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3D Realms' Scott Miller Warns Warner

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the that's-all-folks dept.

Television 42

firstadopter.com writes "Scott Miller of 3D Realms, maker of Duke Nukem and non-maker of Duke Nukem Forever, is panning Warner Brothers' recent re-entry into the videogame industry. He cites the lack of focus of conglomerates and aversion to risk-taking on original brands as the heels of Warner's future downfall, suggesting of their new gaming division: 'Focused [game-only] publishers will always lead us in making the best games... It's just not as important for a [diversified into films/TV] company like Warner to really try hard in a area that, in the end, doesn't mean life or death to their company.'"

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this is a ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8587545)

fp for adi - stupid bitch brother of mine

Yea right (4, Insightful)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587553)

3DRealms has been focused on Duke Nukem Forever for 5 or 6 years now and they still have nothing but vapor. They're hardly a company to talk about video gaming anymore since they can't even get a simple game out the door. License the damn Quake 3 engine and make Duke Nukem Forever with that instead of jumping around redesigning engines every year. 3DRealms is like a kid with ADD when it comes to their flagship character. The fun thing about Duke3d wasn't that it had great graphics (it didn't), but that you could hold up a buck to a stripper and say "shake it baby". We must have more of this in the next version!

Re:Yea right (5, Interesting)

robnauta (716284) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587584)

Yeah, Scott Miller has no right to critisize anyone. Much less spout a vague 'managers know nothing about games'. Maybe if he himself approached game making more professionally, then things would actually get done. The game making business is one of the most unprofessional software development businesses. Starting with too optimistic planning, vague design documents, a project typically relies on developers gut feeling, adding features when someone things of them instead of following the technical design. They all end in missing the deadline and making all employees work 18 hours/day for 7 days/week for a month and still ship with known bugs. All this because some designers feel that any management imposes on their creativity.

You should read the postmortems on Gamasutra, at least half of them admit afterwards to have worked without a decent design document. For Tropico eg. the lead designer found out after a year that his designers all had different ideas about what the game should be about and were implementing all kinds of features and interfaces they thought were 'cool'. This was because the design document was too vague and general.

Daikatana failed in two ways, first because it wasn't that good. It had been in production for too long and by the time it was ready it was not technically advanced anymore. But more importantly, because its creators had such a big mouth in the press (nonsense about making you his bitch) the press were sceptical about the game, which is their right. You can't pretend to be mr. know-it-all and critisize everyone but yourself and expect to get respect for it, if you don't have any achievements to go with it.

Re:Yea right (2, Interesting)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587647)

Two points:

1) Game dev houses do public post-mortems. I wonder what we'd find out if traditional software developers did public post-mortems? Maybe a lot of them wouldn't have the careful planning that you might expect.

2) Games are (I believe necessarily) *somewhat* driven in design by implementation issues that cannot be found out until implementation time. It may be that having 20 goat-riding banshees running around attacking you just plain uses too much CPU time, and the game has to be changed. A design document is *very* useful when you have to interface with someone else's code, but game developers aren't interfacing with code. The game field moves quickly, and they may want to include new stuff that comes out during the dev process.

That doesn't mean that game developers can't improve, but I suspect that there is a *reason* that they don't always work the same way more conventional developers do.

As for the term "unprofessional", I've found it to be a loaded term that rarely conveys useful information.

Re:Yea right (2, Insightful)

Twylite (234238) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588402)

Unless your development team has only one member, you're interfacing to someone else's code.

Designs are able to be changed. That's the whole point of using flexible patterns. But if you don't have a design to begin with then nobody knows where you are planning to end up, or has a framework in which to control the change.

There is nothing special about game development that isn't part of any other software development process.

Re:Yea right (4, Insightful)

fredrikj (629833) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588252)

I think Carmack stated in a Slashdot post about a year ago that writing a 400-page design document and following it down to the details is a really bad idea - a good game evolves out of thousands of design decisions that turn up along the way. Compare Tom Hall's original "Doom bible" written in 1992 with the end result, I don't want to think about how bad the game would have been if they had followed the original plan. I think Tropico's problem was lack of communication, not lack of a design document.

All this will do (1)

evil crash (739354) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587562)

All that's gonna happen is the maket will have more "garbageware" floating around obscuring good games. These "Media Giant" companies that try and make an extra buck by tying in a crappy and hastily produced game, than advertise the living hell out of it, just make it harder for the small unknown studio to promote what possibly might be a good product.

DNF original? (2, Insightful)

Roshin (637756) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587591)

"He cites the lack of focus of conglomerates and aversion to risk-taking on original brands..." Original brands? Duke Nukem Forever..?

Maybe he means the Matrix (1)

irokitt (663593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8591067)

The only "original brand" WB is working on right now is the Matrix MMORPG. And yeah, they do seem to have a lack of focus now that Ubisoft backed out of that game.

Hey Scott... (4, Funny)

MImeKillEr (445828) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587625)

..how about a little less telling everyone else how to run their company and a little more Duke Nukem Forever development, mmmkay?

At this rate, the PlayStation IX will be out before DNF.

Re:Hey Scott... (1)

KBV (732207) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587894)

Am I the only person who actually don't give a flying fuck about DNF anymore? It sparked my senses 5 years ago. Please just scrap it and close down the company.

Re:Hey Scott... (1)

MImeKillEr (445828) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588109)

I lost interest a long time ago. Moreso after Duke Nukem Manhattan.

At this point, I just want 3DRealms to put up or shut up. I really liked Duke Nukem, and even bought the Atomic Edition.

Just license the friggin' Q3 engine or UT2K3/4's and get the game out already.

And how about some free dedicated server software too? That's definitely helping Unreal Tournament's popularity..

Re:Hey Scott... (1)

Fred Or Alive (738779) | more than 10 years ago | (#8592543)

I should point out Duke Nukem Forever is based on a licensed engine, originally Quake IIRC, then they moved to Unreal and then Unreal Tournament, I guess they'll be tracking the updates to the engine. If they aren't it's going to be seriously old tech by the time it gets out. The only redemption for this is that they were apparently rewriting parts of the Unreal Tournament engine to be less CPU bound (apparently a problem with the Unreal (etc.) engine), but really they should be trying to actually get a game out.

Personally I'm waiting for them to announce a move to Valve's Source (Half-Life 2) engine.

hmm (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8587771)

[insert DNF comment here]

That pretty much sums up the comments so far ;)

Warner Brothers killed atari (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587835)

Wouldn't be a surprise at all, afterall this is the Warner brothers that killed Atari. Then after poisoning the brand sold the whole thing to the Tramiel's who repeated stuck knives into every part of it. (And everything else)

Re:Warner Brothers killed atari (0, Offtopic)

Jacek Poplawski (223457) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587880)

...and Atari killed Microprose. I am not joking. I tried to submit story about that on Slashdot, but it was refused. Anyway, please check:

atari closes microprose

on google.

Re:Warner Brothers killed atari (2, Informative)

gamgee5273 (410326) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588231)

That's Atari only in name, Jacek. Warner Brothers "killed" Atari back in the 80s after it bought it and Nolan Bushnell went off to other pastures.

The Atari we know of today is Atari only in name. The current company is actually a re-branded Infogrames, which bought Atari's name & such when it bought the Hasbro Interactive unit from Hasbro (Microprose was also acquired by Infrogrames at this point). If I remember correctly, the Atari properties stopped at Midway between Warner Brothers and Hasbro. In fact, I want to say Slashdot just recently covered Midway's sale of the old Atari office (not 100% sure... might have been something else along those lines).

But, no, the Atari that killed Microprose is actually Infogrames in disguise.

Re:Warner Brothers killed atari (1)

Jacek Poplawski (223457) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588322)

That's Atari only in name,

True, sorry for incomplete information.
I was Atari800 XL user, and I know that new Atari is just Infogrames.

History lesson: (3, Insightful)

Asprin (545477) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587865)


Doesn't he remember Atari? T-W owned that from '76-'86 [igs.net] , their most profitable and inventive years when they made great games.

/Tongue-very-nearly-almost-only-partially-in-cheek :)

Re:History lesson: (4, Interesting)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588153)

For those who don't get the reference, Atari single-handledly destroyed the home video game market during this time, mainly by glutting the market with crappy games (E.T. for example; several million unsold cartridges were dumped in a landfill. Pac Man had more cartridges manufactured than there were consoles sold.

The home video market managed to stay destroyed until Nintendo forced their way onto the scene; they were very careful to avoid the sins of the father, so to speak, by retaining the right to not allow crappy games, limiting the amount of titles a licensee could put out in a year, and other such practices.

Re:History lesson: (2, Informative)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588475)

Your history is a little confused. There were dozens of companies that flooded the market with Atari 2600 games, not just Atari. Atari tried everything to stop it including suing former employees, but it didn't work.

In addition, there was the Intellivision and Coleco game systems (among others) that died during the same period.

It's funny that you cast Nintendo as some kind of hero. It would be as if you had to get permission from MS to write SW for Windows.

Re:History lesson: (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588719)

Aye, Atari wasn't the sole responsible; it might be more accurate to say that the Atari 2600 was almost singlehandedly.....

As to Nintendo, I have no problem with their business tactics; people who played ball with them made money hand over fist. It was a relatively unique time; people were still leery about bundling hardware with software, from the IBM lawsuits.

Nevertheless, Nintendo had some valid points; not flooding the market, keeping the quality level up, and so on. You'll notice, however, that they wern't able to wield their 'monopoly power' to keep Sega, and later Sony, out of the picture, and now Nintendo is just another player.

Re:History lesson: (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 10 years ago | (#8605527)

No Atari did a good job of shoot it's self in the head. They did rush crap games to market like ET and PacMan on the 2600. The 5200 was a very good machine but the controlers where crap and fail very quickly. The graphics where great for the time. Had Atari stuck with it they might have kept the video game market. The 7800 I have never seen but it looked like a good effort.
Coleco's Adam was a mess and Mattel's computer replacements for intelevision where super junk.
The big question to this day is why the ST and Amiga failed? They where both better computers than the PCs at the time. Heck you could not even have a hard disk partition bigger than 32 megs on the PC then. You have to wonder what the Amiga and ST would be like today if they had lived. Probably very much like Mac OS/x.
What really killed Atari in the game market was back compatiblity. Everyone wanted to keep there 2600 games. Only Sony seems to care about that these days.

Re:History lesson: (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 10 years ago | (#8611752)

PacMan sucked primarily because it's a game that is particularly hard to do on the 2600. The best looking games (done by Activision and others) were designed around the 2600's limitations.

One of the limitations was that you couldn't have more then two independently-moving high-resolution objects in the same horizontal scan line without using tricks. PacMan multiplexed it's objects while games like Pitfall were designed to avoid the situation all together.

Re:History lesson: (1)

sammaffei (565627) | more than 10 years ago | (#8589653)

Read your own link. Atari was sold by Time Warner in 1984 right after the crash.

Atari could have kept claim on the industry if the Tramiels didn't shelf the "ready-to-go" Atari 7800 in 1984 to solely make computers. They put the 7800 back on the market in 1986 after they saw the NES selling well.

Hesitation is what hurt Atari.

Oh, yeah, sorry, I forgot this one: (3, Funny)

Asprin (545477) | more than 10 years ago | (#8587908)


Then, there's the obvious:

(ahem)

Well, at least Time-Warner will **MAKE** [3drealms.com] games that will have an opportunity to suck.

Thank you, thank you very much, I'll be here all week!
Drive safely, remember to tip your wait staff and try teh fish!

Interesting but naive (2, Interesting)

Twylite (234238) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588331)

There is an assumption amongst "focused publishers" of games that leading edge (techniques, graphics, sound, action) counts. It is an assumption that holds true for (probably) most of the gaming market. Nevertheless, the current gaming market is arguably a niche market, and "focused publishers" either aren't aware of this or at a loss to exploit the bulk of the market.

A market means having (a) customers who want your product (b) who have money (c) enough to afford the price which is dictated (at minimum) by your development costs.

The current game publishers are pretty good at (a). There are millions of gamers out there who want the product. The problem is that the vast majority of those gamers do not earn an income. Those that do eventually find that they have less time for gaming in order to do something called "living" or "working" or "getting a wife and kids". Slashdotisms aside, the age profile of gamers is heavily slanted in towards youth and lack of income.

In other words, current publishers aren't a whole lot of good at (b) or (c), or "finding the deep pockets". Games are pirated or obtained occasionally via Mommy or Daddy's money.

So where are the publishers going wrong? To me that's simple. I don't play games anymore because I don't have much time to, and few modern games are entertaining for a person who only plays occasionally. Games are written for gamers, and gamers are highly skilled addicts. This means they get their "hit" from the challenge and, to get value for their money, they require game that is lengthy to complete. Something challenging to a skilled gamer is, even on easy levels, not very entertaining to me when I want to relax for half an hour.

TW is, by comparison, an entertainment company. While many people (especially here) can't stand them, they nevertheless understand how to cater to the mass market ... and I'm guessing they're going to do just that.

Why play in the highly competitive leading edge games market when you can combine non-interactive media with yesterday's techniques (that have been made into a Microsoft SDK), at a fraction of the cost, and target a far larger market that also happens to have money?

Its all about understanding your market. People who earn money (more particularly those who have "responsibilities") tend to be more price sensitive when it comes to products they aren't sure they will get their money's worth from. You may not be able to sell a $50 game to such people except at Christmas, but a $10 game a month will slip right under their radar.

There are also other markets that aren't currently served by game publishers. Do you remember interactive fiction books? They give you a paragraph or two, you decide what to do, and get a "goto" for another paragraph. There's thousands of them out there, and children and young teens love them. It would take one such book, a week of VB, and one day in your average TV series studio to turn the book into multimedia interactive fiction (30 second clips rather than paragraphs). TW could flog off stuff like that at a quarter the price of a game and still make a killing.

Re:Interesting but naive (1)

ThrasherTT (87841) | more than 10 years ago | (#8590842)

Do you remember interactive fiction books? They give you a paragraph or two, you decide what to do, and get a "goto" for another paragraph. There's thousands of them out there, and children and young teens love them. It would take one such book, a week of VB, and one day in your average TV series studio to turn the book into multimedia interactive fiction (30 second clips rather than paragraphs). TW could flog off stuff like that at a quarter the price of a game and still make a killing.

Disturbingly, I find that idea very attractive. You could take it a step further and integrate simple puzzle games as the "action" step for resolving conflicts, in the manner of Puzzle Pirates [puzzlepirates.com]

Re:Interesting but naive (1)

DeadScreenSky (666442) | more than 10 years ago | (#8596017)

Slashdotisms aside, the age profile of gamers is heavily slanted in towards youth and lack of income.

Please, offer some kind of evidence for this. All studies I have seen suggest that the average age of a gamer is in the mid to late 20s - a prime disposable income market. There are certainly a lot of gamers who are young and lack income, but they are simply not remotely a majority.

Diversification is good (1)

hambonewilkins (739531) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588509)

'Focused [game-only] publishers will always lead us in making the best games... It's just not as important for a [diversified into films/TV] company like Warner to really try hard in a area that, in the end, doesn't mean life or death to their company.'"

I think diversification is good. Look at a company like 3Drealms, the critics in this case. They haven't diversified (to my knowledge) and they solely make games. And yet, DNF hasn't shown up yet. They don't appear to be "really trying hard".

On the other hand, a large movie/tv company has easy access to its properties (movies, tv, music) and usually has the capital to hire good game designers. It's not like we look at Warner Brothers and think "When they make a movie they take all their resources away from their other divisions."

Warner is a big company, I'm sure the games division will not overlap the other divisions and will exist on its own yet share accounting and intellectual properties of the other divisions.

a joke? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8588544)

this is saint patricks day right? not april fools day?
this article sounds like a complete joke!

where is duke nukem forever? this guy has no business criticizing anyone the software development arena. his company can't even get a game out the door after 5+ years of development.
their only goal is to keep selling crappy throwback games based on the vague "when its done" promise of a future non-existant title.

good one though..made me laugh out loud reading this.

Risk taking (3, Insightful)

fmaxwell (249001) | more than 10 years ago | (#8588786)

He cites the lack of focus of conglomerates and aversion to risk-taking on original brands as the heels of Warner's future downfall, suggesting of their new gaming division: 'Focused [game-only] publishers will always lead us in making the best games...

This is a man who really knows about "risk-taking on original brands." Look at the Duke Nukem brand: How risky is it to take eight or more years to release a sequel? Even "focused" game publishers like Epic Games and ID Software aren't willing to take risks like that with their flagship brands.

There are people who played Duke Nukem 3D when they were in junior high school and they've now graduated from college and there is still no sequel. There's a risk that, when/if Duke Nukem Forever is released that no one will even remember the original. If all game companies took risks like 3DRealms does, stores wouldn't need nearly so much shelf space for video games and consumers would have a much easier time of it.

Re:Risk taking (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8591170)

Played Duke 3d in middle school? Hell I was in middle school when DNF was ANNOUCNED. I'll be out of college in a year. I have a bet going - if DNF comes out before I graduate, I have to buy copies for all my friends (wether or not they win in that case is left as an excercise for the reader).

Third time's the charm? (3, Interesting)

Peteroo (757115) | more than 10 years ago | (#8589972)

Actually, this will be TW's -third- attempt at publishing games. In the early and mid '90s, Time Warner Interactive released perhaps a dozen games across a range of platforms. To its credit, these included Software Sorcery's first game (Aegis: Guardian of the Fleet), the Saturn version of Virtua Racing, the PS1 version of Return Fire, the sequel to the classic Amiga game Firepower. It also put out a real stinker of a fighting game called Rise of the Robots. Of course, it's one thing to have good taste in cherry-picking games that other people develop and quite another to make them yourself. I hope for the best, but Scott's warnings are well-considered. Peter

Sony... (1)

samdu (114873) | more than 10 years ago | (#8590698)

It's just not as important for a [diversified into films/TV] company like Warner to really try hard in a area that, in the end, doesn't mean life or death to their company.'"

So Sony must make some real crap as they are one of the more diversified companies on the planet. Oh, and Hitachi - their stuff is all crap. Sheesh, just because a company is diversified (USUALLY considered a good thing) doesn't mean that they can't do most, if not all of those things well.

lol x infinity! (1)

mrshowtime (562809) | more than 10 years ago | (#8591084)

Maybe after they release Duke Nukem: Taking Forever, will that guy have room to talk about Warner Bros.

Somebody needs to earn the right to speak... (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8591100)

'Focused [game-only] publishers will always lead ...

The focused [game-only] publisher in question needs to put out the game they've been leading for seven years now before they talk about leading the market ahead of the conglomerates.

My Favorite Quote (1)

shadowcabbit (466253) | more than 10 years ago | (#8594412)

Focused [game-only] publishers will always lead us in making the best games... --Scott Miller

Let's face it, Scott-- an illiterate dirt farmer from South Buttcrack, Arkansas could lead 3DRealms in making games. You're not telling us anything we don't already know.

Anyone remember TWIG? (1)

Feral Bueller (615138) | more than 10 years ago | (#8595500)

Time Warner Interactive Group.

I was (un)fortunate enough to work for them for about 6 months in the end of 1993. They were having trouble with a couple of launch titles that were supposed to be bundled with Apple's then-revolutionary A/V Macs. I remember lots of problems with the DSPs. That and working on the worst game ever.

"HellCab"

I do have this really cool paperweight that they gave out to the execs that year: it's a big chunk of the Berlin wall with the following inscription: "This is a remnant of the Berlin wall, which stood as a barrier against the free exchange of ideas, information, and culture. You helped bring this wall down"

Nice sentiments, but unfortunately the company was run by a bunch of asshats that had no concept of game development. I have no faith in the new group being any better: if they're anything like the last bunch, they'll be too busy trying to keep up with the Joneses to build good product -- the fact that Sony Digital has a couple of MMORPGs is not a good reason for Warner Brothers to have one.

"The Matrix" franchise is not going to age as well as the "Star Wars" franchise has. Nor the "Lord of the Rings" franchise for that matter. They should focus on the console market and getting a couple of good games on the market instead of cannibalizing their "IP" (emphasis on the "P" rather than on the "I").

Which reminds me of the cheesy "Comedy Central" CDs we did. Nothing like spending all day watching Rosie clips in QuickTime 2.0 to make you want to start drinking in the morning.

Oh yeah, and mod me down all you like, but the Game Industry could stand to at least attempt to adhere to some Software Engineering practices.

Like Analysis and Design. Or milestone releases.

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