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Game Industry Fights Rising Development Costs

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the we-must-teach-computers-to-make-art dept.

The Almighty Buck 111

An anonymous reader writes "Video game development budgets have been rising for years, and the recent launch of a new generation of consoles has only made it worse. Developers of AAA titles are now fighting to keep costs manageable while providing the technological advances gamers have come to expect. Just a few years ago, budgets ranging above $100 million were considered absurd, but now Activision is committing $500 million to a new IP from the studio that created Halo. Alan Roberts, technical director for Playground Games, says development teams keep expanding: 'Our in-house development team is roughly 20 per cent bigger than it was on last-gen, but we're doing even more with outsourcers this time in order to create content to the level of detail required by new generation games.' He adds that one way studios are trying to defray costs is to put more effort into building great tools for content creators."

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virtual worlds (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 3 months ago | (#47003899)

real money.

Re:virtual worlds (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004177)

real money.

Uh, not only that, but an absolute fuckload of money, which is why I find this bitching about increased costs about as meaningful as a billionaire bitching about the price of lunch.

So sorry you gaming juggernauts can't maintain obscene profit levels forever. My tiny violin weeps.

Re:virtual worlds (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47004183)

real money.

No its not.

Re:virtual worlds (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 3 months ago | (#47004373)

real money.

What? I thought it was US Dollars...

Yay! (4, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 3 months ago | (#47003941)

Now they'll finally have enough money to hire decent writers!

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004095)

Better yet. Pay them to make some games and stop focusing on television.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004847)

Nope, that money will go into 100 story tall banners draped over the sides of buildings in New York. Writers are nonessential.

Re:Yay! (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 3 months ago | (#47005153)

If you want decent writers, you'll have to skip the AAA environment in most cases and go to cRPG's.

In a way... (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 3 months ago | (#47005315)

Now they'll finally have enough money to hire decent writers!

BattleField 4 (BF4)... (a sore spot)

Origin and Dice had the money, then dropped the ball in so many ways, that many are quitting BF4 or going back to BF3. Between the connection issues, bad color, unbelievable issues on a patch; things that would work prior don't anymore. It's become: christ! what the hell are up going to break this time.

Acquiring the name of BrokenField, even BattleField Friends is taking pot shots at the game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] you can also read the discontent in the comments to the video.

You can even give them them money in advanced as did thousands of BF3 players did for BF4, and they still release crap. Not many now will allow Origin the luxury of getting much money at all prior to another game release. Many will watch it on Twitch,TV what ever the game and then make up their minds to send Origin money or not.

Money works but you also need good programmers, and to beta test a patch; something Dice seems to bypass in the name of speed to get the patch out, how much time does one need to test it at least once on a computer across the street.

You can see this in a macroculture on Reddit

(BF3 Group) http://www.reddit.com/r/battle... [reddit.com] - I'm back to BF3, BF4 sucked/wasn't any fun/too many bugs. BF3 is a much better game.

(BF4 Group) http://www.reddit.com/r/battle... [reddit.com] -I'm getting tired of this crap and giving up on BF4, or I quit! it's back to BF3 for me.

So many definitions for macroculture, I'm using this one http://www.ask.com/answers/307... [ask.com]

Re:In a way... (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 3 months ago | (#47005445)

Now they'll finally have enough money to hire decent writers!

BattleField 4 (BF4)... (a sore spot)

Origin and Dice had the money, then dropped the ball in so many ways, that many are quitting BF4 or going back to BF3. Between the connection issues, bad color, unbelievable issues on a patch; things that would work prior don't anymore. It's become: christ! what the hell are up going to break this time.

You mean EA and DICE.

I loved the Battlefield series, from 1942 all the way to BFBC 2. Even the bad games like BF:Vietnam and BF2142 weren't that bad... until Battlefield 3.

BF3 broke the gameplay shockingly, the weapon upgrades were horribly overpowered and you'd get XP no matter what you did, so basically someone who was bad at the game just had to keep sucking until they got the heavy barrel.

I played it for about 3 days and gave up. The final straw was a month later when I decided to give it another go and Origin decided I needed to download the entire game client again. I uninstalled BF3 and Origin along with it. EA killed the Battlefield series with BF3, BF4 was just a withered corpse.

Re:In a way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007197)

download the entire game client again

That's just... terrible. Binary patching has existed since forever.

Re:In a way... (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 3 months ago | (#47007227)

Now they'll finally have enough money to hire decent writers!

BattleField 4 (BF4)... (a sore spot)

Origin and Dice had the money, then dropped the ball in so many ways, that many are quitting BF4 or going back to BF3. Between the connection issues, bad color, unbelievable issues on a patch; things that would work prior don't anymore. It's become: christ! what the hell are up going to break this time.

You mean EA and DICE.
 

I honestly don't know anymore. It was said EA would be Origin total change, you could go to EA.com and go straight to Origin it's not like that now so whatever. they've changed their minds guess the EA.com domain name didn't fetch that much.

I loved the Battlefield series, from 1942 all the way to BFBC 2. Even the bad games like BF:Vietnam and BF2142 weren't that bad... until Battlefield 3.

BF3 broke the gameplay shockingly, the weapon upgrades were horribly overpowered and you'd get XP no matter what you did, so basically someone who was bad at the game just had to keep sucking until they got the heavy barrel.
 

Played BFBC2 cause my clan was, and I just didn't care for it, put a lot of time into it as well. I gave it to my son to see if he liked.

I was CoD all the way. Played the hell out of CoD 4 have hundreds of custom maps. Ran a MW2 server through AlterIWNet, Black Ops was a lot of fun yet it's hard to come close to, so MW3 didn't even try so I quit there wasted my money on it I felt.

The clan was going to BF3 so sure give it a try, and after playing it awhile I had found my game. I play BF3 all the time.
Hours played are very high but I'm retired, ya a game I didn't have to be a shooter to be good (and I was a lousy shooter), I could take flags and be the top scorer, and where I stayed playing Conquest large maps taking flags.

With me BF3 is very enjoyable - I've heard from many 2142 was one of the better BF series.

Any body ever play Battlefield 2? I never hear of it, my son turn me onto it, I played it for just a little while as we went to CoD. I was never any good as I had no clue what I was doing but sure looked like it could of been fun.

Re:In a way... (1)

J_Darnley (918721) | about 3 months ago | (#47007411)

Battelfield 2 was (and still is) good. It was a nice improvement over Battlefield Vietnam which made it on par with Battlefield 1942 in terms of gameplay. It took many of the gameplay features(?) introduced in BFV and put them into better game.

The one thing I never liked about it was the lack of ammo crates and first-aid cabinets on maps. You had to get team mates to come heal you. It also added the commander role which was good if an experienced player took the role and had a good team calling for support. I never liked playing as it. I would always use one of its tools too late.

Whether it can still be played easily after EA said they wouldn't keep supporting it after the GameSpy shutdown is somewhat worrying.

Re:In a way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007289)

It is a bit of a shame with Battlefield 4, beyond the bugs and issues it is a great game.It sits in between ARMA III and CoD with ARMA III being a full (and complicated and slow paced) realistic military simulator and CoD being fast paced close quarters combat with no vehicles.

My issues with it:
- Hit registration - big issue with hits not being registered, very frustrating when you can see your bullets impacting on a target and getting no damage indicators
- Most of the guns are crap without attachments and unless you get lucky with battlepacks, you have to get at least 50+ kills to get a decent weapon.
- Graphical errors - not just bugs, seen a few "gpu hung after malformed request was sent by the application" errors which result in a full crash of the game and AMD's much-toted Mantle renderer seems to be having issues as well.
- Game client state really needs to be updated more frequently. Trying to get a long range (1km+) sniper kill can be a exercise in frustration when players viewed through the 40x scope teleporting around due to the server not giving enough position updates.

Re:In a way... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007741)

Origin and Dice had the money, then dropped the ball in so many ways

Dice? As in our new corporate overlords? As in the people keep trying to foist the crap that is Beta on us and not listen to us when we say is sucks?

Well, based on what I've seen, it's no wonder if they were involved in a game it turned out as shit.

Fuck Dice. Fuck Beta.

Slashdot used to be good before the new corporate overlords, and it's been in decline since.

Re:Yay! (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 months ago | (#47005951)

"Thank you Mario, but our Princess is in another castle" is as much story as I need...sometimes not even that much (e.g. PS3's Journey, of which the entirety of all text and dialog that appears in the game can be quoted with the single word, "Journey"). Anything more may be nice, but is rarely necessary.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007653)

There is more to story than dialog, and to imply Journey has less story than the original SMB seems backward.

Re:Yay! (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 months ago | (#47008715)

I did not intend to imply that, since I do agree with you, but given the way I phrased things, I can certainly see how that would be inferred.

Re:Yay! (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 3 months ago | (#47006631)

Now they'll finally have enough money to hire decent writers!

unfortunately money makes them hire a cadre of writers who write the same universal bullshit. because doing otherwise is "too much risk".

and if the writer doesn't understand the engine the story gets butchered in the process anyways and you get dragon age II - or the writer just follows the points given to him, like "the ending depends on what the player chooses during the game" and decides to just make the choice happen 1 second before the game ends, because that's technically during the game.

Re:Yay! (1)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#47007831)

Eh, that would cut into the coke and hooker parties for the marketing staff.

Polishing turds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47003957)

A turd rendered with 800 billion polygons is still a turd.

Re:Polishing turds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004433)

Been playing Duke Nukem Forever, have you?

Number includes marketing budget (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004019)

Ridiculous summary with regards to the $500 million dollar figure. It includes the development AND MARKETING budgets!

Re:Number includes marketing budget (5, Insightful)

Necreia (954727) | about 3 months ago | (#47004179)

Ridiculous summary with regards to the $500 million dollar figure. It includes the development AND MARKETING budgets!

Basically this. Destiny spent an estimate $360 million in Marketing and $140 million in Development, which is over a 2:1 ratio. CoD2:Modern Warfare 2 has a respective $150:$50 million or 3:1 split (Source [wikipedia.org] ). When game companies are spending a small relative fraction on the actual development, there's a problem.

Re:Number includes marketing budget (2)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about 3 months ago | (#47004369)

>When game companies are spending a small relative fraction on the actual development, there's a problem.

Not necessarily. They could make the greatest game ever, and if people have not heard of it, they'll go broke.

With games as large, complex, and art-heavy as they are today, you need to reach a huge audience at $50-$60 a game.

Spend on the game, not on spin (3, Insightful)

Camael (1048726) | about 3 months ago | (#47006187)

It is however a strong indication of misplacement of priorities.

If you overspend on great marketing but produce a turd of a game, it will still fail. Case in point- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (video game) [wikipedia.org] .

OTOH if you produce a great game but spend minimally on marketing, it can still succeed through word of mouth, etc. Case in point- Minecraft [wikipedia.org] .

On January 12, 2011, Minecraft passed 1 million purchases, less than a month after entering its beta phase. At the same time, the game had no publisher backing and has never been commercially advertised except through word of mouth, and various unpaid references in popular media such as the Penny Arcade webcomic.

I rather doubt that any game falling into the category of "greatest game ever" or even a great game will fail without paid marketing so long as its accessible to players. Gamers tend to be quite vocal in sharing about games they're in love with.

Re:Spend on the game, not on spin (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47006841)

Indeed. The problem is determinism. You can't find a team which guarantees delivery of AAA+ titles without fail and on schedule. But you can easily patch a so so game into selling millions with the right propaganda.

Re:Number includes marketing budget (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 3 months ago | (#47004495)

They spend like this because it's what gives them the best financial return. Not really a problem except perhaps it's the way our civilization (sic) is structured.

Re:Number includes marketing budget (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004689)

Haven't you heard? Programmers are a cost center. Filthy takers robbing those hard working executives of their bonuses and stock options. Fuck those liberal communist terrorist crooks for preventing me from working them more than 100 hours a week.

Those good boys in marketing? They're the important ones. They bring in the money! I was just chatting with Mark last weekend while snorting coke off a hooker's tits at our private ski resort. "If only we could somehow cut out those useless shit programmers and devote their budget to our next advertising campaign collab with Mt Dew and Doritos. We'd make a killing!"

Face the facts (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47005375)

If all you have is a good sales team and marketing budget, you can make a profit selling a promise to deliver a product. No product needed until after the money is in your pocket.

If you have a good product but no marketing budget or experienced sales team, you will probably go broke within the first year.

While it is true that you do eventually need a product in order to avoid getting sued, the fact is marketing is more important than production.

so you admit (1)

publiclurker (952615) | about 3 months ago | (#47006547)

that you actually need the developers to make something to sell.

Re:so you admit (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 months ago | (#47007591)

no, you simply outsource the development to where-ever is cheap.

American business doesn't need workers, they need executives to manage the important stuff: marketing, advertising, strategy, intellectual property, patents. That kind of stuff where the big bucks are.

Re:Face the facts (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 3 months ago | (#47007301)

That much is true, especially if you already have a fan base. The downside comes when you try to sell the next game after delivering something that barely deserves to be called a game, let alone a good one.

Re:Number includes marketing budget (1)

Atrox666 (957601) | about 3 months ago | (#47008471)

Well at least the coders and artists are still working for table scraps.

Make fewer, better game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004057)

How about fighting them by making fewer and better games?

And by better I mean fun.

Procedural generation anyone? (5, Insightful)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 3 months ago | (#47004071)

It seems a lot of the budgets goes into more shiny graphics, not necessarily into more sophisticated game play. Perhaps it is time to try something new, such as procedural generation of more game assets.

A good example would be Limit Theory, a space game currently in development where only the user interface is designed the traditional way. Ship models and asteroids are created by procedural generation. Here is the latest development update: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2albJYS-wI [youtube.com]

Still looks a bit blocky, but considering the game had a $50.000 dollar goal on Kickstarter and the developer feels more than comfortable with the $187,865 that were pledged, the value for money is going to be impressive.

A slightly larger team with a budget of perhaps a few million should be able to do amazing things with that approach. Assuming the team members are as talented as Josh Parnell ;-)

Re:Procedural generation anyone? (3, Insightful)

exomondo (1725132) | about 3 months ago | (#47004149)

It seems a lot of the budgets goes into more shiny graphics, not necessarily into more sophisticated game play.

I don't know about "shiny" but when you can include more detail and larger levels then obviously that is far more taxing on artists and developers. Then if you give artists the freedom to specify the sort of highend effects that new generations of hardware are capable of you need extra development resources to make that happen. Increasing the power of the hardware is only one part of having next-gen titles, figuring out how to apply that power to bring game concepts to reality is another. Sure you could employ people to work at getting character animation right or you could hire a motion capture studio and actors to get it close to perfect and if you have the budget for that sort of thing then why not?

The high end of those budgets does include marketing as well - not just development - and I would say most of that is the marketing budget given the sort of campaigns that are being run to promote AAA titles these days.

Re:Procedural generation anyone? (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 3 months ago | (#47006973)

There's also nothing to be fixed.

Competition at work. Obviously to make the most shiny game make the most money or they wouldn't be trying. So we get the most shiny expensive developed products.

If they can't compete there and can in some other area we get better games there too.

Some games sell for cheap and there's a market for those to.

And the "oh games was better in the old days" is likely complete bullshit because the new ones seem to allow more stuff, even if one tried to make an old style game it may become more interesting today because one can build on ideas and use technology / new developments not available then. And obviously one can do games one simply couldn't do then.

Re:Procedural generation anyone? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47008023)

Obviously to make the most shiny game make the most money or they wouldn't be trying.

I would qualify that and say that might make the most money.

But AAA titles have flopped, just like big budget Hollywood movies.

It is, however, entirely possible to still produce crap with a large budget, just like big budget Hollywood movies.

Sometimes, the people in control have no idea of what really makes a good product, they just take a checklist of everything from every other successful title and cram it in.

I think $500 million to develop a game either means you really are sure you're going to make huge amounts of money, or you've really jumped the shark and made Waterworld. ;-)

Another example I forgot (3, Interesting)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 3 months ago | (#47004173)

I-Novae studios are doing something similar, AFAIK with a bit more budget and limited to terrain generation:
https://www.inovaestudios.com/Technology [inovaestudios.com]
This may be a better example of what a large game studio might go for. Overall a bit more conventional than Limit Theory, and needing more manpower, but still a big win in not having to model the terrain by hand.

Re:Procedural generation anyone? (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 3 months ago | (#47004603)

Procedural generation doesn't solve the problem of, "What should this thing look like?"

For that, you need actual like, oh artists.

shiny graphics requires new hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47006145)

personal computers, and by extension video games, have been around for almost four decades now. that is a lot of time for people to come up with games that do not require powerful computers, such as civilization, xcom, or pacman. the new xbox one games could not run on affordable hardware 10 years ago. since these games were only technicially possible in the last few years, these games are now new, and thus not played before. people will get tired of them, just like people got tired of the nintendo wii.

As for the future, i look foward to VR Dungeon Keeper.

Re:Procedural generation anyone? (1)

kbahey (102895) | about 3 months ago | (#47006543)

Or, perhaps it is the generation that can't understand procedural [programming] that is the issue ...

[/sarcasm]

Re:Procedural generation anyone? (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 3 months ago | (#47006961)

Likely rather more and better implemented options and bigger more interesting environments.

The problem I have with the procedural is that there will be harder to make a good story, connection and make them make sense.

Say I explore a cave and meet people (guess WoW may make more sense) or drive around in a city doing quests (I don't know how GTA plays today but ..)

If it was procedural it would just be do this and that and all over with less connection, if it was planned though the bigger structure would make sense. I don't want a grind game into nothingness.

Space is so large that any configuration I guess could possibly had been around somewhere and it would also be a chore to plan/create all of it.

I'm not very interested in a space sim either. There is one in the daily Humble Bundle for $1 but I'm not that interested to play in a "dead" space (not really dead.)

Maybe I should buy it anyway to try but too long and so on. I'd be much more interested in playing EvE in that case but it cost much more.

Nice 3D in Limit Theory, lousy 2D interface (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47008045)

I liked that video update a lot, thanks for posting. Great 3D visuals, looks very promising indeed.

Unfortunately the 2D GUI is dreadful, and the fact that it's still in development is no excuse because it's the GUI design concept which is dreadful rather than merely its current state of implementation.

GUIs are very subjective, and the only good GUI is one which each user can configure to look like anything they want. Josh may be talented, but any fixed GUI that he produces will be satisfactory only for himself and for a small subset of players, while everyone else will dislike it in varying degrees. I don't think that he understands this.

The proper way to create 2D GUIs that satisfy everyone is to place all the GUI actions in an API, and separately create a layout framework in which arbitrary widgets can be placed anywhere under user config control. Those widgets would then be linked to API actions by the user in whichever way they personally want. No hardwired layout, and no hardwired assignment of graphic elements to API actions.

Such a configuration of GUI layout, widgets and API action assignments should then be storable as "config presets", and the game supplied with an initial default set of such presets with sensible names. Josh's preferences should merely be captured in a preset, not hardwired for all players.

Unfortunately, Limit Theory isn't heading that way.

Re:Procedural generation anyone? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47008841)

I noticed the graphics thing way, way back. Playstation 2 brought it to my attention. Back then, I made the unqualified assertion that a video game's budget was some 10% graphics and 90% game on 2D sprite platforms; but on 3D platforms it was rising to mostly graphics and little game. The theory was simple: any idiot can get a pencil and learn to draw, then sketch things repeatedly; any idiot can learn to make pixel art, then pump out pixel sprites in minutes; but any idiot who learns how to model 3D still needs to model a 3D object, add the animations, tweak textures, and overall put 100 times as much work into getting the damn thing to look right.

We've gone from a 20 minute job of making a few sprites and having them cycle in a loop to a several month job of making one model and all the animations and textures. It takes a team of people to get cinnematic realism out of a stampeding mech. A day or two for the model, and then weeks of tweaking and animating.

Games are now CGI movies. Fortunately, we're getting better at this.

What advances? (3)

neghvar1 (1705616) | about 3 months ago | (#47004103)

Superior graphics, AI, and audio. Don't make a kick-ass game. IMO, the greatest video game of all time is Star Control 2 (1993)

Re:What advances? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004203)

Graphics and marketing. That's where almost all of the extra money goes. Look at the screenshot in the article. There's no way my computer is going to be able to run this game.

Re:What advances? (3, Interesting)

mujadaddy (1238164) | about 3 months ago | (#47004441)

IMO, the greatest video game of all time is Star Control 2 (1993)

Great nominee but I'd go with Mail-Order Monsters [wikipedia.org] (1985), personally.

Re:What advances? (1)

ausekilis (1513635) | about 3 months ago | (#47008105)

Superio graphics, AI and audio don't make a kick-ass game. IMO, the greatest video game of all time is Star Control 2 (1993)

Great nominee but I'd go with Mail-Order Monsters [wikipedia.org] (1985), personally.

A friend and I have been going back and playing some older games just because, and it's still remarkable just how few people it took to create some of those iconic games. Or some of those lesser-known gems. Some examples:

  • Legend of Zelda (NES) - roughly 12 developers
  • Metroid (NES) - roughly 12 as well
  • Actraiser (SNES) - roughly 50-ish
  • Guardian Legend (NES) - haven't beaten it yet
  • Castlevania II (NES) - Unknown, credits are a joke... watch the AVGN episode if you don't beleive me
  • Earthworm Jim (SNES) - been a while since i beat it, probably 50-100 people... though I think marketing and sales are in there too.

There are certainly others, but it still illustrates the point that great games don't need stupid amounts of marketing, or absurdly large development teams.

Re:What advances? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47008865)

100 people isn't an absurdly large team?

Re:What advances? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47005623)

Superior graphics, AI, and audio.

...yes? An unfinished statement?

Don't make a kick-ass game.

Why would you want them to not?

Re:What advances? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 3 months ago | (#47006097)

There's many other games that are better than Star Control 2, but it was a hell of a game. Speaking of which, for those that never played it you can get it for free here. [sourceforge.net] Since the source was placed into the public domain. In my book, Planescape: Torment ranks as number one, Starcon2 as number 2.

Re:What advances? (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 3 months ago | (#47008329)

I don't disagree, but there are certainly tours through beautiful worlds I'm happy to take. I recently finished Assassin's Creed IV on the Xbox One. It was freaking gorgeous. You could see individual blades of grass blowing in the wind. Amazing.

I think there's room in the gameosphere for both low-tech, fun games and AAA, beautiful games.

Re:What advances? (1)

neghvar1 (1705616) | about 3 months ago | (#47008625)

Bioshock Infinite was an amazing game in all aspects. It was the first game I played on my newly built system which pushed it to its limits. It is unfortunate that Irrational Games closed its doors.

Stop outsourcing...? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004123)

How about stop coding on the cheap, release the game when it is ready, and release a "release-quality" version. Not an early beta. Not a late beta. Not a "preview". A quality version.

Want to make money? Focus on the long tail. Not POS DLC, but true expansions. Look at NWN 1 for how to do it right.

Want terrain left and right? We have had procedure generation for ages... and Everquest: Next is based around that. I had a prototype of it for a MMO with unlimited territory to explore back in the '90s. I'm sure a million dollar game company can do better with 20 years of technology than what two people coded out of their basement.

The More They Spend The Less I Want (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 3 months ago | (#47004155)

This is just stupid. The entire Triple A over spending is about putting in intrusive DRM that makes me not want to touch their games. I'm find with traditional DRM since the old school NES Cartridge is DRM, but not this Project 5 Dollar theft, and not this Always Online nonsense. The only reason the Indie's are getting any success is because these big companies are trying to eat themselves out of house and home. Just give me my periodic RPG's and I'll be happy. As it stands I'm starving for content that just isn't coming.

Re:The More They Spend The Less I Want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004219)

Right. Cause they spend $400million on DRM and $100 million on everything else. Uh huh. Sure.

Re:The More They Spend The Less I Want (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 3 months ago | (#47004445)

Right. Cause they spend $400million on DRM and $100 million on everything else. Uh huh. Sure.

You should really buy my game! It is amazing! (Oh, and I have to kick you in the nuts every time you boot it...)

Could be why they need a 3:1 marketing budget.

Re:The More They Spend The Less I Want (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47008675)

I'm find with traditional DRM since the old school NES Cartridge is DRM, but not this Project 5 Dollar theft, and not this Always Online nonsense.

Always online games are giving way to free-to-p[l]ay games. I've been playing Star Trek Online a bit lately, yeah I like to wait until a game is well established and has lots of bugs worked out. And it's still full of bugs :) But it only cost me download time. Sure, I have to be online to play it, but at least there's some kind of reason why that should be true.

Are they real development costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004249)

Or just some financial accounting trick/fraud to lessen or completely avoid taxes through some "outsourcing" tax haven parent company with "very expensive services" like many other multinational companies love to do.

Re:Are they real development costs? (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 3 months ago | (#47004457)

Or just some financial accounting trick/fraud to lessen or completely avoid taxes through some "outsourcing" tax haven parent company with "very expensive services" like many other multinational companies love to do.

Sure they are! Coming up with DRM that lasts a full day before getting cracked is expensive!

Solution for Rising Development Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004275)

You know how you keep costs down and innovation up?

Build your 3D game mechanics with no textures, no sound, no dialogue, no content of any kind. Just use primitives for actors and procedurally generate everything else using colors and triangles/polys/meshes only.

Then prove out all the temporal and spatial interactions between objects, using real world latency. Balance gameplay for dynamic fun and challenge, allow customized and dynamic risk and reward. Permit customization of every action variable to be part of the iterative temporal goals of the player (customer).

THEN, AFTER all that? Add content, textures, and audio.

Voila. You only add the expensive employees at the END of the dev cycle, not the start.

Re:Solution for Rising Development Costs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004971)

Build your 3D game mechanics with no textures, no sound, no dialogue, no content of any kind. Just use primitives for actors and procedurally generate everything else using colors and triangles/polys/meshes only.

So what have you built? Nothing, all you have is primitives in 3d space that you interact with (which is mind-numbingly trivial to build), how do you know if the interaction is properly engaging?

Then prove out all the temporal and spatial interactions between objects, using real world latency.

The required interactions are going to be dependent on the story and art and the latency is going to be dependent on the performance of the game which you don't know.

Permit customization of every action variable to be part of the iterative temporal goals of the player (customer).

You don't know what these are yet. What would all the action variables be for this generic concept that has no story and no design?

If you take an existing 3D engine (which is what most game devs do) then what is the point of fleshing out a game that has no content only to have to go back and re-do it again when you do have content? You really think it's difficult or time-consuming to get primitives moving on screen?

Re:Solution for Rising Development Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47008729)

The interactions are the same regardless of the game. Players can type with the keyboard and use the mouse. That's it.

Build a proper camera and movement system and you'd be ahead of most games, these days, which don't even have that.

Interactions are not story driven. They're limited by the engine/tech/interface input, which is mouse and keyboard. If you build a proper framework, it doesn't matter what the story is. Also, using no-texture primitives, you know what the performance will be -at best-. Rendering aside, you can then decide how close to the 100ms "wall" you can get for online interactions.

There are only so many variables involved with object interaction. Distance, direction, visibility, and any associated numbers you'd care to put on either side to represent various resource pools. Again, a proper framework can handle any number.

And yes, going back to flesh out the game is the entire point of keeping costs down.

If it's mind numbingly trivial to get the initial mechanics/concept working, balanced, fun, and challenging, then it sounds like this development path would be vastly superior to what is done now, which is entirely the reverse and entirely too expensive.

And yes, as a programmer of 21 years, I'm keenly aware of how 'easy' it is to get primitives moving on screen. And yet, despite that, every game developer since 2004 has managed to fail utterly in the details, where it really matters.

Minecraft (4, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | about 3 months ago | (#47004281)

The best part about Minecraft's success is that in this period of neverending one-upmanship of glitz and glam in video games, Notch delivers a great game on practically gameplay alone.

Of course, there are plenty of other indie successes out there (Torchlight I/II), but Minecraft's target demographics is archetypal for gamers while it is the third most successful [wikipedia.org] game in the world (the top two target a wider range of demographics).

Re:Minecraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007695)

Except Minecraft is really a game, it's a construction environment where people spent their lives removing and placing cubes, while making buildings.

There's nothing to fight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004345)

Wages rise, everything is getting more expensive. For some reason, the whole world expects games not to get more expensive even though it's long overdue that they do.

AAA bullshit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004351)

Who invented this AAA label, and what the fuck does it even mean? ASSHOLE-ASSHOLE-ASSHOLE?

Re:AAA bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004565)

hitler 'axis and allies' is what 'triple a' means to me, number two is the free software 'triplea' which is a turn based wargame engine based slightly off the axis and allies boardgame which had a windoze version (still got the discs too) from hasbro but the free software version has over 100 mods/maps. number three is American auto association... i have heard of the term 'triple a game' before but it's a cluttered acronym they really should call it "A++" or something along those lines.

Re:AAA bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004901)

Here you go: AAA [wikipedia.org]

Re:AAA bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47005093)

And here you go: Rhetorical question [wikipedia.org]

Re:AAA bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007925)

It means the game is recorded, mixed and mastered in the analog domain..
So the gameplay seldomly surpasses the quality of a compact cassette..

Middleware??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004385)

We need MS Visual Studio Game Developer Edition...what c# and visual basic .net did for application development, a professional game development Language for visual studio and MS will rule for the next 20 years!

Re:Middleware??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007423)

XNA is dead

Woe be to self-inflicted wounds, (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004409)

I have worked in the game industry since the late 90's. This is a smokescreen. It is, internally, a well-understood principle that your games needs a minimum of $70k today for marketing *alone*.
That does not include development at any level.
Beyond that, I am confident in saying that *at least* 50% of actual development costs are wasted due to poor management, marketing-driven-design, and a general lack of focus.
When the game industry decided to raise the retail cost of their games to $60, (with the reason of increased development costs) at that time it was already a sham.
Now that this article has come out on their struggles against the costs of development, I want to make one thing clear to everyone who has the chance to read this:
1) When a development studio goes out of business due to lack of funds, it is, every time, due to poor management and internal irresponsibility with funding.
2) The claim of rising development costs is nothing more than greedy stake-holders crying for more profit.
3) It does not cost that much to develop games today, as aside from marketing/advertising, it costs less than a million dollars to develop even the most technically challenging project today.

I had a lot more to say, but I'm too angry now. And that I won't post non-anonymously, I can't really provide anything more than this comment and my anger.

Re:Woe be to self-inflicted wounds, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47005699)

I don't know if any of the things you said is true, but I take issue with this-

"it costs less than a million dollars to develop even the most technically challenging project today."

The math does not work out. A modern dev team is about 200 people. Say that there's much efficiency to be gained and you can trim it down to 100 (!). A project usually takes around 2 years. Assuming each person earns 80K annually.

2*80K*100 = 1.6 million.

Where is that 1 million amount came from? Or do you mean everyone lives in Poland/Romania?

Re:Woe be to self-inflicted wounds, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47006683)

A related piece of info is that the gaming industry is known for overwork. In one well-publicized case with EA, they started crunch on day one.

Why do we have 40 hour work week? Empirical testing a century ago showed that it was the most efficient amount of work to extract for manufacturing. As we creep above 40 hours, weariness begins to accumulate, which results in decreasing productivity and increasing mistakes. After a few months of 60 hour weeks, less will be produced than if the same team had worked 40 hours. I.e., work more hours and produce less in total.

Poor development processes can result in much effort being sunk into impossible, infeasible, or useless features. Patching around bugs and insufficient testing can lead to weirdness that later needs to be debugged. A hot shot developer may use an approach he doesn't fully understand, resulting in more weirdness. Poor organization and communication can lead to the same problems that Vista had, where it can take weeks for important changes made by one team to be visible to the other teams.

I've observed most of these happening on teams of 4-8 people. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to wrangle 200 people in an environment where whim is mistaken for vision.

Good games give players interesting choices (3, Insightful)

jayveekay (735967) | about 3 months ago | (#47004735)

Games are about interactive gameplay, not hi-def graphics.
Good games challenge the player with interesting choices, and do not attempt to cover up a void of interesting choices with reams of meaningless dialog in very pretty non-interactive cutscenes and the like.

Re:Good games give players interesting choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004837)

Have you even met any gamers? Gamers only care about graphics. Top-of-the-line graphic rendering needs a top-of-the-line rig. Gamers live to brag about "my rig".

Re:Good games give players interesting choices (1)

Mike Frett (2811077) | about 3 months ago | (#47007271)

If that's what they care about, they are not real Gamers. Simple as that.

Re:Good games give players interesting choices (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 3 months ago | (#47007697)

Ah yes, not a true scots... er gamer.

Re:Good games give players interesting choices (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 3 months ago | (#47005189)

Games are about interactive gameplay, not hi-def graphics.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Re:Good games give players interesting choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007371)

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Try explaining that to EA...

Frost 4ist (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47004809)

Interesting Theory! (1)

vomitology (2780489) | about 3 months ago | (#47004949)

It costs more now to do stuff than it did before? How curious...

Maybe cut out the overabundant cutscenes. (1)

oogoliegoogolie (635356) | about 3 months ago | (#47004977)

The studios might save a few dollars. Making these has got to comprise a double-digit percentage of development costs because games are filled with them nowadays.
I play a game to play the game, not watch countless movie-clips.
Some games today have so many cutscenes that it seems the gameplay was added just to show off the 'fab' cutscenes.

Re:Maybe cut out the overabundant cutscenes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47007805)

Most of the money is being spent in "marketing", not development. Game total costs would be 30-35% of what they are now if you removed the marketing wastage. Seriously, how much marketing does CoD +=1 need, or the next Elder Scrolls game? These massive costs are absorbed internally, game publishers use the same Hollywood account as the music industry. They tell their shareholders they've made $XXX billion, but the media they've lost twice that.

Voice acting... ugh (1, Interesting)

Morpeth (577066) | about 3 months ago | (#47005027)

There's a huge waste of time and money imo. No friend I've gamed with ever really gave a flying frack about fully voice acted dialogs. Though I only beta tested, since I didn't like the game, Elder Scrolls online for example -- there was SO much pointless voice acting, with well-known to famous actors (like John Cleese). How much money did they spend on that? Most people just click through thinking 'yeah... yeah... give me the #$%! quest already'. They apparently spent a small fortune developing it, and after all that, I'd still just rather play Oblivion or Skyrim.

I also think many game companies have become obsessed with 'oh shiney!' tech and forget about basic stuff, like a good, even [gasp] original storyline -- instead of the cliched, overused, derivative crap that seems to make up 90% of the titles. I've been playing a lot more games from smaller studios, that seems to be where the real innovation in game design is imo. And no, I don't mean the tech, I mean the story, the interfaces, the character concepts, etc.

Re:Voice acting... ugh (2)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 3 months ago | (#47005407)

Your friends who are gamers essentially form a self-selected group where your opinions either are similar, or become similar via conversations about those opinions.

I don't need famous people, but it does need to be on the far side of believable. If you sound like you don't care about your quest, I'm likely to just chop you to bits and consider I'm doing you a favor.

Also, may I suggest that if you repeatedly find "cliched, overused, derivative crap" you probably need to play fewer games. I say this because buying a game counts as a vote for it (sold X copies), and your opinion doesn't matter. Buying used, or renting then only buying the decent ones will move games toward what's popular, not towards what's marketed.

On that subject, sequels and expansions are very popular because people want more of exactly this experience, with some novelty added. Very frequently, the sequel is panned because it changes something too much - gameplay, atmosphere, environment. So almost the same is good, except when it's not, and very different is good, except when it is too foreign. If you had a business, which way would you go?

The obvious answer is the indie studios who don't even have a business yet. Next obvious is the tiny studios. Not obvious at all is try before you buy, and don't reward the failures with money.

Re:Voice acting... ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47005491)

I've been playing a lot more games from smaller studios, that seems to be where the real innovation in game design is imo. And no, I don't mean the tech, I mean the story, the interfaces, the character concepts, etc.

Like what games?

Re:Voice acting... ugh (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 3 months ago | (#47005557)

I also think many game companies have become obsessed with 'oh shiney!' tech

What does that even mean? You really think going to best effort to fulfill the vision of the art designers is the just idiotic cliche of "oh shiny"? Some art designs don't require putting effort into realistic graphics, sound, physics, voice acting, motion capture, etc... (WoW, Limbo for example) but some do (Doom 3, Crysis for example), and yeah I know those games are just so mainstream.

Re:Voice acting... ugh (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 3 months ago | (#47005749)

When gamers complain about unnecessary voice acting, I often wonder if they're reacting more to the poor writing and storytelling within a game. There's no need for voice acting if the dialogue is written poorly - it will only exacerbate the issue. Likewise, there's no need even for good writing if there's no interesting or coherent narrative to hang it off of, or gameplay that actually supports that narrative. This makes the dialogue, however well written, feel like a separate and therefore unnecessary part of the experience - more of a chore for the player to get past rather than something interesting for them to listen to and enjoy. I've seen a number of modern MMOs that suffer from this especially.

However, when gameplay, writing, and voice-acting combine into a seamless and coherent experience, the result is fantastic. There are plenty of modern examples of games that do this very well, like Mass Effect (ignoring the pooched ending of ME3), The Last of Us, the Uncharted, and many others. I haven't heard much in the way of complaints about the writing / voice-acting in those games because it's relatively seamless part of the gaming experience.

There are also players who are much more interested in the mechanics of games than the narratives of games, often heard in arguments against cinematics as well ("I want to play a game, not watch a damn movie!") I happen to love a well-told story integrated within my games. For me, a cutscene always feels like a reward after reaching some point in the game, but some players just see it as an interruption in the "fun" part of the game (i.e. gameplay). That's fine for those players, but many people actually do care about lore and story. These two sets of gamers will probably never agree on whether adding voice-acting is beneficial or a waste of money, because they're seeking fundamentally different things from the game experience.

Not every game needs cinematics or voice, of course. I think Limbo is a great example of a very minimalist game that does well without it. Likewise, it's hard to see how Minecraft would be enhanced by fancy cinematics and voice acting.

Re:Voice acting... ugh (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 3 months ago | (#47007401)

If it's done well, then yes, voice acting can enhance a game. But if writing and storytelling are weak, you might as well go back to displaying the text only and save a few bucks. Same for bad voice actors.

I call BS... (1)

Archfeld (6757) | about 3 months ago | (#47005313)

Somehow they have convinced themselves that advertising dollars is part of development costs.

Trailers (1)

irwiss (1122399) | about 3 months ago | (#47005341)

Canceling pre-rendered and absolutely unrelated to actual gameplay trailers with bullshit that you can never actually do in-game - that would cut costs at no loss

They think money makes a game good... (2)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about 3 months ago | (#47005475)

This is how the mega companies think and why they ruin games.... Let's throw a ton of money at people and give them a short deadline... whatever they don't finish well make it add on packs lol. This is the reason indie games are on the rise, you think they would learn to save money and make a good game. It doesn't take 500mil to make a good game.. The more they spend the more they nickel and dime us to death...

To explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47005533)

Absolutely all of this comes from ever more complex art asset creation, which is now able to get into the realm of Hollywood CG, except of course a game is usually expected to be longer than a movie. Which begs the question of many of these developers "is it worth it?" Detailed facial motion capture, recreating every surface material in a game down to tiny little flakes in carbon fiber or grains of sand on a beach.

My answer, that I've been trying to get other developers to listen too, is a resounding "no, it's not worth it". With ever smarter ways to do things from graphics programmers (making the shiny execute in a millisecond or less!) and ever more power, there's far easier ways to improve the look of the game without spending more on asset creation that players are unlikely to notice most of the time. But most of my fellow developers, and more specifically the artists (I can do more? then of course I'll do more!) and their bosses (if every part of our game doesn't look better than last time then what's then... undefined terrible things will happen!) have a pretty stolid mindset.

It's going to take a number of high profile failures, and developers that actually enjoy building and shipping games rather than working for 4+ years on the same one, for things to turn around. Until then, so long as someone can earn success by apparently spending ever more money, I fear ever more money will just be spent.

Wrong priorities and self-inflicted wounds (2)

janoc (699997) | about 3 months ago | (#47006993)

The problem is that the industry is spending the money on wrong things - massive marketing, shiny graphics, motion capture for animation ... Unfortunately, most of that is extremely expensive and laborious. I really don't need my next stupid shooter game to have motion captured animations of every monster done by AAA Hollywood mocap specialists at several thousands of $/hour.

And as the "next gen" has to be bigger, better, shinier than the "last gen", the costs spiral out of control. Another consequence of this blockbuster mentality is that only few innovative "AAA" games get made, because nobody wants to take risks with such budgets - but how many times can you redo Doom?

It is possible to make and release games cheaper, even big titles (just look at the Witcher series). The companies and publishers need to start to work smarter, not just pour more money at the problem. However, when the most complex AI in games are finite state machines and motion capture is considered as "AI" (true quote from one major studio exec), every bit of content is hand modelled, textured and baked instead of some sort of automation or more clever game design, when the "next gen" game innovation stops with rendering more nose hair and dirty pores (or bigger boobs) of the main protagonist than the "last gen", then I am really sceptical ...

Oh and cut out the middle men and stop reinventing the wheel for the sake of greed (Origin by EA anyone?). You will cut your expenses by a factor of 2 right there.

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