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The Ugly, Dirty Story of Making a Game

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the not-a-pretty-picture dept.

Games 31

Via the ffwd linklog, a series of Edge Magazine developer diaries reprinted on the web by the folks who wrote them. Ninja Theory has been making the next-gen game Heavenly Sword for quite a while now. They've told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the process of making the game, wrangling a publisher, and getting the game to market. From the intro article: "What our research does show is that 3rd person action adventures are big but the first generation games in this genre are always shit. Nina, Mike and I originally came from Sony Cambridge, a studio that specialised in 3rd person action games and so we would be treading familiar ground. If we start now, a full year or two before most developers even think about next-gen development, we would have the time to craft a great game and release it early in the next-gen console cycle. Perhaps we could pull off a Halo."

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Moo! (0, Offtopic)

Omroth (673505) | more than 9 years ago | (#13022388)


Moo2 rules (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13022415)

Master of Orion 2 was the best.. but Moo3 sucked!!!!

Great series (2, Interesting)

samael (12612) | more than 9 years ago | (#13022592)

This has been the first thing I've turned to in Edge magazine for the last few months. Fascinating stuff.

Re:Great series (1)

AvantLegion (595806) | more than 9 years ago | (#13025285)

I wish I could get Edge Magazine, but the price tag for getting it in the States is insane.

Hell, even the subscription price tag you UKers pay for it is insane, though someone's told me magazine subscriptions can be expensive like that in the UK. I mean, £39.99 (~$70) for one year? I don't think I can find a gaming mag in the US that costs more than £11.49 (~$19.99) or at worst £14.50 (~$24.99).

Re:Great series (1)

Khuffie (818093) | more than 9 years ago | (#13026493)

Yes, but here's the difference: most US mags aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Edge has actually good and insightful articles, not just "HEY OMG LOOK AT THESE SCREENSHOTS OMG BOOBIES AHH OMG WTF WE PUT A SUBSCRIPTION CARD EVERY !0 PAGES SO YOU CANT READ THIS PROPERLY UNTIL YOU TAKE THEM OUT OMGWTFBBQ ADS MORE ADS AHH!"

WoW. (0, Redundant)

xMonkey (154829) | more than 9 years ago | (#13022727)

I just read the whole diary. Very tense and gripping, and its not over yet.

More impressive than the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13022897)

...A *UK* game company making an amazing looking game!

*mind boggles*

Re:More impressive than the article... (3, Insightful)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 9 years ago | (#13024037)

UK game companies, or more specifically game programmers from the UK, have a long and proud tradition of coding very fine games indeed. At the top of my list of games designers is Julian Gollop, creator of Rebelstar Raiders, Chaos, Laser Squad and the UFO series of games (another one due out soon, IIRC).

The secret of good games design is not in making them pretty, or sound nice, or have wazzy graphics, or new gaming engines, or beautifully rendered FMV sequences - that's all window dressing. The real secret is producing good gameplay; the common denominator between most of the best computer games designers is that they learnt their trade on the likes of Acorns, Commodore 64s, ZX80s & 81s, ZX Spectrums and the like, where available memory (which gets sucked up big time by lush graphics and sound like no-one's business) was scarce to say the least, so the majority of the effort went into making sure than the gameplay kicked ass, took names, was compulsively addictive and generally rocked. That's not to say that turkeys didn't get made either, but with so little memory to go around, such platforms were a lot less forgiving of sloppy programming than current ones are and so gameplay could be wildly affected by how well a game was coded.

If only games would remember this rule more often: gameplay first, everything else second; window dressing is nice if done well, but won't save a game that blows goats. :p

Re:More impressive than the article... (1)

scabb (670114) | more than 9 years ago | (#13027317)

What about the GTA and Tomb Raider series? Both considered "amazing" by a fair few people, although I wouldn't include myself amongst that bunch. I know the latter is a bit past it too.

Worms & Broken Sword would be my two UK choices. I'm sure I'll have completely ignored another spectacular game or two, too.

Re:More impressive than the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13032780)

I think Bullfrog (Peter Molyneux) may be English :) ?

If so then we have:

Syndicate, (My favourite game ever, even beats halflife)
Magic Carpet,
Black and White *cough* well it looked nice.

Dammit (2)

webfiend (112579) | more than 9 years ago | (#13022901)

Yeah, yeah. Great reading. Inspirational stuff. I laughed, I cried, I cursed the short-sighted publishers who dragged them along until the uplifting conclusion.

But the game sounds absolutely incredible. These bastards are why I got an XBox (why are you looking at me like that? _I_ liked Kung Fu Chaos, I don't care what you thought of it), and now that I've seen the Heavenly Sword screenshots I know I'll be in line for the PS3.

Complete and utter bastards, the lot of them.

Re:Dammit (2, Insightful)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 9 years ago | (#13023348)

This was probably the best story I have read about the game industry. I wish it were over, so I could read the whole thing.

As far as the short-sighted publishers. I get some of my work rejected from time to time (most of the time, but that is the way it goes.)

Once something is picked up, and popular. I *really* want to go back to the people who rejected it, and shove it into their faces.

But then I realize, that maybe they will pick up the next thing I do, and I don't want to burn any bridges.

But god, it would be nice to be big enough to tell them to shove it.

Re:Dammit (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#13029866)

You big dummy. It is an Xbox 360 launch title and exclusive.

Re:Dammit (1)

webfiend (112579) | more than 9 years ago | (#13030547)

No, no, it really is PS3. I thought it was XBox 360 for most of the article, since Kung Fu Chaos was XBox. But then I started wondering why Sony was getting mentioned so much. Eventually I realized that PS3 was the next-gen platform they were talking about.

Yeah, I felt not smart. Now I can share the feeling of not-smartness with others. Isn't that great?

Re:Dammit (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#13033842)

Wierd. Because I came across this:

linky []

But it does seem you are correct.

One thing I am doubtful about - I really don't understand what is so great about the game. I suppose the graphics are pretty good but I've seen as good or better demos the next gen and almost as good demos for current gen. Hells bells, how hot can it be if they are running on hardware that they built months ago.

Anyway, it's a good read, but def not sold on the game.

Re:Dammit (1)

webfiend (112579) | more than 9 years ago | (#13034338)

Good point. Unfortunately, I'm not so much a hardcore, well-informed gamer as one of the unwashed masses who is attracted to bright sparkly things. I may cool off after hearing more feedback from actual players. For now, though, I'm mainly just saying that it sure looks perty and I think I want it. :-)

Re:Dammit (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#13035246)

I'll tell you the one game that has me excited about 360: the next Elder Scrolls. []

Not only does the trailer look great, but the voice of the king character is none other than Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

Kung Fu Chaos is wicked party Xbox game (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13022988)

I played and enjoyed Kung Fu Chaos, a friend got xbox, and this was one of the few games we would come back to. Tom and Jerry is fun for first 10 minutes, then novelty wears off, but Kung Fu Chaos is a tottally different when it comes to fun.

as per the racist comment, its making fun of a genre of kung fu movies, it just so happends that many of them are chinese, but to me it felt like making fun of the Karate Kid, American Ninja, Best of the Best and all the other American crappy** Kung Fu movies.

** : crappy is a relative term, I love kung fu movies, so to me they are not that crappy and I will watch all of the Chuck Norris flicks than the next soap opera... I left the word crappy for all the art critics who consider that Titanic should have won two more oscars..

That's a lot of spirit.. (1)

AltaMannen (568693) | more than 9 years ago | (#13023493)

Going through all those publisher meetings and being rejected for that long is beyond human abilities. I've only lasted through the first two, three rounds of repeated rejections for new properties and that was when publishers actually considered them, but I have heard a lot of good things about dealing with Sony Europe so I think this game can really deliver what the developer promises.

Re:That's a lot of spirit.. (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 9 years ago | (#13039918)

Yep. The sad truth is, many small development companies don't have a happy ending like this little tale. I have to admit, a lot of negative feelings got dragged up reading this article. I was part of a small company that went bankrupt trying to pitch our game when our bread-and-butter franchise was canceled. We lasted about a year and a half (we were not funded by a parent company - just individuals). Don't kid yourself about having a great idea and publishers dumping a wheelbarrel full of cash on top of you. It's a brutal industry for small game developers...

Diary Part 9 online (5, Informative)

zhenga (770390) | more than 9 years ago | (#13023660)

Wow, this was really fun and interesting to read, I really recommend you to start reading if you havent done so yet.

There's no "Next" link at part 8, but part 9 (last part) is also online: tion=com_content&task=view&id=45&Itemid=52 []

And a little bit offtopic, but Nina looks hot! :) es/ken/kens_photo.jpg []
(from left to right: Tameem, Mike, Ken Kutaragi, Nina)

Re:Diary Part 9 online (1)

apoc06 (853263) | more than 9 years ago | (#13029034)

maybe its just me, but ken kutaragi pretty much wears the exact same outfit every time i see a picture of him.

anyways, it was a very intelligent article. maybe games' journalism is not in fact dead. maybe there is something to the whole "new games' journalism" fad. its nice to find out just how difficult it is to make a living as an independent developer. reminds me of stories of struggling recording artists waiting for their big recording contract.

i'd also be more than interested in seeing more detail into what effort went into designing for new technology that at the time still has not even been created yet.

also, if this game was created and able to run on a modern overclocked system. why the whole uproar about cgi work aka "lies that the e3 trailers told us"? this was basically created on two year old pcs.

two year old CGI/games (1)

StupidKatz (467476) | more than 9 years ago | (#13030214)

Almost ALL modern games are approximately two years old on release day. The key here is that the two year birthday for this game is happening soon, vs. the other games that will miss the PS3's launch window.

I just wish that, since they already have it running on PCs to some extent, they'd also release it for the PC. I don't own any consoles, nor do I plan to.

Worthless (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13023710)

Worthless dev house looking for cheap PR.


You want to know what it's like to work in the games biz? Make the effort to learn the skills needed and see for yourself.

Re:Worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13025035)

RTFA and fuck off jerk.

Crappy posts. (0)

Mmm coffee (679570) | more than 9 years ago | (#13025027)

I just wanted to break through the crappy posts in this thread and say that this was an interesting and heartwarming story to read. I'm a retro gamer (NES and SNES eras mainly), but I really want to buy a PS3 now just to support that company by buying the game. It feels good to see small independant companies cranking out the art, as they're usually the ones that are pushing the envelope and making the world just a little bit cooler.

Kudos. We need more little guys in the gaming industry.

"Perhaps we could pull off a Halo" (2, Insightful)

PhotoBoy (684898) | more than 9 years ago | (#13025767)

Except Halo was aimlessly redesigned several times while it was in development on the PC. It was only the 9 month deadline imposed when MS bought Bungee that the Xbox Halo took shape. Hardly the best example to choose when talking about starting early on a game to maximise its quality. Perhaps Mario 64 would be the best example? It allegedly held up the launch of the N64 while Nintendo tweaked it.

I, for one... (1)

Zorlac-GD (613908) | more than 9 years ago | (#13025990)

I, for one, welcome our new sword wielding, next-gen game creating overloads down on the first floor :)

/me looks out window, across courtytard, waves at NinjaTheory staff.... now get back to work and stop waving at anyone who happens to be looking at you.

nextgen (-1, Flamebait)

rnx (99293) | more than 9 years ago | (#13026598)

next-gen this, next-gen that ... they sure tried to squeeze that in a lot. it's also pretty meaningless ... gaming technology evolves all the time and just because those console marketing people want us to believe there is some huge quantum leap ahead doesnt mean there is any substance to it. same evolutionary steps as before with the pc staying ahead in every area anyway (with the big exception of ease of use :/ )

Re:nextgen (1)

Damion Schubert (898938) | more than 9 years ago | (#13033473)

For what they're talking about (pitching a product and landing a deal), being next-gen is pretty significant. Pitching a next-gen product before the actual specs have even be released is pretty terrifying, as it becomes a rorshack test for any publishers to try to push in their own priorities. Next-gen will also be significant to most dev teams, who will face a pretty significant learning curve to develop for the PS3 and the 360. Simply put, many of them haven't had to worry about multiproc issues like threading a whole lot in the past, and now those issues will become vital if you want to truly take advantage of what these machines have to offer.

Re:nextgen (1)

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