasting worthy entertainment experience. -and focus groups are usually so trendy they are on another planet to the rest of us

indie gaming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398152)

as mentioned earlier, Indie gaming is the future for PC games. Back in "the day", video gaming was an underground hobby and was populated by people that were probably programming their own code as well as playing games. It was computer games for computer people. This feeling has been revived in the indie gaming scene. As gaming went mainstream with the advent of consoles it became populated by the douche bag mindless public, which subsequently buys douche bag mindless games, which makes money and promotes more douche bag mindless games. It's a supply and demand market. Indie gaming however is a self-selected audience that actively hunt out the games they find. They're not just picking up call of duty version 19 extra editors uncut edition ultra HD, 3D, XD, VD GTX, microSD, SSID, ROFL version.

Since we're on the topic... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398164)

Lets do something constructive, list of Indie games which 'aim higher' or whatever. Just to give each other/interested people a few interesting games to play which aren't the generic mass produced things.

Who wants to start us off?

Re:Since we're on the topic... (4, Informative)

daid303 (843777) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398204) []

You are welcome.

Re:Since we're on the topic... (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398378) []

You are welcome.

Oh, nice website. It indeed already has all the games I would mention.

It also shows the problem with Indie games: Overall they are quite limited. Minecraft is nr2 on their Top List, and that's still in Beta. It's very ambitious for an Indie game and I really like it, because it's different.

I'm not saying some of those games aren't great fun. I think they are. But it also shows that in today's game market people you need a level of perfection and an amount of content and art quality that is very hard to achieve alone or with a small team. If you want to reach the masses that is. It's amazing what such Indie developers can accomplish with the limited resources they have. But it also shows that there is a difference in scale compared to something like Blizzard.

Re:Since we're on the topic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398588)

Don't speak its name. Blizzard sold out a long time ago, and lost my respect. Not another dime for them from me.

Aim Higher (2)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398180)


Re:Aim Higher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398402)


Re:Aim Higher (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398484)

You aim lower at the sternum for a headshot.

user expectations vs cost (2)

lkcl (517947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398246)

the presentation of artwork, hiring of actors for 3D modelling and the massive development means that the average 3D game costs around $8 million. if users expect games to be of this standard, anyone expecting an independent team to develop something that's "competitive" is pissing in the wind. about the only possible hope is a free software massively collaborative effort, based around existing work and engines, such as WorldForge for MMORGs or the Quake or Doom 3D engines for 3D games.

Re:user expectations vs cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398360)

Or be a crazed lone dev and do it solo:

Re:user expectations vs cost (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398390)

about the only possible hope is a free software massively collaborative effort, based around existing work and engines,

I don't think this is going to happen. Any such community will fracture, because people feel passionately about game content. It might work to develop a half decent engine, or maintain and expand one. But it's not going to work to build something on the scale of World of Warcraft, the project would go down in arguing.

Re:user expectations vs cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399294)

I think you mean 'average AAA title costs around $8 million' - and then you're very high for average.

Marketing, Development, QA, Project Management, and licensing costs get the lion's share - Artists (graphical, actors, and music get the short end of the stick). MM games also carry huge capital and operational costs for the networks.

Film sequel syndrome (1)

iB1 (837987) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398426)

It's exactly the same reason as to why we're now getting prequels, reboots and an insane number of sequels now in the film industry. You can keep the same concept, same characters, tweak the story line and graphics a little bit and you're good to go with minimal effort - but still get a good trunk of money by the end of it. Then when you've flogged the horse until it's knackered, you can put it to rest and finally start again.

Re:Film sequel syndrome (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398988)

If it were priced appropriately, and released often enough, I wouldn't mind that --- I'd dearly love to be able to download additional missions for Red Steel 2, and would buy at least one a month if only they were offered.

it's what the market demands (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36398444)

Have you looked at what's successful lately?
it's because of the customers!
  Zynga is the fastest growing gaming company, and all they make is utter junk that's been ripped off from other companies and socially engineered to 'seperate' people out of their money, not to entertain them; it tells you the state of things in the gaming industry.

Customers don't appreciate quality.. for example, we have a 5* iOS App that gets tremendous customer reviews and is a piece of engineering that is unique and very entertaining, but is 1/100th as successful as our 3* app that individuals spend 10s of thousands of dollars on because it's designed that way. Both apps take about as much effort to plan, develop and run... Which kind of app do you think we will be FORCED to build in the future?

no clue (1)

jsprenkle (2009592) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398462)

Game devs use a formula that works because... well... it works. Duh.

The devs don't have any control over the games. The guys with the money do,

This guy has read all kinds of things into what happened and made up an interpretation for them that hasn't much connection to reality. Earth calling Major Mike...

Blinded by the hind sight. (2)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398464)

What strikes me as odd is when people complain how things used to be great and how it used to be so good back way back when...

Except when they start mentioning the old hits, the classics, they don't seem to understand that in the years that those games/movies/music/etc came out, there was a dozen crappy counter examples. TV has gotten much better, but that is the exception, not the rule.

One solution would be... (1)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398524)

What I did like about certain indie games (Minecraft, Zomboid, Terraria, Wurm Online,...) is the fact that they release an early stage demo, offer preorders and preorder benefits, and take feedback into account. This way people will preorder/buy the game if they like the demo and the potential, and you get their feedback to make sure they recieve exactly what they asked for when the game is complete.

I know this is a smal-scale plan, and I don;t think it would recoup the entire costs of an 8 milion project, but I still like this way of doing business.

Games are better now than they ever were (1)

Phydaux (1135819) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398534)

Personally I think Mike Action is blind, and doing him self a disservice.

I think we're currently in a second golden age of video games. Loads of people seem to forget about all the crap that used to get produced decades ago, people were freer to make what they liked and most people generally made shit. The ratio of good games to bad is so much better now than it ever was.

But that is not going to stop people ignoring what is around them and looking to the past with rose-tinted glasses.

I agree. (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398560)

Make it worth the 60 dollars you ask, and i might actually start buying games. Minecraft is better written than most games, and got my 22$.

It's not the game devs that are the problem.. (3, Interesting)

fistynuts (457323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398570)'s the publishers. Most publishers will only play it safe, sticking to established brands and themes. I'm sure there are a hell of a lot of game dev studios out there with great game ideas, but what's the point if no-one will publish it?

Playing devil's advocate, perhaps the publishers have a point. Today's game-buying community loves franchises (FIFA, Final Fantasy, Mario, Zelda), loves playing the same game over and over again (CoD) and virtually ignores great new games (Enslaved, Bayonetta).

Re:It's not the game devs that are the problem.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399934)

Your two examples of "great new games" were both awful.

Re:It's not the game devs that are the problem.. (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36400130)

Thankfully in the age of digital distribution, publishers will matter less and less. They're more like venture capitalists than publishers nowadays, but stuff like Steam, GoG, etc. makes it easy for a small studio to self-publish and put out something interesting without having to kowtow to some idiot in marketing who wants you to up the cup size of the female lead to a FF.

So set an example already! (0)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398668)

I went to the Insomniac Games website and found no creativity there at all. There are a dozen straightforward FPS titles with no story or point. All being simply various excuses to shoot at things with a variety of weapons. Apparently Mr.Mike does not follow his own advice.

And yet... (3, Interesting)

Phydeaux314 (866996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398854)

...I find games are better than they've ever been - whether or not they're doing something new. They're more accessible, more immersive, better-written, with a more in-depth and convincing set of stories. Innovative gameplay quirks, while fun, aren't the point of video games any more. We've come a long way from "Come up with a new mechanic, write a paragraph justification in a manual, sell for $10" that was around twenty years ago.

Now, games are about telling stories or creating a world. Look at the Halo series, the Half-Life series, the Mass Effect series, the recent Modern Warfare games. You have games as a medium to tell a story now, and an interactive one at that. I vastly prefer a re-used gameplay mechanic to tell an interesting and original tale with believable characters to a beautiful mechanic with nothing to keep me interested beyond the thirty minutes of "Huh, that's cool."

Who of what now? (0)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#36398888)

Hey, Mike Thingy of Whatever Games, how's Wratchet and Clank 5: The Milkening coming along? Had any new ideas or done anything original in the last half decade? Hmmmmmm?

Go Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399080)

Open source could help this situation by giving indie devs good, competitive, open source game engines (think unreal 3 without the $50k/yr cap) and letting them use their imagination more to create the story and artwork without being distracted by as much coding. It could also possibly help AAA devs focus more on artwork and story and yes, marketing even, than on the technical framework required for their games.

        So yeah, please convince your buddies in the indie scene to open source their engine if they have one. Open source games would also be great, but probably a harder sell.

SHHHHHH! Don't tell them! (1, Funny)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399094)

I am currently starting my own independent game company. If you tell all the big players what they are doing wrong and how to do it better, my chances for success will drop drastically. Sure I could then just go and work for them and get my ideas published anyway, but I don't see any downside to letting major labels die in puddle of their own mediocrity and letting small new startups pick up the slack.

Re:SHHHHHH! Don't tell them! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36400236)

Right. And you'll be gone in a year, whereas the major labels will be swimming in a pool of their own MONEY.

Next wannabe.

What? (1)

Guelph666 (2107174) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399152)

Insomniac games has been milking Ratchet & Clank since 2002 and Resistance since 2006 with no new IP's in the meantime. They are a failure as far as aiming higher and innovating goes.

Indirectly, yes. (1)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399242)

"[W]hy is it that game developers are beginning to drown in a culture of fear, or more specifically, a fear of change? Is it because the gaming world has gone too corporate and is no longer exclusive to small teams of genius misfits and creative underdogs?

Indirectly, yes. Mostly this is because EA can afford the impact of warezers, whereas indies cannot.

How about some Facebook game creativity as well? (1)

supremebob (574732) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399284)

While you're at it, can you please develop a creative new Facebook game ideas as well? It seems that almost every Facebook game out there is a variation of farming game. They all give you X number of energy points to do something, and then require you to show up every X hours to collect something or risk losing it.

Yeah, Yeah... I should be ashamed at myself for even trying these games out. I know, I know.

Money (1)

danbuter (2019760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399376)

Most video games cost millions to make. Why would a major company risk that money by taking chances on a new style of game or innovative major feature? The new, innovative stuff appears to be getting done on small games like minecraft and angry birds. There is not as much money invested, and very few devs, so they can take bigger risks. As these kinds of games get more successful, expect the big companies to make their own versions.

It's all about the budget (1)

tuffy (10202) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399378)

If you're developing some flash game out of your basement, it's easy to take risks and try something new. But if you've got a budget in the millions of dollars - where a sales disaster could put the company under - it's a lot harder to stray too far from the audience's expectations. Much like the movie industry.

unity (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399444)

Got that right, I do flash gaming for a living but only because I don't get to choose the technology. If I had my choice unity would certainly be it.

Hypocrit much? (2)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399606)

I can't believe that someone from Insomniac Games, who has worked on what... 3 series (total) over their 15 year existence... is commenting on innovation.

They were the developer of the first 3 Spyro the Dragon for the PlayStation, 8 of the Ratchet & Clank titles (the eighth being All 4 One, due out this year), and 3 Resistance games (number 3 due out this year or next year).

I don't know about Resistance, but the other two series are notable for introducing 1-2 new gimmicks in each new game rather than real innovation.

This has never actually been true! (1)

DeusExInfernus (2041722) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399966)

When will people realize there has never been a time when the average Gamer ("hardcore" or "casual") has been under 20-25 years of age?!?

..once made up almost exclusively of teen boys... behind!

Sigh, someone should really add this to Wikipedia's List of Common Misconceptions...

Gamers themselves are to blame just as much. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36400156)

They've made COD and similar titles like Halo the norm because they sell well. We will never see a game with as much "no-hand-holding" guidance as Might & Magic or the King's Quest series. They wouldn't know how to play it, and the statistics show that nobody would buy it.

Gamers who still enjoy the hobby, if you go by the statistics, largely either stick to one, tried and true game that they can count on (WoW, COD, etc.), and barely spend any time finishing single-player experiences. Remember the article about how the average single-player game got ~7 hours average of playtime? Most people never even finished.

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