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Game Developers Burn Down the House

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the the-roof-the-roof-the-roof-is-on-fire dept.

Games 49

Plenty more excellent writeups to share as the Game Developer's Conference comes to an end. Gamespot has The Dark Spirit of Silent Hill, discussing how to craft the spooky survival horrors. Alice has worked her fingers to nubs writing on the Wonderland blog, and offers up Can MMOs Develop Mass Appeal?, and Burn the House Down, a ranting session between Warren Spector and some other surly curmudgeons. From the post: "But I have to say something so I want to say how this business is hopelessly broken. Haha. We're doing pretty much everything wrong. This is at the root of much of what you're gonna hear today. Games cost too much. They take too long to make. The whole concept of word of mouth, remember that? Holy cow it was nice."

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49 comments

zerg (4, Interesting)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11917124)

Wow, the next time someone says "Don't pirate that game, download the demo and if you like it, buy it!", just point them at that "Burn the House Down" rant. Here are gaming's top people, all saying "Pirate my software!"

Interesting. (2, Interesting)

Alkaiser (114022) | more than 9 years ago | (#11918670)

I for one, found the overall tone of the speech to be disheartening...it felt like the top names had given up. They pointed out problems and demanded solutions...that they didn't have. It was if they were imploring the audience to fix the problems for them. Kinda sad.

I did like how they all jumped up to smack down the guy who was complaining about game rentals. "Not all money streams lead to your wallet!"

Haha! BURN!

Re:zerg (3, Informative)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 9 years ago | (#11929419)


Maybe you need to read that again. Maybe you should start with this paragraph (I added some boldface to help make the meaning clearer):
We
need alternative forms of distribution too. I'm not saying publishers suck, although I do believe that in many cases. [laughter] If the plane went down who would care about the marketing guys? We need another way of getting games out there and in players' hands. If any of you bought half life 2 at Wal-Mart, please just leave the room. Has everyone bought Bioware's online modules? JUST BUY THEM, OK, even if you don't have the original games! We HAVE to get games into gamers' hands. So I'm not saying publishers are evil.. if we do all this and go direct to our consumers with games funded some OTHER way than EA or whoever.. we'll keep more of the money.. we have to find someone to pay for it and find a buyer after. We need Sundances. Independent Film Channel. Equivalents of those. Just try to find some way of funding your stuff that doesn't come from a publisher.

They are saying the need new ways to distribute the games so the developers get more of the money, not that the games should be pirated and the developers therefore get less money.

Re:zerg (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11929539)

Chris: I'm pro-piracy. I want people to play the games I make. I do it because it's art. I think DRM is a total fucking stupid mess. If the game industry collapses and can be reborn, I'm all for it. Pirate on!


Greg: they're not pirating the game! Someone bought a legal copy! The world is not designed in such a way that money inherently funnels its way into your wallet!?

Warren: I never minded piracy. Anyone who minds about piracy is full of shit. Anyone who pirates your game wasn't going to buy it anyway!
There's no way in hell I'm going to buy something "just because". If there was a way to give money to Studio Pixel (the guys who made that free platformer, Cave Story), I would shovel heaps of it upon them. But I'm seeing here 3 top game creators saying "Pirate our stuff! We don't care!" I fail to see what that has to do w/ alternate distribution methods.

Re:zerg (3, Insightful)

bobstevens_took_my_n (799815) | more than 9 years ago | (#11930251)

But I'm seeing here 3 top game creators saying "Pirate our stuff! We don't care!"

You're seeing a highly respected programmer saying he doesn't care if you pirate his games.

You're seeing an indie game creator say that game rentals are not the same as piracy.

You're seeing a respected game designer say that he doesn't believe piracy affects him.

You have here in order:

  • One person telling you to pirate games
  • One person whose comment you're willfully misinterpreting (and who doesn't speak for the commercial game industry anyway)
  • One person who is delusional

If you think that you have the moral high-ground to pirate games just because Chris Hecker is a hippy, then you're not really thinking straight about the whole issue, are you? Don't you think before you pirate a game Chris Hecker has worked on that you should ask the other 200 people that also worked on it to see if they mind?

Don't you already pirate games? Aren't you just scratching for any excuse to make your blatantly illegal activity seem morally OK?

Your conscience already seems to know what you don't: pirating games is illegal and rips off game publishers and developers. The only person it benefits is you, the ungrateful cheapskate.

Re:zerg (0, Flamebait)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11930540)

Don't you already pirate games?
*WHOOSH* <- that's my previous post going way over your head. But you keep right on ranting on your soapbox, it's all good.

Re:zerg (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 9 years ago | (#11981235)

"Don't you already pirate games? Aren't you just scratching for any excuse to make your blatantly illegal activity seem morally OK?"

Morals are in no way objective, it's a valid evolutionary strategy to steal. I don't see you crying when you eat hamburger or steak over the enslavement of animals everywhere to be our food. I don't see you crying for the burger flipper at McDonalds who through nature didn't have the skills to make it through highschool and therefore is forced by a capitalist economy to work 40+ hour weeks just to pay the rent.

You may say "this has nothing to do with stealing or morality" well you're wrong, this has everything to do with morality. Our capitalist economy is the very antithesis of morality.

Re:zerg (1)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 9 years ago | (#11981570)

The reason capitalism works is that it is amoral. Communism and socialism have inconvenient morality so resources tend to be wasted, while capitalism only allows those who can provide to pull resources back out of the system. This may not be fair from a moral standpoint, but it allows society as a whole to be more efficent by forcing those who would be wasteful to be more mindful of that which they consume, and through good government, makes workplaces safer by providing economic incentives that do not exist under communism.

If you think capitalism is bad, move to china for a year. You'll be cured.

Re:zerg (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 9 years ago | (#11981761)

"The reason capitalism works is that it is amoral."

Actually this is totally wrong, because captitalism is a tool of its actors. There would be no need to legistlate minimum wage of capitalism was really amoral system. Only in theory, or some kind of platonic heaven is captialism amoral.

"Communism and socialism have inconvenient morality so resources tend to be wasted, while capitalism only allows those who can provide to pull resources back out of the system."

I can point out enormous waste of resources in capitalism. Short life light bulbs just to name one common every-day item people buy over and over again therefore *wasting* resources and costing us money over the long term.

"This may not be fair from a moral standpoint, but it allows society as a whole to be more efficent by forcing those who would be wasteful to be more mindful of that which they consume, and through good government, makes workplaces safer by providing economic incentives that do not exist under communism.

If you think capitalism is bad, move to china for a year. You'll be cured."

No true socialism has ever exist, nor any true communism, yet, nor any true capitalism. Again the actors in the system determine whether it succeeds or fails. I don't dispute the facts that things are bad, but it it would take a lot of proof that it is the result of the idealogy or economic system in question. All systems have their pro's and cons and using a word broad brush without understanding the nuances of why a people or country "failed" would be a little hasty.

Needless to say though: All that exists is process. Capitalism is not amoral because it requires people through financial obligation (i.e. money spaeks) to co-operate. Therefore people are forced from their homes when they can't afford to live there but you're missing the point that this scarcity of resources in many cases is artificial and not actual, it's created by the capitalist money system.

Therefore, no capitalism is not amoral since their are abundant resources that are purposely that are not scarce (like basic necessities) that people "can't afford".

Re:zerg (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 9 years ago | (#11982890)

Actually this is totally wrong, because captitalism is a tool of its actors. There would be no need to legistlate minimum wage of capitalism was really amoral system. Only in theory, or some kind of platonic heaven is captialism amoral.

You're confusing the current system with capitalism. It is not - for pure capitalism, you might look at the 19th century.

I can point out enormous waste of resources in capitalism. Short life light bulbs just to name one common every-day item people buy over and over again therefore *wasting* resources and costing us money over the long term.

Capitalism posits an informed consumer. An informed consumer wouldn't buy such an obviously bad deal.

No true socialism has ever exist, nor any true communism, yet, nor any true capitalism. Again the actors in the system determine whether it succeeds or fails.

What's your point? Capitalism is an abstraction - all large scale economic systems are hybrids.

Re:zerg (1)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 9 years ago | (#11988800)

Perhaps you don't know what I mean by amoral.

There are no morals. It is neither good nor evil. Some people thrive, get everything they ever wanted, others die alone on the street.

In the end, paired with smart laws, more people achieve a higher standard than other systems can provide.

Re:zerg (1)

Tsar Ivan IV (73505) | more than 9 years ago | (#11982965)

Actually, I lived in China for a year. It was nice.

Re:zerg (1)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 9 years ago | (#11981531)

Law and morality are not the same. Don't mix them.

That said, I have a huge legal collection of hundreds of games and I'm proud of supporting the industry. :)

Inspiring... (2, Insightful)

The Eagle Maint (862053) | more than 9 years ago | (#11917315)

As a student trying to get into the industry, I find what they said to be very inspiring. Everyone has different opinions, but hearing them all like this from the different companies and developers of the industry, through the GDC, is really helping me to get a good idea of how things are and where they're going. It's really cool to be able to get all these different views on game development and put them all together; it really puts things into perspective for me.

Re:Inspiring... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 9 years ago | (#11918141)

It's really cool to be able to get all these different views on game development and put them all together; it really puts things into perspective for me.

Ahh... youthful idealism. About four mouths of working 80 hours a week on the same title day in and day out should put a dent into that like nothing else. Looking at the video game industry from the outside can be "inspiring", but actually working inside the video game industry can be a bit "hellish" sometimes (or all the time if you work for EA). Something to keep in mind.

Re:Inspiring... (2, Insightful)

Mskpath3 (764785) | more than 9 years ago | (#11928155)

Indeed. Warren and Costikyan both really hit on this issue. Budgets are skyrocketing in a truly scary way. As such, publishers are less and less willing to spend that money on innovation (read: unproven concepts). As the scope of games (both technology and content) increases with the budgets, each developer becomes a smaller and smaller cog in the wheel. Enthusiasm wanes. I've been on more than one project where one of the first questions asked is "Will this sell a million units?". When that is part of the green light process, you know things are really F'd up.

hard to read.. alt text of "Burn the house down" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11917341)

Jeez, if there was one thing that could make up for missing Will Wright's talk earlier, it's sitting at his feet while this session was delivered! So my mood is slightly improved, although we have to wait between 2-6 weeks before GDC posts the recording (if they do so at all). Anyone find a transcript or a recording out there yet?

So, my notes on the last session of the day. Hosted by Eric "Stage Presence" Zimmerman, the panel was feisty, passionate and speed-talking. I got most of it, bar the detail (who needs it?).

IGDA Session: Burning Down The House - Game Developers Rant
Warren Spector, Brenda Laurel, Jason Della Rocca, Chris Hecker.

Eric: We do not live in a perfect world and this is not a perfect industry. I'm moderating this panel of illustrious curmudgeons who have a lot to say about what's right and what's wrong with this industry today. Every GDC and in the corridors of the companies where we work, there are complaints. Grumblings. This year it's quality of life and working conditions in the industry. The idea of this panel is to bring out those rumblings, bring them to light. So without further ado:

Warren Spector:
First of all I don't hate you, Will Wright. I just had one of those "I'm not worthy" moments in the elevator. YOU ARE the 800lb gorilla.
[argh what did Will SAY already? alice]
OK. I don't feel very ranty actually. I tried to bail on this panel. But I have to say something so I want to say how this business is hopelessly broken. Haha. We're doing pretty much everything wrong. This is at the root of much of what you're gonna hear today. Games cost too much. They take too long to make. The whole concept of word of mouth, remember that? Holy cow it was nice.

Wal-Mart drives development decisions now. When publishers minimise risk by kow-towing to the retailers, you have a serious problem. When every game has to either be a blockbuster or a student film, we got a real problem. For my end of the game business all of our efforts are going into reaching a mainstream audience who may well even not be interested in what we do! My first game cost me 273,000 dollars. My next one is BLAH millions. How many of you work on games that make money? 4 out of 5 games lose money, according to one pundit who may be lying, admittedly. Can we do any worse if we just trusted the creative folks entirely instead of the publishers?

My point is coming. We're the only medium that lacks an alternate distribution system. All we have is boxed games sold at retail. This is changing a little. But think about our competition for your entertainment dollar. First run, broadcast, reruns, DVDs.. you name it. hardback, paperback, e-book. Theatre release, pay-per-view, video, DVD. We put our thing on the shelf at Wal-Mart, it sells or it doesn't, and OMG you just blew 10m dollars. The publishers not respecting developers, this is not the problem. We have a flawed distribution model. There are very few ways of getting a game done these days. Developers.. why should we get a huge return? We're taking some of the risk, but the $10m, the marketing space, the retail space all belong to someone else. We have winner-take-all business that carries a lot of risk. So .. we have to find alternative sources of funding. Chris Crawford used to rant about how we need patrons.. I don't care if it's wealthy patrons, I don't care what it IS, but it's critical that we divorce funding from distribution.

We need alternative forms of distribution too. I'm not saying publishers suck, although I do believe that in many cases. [laughter] If the plane went down who would care about the marketing guys? We need another way of getting games out there and in players' hands. If any of you bought half life 2 at Wal-Mart, please just leave the room. Has everyone bought Bioware's online modules? JUST BUY THEM, OK, even if you don't have the original games! We HAVE to get games into gamers' hands. So I'm not saying publishers are evil.. if we do all this and go direct to our consumers with games funded some OTHER way than EA or whoever.. we'll keep more of the money.. we have to find someone to pay for it and find a buyer after. We need Sundances. Independent Film Channel. Equivalents of those. Just try to find some way of funding your stuff that doesn't come from a publisher.

The movies have this now: the studios don't fund everything that happens out there. I'm not holding the movie business up as a model of great business practice, but you can get $ from a wide variety of sources. You know what, when the studio system was in place, that didn't exist. Every creative person was owned by a studio. Cinemas were owned by studios. Content was limited. As soon as the supreme court stepped in and said no you can't have development, distribution and retailing, everything changed. Now we have Bruckheimer, and Sideways. Sundance. Indies. At the very worst we need publishers to ask more than that one question: is this going to generate max profit. For most games this is NOT THE RIGHT QUESTION. Volkswagen owns rolls Royce, they understand the need for - oh the music's running, I'm outta here. Thank you.

Jason Della Rocca:
My first rant is related to my work with the IGDA. Meta-level issues. When we're talking diversity, quality of life, censorship. This are big infinite problems that will never really be solved . These big pictures issues affect developers daily lives. One day your publisher will walk in and cut a game because the government says you can't make X types of games. That could happen, it's unlikely but possible. But developers are apathetic, head in the sand. But I'm going to cross that off the list cos the room is full here. We need bigger rooms! I don't want to be negative about GDC, but .. the sessions that have been most packed .. the game design challenge or Will Wright's talk, seem to be the thing we're most interested in, and it's really important that we're here and talking and I don't know why they don't allocate larger rooms to this issue. (Hallelujah -Alice). So apathy is a serious issue. For every one of you in this room there are a thousand out there who don't care.

Xenophobia. We don't' care about anything outside of the game industry. There is so much knowledge, research, business models, management practices out there. We don't pay attention to anything else outside, and that hurts us in many ways! Software development pros tells us we're fools - there are tons of systems, processes and tools out there that you could use. This pro, he doesn't make games.. and you all shake your head and say he doesn't make games, what does he know, but you know - medical applications are pretty unique! If your machine crashes, someone might die. So yeah, we're unique, but so are they - and there is decades of research and knowledge that proves that these processes have return, this management stuff is in my brain right now, it's one of millions of examples of how we as an industry don't pay attention to other stuff just because it's not called games. This fear of formal processes. We're creative cowboys - well it holds back the industry. We had several panels throughout the weeks, the academics, the brainiacs are willing to do this stuff for free. Give them a challenge! Give them a problem - some PhD students could research shipping practices or something.

Journalists and the media side is also broken. I don't want to point a finger, but they perpetuate a lot of myths about what gamers want, and want counts in the industry. So to sum - open up. Don't be closed minded to all this stuff out there. Maybe we're all working too hard to take notice, but I guess that's an issue we're working on too.

Greg Costikyan:
I don't know about you but I could have been a lawyer, or a carpenter. or a sous-chef. How many of you are here because you're after a paycheck? [One bloke raises his hand, audience laughs and crows]. Ahuh. And how many of you are here because you love games? [all hands go up]. Right. So we're being told that everything's going to get bigger. Paychecks. Budgets. Consoles. But is it going to get better? I've been researching old board games and I've spotted a pattern. A new genre: it's called One Hit Game And Its Imitators. One fishing game appears in mid-19C and dozens follow. Games grow through innovations. Creations of new game styles that spawn imitators and whole new markets. The story of the past few decades is not about graphics and processing power, but startling innovation and industry. That's why we love games. BUT IT'S OVER NOW!

As recently as 1992: games cost 200K. Next generation games will cost 20m. Publishers are becoming increasingly risk averse. Today you cannot get an innovative title published unless your last name is Wright or Miyamoto. Who was at the Microsoft keynote? I don't know about you but it made my flesh crawl. [laughter] The HD era? Bigger, louder? Big bucks to be made! Well not by you and me of course. Those budgets and teams ensure the death of innovation. Was your allegiance bought at the price of a television? Then there was the Nintendo keynote. This was the company who established the business model that has crucified the industry today.. Iwata-san has the heart of a gamer, and my question is what poor bastard's chest did he carve it from? [audience falls about]

How often DO they perform human sacrifices at Nintendo?? My friends, we are FUCKED [laughter]. We are well and truly fucked. The bar in terms of graphics and glitz has been raised and raised until we can't afford to do anything at all. 80 hour weeks until our jobs are all outsourced to Asia. but it's ok because the HD era is here right? I say, enough. The time has come for revolution! It may seem to you that what I describe is inevitable forces of history, but no, we have free will! EA could have chosen to focus on innovation, but they did not. Nintendo could make development kits cheaply available to small firms, but they prefer to rely on the creativity on one aging designer. You have choices too: work in a massive sweatshop publisher-run studio with thousands of others making the next racing game with the same gameplay as Pole Position. Or you can riot in the streets of redwood city! Choose another business model, development path, and you can choose to remember why you love games and make sure in a generation's time there are still games to love. You can start today.
[standing ovation]

Brenda Laurel:
I want to talk about the spectacle. The meanings created by images that hold us in webs. My thesis is that we are contributing to the damage that the spectacle does to human beings by suggesting the interactivity of a joystick is real agency. We entrain people to understand that imitation has personal power. The spectacle trains us to be consumers. We are urged to keep the economy healthy, pay our bills. Did you ever notice there's not place for the earth on the bottom line? We cancelled the Voyager mission for less than the cost of a video game! The dream of space appropriated by George W Bush? How can we stand for this?

Games keep essential social myths in place. So we have tropes in our business. Criminals are cool. The commercial game business is a non-consensual relationship between middle aged men and young boys. It's worse than the catholic church. These are guys who have really big tyres on their trucks ... and we all know why! [laughter] So the fantasies of these guys position these boys as tiny little clones: so they force you to take your genius to create this .. this .. we can't have that fellas. Oh by the way there was a crowd in the ladies bathroom today. w00t!

GTA. I talked to 22 little boys in LA, all of them wanted to see that game. With only one exception, the thing that they wanted to see was to be able to drive by their house. They weren't interested in stealing cars. Or the criminals. Or the back-story. They weren't interested in that, they wanted the simulation of driving by the house.

We model male ethos in the games we design: soldier, super athlete, criminal. Anyone who was born with internet and computers are prosocial. Skaters are mainstream. We have two models of alpha maleness: skaters and ballers [I have no idea what this is referring to - A]. ... we need heroes, but what kind of heroes are we making? Where's Malcolm X, or Chavez? There hasn't been a game about geopolitics that was worth a shit since Hidden Agenda! We should be giving people rehearsals for citizenship and change. I have to tell you, Microsoft is the walking dead. DRM is a wet dream. It's not gonna work! Cat's out the bag! When this happens, you have to let the cards fly in the air and fall where they may. GIVE IT UP ABOUT DRM. GIVE IT UP ABOUT OWNERSHIP. Cleave to open source! A NEW ECONOMY IS COMING. As we become further connected we will find new economies emerging. We are the wellspring of popular culture. We have a responsibility.

Chris Hecker:
It pains me to say this but I recently just took a job at EA. However, I worked for Will on the game you just saw, so.. [laughter] I'm going to rant about How Sony And Microsoft Are About To Screw Your Game Design. Look, how are we going to get where gameplay, graphics and physics are all evenly well balanced? At the moment we're the 120lb weakling, except nowadays his right arm here, graphics, is enormous.

So, as you know, graphics and physics grind on large homogenous floating point data structures in a very straight-line structured way. Then we have AI and gameplay code. Lots of exceptions, tunable parameters, indirections and often messy. We hate this code, it's a mess, but this is the code that makes the game DIFFERENT. Here is the terrifying realization about the next generation consoles: I'm about to break a ton of NDAs here, oh well, haha, I never signed them anyway.

Gameplay code will get slower and harder to write on the next generation of consoles. Modern CPUs use out-of-order execution, which is there to make crappy code run fast. This was really good for the industry when it happened, although it annoyed many assembly language wizards in Sweden. Xenon and Cell are both in-order chips. What does this mean? It's cheaper for them to do this. They can drop a lot of cores. One out-of-order core is about four times [did I catch that right?Alice] the size of an in-order core. What does this do to our code? It's great for grinding on floating point, but for anything else it totally sucks. Rumours from people actually working on these chips - straight-line runs 1/3 to 1/10th the performance at the same clock speed. This sucks.

We hope Nintendo doesn't follow Sony and Microsoft on this, although they totally flailed this generation so anything could happen. Think about batchable designs and simulationy systems. You wanna just write the gameplay. You could just do PC games. Luckily due to the power of Will Wright, our game is a PC game! [laughter] ...

Eric: I had no idea what I was going to get when I put this panel. What an incredible panel I got. Questions?

Q: Retail developers, get out of your death march! Do you guys think it's possible for a young student who wants to get in to be an independent developer? Is this possible? Artists these days are getting a 30K dollar degree to work in a 40K job for 80 hours a week. It's disgusting.

Jason: not an easy path. IGDA are trying to help. All the time when .. we see a lot of students and schools, and when they work on game projects in schools, every one of those projects is a clone of an existing game. NOW is your time to make something innovative or wacky. When you're working on a student project, use your opportunity to do some crazy stuff!www.experimentalgameplay.com

Brenda: we work with our students so that they have a chance to do interactive media that isn't just game design.

Q: (Justin) I have a friend called Ben who has this idea for zines that can be passed around.. you think the consoles will ever be platforms for this sort of stuff?

Brenda: I think mobile's the platform for that.

Warren: we're developing for multiple platforms. Hah. We still have to figure out what our final deal is. I dunno if I expressed it very well, but all of the problems come back to the fact that you are under the control of the one person who gives you money.

Brenda: why don't you say fuck?

Warren: my mother doesn't approve.

Jason: Warren wears cardigan sweaters.

Eric: You are a very good Jewish son.

Warren: thank you

Q: I am one of the bad guys: I'm working on a big budget next generation console game. I want to ask about totally legalised piracy? Not Russia and grey market - I'm talking Blockbuster. 20 dollars a year you can borrow whatever you like then give it back. People are going to rent my game for 4 dollars. I won't see any of that. They're robbing me!

Chris: I'm pro-piracy. I want people to play the games I make. I do it because it's art. I think DRM is a total fucking stupid mess. If the game industry collapses and can be reborn, I'm all for it. Pirate on!

Greg: they're not pirating the game! Someone bought a legal copy! The world is not designed in such a way that money inherently funnels its way into your wallet!?

Warren: I never minded piracy. Anyone who minds about piracy is full of shit. Anyone who pirates your game wasn't going to buy it anyway!

[the session was brought to an end by the GDC organisers who were timekeeping, to huge booing and catcalling.]

So that's that. Fucking fantastic. Nothing could top that, so I'm off to the pub.

Of course, Chris Hecker is an idiot (2, Insightful)

tc (93768) | more than 9 years ago | (#11919921)

His argument is basically that the new 'in-order' chips are not going to be any faster on spaghetti game code, and that all they're really going to be better at is high-volume number-crunching for graphics and physics. And that this is somehow going to lead to worse games.

Obviously he hasn't looked at the performance profile for a game recently. The gnarly game logic doesn't really take up much of the time. The heavy-duty number-crunching is where all the cycles go. So, in fact, it's exactly the correct tradeoff to design hardware which makes those bits get faster, because those are the performance sensitive bits.

In addition, it's clear how throwing more processing power at graphics and physics makes for better graphics and physics. Whereas it's not at all clear that more processing power leads to better gamplay. You don't need more clock-cycles to make a more interesting game, just more imagination. So complaining that there isn't any more processing power available for 'gameplay-type' code is kind of a pointless complaint.

Re:Of course, Chris Hecker is an idiot (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922159)

The difference is that while today's games are locked towards that performance model because of market needs, tomorrow's games will be locked in it because the hardware dictates it.

No room for innovation.

Re:Of course, Chris Hecker is an idiot (1)

tc (93768) | more than 9 years ago | (#11923317)

What kind of hardware are you supposed to build, then? Hardware that you know solves today's problems better than before, and that might solve new problems okay too. Or hardware which doesn't solve today's problems any better, and which doesn't guarantee better solutions to tomorrow's problems either.

Re:Of course, Chris Hecker is an idiot (4, Insightful)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922477)

No amount of imagination will make your game's AI better. What you need is enough processing power to be able to traverse and modify pretty complicated data structures that represent your agents. This kind of AI code is choke full of branching and random access to memory. It's the huge cost of systems like this that makes most modern's games AI weak. Physics are so 'in' that we spend all the time makign a car feel 'real', while the AI still goes on wheels.

If we make in order operations easier, all we're doing is make it even easier to go down the physics and graphics road. If every 1000 cycles you spend on AI can be transformed into 10,000, it's going to be tough to convince the publisher that AI is worth it.

For example, in the next Gran Turismo for 2006/7, do you think that Poliphony will spend the extra resources of the PS3 on realistic AI drivers that can overtake properly, or on damage modelling and an extra couple of layers of effects in the car's surfaces? My guess is that the AI will blow, as it does today, and all of the extra HP will be spent on graphics and physics.

Re:Of course, Chris Hecker is an idiot (2, Insightful)

tc (93768) | more than 9 years ago | (#11923370)

I was rather thinking that imagination might come up with different kinds of gameplay.

How much processing power is needed for the gameplay portion of Katamari Damacy, Tetris, or Parapper the Rapper? The genuine innovations in gameplay have not, as far as I can tell, really come from doing more sophisticated AI, but rather from a designer (not a programmer) using their imagination to come up with a new idea.

In addition, remember that you are getting something back for being in-order: To tackle your traditional AI worry, recall that some AI problems do lend themselves to parallelisation. The tradeoff for losing out-of-order execution is that you get to have multiple-cores. If you have 100 agents that all need to do pathfinding, well, that's an embarrasingly parallel problem and this new hardware is probably well suited for it.

Basically, I think that traditional single-threaded spaghetti code is going to be no slower than before (due to higher clock-rates). Straight-line number crunching is going to be massively faster. And any problem you can make parallel will benefit from multiple cores. That's not to terrible a situation to be in, when you consider the alternative choices.

Regarding AI (2, Interesting)

PromANJ (852419) | more than 9 years ago | (#11935029)

Well, if you look at Quake 3 and the bot AI they just made the bots slide around on a preprogrammed path while pointing the aim exactly at the target and then adding some shake based on skill. Yes, I do know it's not a new game, but the AI is pathetic compared to the gfx.

Why not give the aim a bit of weight so it has to be swung around, and gradually stabilize on the target if it stops moving relating to the aim angle? That's what players do and it wouldn't be hard to simulate. Right now it doesn't matter how much I move. If I stand 100 meters away they keep missing me when trying to snipe, and if I'm in close combat and move a lot in relation to their aim they always hit me. That's not how players work.
Why not have the AI's gather information just like humans and then face the same/similar weighted choices as the player? Anything better than - if shot then target=attacker - that seem to be popular.

I know this would probably make the bots more stupid, but I'd prefer that over predictable.

Re:Of course, Chris Hecker is an idiot (1)

MatthewNewberg (519685) | more than 9 years ago | (#11980704)

I know no one will read this.. But who cares. I went to every AI session at GDC I could go to. I came to one conculsion which is Game AI is just as weak as it has been the past few years. No one is really working on a new type of AI, they have just finding ways to manage complex state based AI. I hate to tell you this, but AI in games is going to continue to be pretty bad for the next few years.

Re:Of course, Chris Hecker is an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11981613)

No amount of imagination will make your game's AI better. What you need is enough processing power to[...]

Wow. You must have written the AI for thousands of chesslike games.

Have you ever given a thought on why people don't like playing chess against a computer? It's because the standard "brute force" approach will make an effective but perfectly soulless, tedious and boring player. There's no style, no plan and no simple mistakes. IOW, nothing human.

Does it really surprise anyone? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11918732)

Does it really surprise anyone that game developers go nuts? Those are ones of the most talented people in the industry, wasting their briliant genius on writing something completely useless. I mean, seriously, even writing the so called "spyware" (or Directed Advertising software as I prefer to call it) is more productive because at least it serves a useful purpose. Now, before you mod me as -1, Not Groupthink please let me explain and I'm sure you'll agree with me.

As an employee of a major so called "spyware" company, I guess I'm not the guy to change your minds on this site. But I've got to say, you seem to keep making the same error. Not all "spyware" companies are as bad as each other. Slashdot likes to pretend we're all cowboys who should be "rounded up" and "run out of town" or "lynched".

Our company is pretty clear what we do, we trade our program for some customer info. No drive by installations, no obfuscated terms and conditions, no download and install of other programs.

I don't blame you guys for your attitude, it must suck to work tech support on some of the machines that are worst affected by the cowboys. But we're not all like that. Remember that. At its heart we're just trying to make a living by offerring our customers better advertising, like Google Adwords. We'd all like to see legislation to herd out the cowboys. You've got more to worry about privacy issues from other things, people just use our companies as a smokescreen.

It's a pretty open secret that your IP address is logged and shared among vast sectors of cyberspace, to piece together your browsing habits, porn proclivities, etc. Hell, the technology was probably set up by you guys. Compared with that, is our buying of your browsing habits so much worse? get some priorities.

Spyware has a caring face, and this voice is not heard enough on Slashdot. For more info, look at a previous post I made on this subject here.

And that is because I am not surprised about this "burn down the house" nonsense at all. Thanks for reading.

Re:Does it really surprise anyone? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 9 years ago | (#11919960)

So you've talked about spyware and their ethics but didn't get to the article, eh? I'd say mod down, Off-Topic.

Now why are you saying they're making something "completely useless"? Because the games are clones or because they're games and you think games are pointless?
Since I have a hunch that it's the latter (...Flamebait...) I'll address that.

Games are a recreational activity. While they're not productive, they help society to exist. Entertainment is an important part of our lives, whether it consists of playing cards with your buddies, a candlelight dinner (or the reaction you're trying to evoke with it) or sitting in front of the TV and shooting hookers. A life without any entertainment (in the broad sense, not the corporate sense) isn't worth living, it's a chore and will ultimately break the individual. If you don't or can't do anything you enjoy you'll snap. And that is what games and other fun things are preventing: They make you happy. Happyness is an important factor for someone's productivity. Without happyness we'd all be incredibly depressed or might go insane and try to attain happyness in ways that hurt society or ourselves (rape, drugs, that afterlife your religion of choice is preaching, etc). Videogames are just another form of fun.

And let's not forget that videogames are also an art form. While some American capitalist (nothing against americans but their understanding about culture is different than that of the rest of the world) might dismiss art as pointless and unproductive the rest of the world's population sees art as an important part of life and culture.

Re:Does it really surprise anyone? (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 9 years ago | (#11923277)

And let's not forget that videogames are also an art form. While some American capitalist (nothing against americans but their understanding about culture is different than that of the rest of the world) might dismiss art as pointless and unproductive the rest of the world's population sees art as an important part of life and culture.

So, the rest of the world thinks video games are an important part of life and culture, but not the US? You think this is a shame and blame capitalists? This is perhaps the oddest anti-American rant I've ever seen on Slashdot.

Re:Does it really surprise anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11923366)

What did you expect from a nazi?

Re:Does it really surprise anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11982044)

you posted as anonymous so I can't look up your previous posts. ....I'd say you need another term for your program.. 'voluntaryware' or something... it isn't as bad as spyware if it clearly tells you exactly what it does and people voluntarily say 'yeah i don't mind if you watch'. Spyware is when people don't agree to be watched. I don't see fine print at the bottom of EULA as agreeing obviously that's still spying cos nobody reads that crap anyway.

"games cost too much" (2, Interesting)

Sv-Manowar (772313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11919480)

"games cost too much" has been said since the invention of video games, yet everyone still buys them, this is why the game companies still overprice what they sell

It's unrealistic to tell people to boycott games, they will still be bought. Games prices will remain high as long as games are sold

Re:"games cost too much" (2, Informative)

space_jake (687452) | more than 9 years ago | (#11921130)

You're looking at it from a consumer end of things. From the developer's point of view the cost is there! I think Half-Life 2 took something like 50 million dollars to make. Hell licensing the Quake 3 Arena engine alone costs quarter of a million dollars. Games used to be able to be made by a team of half a dozen. Lucky if you can get by with 20 nowadays.

Re:"games cost too much" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922253)

I think you misunderstood cost to much.

"It's cost too much to make".

In fact, if anything, today's computer games are underpriced on the shelves.

1rst action paced MMOG = zillions of dollars (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11920952)

Asheron's Call was popular in that it had a generic action aspect where you could dodge and move. But it stopped there. If someone made a MMOG that had action oriented hack and slash fights with some semblance of balance and counters for PVP, it would rule above all.

Re:1rst action paced MMOG = zillions of dollars (1)

CrazyJim2 (857610) | more than 9 years ago | (#11921776)

I think the market is even bigger than that. Not only will the onerst MMORPANG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Action Ninja Game) make lots of money, but even the 2rnd and 3rsrndt games will make billions each! I hate to appear to beat a dead horse, but my game, Gobots Online features tekken-like FPS action from a third-person perspective. Plus, it inclueds puzzle elements like dodging tetris blocks and punching pac-men. Additionally, you can get swords with rockets in them and apply True A.I. upgrades to your armor!

Re:1rst action paced MMOG = zillions of dollars (1)

Talian (746379) | more than 9 years ago | (#11980317)

Planet Side [sony.com]

My opinion of Warren Spector just went up (4, Insightful)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 9 years ago | (#11921850)

"Warren: I never minded piracy. Anyone who minds about piracy is full of shit. Anyone who pirates your game wasn't going to buy it anyway!"


It might help that his games are huge bestsellers, but I much prefer this attitude to the "count every copy as a lost sale" mentality that the BSA uses in there numbers for the cost of piracy.

In this DRM headed world, how long before the media companies get congress to declare a "war on copyright infringement". Maybe we can start locking up people for an illicit copy of Doom 3. I guss they could hang out with the busted for a joint crowd.

Yikes (3, Insightful)

bobstevens_took_my_n (799815) | more than 9 years ago | (#11924147)

It's hard to separate the ignorant crap from the insightful comments in this talk... much like slashdot.

All three comments on piracy were stupid. If Warren Spector actually believes that, he's ignorant or out of touch. The fact that many people tried to pirate HL2 and then bought it when their piracy attempts failed (and then were subsequently banned) proves him wrong. Not just kind of wrong, but ignoring-that-which-is-blatantly-obvious wrong.

Warren Spector is, however, correct in that a digital distribution system would be nice. I'm speaking as a consumer rather than a game developer here. There are better reasons to want it than so you can let your schedules slip... after all open-source development teaches us that the only thing that makes software "finished" is deadlines. Steam is a step in the right direction, but the ability for Valve to arbitrarily shut off your access to the game isn't part of what I would call a good distribution system.

The rest of the talk seemed like people complaining about how The Man is stifling their ability to innovate. The industry is profit oriented... we all understand this. Yes, it affects how games are scheduled, funded, released, and distributed. Yes, this might not be the best thing for developers or consumers. But, if you don't like any of these things and you don't care how big your paycheck is, then you have no excuse not to go indie, right? If you're already indie, I wonder why you're complaining about any of this in the first place.

Why stay in an industry that's forcing you away from doing the things you want to do? Just so you can complain about it? That doesn't seem like a good reason.

Re:Yikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11924174)

You are wrong. If I create an open-source calculator application, then it will be "finished" at some point, with or without a deadline. Once it does calculations, then it is complete.

Re:Yikes (4, Insightful)

Mskpath3 (764785) | more than 9 years ago | (#11924492)

(piracy comments addressed below) I dunno. I agreed with much of what the panel had to say (except for Brenda whatserface who came across as a willowy 60's feminist reject - here's a clue Brenda : you had 12 minutes to speak - spending 8 of them bitching about "evil men", "the Spectacle", gender, and not "video games" was really retarded).

Greg Costikyan was a firebrand and I thought he was insightful overall. A little cycnical, but that was in the spirit of the talk.

I felt bad for the guy in the mohawk who tried to related Blockbuster rentals with piracy. He got 100% owned by the panel. However, I think aside from Warren (who essentially said that anyone who worries about piracy is delusional, because those who pirate wouldn't have bought the game anyway - I agree), all the piracy comments from the panel were unbelievably stupid. Yes, we know you guys are militant anti-corporate whatevermajiggers - but that was pure grandstanding. You can try and get all artiste on us all you want, but you're all smart people and you have to realize that sales of your products are what fundamentally allow you to continue with your pursuits. But, that was at the end of the talk and I think they all just might have gotten carried away in the spirit of the moment.

Brenda retardowhatsits went as far as to say we need to get away from the "bad idea of publically owned companies". Back to Berkely with you, comrade.

Chris Hecker did indeed come dangerously close to breaking NDA with some of his talk. Even though he claims he never signed an NDA he clearly was on board with some of the more recent tech missives from the next-gen console companies. I half expected to see Blue and Green ninjas burst from the ceiling and kill him on the spot.

The rant session was a fun capper to the overall GDC experience. It would have been a 100% grand old time if that Brenda chick hadn't come in with her unwelcome ultra socialist rants (here's another clue Brenda : you were all excited about announcing you just got a job with Sun! That's completely inconsistent with your anti-male, anti-corporation rant. You hateful fucktard!

Re:Yikes (1)

goates (412876) | more than 9 years ago | (#11980818)

"bad idea of publically owned companies"

While not always bad, having game companies that are privately owned isn't such a bad idea. You remove the pressure of stockholders and analysts that will force you to only focus on a "sure thing" and avoid something seen as risky. We would probably end up with fewer knock offs, and hopefully a lot more variety in new games.

I would also think this would remove some of the issues that /. has with publicly owned corporations being greedy.

Re:Yikes (1)

Mskpath3 (764785) | more than 9 years ago | (#11981132)

Oh, I agree. In fact this sort of theme was prevalant with the other speakers (Spector and Costikyan). But they argued the point cogently and without targeting a group of people to hate. They focused on how monolithic publishers stifle innovation because of the demands of mega-budgets games. Not how "evil men" are plotting to pollute the minds of our boys and other such hyperbole. Her speech was more suited for some kind of virulent anti-globalism rally.

Re:Yikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11981263)

I think since Private companies are inherently smaller, it should prevent the real problem with publically-owned game companies:

Driftwood being employed for management

Seriously, these guys are often paid extravagant salaries, routinely quadrupled up on a project, where a good portion of their day is spent doing nothing except giving team members contradictory direction (manager #1 says "you should do #1, #2, #3 today", 15 minutes later manager #2 strolls in and says "you should do #4, #5, #6 today", etc.).

Private companies, being smaller, generally have a much easier time weeding out any possible driftwood who someone hires on - not to mention being wily enough to keep them the hell out in the first place.

Last time I was employed at a public companie I often wondered why a certain manager never got fired for playing Solitaire all day. Later on as the place shut down I discovered that firing people involved so much red tape (paperwork, conference calls to corporate, etc.) that the higher-ups and HR would rather pay him and cover it up rather than do what was necessary to get rid of the jackass.

Re:Yikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11982421)

I>"...but you're all smart people ..."

Then give them credit and listen to what they have to say. The consequences impact them in a way they never will you. Maybe they have a point your world view can't contain?

That was beautiful (4, Interesting)

Torgo's Pizza (547926) | more than 9 years ago | (#11925160)

I just read the Burn the House Down article. It brought a tear to my eye. I follow Spector and Rocca closely and I email Costikyan everyonce in a while. We all pretty much think that the development and distribution is broken.

I've contributed to two books about the subject. The first book I talked about implementing a total quality assurance system to the game industry that's been in use for decades in the auto industry. The second book was built around ways to prevent bug defects which include eliminating the counter-productiveness of 80 hour work weeks.

The game industry is totally insane. There's no way I'd ever go back unless I could have total control over quality, which means we don't ship until QA has final sign-off. (Yeah, I'm going to get a smartass reply saying "That'll never happen then" but I've got a system and it works.)

I know work in the health/medical field and deal directly with the Food & Drug Administration. The quality controls I deal with put anything in gaming to shame. Why the gaming industry doesn't use established practices in other industries is a mystery.

Well, actually it isn't. The problem is that managers have really never truly managed a large scale project outside of the industry and the developers and artists have never worked anything other than games. Gaming is too insulated and is becoming inbred. This practice is slowly making an army of retarded game developers who will shortly implode.

Re:That was beautiful (1)

metroid composite (710698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11927951)

The first book I talked about implementing a total quality assurance system to the game industry that's been in use for decades in the auto industry. The second book was built around ways to prevent bug defects which include eliminating the counter-productiveness of 80 hour work weeks.
And there are companies who do both (Relic and Bioware are jumping to mind, having talked to them about jobs). I'm quite happy with merely the 40 hour work week and a group of people I enjoy at the moment, myself; maybe I'll look at moving to one of the afforementioned at a later date if QA starts to rub me the wrong way.
The problem is that managers have really never truly managed a large scale project outside of the industry
My producer who spent years as a Lawyer would suggest otherwise.
and the developers and artists have never worked anything other than games.
Artists? Animators? Usually come from a film background, actually. "Developers" umm...that tends to encompass everybody. Programmers? Frequently computer science students, and the main major difference is that games expect you to be able to run everything in real time, and often to worry about low level details, which tends not to matter for programmers in industry (most game programmers who leave to another field find themselves very bored). Game Designers? Not sure of a good comparison for them. Writers? Usually outsourced, and those who aren't often have book credits (see: Bioware). Composers? Same. "Never" is just BS.

Re:That was beautiful (4, Insightful)

Torgo's Pizza (547926) | more than 9 years ago | (#11931736)

A lawyer? How does that qualify for a "large scale project manager"? Did he manage the OJ Simpson case? Was he a corporate lawyer? I'm sure he's a great guy, but what large scale project has he managed? Outside of corporate law, it's all about billing hours and not about managing costs. Practicing law and producing a video game are very different.

While I might unfairly lump "developers" into one catagory, the fact remains that the game industry tends to eat its young. We hire kids straight out of college or art school because they are naive and cheap. Take an informal poll around the office. The demographics back my assertion up. There will be a high percentage of people who are in their twenties who have held only a few jobs outside of the industry. There precious few that have learned best practices outside of the game industry, which means they pick up the crappy ones that are currently in use.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not attacking the people in the industry, but the practices that we continually use that have always failed.

Re:That was beautiful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11980953)

I used to work for a company where the game didn't ship until QA made final approval. We regularly had console games pass Sega, Nintendo, and Sony QA on a single submission (something to remember when you hear whining about submitting to Sony/Nintendo vs. Microsoft's rubber stamp).

Occasionally had to fight tooth and nail with producers over which bugs got closed - but by and large the PC/Mac games were some of the most stable because of all the QA work. More than a few external developers got flustered and pissy because of the 20-50 page bug reports - other publishing houses gave them a page or two on each submission.

Unfortunately the corporate parent shut the place down after purchasing another mega-corporation and suddenly found them in the need for quick cash (our site was profitable but the overpaid dickheads at corporate along with all their shovelware titles burned cash). Haven't seen anything like that since.

An external developer actually gave the QA dept. a massive thumbs up in an interview conducted after a big-magazine fluff piece about a couple wastes of flesh in corporate. Nailed the living crap out of those assholes too.

Re:That was beautiful (1)

Torgo's Pizza (547926) | more than 9 years ago | (#11982240)

Good to know there's a few points of light out there in the vast wasteland of Dark Matter. Quality breeds loyalty which brings sales which brings profit.
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