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Game Profitability Under Threat

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the it-is-mighty-costly dept.

The Almighty Buck 102

The BBC has up an article looking at the dwindling opportunities for profit on games in the coming years. Soaring prices for game development, the increasingly-entrenched segmentation of the marketplace, and overwhelming emphasis on sequels means that it's looking increasingly dire for game development houses. While the success of the DS means that there's a wide market for games on that platform (witness Square/Enix's movement of the Dragon Quest franchise), the phasing out of the PS2 means that for the moment there is no 'leading platform' for game creation. The article talks about how the various game companies are responding to this challenge, as in Microsoft's reliance on exclusive deals and Sony's absorption of development houses into their infrastructure.

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102 comments

maybe.... (1)

Hsensei (1055922) | more than 7 years ago | (#18170758)

It just might be time for another video game market crash. After a few years some one will try it again and we may be better off.

Re:maybe.... (1)

edward2020 (985450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173864)

Oh... but this is Slashdot. Surely most /.ers will agree that this requires heavy government regulation - I mean, come one, we can't let the market fix this.... can we? Only an anarchocapitalist would believe that Adam Smith's invisible hand could fix this. To reiterate, come on.

Re:maybe.... (1)

indy_Muad'Dib (869913) | more than 7 years ago | (#18176452)

i wont believe that theres a video game market crash until netcraft says so.

Boo Fucking Hoo (0, Flamebait)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18170760)

This is just a prelude to the games industry lobbying for more DRM, less content control, tax breaks or some other corporate-socialism handout.

Why can't we have socialism for the little guy? Why is it always handouts for the ones that need them the least?

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | more than 7 years ago | (#18170914)

Why does the little guy need hand outs? Assuming you can get a decent job, there's no reason for anyone to give you a single cent. There are plenty of people with crappy jobs that have learned to live within there means so that they do not have to depend on the government teet.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (2)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171112)

Hey, I'm just saying, if we can hand out money left and right to people who don't need it, why not to the people that do? Let's be consistent, either no handouts for anyone (in which case the little guy would have a better chance of not needing charity) or handouts for those that need it first.

The people who complain the loudest about the government teat are usually the ones suckling the most frantically. Did you vote for your senator because he can bring home the pork? Most Republican states take more federal funds than they spend in taxes, while most Democratic states pay more in taxes than they take in funds. Funny thing, that.

Don't believe me? Look it up yourself [taxfoundation.org]

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171418)

I certainly do not endorse corporate handouts when it is unwarranted which is probably the majority. Having said that, I also do not endorse the government teat in general. I think it promotes dependence in individuals and corporations. Why bother trying when you know that check is in the mail? I'd rather have the fed deal with international issues and leave anything domestic to the individual states.

As to your closing comment; why do we need democratic vs republican states? You act like this is a healthy thing. Personally, I'd rather see the political parties disband and allow people to vote on a person by person basis. Instead, we need to consider how many times they've towed the party line. I'm really just disgusted with politics in general. I'm not sure what we can do to fix the system, but I think limiting all politicians to a specific number of terms or years would help quite a bit.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172176)

I don't think most people want to sit on their asses and collect handouts. Most people want respect, and unless the government is seen as an adversary you are conning out of money, no one is going to respect anyone who sits on their ass.

People have strong intrinsic motivations. This "work or die" ethic replaces a strong and rewarding motivation (doing what you love, gaining the respect of your peers) with a weaker, less rewarding, and more limiting motivation (fear of death.)

I agree that our two party system is a failure. I think a Condorcet or other ranked choice voting system might help more than term limits.

Politics (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172982)

If you want to fix politics, eliminate campaign funding. Completely. No commercials. Only a slice of time on PBS (that's a purpose that PBS was originally designed for - a medium to reach everyone) with other stations also giving time as needed, such as for debates. (It's in their charters)

If you don't eliminate campaign finance, you continue to support the buying of politicians by business interests, and it shouldn't surprise you that those politicians place the interests of business ahead of their constituents.

Re:Politics (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173104)

I've recommended that more times than I can count and no one seems to see the simple truth in it. I believe it's still legal for politicians to raid the campaign fund as long as they declare it as income. I'm sure they're anxious to get rid of a large source of income.

Re:Politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18175518)

> If you want to fix politics, eliminate campaign funding. Completely. No commercials. Only a slice of time on PBS

And they should all be issued identical jumpsuits so that no candidate could spend money boosting their image.

God forbid a candidate is able to get any message out at all. May as well just keep electing the same leader. Heck, may as well just dispense with the election part.

Re:Politics (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180622)

Your sassy AC comments aside, there's a lot more to it than what I posted. But without that core tenet, I really do feel that you're only lipsticking the pig.

The entire point is to remove special interests, and allow anyone to effectively run. Yes, this also removes one of the prime components that keeps the 2 party system going - that of effectively raising campaign funds and promoting a single person.

I don't know why you think anyone gets a message out at all in the current setup. Take Al Gore or Bob Dole and contrast the "marketed packaged presidential candidate" with the post campaigning version. Both of their post campaign versions would have kicked butt compared to the stiff cardboard their campaigns made them into.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18175778)

Why does the little guy need hand outs? Assuming you can get a decent job
A lot of us can't, graduating into a shit local job market with no money to move out on one's own and poor interviewing skills (which aren't always perfectly improvable either).

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (2, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171258)

This is just a prelude to the games industry lobbying for more DRM, less content control, tax breaks or some other corporate-socialism handout.


You were dropped on your head as a child, weren't you...and what's wrong with less content control, or even tax breaks?

With less content control (read: regulation) they are freer to make games like Manhunt and Conker and whatnot...you know, things that if the fat bible thumping high-and-mighties in America would never allow if they had their way.

If a gaming company is giving less to the government, that means they have more to spend in-house...thus allowing them either larger budget titles or more simultaneous titles being developed...

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172120)

Nothing wrong with less content control. Heck, I want less content control. Taxes are another matter. Big companies shouldn't get the tax breaks, small companies should. They are the real engines of wealth and job creation in this country.

By your logic, we should just hand them over all our money, that would allow them to make bigger budget and/or more titles, too.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173302)

Taxes are another matter. Big companies shouldn't get the tax breaks, small companies should. They are the real engines of wealth and job creation in this country.
Look at game companies. Sure, there are some big ones, but look at the great games that small companies have put out lately...if the price of those little companies getting more of the money that they need is the bigger companies getting more money that they DON'T need, then fine. I'm willing to do that if it gives the little guys (or even the big names that remain independent, like Will Wright or Chris Sawyer) more money in their wallets.

By your logic, we should just hand them over all our money, that would allow them to make bigger budget and/or more titles, too.
Well, unless you are pirating every game you play, you ARE handing over your money to them. If you are handing over ALL your money to them already...get fucking help.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173444)

Why should little companies get tax breaks and big companies not?

How about tax breaks when it is in the public's interest for their to be tax breaks (i.e. tax breaks for using less energy, etc.)?

Just being small is no virtue - nor it being big a vice in an of itself.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173692)

I'm saying it is usually more in the public interest to give tax breaks to small companies rather than large. I think that the more a market is dominated by a few large players, the less we see the benefits of the free market system and the more we see the disadvantages of an oligarchy.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18177126)

disadvantages of an oligarchy.

That's oligopoly. "Oligarchy" is used to describe political systems.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

mark3748 (1002268) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172732)

This is just a prelude to the games industry lobbying for more DRM, less content control, tax breaks or some other corporate-socialism handout.

There are a couple different political philosophies that you're apparently against in this sentence, both from opposite ends of the spectrum. Sure, DRM is awful (I guess I haven't been paying attention, because I haven't heard anything about game developers interested in using DRM...), but what has ever been wrong with less content control? Tax breaks? The taxes shouldn't even be there to begin with. And, tax breaks are as far from socialism as you can get. How is being allowed to keep the money you make socialism? I believe what you're thinking of is corporate welfare, such as the handouts that have been suggested.

With less content control (read: regulation) they are freer to make games like Manhunt and Conker and whatnot...you know, things that if the fat bible thumping high-and-mighties in America would never allow if they had their way.

You're absolutely correct. There is a game festival for independent developers that spun off from the Sundance Film Festival. Recently there was a game that made it through judging to be a finalist, until it was pulled by one of the organizers of the event. I wouldn't have expected it to get as far as it had, considering how people outside the game industry view games (as things that only kids enjoy, and not as an art form as it should be). The game was Super Columbine Massacre RPG, and wasn't a high-quality game, but it was done as a statement more than anything. What happened to it never would have happened to a film or a book, as they are both considered art. Until games can be looked at in the same way as films, the industry is basically doomed. As long as people like Jack Thompson are fighting them, games will never be up to their full potential.

What the game industry really needs is to focus less on licensed games and sequels and look more into new IPs and independent developers. Not every new game has to look as good as Gears of War, but should at least have decent game play. I would happily trade graphics for innovative game play, as Nintendo has shown over and over recently. Look at the DS vs. PSP... The PSP has awesome graphics, and a few decent titles, but the majority of games are crap, mostly just ports from the PS2 that have extremely long load times. The DS has a large collection of new titles as well as many retro games that work well with the innovative controls.

I guess the point is that you don't have to have the most powerful system, or the best graphics to make a good game that will make a lot of money, what people really want is innovation. New characters and new game play should be the top priority, not improving an existing IP. It's developers that create licensed games to fund their new IP's that will win out in the end.

Startup capital? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18175804)

It's developers that create licensed games to fund their new IP's that will win out in the end.
So where will developers get the startup capital needed to make the upfront payment to the licensor?

Re:Startup capital? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18182434)

Same place they get the money for starting their company.

Counterpart to sweat equity? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184080)

Same place they get the money for starting their company.

Which is? Using the Internet, it's possible to develop and market an original franchise to be sold on the Windows, Mac, or Windows Mobile platform using sweat equity [wikipedia.org] arising from hobbyism. What is the counterpart to sweat equity for developing someone else's franchise or for developing anything on platforms other than Windows, Mac, or Windows Mobile?

Re:Counterpart to sweat equity? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187272)

Work overtime (or look for a job that pays more) until you have enough money?

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18178056)

You don't remember the starforce debacle do you?

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (2, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171608)

Why can't we have socialism for the little guy? Why is it always handouts for the ones that need them the least?

Well for the ones that really do suffer from this little piece of apparent hypocrisy, it's the very idea of handouts going to the poor that irks them.

It's why you'll hear this type of person rail against the idea of public healthcare, because they don't want to pay for someone else's health care. Yet they'll buy insurance, and do exactly that. The difference? With insurance, everyone else has paid the premiums too, so you at least know your money is going to help someone who is your economic equal.

This mentality is at its worst in the upper levels of corporations and government. They will see no hypocrisy in lobbying for and receiving tax breaks, tarrifs, or whatever other handouts while lobbying against anything that benefits the truly needy. Because business is good, poor people are bad. Helping business financially is good (spurs entrepeneurship!), helping poor people financially is bad (spurs depedence!).

Not to imply that being against handouts for the poor implies this kind of hypocrisy; there are valid reasons too. It's just this kind of hypocrisy is rampant and insulting.

Of course this is pretty off-topic. But there's not much to say about the topic itself except: Boo-fucking-hoo.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172366)

Helping poor people is bad because big business wants a large pool of desperate, scared individuals who will do any job for low pay, no matter how dangerous or degrading.

The problem of free riders is real, but our current system only encourages free riders. Our system is adversarial, not cooperative. In a system that is adversarial, where the little guy has no chance of punishing unfairness, most people will try to get away with as much as they can.

Conversely, in a system that is cooperative, where everyone has the ability to punish free riders and reward cooperators, most people will choose to cooperate because it is the most efficient strategy.

Here's a good starting place [wikipedia.org] to explore current research in economics and game theory. It turns out, people do not normally act completely in their own self interest. Most people are more motivated by ideals of fairness and reciprocity.

Re:Boo Fucking Hoo (1)

FallLine (12211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18180866)

Well for the ones that really do suffer from this little piece of apparent hypocrisy, it's the very idea of handouts going to the poor that irks them.
Uh, when is the last time you did a brain dump of people that are opposed to such social transfer programs? I know you left a small caveat at the end, but a) I think you'd find that the overwhelming majority of them have substantially different reasons than what you imply b) this is essentially a strawman argument.

Yet they'll buy insurance, and do exactly that. The difference? With insurance, everyone else has paid the premiums too, so you at least know your money is going to help someone who is your economic equal.
You have a poor understanding of why people buy insurance. The consumer buys insurance out of self interest. They hedge against risk by pooling risk with other people. One critical difference between the national healthcare systems envisioned by most people in the US and a standard insurance plan is that the insurance basically pays out what you put into it on the aggregate (less some small percentage for overhead costs and profit for the insurance company and perhaps some for fraudulent claims / agency costs -- it is a fairly competitive market though so these tend to be somewhat optimal). Whereas nationalized healthcare plans basically seek to transfer net funds from those that pay more into it to those that do not (or can not); otherwise they would not need to be compulsory. In other words, your assertion that people care that the claimants are their economic "equal" is irrelevant and is just flat wrong (most insurance companies insure a broad range of economic levels with the same funds using different premium levels and different payouts).

It's why you'll hear this type of person rail against the idea of public healthcare, because they don't want to pay for someone else's health care.
Again, the most relevant difference here is that with these socialized healthcare plans that almost all of the envisioned plans make huge net transfers from "the rich" to "the poor". The rich only get a few pennies on the dollar of what they're going to spend on the aggregate. The rich person's taxes may double as a consequence of such programs and the fact is that they won't get any better healthcare for it (probably worse infact). Even if you don't believe this is a valid reason, this is not the only reason people are against socialized healthcare.

This mentality is at its worst in the upper levels of corporations and government. They will see no hypocrisy in lobbying for and receiving tax breaks, tarrifs, or whatever other handouts while lobbying against anything that benefits the truly needy.
You are conveniently conflating the arguments. Most of these same fiscal conservatives are also opposed to corporate welfare programs (although, in fact, social welfare programs account for a much larger percent of the US tax receipts). Of course these programs still exist (much to my dismay), but there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around in all political parties and it's not as if the supporters of these programs in the halls of government are uniformally conservative (many democrats also support agicultural subsidies, tarrifs, etc).

Because business is good, poor people are bad. Helping business financially is good (spurs entrepeneurship!), helping poor people financially is bad (spurs depedence!).
Several additional points. While people such as myself are generally opposed to subsidizing corporations or offering them preferential treatment (unless its to perform some genuine public good that otherwise would not be profitable and that would not otherwise be fulfilled), there are some valid arguments for limited transfers. Some examples of these are NIH research grants for startups, low interest government loans, etc. These types of funds can ultimately help create sustainable jobs and even create net tax revenue boosts for government (albeit time lagged). There is a world of difference between assisting a startup in its early stages of growth and paying a mature company for its well established and continuing operations (esp. to do something that is of questionable value, e.g., ethanol)

Another issue with massive social transfer programs besides spurring dependence is that it creates a huge disincentive to work and to take risks (e.g., start a business, improve your education, work a few more hours, not to fake illness, etc). In order to expand these programs in the first place tax rates would need to be raised dramatically. In other words, you simultaneously boost disincentives to work hard/take risks while raising incentives not to work and create a system that is unsustainable (see Sweden). Even something as benign sounding as creating socialized healthcare can create its own disincentives. While I believe we should do things to ensure that more people get better care, I also believe that it would be a mistake to provide unlimited state of the art care free of cost (no co-pay, deductible, etc... most countries with nationalized healthcare do put very real limits in place and/or have very much tiered care) because it would be very expensive and because it would reduce one of the major reasons why people work hard (especially those with kids): to create economic security (food, housing, healthcare, etc) for themselves and their families.

So what was this article about anyway? (4, Interesting)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18170820)

This article starts off talking about how it's hard to turn a profit writing games, and then uses a "solution" that a hardware vendor is using to sell their consoles as an example. What's going on here? Where's the story that goes with the headline?

Companies will get their costs in line. Either it will turn out that increased costs from games going HD will be a myth or become a myth as tools improve (most likely), or smart companies will know where to make tradeoffs to get their costs down. Many studios will fail and go out of business, which has been par for the course for ages. Ideally, they'd figure out that marketing and licensing costs are the bulk of the budget and take the money from there, but I'm not holding my breath.

Re:So what was this article about anyway? (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172150)

"Tools Improving" is not what would lead to a large enough reduction in development costs to offset the massive quantities of content that now have to be produced for a game ... The likely cost reduction will be a massive investment in content development in developing nations.

Basically, a company like EA can take a similar ammount of money as it would take to develop a few games (say $50 Million) and invest it to train and pay artists in a country like Columbia to produce their 3D models (and other game assets) for them; being that a computer necessary to produce individual assets isn't that expensive (and neither are the tools) you could pay about 5 to 10 times as many people in Columbia to create your assets for the cost of 1 developer in the western world.

Re:So what was this article about anyway? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172378)

Yeah, that's the industry's position. You nailed their talking points.

The problem is that content creation isn't only incrementally harder today than it was for the pre-rendered scenes of yesterday. The pre-rendered scenes of today largely don't exist. All the talk about how much harder it is to make next-gen content is mostly a poor justification for increasing the cost of the games to $60.

You can count on one hand the number of games which have $20 million content budgets. When you hear about titles with tens of millions of dollars in budget, you've got to remember that three quarters of that went to brand licensing, voice talent with name recognition, and/or marketing. Some of the most popular "next-gen" titles of this generation so far have actually had *lower* production costs compared to big-budget titles of last generation with similar sales numbers.

Re:So what was this article about anyway? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172470)

Crap.

That should say:

"content creation is only incrementally harder today than it was for the pre-rendered scenes of yesterday."

Re:So what was this article about anyway? (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172782)

Yes/No ...

On an individual model basis, it isn't any more expensive to create a model for a PS3/XBox 360 game and a similar model for a movie.

Where the problem comes in is if you're producing a movie of the Wizard of Oz you can have very limited environments, with tons of cut and paste content for wider shots and no one will notice. In a game, if the Castle at the end is not fully modeled (and full of *mostly* original content) people will notice.

For the longest time I have tought that Nintendo was very clever in how they handled this problem ...

They have Mario Party, Mario Kart, Mario Soccer/Baseball/Tennis/Golf, Super Smash Bros, etc. which all use very similar assets; this means that Nintendo can build a massive (in house) library of assets which end up getting a lot of reuse.

the market will sort itself out (4, Insightful)

Astarica (986098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18170972)

A game is not entitled to make money due to some intrinsic 'goodness' value. If I spent a billion dollar to make the greatest game ever, I would expect to lose money on this because I don't think you can physically sell enough copies to make up the development cost. This means even the greatest game ever is not worth spending a billion dollar on it. If you make a really cool game that no one bought, maybe it's not as cool as you thought it was.

Re:the market will sort itself out (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171196)

World of warcraft has pulled in over a billion now. They'd have recouped their cost. That's not to say you're wrong, just that 1 billion is too low a figure.

Re:the market will sort itself out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18171850)

WoW is a different case since it is an MMO. They didn't need to sell a billion dollars worth of game boxes when every owner has to pay $15 a month to keep playing.

Then they haven't exactly made all that money back since MMOs are expensive to run, server maintenance and bandwidth are not free.

Re:the market will sort itself out (1)

Astarica (986098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172240)

The profit model of a MMORPG is very different from the average console game which I think is what's being discussed here. You can afford to take bigger losses at the start because you get a source of continous profit. This is not possible with the average game. If I don't recoup my costs after 1 year for my RPG/FPS/sports game/whatever, then it's almost certain I'll never recover my costs, that is if anyone's even still selling my game.

There may be too many games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18171458)

And perhaps it would be wise to stop developing new ones in crowded genres. There are games released every week that I would probably enjoy playing but I rarely get around to doing so, either I don't have the hardware or I'm still happily playing something else.

I don't think there can be a single person who played (I mean really played, not just for 25 minutes) every good, enjoyable, game that came out last generation on all three consoles plus the equivalent time period on PC and GBA, there just aren't enough hours in the day.
I can imagine that an FPS fan with a lot of time and money might have played every good FPS, but for the majority of us who like several genres and will play a really good game even if it's not the kind of thing we usually look for then it's just not realistic to keep up (particularly if you have a job).

This not only increases profits per game (not for the industry overall, obviously), it provides bigger player pools for online games and it cements us together better as a culture - I've had discussions with fellow gamers where the only games we found in common are very old things like Tetris. That would never be the case with films, books, music or tv.

Re:the market will sort itself out (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 7 years ago | (#18174982)

"A game is not entitled to make money due to some intrinsic 'goodness' value. If I spent a billion dollar to make the greatest game ever, I would expect to lose money on this because I don't think you can physically sell enough copies to make up the development cost."

Just remember "Who" the market is, a market is no more then a collection of individuals making choices. That "market" can make increasingly bad choices without direction. The problem was that game developers let game console companies drive their costs up by releasing new hardware that wasn't even NEEDED. Sure you might argue the PS2's graphics were jaggy, but looking at what square can pull off in final fantasy X an a machine that is more mediocre then an Xbox with an Intel celeron P3 and a graphics card says a lot about what game developers learned about how to be efficient with data and memory.

The truth is, just like everything else that is "humanly expensive" to develop in first world nations, you offshore the work as much as possible.

There needs to be equal emphasis on data efficiency and less on expanding graphical bloat. Gameplay in my estimation is stagnating because the graphics front end and graphics garbage (physics, stupid simulated effects, etc) for games became too complicated to manage so gameplay mechanics vision is lost with huge teams of individuals that all have to attempt to synchronize their efforts towards the shape of the vision they have in their minds.

The truth is most of the whiz bang features in games that I appreciate the most are GOOD design decisions, playing with physics in Half life 2 was fun for a little while, and then you only use it when it is necessary in a game to advance or useful to help speed advance as a tool, once you're done you put the game on the shelf, do something else or play multi player.

Change in Business Model (5, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171020)

This necessitates a change in the way games are made. One of the fundamental problems is that we're building games in bigger, shinier forms, without streamlining our method of production. As our graphical capabilities increase, we will be tempted to include more and more content into our games. That 900-polygon character that took an artist 1 week to create now takes 2 artists 3 weeks, what with technologies like parallax mapping.

I have believed, and still believe, that procedural content is the answer. There is a limit to how much manpower a development team can consume whilst remaining profitable, and IMHO we're already at that line. We need to start letting the machines figure out our content. This does not necessarily mean complete and full generation of assets by algorithms, but rather that our tools need to be streamlined as such. Software like ZBrush have drastically reduced (for the skilled user anyway) the amount of time required to build high-poly models. We need more tools like this for textures, for all other aspects of game development. We need to let go of the manual shift stick and build more powerful tools that will take more off our coders' and artists' hands.

This also means the segmentation between game developer and technology developer. For years we've seen some companies stick stubbornly to building their own engines, a costly affair. It should be clear to developers by now that, if you are in any way serious about graphical horsepower, you need to license an engine. Building your own engine from scratch is no longer feasible if you want to get your game done on-time and on-budget. The industry will, in time, become the playing field of dedicated technology developers who license their engines to developers, much like Valve and Epic are doing now.

The gaming industry is holding onto archaic ideals. It is like the car factory that insists hand-built is better, and refuses to mechanize any aspect of their production. It is now suffering the consequences, and like it or not they will have to change.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171184)

The gaming industry is holding onto archaic ideals. It is like the car factory that insists hand-built is better, and refuses to mechanize any aspect of their production. It is now suffering the consequences, and like it or not they will have to change.

Except that most major development studios are still "hand-producing". The problem is no-one (to my knowledge) has managed to consistently, successfully do all of the things you're suggesting across the board -and- managed to turn an obscene profit doing so.

When that happens in a demonstrable fashion, you will see many in the industry take notice, but implying that the old ideals are archaic without showing success is (to use a metaphor similar to yours) like a minister condemning condoms without a solution to the obvious social problems that adopting such beliefs system-wide would cause.

Re:Change in Business Model (3, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171548)

Agreed. I would have suggested a solution had I been aware of one.

That said, it's not about doing the things I'm suggesting and turning an obscene profit - this is about restoring profitability, not about making game development so cheap that everyone is rolling in the dough - that won't ever happen.

IMHO we need technological development in tools. We are still using the same 3D modeling tools, the same texturing tools, and the same map-building tools that we've been using since the release of Half-Life 1 8 years ago. The difference is that what we're doing now is many times more complicated than before.

In 1999 a wall was 2 polygons, and a 256x256 flat texture.

Now, we demand things like geometrically modeled light switches on these walls, power outlets, and other little things that add to immersion. We also need normal/parallax maps on all of this, not to mention specular maps too. We've added so much on top of what we used to do, without once stopping to really, completely rethink the way we interact with our tools.

When I first saw an artist use ZBrush, I was blown away. Here we have something that is smart, it is awesomely predictive, and it reduces the workload of the artist dramatically when it comes to modeling high-detail meshes. We're talking a couple orders of magnitude less time to do the same thing. And all it took was a brand new interface and way to interact with the type of models we're used to seeing.

Let's see the same sort of rethinking for our animation, for our texturing, and for our mapping.

Demand geometrically modeled light switches ?!?! (1)

Archfeld (6757) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171856)

That IS the flaw in the model. We the buyers don't DEMAND that, we just WANT a game with some FUN, decent gameplay and a relatively stable release. Instead we get the same fscking crap, redone with better graphics but lacking the fun, the fact that the developer spent 3 times as much remaking a crappy game, and 5 times as much advertising it, is not the consumers fault. Make a great game and you won't HAVE to advertise it...viral word of mouth will do it for you...
IMHO the game industry is falling into the same trap the music industry has, spending MORE producing less, and losing any sort of incentive to take a chance on an unproved game type or style, then blaming the loss of profit on pirating....

Re:Demand geometrically modeled light switches ?!? (2, Interesting)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172036)

It's the culture that they've cultivated.

I have a nephew that's 10 years old. Last time I saw him he was a toddler. His family flies into town and I ask if he likes video games and he says yes and figure a bonding moment is afoot.

At the time I was playing Megaman X 8. He thought it was kind of neat, but declined to play it. He pretty much declined to play anything in my library. I said a few things about the titles I had and what makes soandso a playable and good game, and the answer I got back was:

"It doesn't look real enough."

The industry has been favoring these amazingly realistic graphics and sound and marching upwards faster and faster with budgets but not taken such a big priority with gameplay. Ultimately it comes down to a lot of developers not caring much about it. You can't quantify gameplay in a screenshot or a one-liner on the back of a box. When video games started to be "cool" (let's be honest with ourselves: the cool kids weren't playing NES) was when graphics were starting to look "pretty good". The industry focus on eye candy has resulted in them painting themselves into a corner.

Literally. The diffused-reflection bump-mapped floor looks really really great. Too bad it's not any more fun to run across it.

Re:Demand geometrically modeled light switches ?!? (1)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18181428)

Interesting post (and a shame it wasn't modded so) That said, I'm curious how you would explain the success of the Nintendo Wii?

Re:Demand geometrically modeled light switches ?!? (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183050)

I'd say Nintendo's marketing directed to non-gamers for the system is a brilliant move, and the motion sensing is innovative enough to get conventional gamers interested.

That said, my nephew isn't interested in one. Which is good since that's at least one person who won't potentially get their hands on it from the shelf before I do. ;)

Re:Demand geometrically modeled light switches ?!? (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 7 years ago | (#18174500)

Make a great game and you won't HAVE to advertise it...viral word of mouth will do it for you...

Beyond Good and Evil, for example?

Re:Demand geometrically modeled light switches ?!? (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18177192)

Make a great product, and you won't have to advertise it...

Commodore's winning strategy.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18182694)

We are still using the same 3D modeling tools, the same texturing tools, and the same map-building tools that we've been using since the release of Half-Life 1 8 years ago.

Well, if we ignore all the advances those programs made since 1997... The programs may carry the same names but the functionality has improved so much that your work speed is much, MUCH higher.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171446)

I'm entirely in agreement with you. I think what's happening is that there are weaknesses in the current industry model popping up. The $60 dollar price tag is still not that bad considering the massive cost of development. The margins are getting strained to the edge and so businesses are looking for alternatives to make their money. The resale market, gamefly's rental/try-before-buy system, and Steam's electronic distribution/self-publishing.

The funny thing is that though development costs have skyrocketed, the gameplay time has dropped considerably, 12-20 hour games being fairly standard. The quality difference between old games and new games is part of why it costs so much more. A lot more work goes into fabricating these experiences, high-detail textures, audio, mo-cap, programming, what-have-you. But is the total enjoyment scaling appropriately? I would say that it isn't. The high-end high-cost content burns brightly, but fades quickly since it's hard to produce a large amount of gameplay at those levels of costs. Also, the pretty and new graphics cease to impress once the gamers have played half-way through and have grown accustomed to that level of graphics. Graphics are only good if they're new for most gamers because they're making their judgement via comparison to what's new. Quake 1 had amazing graphics, but all these years later, it's the same game, but it would be considered terrible graphics.

To sum it up, the high-end development is eating huge budgets, and producing even less substance. Lots of dressing and little meat.

Nintendo understood this, at least partially, in that their Wii console's goal was not to compete graphically with the Xbox360 and PS3. They're generating value via gameplay. Lower development costs, giving more profits, and gamers are still enjoying the games despite the lesser graphical capability.

However, Nintendo only got this partly right. Technology has advanced gaming for a long time and will continue to do so. Strong hardware specs when used to create advanced gameplay is a real benefit to the gamer. Games like Dead Rising and Crackdown would not be possible on weak hardware incapable of streaming large masses of zombies, or a massive seamless traversed in large leaps and bounds. This is a worthwhile investment of development and technology, since it directly impacts core gameplay and is not just eyecandy.

Hopefully, through an evolutionary process of survival of the fittest, those who figure out how to get the most value for the least money will come out the best in this process. Unfortunately, not all businesses will survive.

(Taken from my post in another thread yesterday, it's actually more relevant for this article than the last:P)

Re:Change in Business Model (2, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171696)

I would like to also add that games like Dead Rising are good examples of the type of rethinking we need to do in modern game development. Here we have a mall, modeled in excruciating and beautiful detail, filled to the brim with zombies. Yet, content-wise, it didn't have nearly as much content as, say, Half-Life 2. Why?

That hallway you blew past in 0.75 seconds in Half-Life 2 took someone hours upon hours to create. That same amount of time went towards creating the nice store in Dead Rising that you could visit over and over again. Twists on missions, objectives, and other gameplay-related alterations made it so that each visit was different, without introducing the slightest bit of new content!

Does this mean that on-rails shooters are on their way out? Perhaps, I don't know. But what I do know is that games that are successfully able to recycle their content (sandbox games have an easier time with this) are a lot more profitable than shooters right now. The content they stuff into their games can be enjoyed over and over. With games like SimCity, that one building that is modeled can go for *months* of player enjoyment, in a myriad of different ways. That hallway in HL2? Once. And once only.

Dead Rising was able to tell a remarkably good story given that it was a sandbox game. Complex storytelling had previously been locked to RPGs and shooters, both extremely content-intensive genres. I congratulate Capcom for pulling it off, and I hope more developers learn and experiment with storytelling in genres other than the traditional ones.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171486)

> we will be tempted to include more and more content into our games.
People don't appreciate (or understand) how complicated reality is, until trying to simulate it.

Content will always be the bottleneck. Whether it is audio, video, geometry, AI, or narrative, crafting a good game is always about trying assets to keep these in control.

> I have believed, and still believe, that procedural content is the answer.
After seeing demos such as .kkrieger - chapter I (Quake/Doom quality in 96K!) I certainly hope so! The main drawbacks so far, are [theprodukkt.com]

- Loss of artist control. Currently, artists feel like they need control over as much as possible. I think the real issue is that it is just VERY difficult to adjust parameters to easily generate textures that the artist(s) want. I completely agree that we need better tools to map what the artist is thinking, to the actual output. ZBrush rocks definately rocks in this area.

- CPU overhead -- we just don't have the horsepower to generate "good" procedural textures in real-time. Basically why would I trade IO (loading) time (of premade textures) with CPU time (generating)??? As CPUs get this faster, then this balance will definitely shift to procedural textures.

What's really cool about procedural textures, is that we can have 'infinite' detail, or as much detail as we need, with next to zero increase in cost of time (artist or cpu.) I think this will 'win' out in the end.

> For years we've seen some companies stick stubbornly to building their own engines, a costly affair.
Are you talking about PCs or Consoles?

Let me know when you have an engine that runs on PC, PS2 and Wii. Not everyone is doing next gen PS3 and XBox360 games only! I'm not even going to mention the 'mobile' market.

> It is like the car factory that insists hand-built is better,
Hand-Built is better, the problem is that it doesn't scale (up.)

This is what, the 4th paradigm shift of game development?
1) The move from 8-bit to 16-bit and to 32-bit
2) The move from 2D to 3D was pretty big (i.e. we can now blend any animations at run-time.)
3) Streamed data
4) Coming up with better ways to create large content creation is probably the next big shift.

Cheers

--
'Cuz Wii, had a better sound to it then Gamecube 1.5 :-)

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171524)

Doh! Previewed and still didn't close the anchor tag.

*sigh*

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171798)

- CPU overhead -- we just don't have the horsepower to generate "good" procedural textures in real-time. Basically why would I trade IO (loading) time (of premade textures) with CPU time (generating)??? As CPUs get this faster, then this balance will definitely shift to procedural textures.

I beg to differ. With the introduction of new storage media like Bluray and HD-DVD, there is nothing stopping us from generating procedural textures offline, storing them, and calling them back later. While games like .kkrieger generated textures on the fly to get themselves down into the KB-level distribution range, retail (or even downloadable games) generally do not experience these restrictions. Much like how lightmaps in old shooters were generated over days (literally!) for each map, then stored, we can do the same with procedurally generated content.

I suppose what I'm saying is, when I say procedural content I'm not necessarily thinking about the direction that Spore took, though that is certainly exciting. I'm rather thinking about increasing the machine's independence in creating content - the machine as artist, if you will. For example, would it not be nice if the artist modeling a European town had a tool that was aware of basic architectural elements of such a town? A tool that can add a gabled roof automatically at the check of a checkbox, instead of making the artist do it himself? I do not mean to make the machine generate content on its own, but rather take some control away from the artist, and make the artist the visionary instead of the labourer.

Let me know when you have an engine that runs on PC, PS2 and Wii. Not everyone is doing next gen PS3 and XBox360 games only! I'm not even going to mention the 'mobile' market.

True, there are not. But there are *many* engines out there that WILL run on PC, PS2, and Wii, just probably not at the same time. As a game developer though, it is rare for a game to target so many consoles at once, especially given their massive technological differences.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172174)

disclaimer: gross generalizations dead ahead, take evasive action

> Hand-Built is better

I don't think this is true at all. Hand-built is better, sometimes, because of the degree of customization it allows, but factory/machine-made items tend to have a lower defect rate and tighter tolerances.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172356)

But this is a game world we're talking about -- it's all about providing an 'unique' experience.
How does having a lower defect rate, and tighter tolerances help in a game setting?

Sure, there will always be some error in artist created geometry / textures, etc, but isn't the issue about:

- Quality
- Quantity

It's easy to have a computer generate quantity, but the quality [of textures] is lacking. The hope is, that procedural textures, will allow us to approach that first domain.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173420)

I agree with you, I was just pointing out the flaw in the obligatory car analogy.

I think procedural content generation is overra like that, then ok, maybe procedural is the way to go, but it's not going to replace talented artists ated. The kind of textures a machine can generate covers a fraction of the area that human-generated content does, and does it pretty poorly. If all you're looking for is something that tiles and looks "roboty" or somethingnytime soon.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173520)

Better tools will help, but they cannot remove the increase in essential complexity inherent in modern hardware/game environments. To my mind this is much in the same vein as the multi-core development issues [slashdot.org] mentioned earlier this year. Both of these are problems without easy solutions, and both are completely relevant to modern game development.

People on slashdot may care about original/fun gameplay, but eye candy sells games and that means working around both hd content and multiple-cores...to make Madden 2017.

This is what, the 4th paradigm shift of game development? 1) The move from 8-bit to 16-bit and to 32-bit 2) The move from 2D to 3D was pretty big (i.e. we can now blend any animations at run-time.) 3) Streamed data 4) Coming up with better ways to create large content creation is probably the next big shift.

Re:Change in Business Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18180068)

Better tools will help, but they cannot remove the increase in essential complexity inherent in modern hardware/game environments

But they do. The PS3 tools are much better than the PS2 tools, and as a result, PS3 is about as easy to code for as PS2, and today it is way easier to optimize a PS3 game than it was when PS2 was this age. SPU code is much easier to write and debug than VU code. The tools do too remove the increase in essential complexity. That's what tools and APIs are designed to do, at a fundamental level. It took a few months to write a decently fast graphics engine in 1992, and it takes a few months today.

There is no "silver bullet", but there is breakeven.

And do you not think that tools like UE3 reduce the essential complexity of creating a game? Of course they do. In some systems people can prototype entire levels with no programming. If that's not removing complexity I don't know what is.

Development costs are not spiralling because the machines are harder to drive or the algorithms are hard to write. Programmer time is now dirt cheap compared to artist time over the period of a project, and technology can be bought. With code every company could in principle use the same engine, or the same streaming system. But you won't ever see a pair of AAA games that use the same art assets.

So you don't need 10x the number of programmers, but you do need 10x the number of artists. You do the math. EA didn't put 200 people onto Return of the King because they had issues with their PS2 engine. They did it because they had issues with content generation.

Re:Change in Business Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18179912)

CPU overhead -- we just don't have the horsepower to generate "good" procedural textures in real-time.

Yes we do. We have 6 SPUs lying around waiting for something to do. This is it.

Even XBox and next-gen PC each have at least 4 hyperthreads and procedural is the ideal use for those, IMHO.

But textures are easy to generate by hand using PhotoShop. It's meshes and animations that take all the time; the people focusing on proc textures are picking off the low-hanging fruit. The real problem is much, much more broad.

The irony is that people also complain about having all these cores. The synergy between having multicore machines and having the need for procedural generation is amazing, but apparently most people just don't see it.

A final point is that you don't necessarily have to generate the procedural stuff at runtime. Offline procedural is always going to give you more cycles per asset, and to generate decent procedural assets is likely to take a lot of cycles.

For instance, an SPU could easily generate a plasma fractal landscape, but only an offline procedure could simulate a million years of erosion.

Let me know when you have an engine that runs on PC, PS2 and Wii. Not everyone is doing next gen PS3 and XBox360 games only! I'm not even going to mention the 'mobile' market.

This is fatuous. Mobile games and PS2 games and Wii games do not have the same issues of asset production scaling. The issue only arises in connection with next-gen games on PS3 or XBox (or PC).

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183196)

But textures are easy to generate by hand using PhotoShop. It's meshes and animations that take all the time;

I don't know about animations (depends a lot on how many you need and how much cleanup your motion capture needs, if you're using that) but meshes take a LOT less time than the textures for them (though I think with today's highpoly to lowpoly bakes the time for the modeled and hand-painted parts of the texture is probably about equal). Textures aren't "easily created", that's completely ignoring all the work that goes into them (unless you use touched-up photos but those only work for flat surfaces before getting really complicated to do). Of course a texture for an object like e.g. a car or a character is going to be way too complex to handle with procedurals unless you use the n00b's approach (i.e. all detail in the mesh, just throwing generic procedurals at them). Any serious artist will hand paint a LOT of the surface of the object especially since some surfaces are neither simple nor random with their details (e.g. human skin is a very complex thing to paint if you consider all the color variations caused by veins, bones, etc running under it). Even cinematic characters have most if not all of their surfaces covered with hand-painted textures.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18182942)

A problem with stuff like kkrieger is that that kind of generation is not meant for reducing development times, it's meant for compressing data. Procedural only has an advantage if it takes less time to mathematically describe a set of assets than to make them by hand. Very few things can be described mathematically in reasonable time and most objects in our lives are too complex to be handled reasonably well by a mathematical description. You can use procedurals to generate lots of similar things but games usually don't have that many of those (usually there's maybe 2-3 different appearances for a set). If you need lots of unique looking people but no specific features on any of them you can use a system that can derive them from a basic shape but few games bother with varying those. Anything that is too different from other things in the game (e.g. characters with unique designs) would need individual attention anyway and it may just be easier to take some basemesh, pull it into the right shape and start modelling the unique bits.

You can use procedurals to generate a city with no points of interest (or manually add those points but the rest will still be an uninteresting mass), to generate a crowd with no identical people or to generate the different trees in a forest but you cannot use them to e.g. model the interior of one house. Also you'd still need to make all components the system can use by hand, it can only combine them.

Also your "infinite details" bit seems more like a misconception to me, unless the surface is a fractal the artist will only describe it in so much detail and anything below that won't be in the game (e.g. if noone told the engine what concrete looks up close it'll look like a solid surface instead of having all the little details on it).

So in summary, procedurals are preferrable if you have a large number of objects that can be derived from a relatively simple rule but they're a waste of time for objects that differ wildly from each other.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18190390)

> and most objects in our lives are too complex to be handled reasonably well by a mathematical description.

Right now, yes. But at some point in the future no.

EVERYTHING in the universe is built by [upon] math. Everything from DNA to how photons interact -- The universe IS the computer simulation.

The main problem with re-constructing an universe is
  1) the hierarchy is a DEEP one (atoms -> molecules -> cells -> organs -> body, etc), and
  2) the Universe has time on its side. Everything starts from one state, and changes into another. If we could simulate in real-time the amount of time needed to change properties of objects, we effectively would have solved the problem. In essence we'd be (re) writing the 'programs of life' so to speak.

Let's say I want to procedurally generate an animal 5 years old. I can see the day where I start the simulation with a single cell along with properties of growth, and run it far enough where the animal is 5 years old. The question is, how small does the dataset need to be? Right now, it's smaller to simulate the "final" output via geometry, bones, and textures by paying artists to create it, then to let a computer "figure" out what should happen.

The only real disadvantage is that it's difficult to determine what 'operators' we need to use to generate our final output. It's much like layering or compositing a digital shot. The final scene looks complicated, but it can all be broken down into smaller detailed layers.

> but you cannot use them to e.g. model the interior of one house

I don't see why not? The interior of a house uses pretty standard components -- wood, metal, plastic, glass, etc.

> Also your "infinite details" bit seems more like a misconception to me,
Ok, some clarification on what I was thinking.

Procedural textures, MAY have infinite detail.
But an infinite detail texture, to me at least, seems it would REQUIRE a procedural (fractal) texture.

I could imagine the API for procedural textures to look something like this
  Texture MakeTexture( SurfaceProperties )

What would be really cool, if computers were fast enough to generate procedural textures in real-time, every frame, so the API would be extended to...
  Texture MakeTexture( SurfaceProperties, DistanceToCamera )

Cheers

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192110)

Let's say I want to procedurally generate an animal 5 years old. I can see the day where I start the simulation with a single cell along with properties of growth, and run it far enough where the animal is 5 years old.

Let's not forget that that would probably require a supercomputer and a few years worth of CPU time to calculate. Organisms are VERY complex systems, so complex indeed that we don't even understand them fully yet. An organism doesn't grow in a vacuum either so you'd have to simulate a limited environment as well. I don't think this kind of constructive simulation is feasible. While we can do an approximation, growth of a biological system is a very chaotic process and the smallest error could throw the result off completely. By the time we can model that accurately we can probably create AIs that have enough experience with life that they can just produce an entire game by themselves by doing all the steps a normal dev team goes through.

I don't see why not? The interior of a house uses pretty standard components -- wood, metal, plastic, glass, etc.

How do you describe a living room other than describing each object inside by itself? A couch is nothing like a DVD player. Furthermore, wouldn't breaking everything down to its parts be more complex than just describing its shape and how it looks? To properly generate the folds in a couch you'd have to know how the material behaves, how people use it, etc when you could just tell an artist to apply his knowledge of that. Humans know a LOT more about the environment they live in than any computer.

Procedural textures, MAY have infinite detail.
But an infinite detail texture, to me at least, seems it would REQUIRE a procedural (fractal) texture.


Yes but there aren't many surfaces that could use a fractal so in a real situation that makes no difference. Games aren't meant to be textbook implementations of technology, they do only what they have to.

What would be really cool, if computers were fast enough to generate procedural textures in real-time, every frame, so the API would be extended to...
    Texture MakeTexture( SurfaceProperties, DistanceToCamera )


We use MIP-mapping for that, we precompute a set of textures at different resolutions and apply them as appropriate. There is no reason to recompute the texture every frame.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18202256)

True, but mip-mapping doesn't play nice with procedural textures.

Re:Change in Business Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18179328)

I totally agree, but the tools we need are basically mythical at this stage. There is no procedural modelling package that you can use to make a game with. And no clear way of writing it. We need the Photoshop or Word or Maya of procedural modelling, but first we need an inkling of what the GUI paradigm should be. Script-based? Graph-based? Exemplar based? A combination? Then, how can we teach artists to think procedurally? There are so many problems to solve and yet so much at stake.

Re:Change in Business Model (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18188728)

Simple solution.

The game companies that figure this shit out will profit.

The ones that do not, (or do not copy these methods) will perish.

And until the first company figures it out - then the market will stagnate. Like automobiles. Like software. Like aerospace.

Answer? Doujin Games! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18190506)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dojin_soft [wikipedia.org] This is your answer. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/44/12 [escapistmagazine.com] Here is an article about it. Games like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kofnEdB8Blc [youtube.com] Touhou Soccer, Melty Blood, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1KxdbhLU0k [youtube.com] Immateri al and Missing Power are great. I don't think many game companies have the balls to make a game lile Touhou Soccer.

Ignores Online (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18171060)

The article focuses on the typical console game, a high budget sequel/licensed product that needs hundreds of thousands of copies to make money. In this environment the little guy can't make money.
However, the introduction of online downloading has opened up another avenue for the small time developer.

Only if you make movie-style games! (1)

KitsuneSoftware (999119) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171070)

Games take as long as you want to make them take, and cost as much as you want to spend on them. Minesweeper, as we all know, is fun. It takes about two days to fully design, test, add "alternate modes of play", make decent graphics for, include crude DRM, and add to an online store (I know because I've done it). Total cost? In business terms, about £300UK ($600US) including the rent on your office. Now admitedly, the total earnings were $15US with no real advertising, but the point remains: make a game on a movie budget and you have movie-style effects, plot and everything else. Make a game on a shoestring, and it's a whole different ball game.

Re:Only if you make movie-style games! (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18175916)

Minesweeper, as we all know, is fun. It takes about two days to fully design, test, add "alternate modes of play", make decent graphics for, include crude DRM, and add to an online store (I know because I've done it). Total cost? In business terms, about £300UK ($600US) including the rent on your office.
Sure, that might work for PC, but what's the cost to get your work onto a gaming platform that sits on top of a TV or onto a handheld system?

Re:Only if you make movie-style games! (1)

Lissajous (989738) | more than 7 years ago | (#18178418)

Umm - you're the original creator of minesweeper? Nope, I doubt it. You created something that is as fun as minesweeper but is neither minesweeper nor a derivation thereof? Again, I doubt it (though admit the possibility). Or are you saying that it takes two days to fully copy minesweeper, plus add some stuff in that you thought of whilst killing time sat at your desk playing the original minesweeper. (checks website linked from your profile) - yup, that's closer to the truth.

So, to summarize, 2 man days, $585 USD loss. Extrapolate to a 20 person team for 18 months.....call it 46 weeks per person per year sat at work...that's...1380 man weeks....6900 man days....a little over a $4 mill USD loss. It's not *that* out of the way for most large scale productions that fail when they hit the market.

Make a game on a shoestring or make a game with a large scale production. It's all the same risk, it just takes someone with bigger pockets to put their trust in you and your colleagues for the top flight titles.

don't focus on profit? (2, Interesting)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171176)

I know this is a really crazy idea, but if companies want to be successful, maybe they should focus more on making innovative games instead of following a formula for making profit.

This so-called "emphasis on sequels" doesn't seem real to me. I see the big companies pumping out sequels (EA being the most obvious), but I don't think they are doing it because it's what consumers want, only that it's easier to re-vamp a game than it is to come up with a new one. At least some people I know have gotten smart to this system, and if a new EA game comes out, they'll wait for the sequel cuz they know it's coming. Similarly, I buy every other FIFA game, since there isn't much of a difference between any two consequtive titles (not that there is that much more of a difference between any 3, but at least you get a graphics boost). The emphasis on sequels isn't something that is demanded by the market, it is created by the publishers. As a contrast to the EA games, consider Final Fantasy, where each game not only provides a different world, but a different style of gameplay, mini games, character development, etc. I know it's hard to change a sports game from year to year, but if you can't make anything new, maybe you shouldn't spend a lot of money making the same thing.

In a market where most games are just clones with different graphics, what do the companies expect? Come up with something innovative instead of remaking the same tired games. Katomari Damacy for $20 anyone? Innovation and a low price in box. So what if the graphics sucked. If you can't compete with the Gears of War in the graphics department, don't try.

As we look back at the most popular games, they are rarely sequels. Innovation is the key.

Re:don't focus on profit? (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171848)

I see the big companies pumping out sequels (EA being the most obvious), but I don't think they are doing it because it's what consumers want, only that it's easier to re-vamp a game than it is to come up with a new one.

When a company puts out sequels year after year of the same product, it's really to keep a certain market segment happy and show Wall Street that there's a predictable revenue stream that they can count on. Bringing out a new title that's not a sequel or a spin off from an established franchise is taking a risk that the product may fail and Wall Street will punished the stock. Too often, it's a play safe mentality that drives decisions in developing games. If you want innovation, either the small guys or the few companies not beholden to Wall Street are the ones taking risks.

Re:don't focus on profit? (1)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173036)

Very true. This kinda supports what I was saying, although your explanation of the purpose behind making 7 Tiger Woods games (or whatever they're at now) is a little more on the mark than mine was. By "easier to re-vamp a game than it is to come up with a new one", I partly meant that there is less risk in making a sequel to a popular game, so I should have been more clear.

Re:don't focus on profit? (1)

Mathonwy (160184) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172360)

You're making a common [incorrect] assumption in your post:

Popular != Profitable

As much as we might wish it to be otherwise, game companies are, above all else, COMPANIES. That means that, their goal is NOT to make "good" games from a player perspective. Their goal is to make PROFITABLE games. They want the games that will net them the highest total revenue.

Games, at this point, are very risky things to make. They cost a bundle, both in production costs, and advertising, shelf space, and all the other things that have to happen after the code has been written. So businesses adapt to them the same way they adapt to other forms of risk: They try to mitigate the risk however they can.

Sequels are a GREAT way to mitigate risk. If you have something that (For whatever reason) sold a lot of units, then if you make a sequel, it will have a built-in userbase of people who are likely to buy it, no matter how good or bad it is. (If you look at EA's strategy over the past 5 years, they use this a LOT - they look for successful games (battlefield 1942) and then buy the comapany that made them, (DICE) and start making inreasingly lower quality expansions and sequels, because, and this is the point most people miss - THEY DON'T CARE IF IT IS GOOD OR BAD. They just care "what can we do that will be good enough to make some % of the fans buy this one?"

Another great way to mitigate risks is license tie-ins. Wonder why you see so many games based on movies, TV shows, or other popular licenses? And why they all seem to suck? Here's why: A HUGE number of people will buy it just because it has James Bond on the box. Or whatever. Without knowing ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT IT. "Oh, a new Bond game! I loved the latest movie!" *buy* Licences are great, because the game can be crappy as heck, but it will still sell enough (unless it is god-awful enough to generate negative buzz) that it will likely end up making money. It's absurd (and kind of depressing) how much better licensed titles sell than non-licensed ones.

And the final way that game companies mitigate risk is portfolio management. It's like stocks. You can put all your money in one big high-production game, but if it doesn't do well, you're screwed. Or, you can put it into 5 smaller, less high-budget games, and if some of them do well, and some don't, you're less likely to lose everything.

So put this all together, and what do you get? High price to make games. Games are risky, and often fail. So comapanies make lots of crappy games, with minimal innovation, and try to sell them based on licenced characters or sequel power. The reason they're doing this isn't because they're misguided. It's because, in the cut-throat evolutionary world of companies, this is the BEST STRATEGY THAT HAS EVOLVED FOR PROFIT.

If you don't like it, vote with your wallet, and encourage your friends to do the same. Reward innovation and quality. Punish crap. But be aware that it will take an awful lot of you and your friends and your friends' friends to make a blip on the radar, much less overcome the mindless hordes who don't look any further than the picture of James Bond on the box.

Re:don't focus on profit? (1)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 7 years ago | (#18174076)

You're making a common [incorrect] assumption in your post: Popular != Profitable


Actually, I never said that, nor have I ever assumed that it is true. However, my definition of "popular" in this context, is that if a game is more "popular" than another, than it sells more copies. Now, as I'm sure you know since you demonstrated you can give a basic explanation of economics, profit is maximized when the price is set where marginal revenue equals marginal cost. Since companies don't know the demand for a game when setting the price and generally set the price to a standard, this isn't how we maximize profit. Instead, profit depends on how many games are sold and how much it costs to develop and market the game (I'm making some assumptions here that take out the cost of creating and shipping the game, but those shouldn't be relevant in most cases). Now, unless you disagree that this is the major factor in the profitability of a game, then if two games cost the same to develop and market, then the game that sells more (i.e. is more popular) will be more profitable. As you said, popular != profitable, but also profitable !=> (does not imply) popular, unprofitable !=> popular, profitable !=> unpopular, and all other combinations of those words. I wasn't assuming that popular games are profitable, but the more units of a game that are sold, the more revenue is made from the game. Again, since the major cost is a one time development cost, selling more games means more profit (or less loss). So to fix the assumption you assumed I made, popular = more revenue.

As much as we might wish it to be otherwise, game companies are, above all else, COMPANIES. That means that, their goal is NOT to make "good" games from a player perspective. Their goal is to make PROFITABLE games. They want the games that will net them the highest total revenue.


Now allow me to put words in your mouth. You are making the assumption that companies work in a robotic fashion when it comes to making money. By that I mean that companies determine if something is more or less profitable than something else, and then pick the better. This is true to an extent, but it forgets that companies don't know what will be more profitable. Companies take risks to make money. Sometimes it is more profitable to do something that isn't the norm because the norm is being reproduced by everyone else on the market (Nintendo Wii, just about anything made by Will Wright). Sometimes companies think about the consumers because loyalty can mean consistent return customers (Macs, car companies). Sometimes companies give things away for free so they can make money in other ways (gmail, promotional CDs). Whos to say that a company won't be more profitable if it makes games that are good from a consumer's perspective instead of according to some formula?

I know, I'm not really being fair here. You never said that making good games won't be profitable, but I never claimed nor gave any indication that I disagreed with the stated goal of a company. I'm so tired of making a comment about something and getting a regurgitated lecture about how a company's only goal is to make money, when that says very little in the long run. Consider this, "there is no selfless act" (I could be wrong, but I haven't found any proof otherwise). Anything you can do, you do it for yourself, and if you don't believe that, come up with a counterexample and I'll explain why it's selfish. Now, if we understand that everything we do is selfish, then whenever someone asks why some guy does something, it would be correct to say "Because he only cares about himself." The only problem is that there are a lot of ways to care about yourself. If you are given a choice between getting shot in the head or shooting your wife (or husband, or other person who you care about more than anything else in the world), you might choose to shoot yourself because you want the other to live, but you also are doing it because you don't want to live with yourself knowing that you choose for them to die or don't want to live without the other person. There are other reasons, but all of them still fall under the category doing it "because you only care about yourself." What's the point of that long rant? The reason "because you only care about yourself" is great on some levels, but it applies so broadly that it doesn't really explain anything, just like the idea that "companies only goal is money". There are other factors that important to reaching that goal, and there isn't only one way to do it or a garaunteed best way, contrary to what some people may believe.

Anyway, that all missed the point of my original post. I was trying to argue that there might be a better way to make profit in a market described by the article, which is by making better games. I said that the emphasis on sequels was created by the companies (which you gave support for in your argument). I acknowledged that a lot of games spend a significant amount of development on building a better graphics engine. It is possible to lower development costs by spending less time on graphics, which frees up a lot of time for innovation. I understand that "The reason they're doing this isn't because they're misguided.", but if it becomes increasingly harder to make a profit in the game world, then maybe the strategy you outlined isn't the best way to turn a profit anymore, maybe companies need to start looking at what consumers want instead of making eye candy and slapping a brand name on a box. Right now, a good example of this is the difference between the success of the Wii and PS3 (even though its way to early to draw too many conclusions). People are tired of the same old thing and want something new. This isn't to say that there isn't a place for the next Tiger Woods or Doom clone, just that maybe there shouldn't be so damn many.

don't focus on profit? Innovation is For profit! (2, Insightful)

trdrstv (986999) | more than 7 years ago | (#18174244)

I know this is a really crazy idea, but if companies want to be successful, maybe they should focus more on making innovative games instead of following a formula for making profit.

Innovative games are for profit. They don't compete in the same arena as the other games, and come at the market sideways. If you want a WWII FPS, there are hundreds on the market and you have to put a lot of time, money and effort in differentiating yourself. You want a Dancing game? There are much fewer. You want a Guitar game? Even less. These companies don't try to impress you with xyz above the competition, they create a new market where they set the rules.

There is lots of profit to be made when you set the rules.

Re:don't focus on profit? Innovation is For profit (1)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 7 years ago | (#18174840)

Innovative games are for profit.

It kinda sounds like you are saying that as a counter, which implies that I don't think innovative games are for profit, although my whole point was that innovative games might be able to make a better profit than standard formula games. I was trying to contrast the innovative games with games that follow a formula like almost every EA sports game. Not sure if you were trying to counter, but I thought I should clarify my point in case it wasn't clear.

As for the rest, I definintely agree with you. However, there is still room for innovation in any genre (at least any I can think of at the moment). Consider the multiplayer FPS game where you could fly planes and helicopters while also running on the ground, or go back to the first game that allowed players to use vehicles. These innovations helped set those games apart. But more to your point, innovative games do get to set the rules (or innovations on well-established games change the rules), which can lead to a more profitable game.

Good news! (4, Insightful)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171346)

I've been waiting for this for a long time. Maybe we can get something besides yet another sequel, a movie spin-off, or a blatant rip-off of another game. Perhaps they'll have to settle for plot and gameplay (or at least just gameplay) instead of stunning graphics and no substance. As a proud new owner of a Wii (yay!), I have to say the graphics are good enough, maybe not a match for the XBox 360, but the games are fun. This matters most of all. Of course, new ideas are a risk, while sequels are a known quantity with an established market. I think that's how the marketing goes...

Re:Good news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18171550)

I love how wii owners all talk about the fact that the wii games are fun. It's like they think that playing an xbox 360 game feels like you're slamming your dick in a heavy door. Here's a heads up, wii owners... I have fun playing my 360. And it looks stunning using a display of 7 FEET across to boot.

Re:Good news! (2, Insightful)

brkello (642429) | more than 7 years ago | (#18175864)

Blah blah blah. They come out with games like Okami and people like you don't buy it. There is plenty of innovation but everyone just buys the sequels and complains that there are no original titles without even bothering to look. I bet you love Zelda on your Wii!

Re:Good news! (1)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 7 years ago | (#18177256)

Got to admit, Okami looks interesting. Ironic that the first review I read likens it to Zelda (which I do like). But I also like air hockey in Wii Play - it has a very enjoyable interface. I also support other games that don't generally count as mainstream.

Re:Good news! (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18185818)

I've been waiting for this for a long time. Maybe we can get something besides yet another sequel, a movie spin-off, or a blatant rip-off of another game. Perhaps they'll have to settle for plot and gameplay (or at least just gameplay) instead of stunning graphics and no substance
Actually the opposite is true. There will be more focus on sequels/licensed games because those are the only ones that can support the volumes needed for profitability..

Re:Good news! (1)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 7 years ago | (#18189624)

Or you go back to the basics. Go for gameplay and not glitz, or big names, or huge marketing. IIRC, Doom was profitable in one month. It had something engaging and new, and did away with all the crap big game businesses did. In time, the next id, the next Maxis will appear. It will be interesting, and I doubt it will be a big game studio that does it.

Re:Good news! (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18189764)

Or you go back to the basics. Go for gameplay and not glitz, or big names, or huge marketing. IIRC, Doom was profitable in one month. It had something engaging and new, and did away with all the crap big game businesses did. In time, the next id, the next Maxis will appear.
That makes sense for the PC world, but the console world is different. The install base is smaller, distribution is more expensive, and shelf space is limited.

Start making fun games instead of amazing ones (3, Interesting)

neo (4625) | more than 7 years ago | (#18171984)

The cost of making a game in the major categories is staggering when you look at what you're up against. But invent something completely different that's just fun to play and you can open up a whole new market. You can't win by making a new FPS, increasingly accurate physics and polymesh technology.

You're going to win because your game is just plain fun.

It doesn't cost a lot of money to make a game fun, it just takes a fun idea. If you insist on remaking the same games because you're afraid of loss, you've just painted yourself into a nice corner.

Re:Start making fun games instead of amazing ones (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18176298)

The cost of making a game in the major categories is staggering when you look at what you're up against. But invent something completely different that's just fun to play and you can open up a whole new market. You can't win by making a new FPS, increasingly accurate physics and polymesh technology.

Just a side note:

Okami : innovative and fun game Sales: meh
Zelda - TP: Sequel with sort of tacted in controls Sales: Stellar

Puzzle Pirate : Innovative and fun game Sales: Meh
EQ2 : Sequel, increbily teidus Sales: OK

Katamari Damacy: Innovative and fun Sales: MEh
Halo 2 : Golden eye wiht better graphics Sales: Stellar.

It seem good innovative titles come out all the time. You just all ignore them. I buy then when ever I can. I am aware of the 80:20 rule. 80% of everythign is crap. The remaining 20 is good to incredible. You might think there were more innovative gems before but your just remembering the 20% and forgetting the 80. The Atari had 80%+ crap, as did the NES, SNES, Genesis, PS1, PS2, PC 1980-today ect.. But we just forgot about the crap and most of the derivative dreck too. We remember the 20% of innovative games that opened things up and completely forgotten all the innovation that sucked.

Re:Start making fun games instead of amazing ones (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18184614)

At least for the Okami - Zelda comparison I'd say the sales numbers are deserved (though maybe they shouldn't be as extreme), Okami just isn't as good as Zelda. I know I found Zelda TP awfully easy but Okami is even easier. I haven't even emptied one stomach yet* in Okami about 30 hours in whereas I've died a few times in TP (mostly during the early game, towards the end you have so many hearts you practically have to fall asleep to die). Okami's puzzles are simpler and even when they aren't Issun will rub the solution into your face pretty quickly. There's lots of things you see that you have to come back to with more abilities to use and most of them only require using that ability in the standard way to retrieve a treasure or some luck. Okami's dungeons are often very short and very linear (though TP's dungeons have that latter fault, too).

*=For people who don't have Okami, a full stomach acts like an extra life.

The problem is not the technology. (3, Interesting)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172010)

There seems to be this belief that HD games are somehow inherently more expensive to develop. PC's have supported "HD" for years and game development costs haven't spiraled out of control. Games are getting exceedingly expensive to develop because developers are becoming overly ambitious. Endless sequels are merely a symptom of a larger problem. Sequels exist as a means to reduce costs and to cash in on a popular franchise. This certainly isn't a recent thing: look at the endless Street Fighter clones.

By no means are developers ambitious in terms of unique gameplay. Rather, they're putting excessive amounts of effort into exploiting the latest graphics techniques, developing expansive storylines and introducing increasingly complex control systems. What I think they're trying to do is provide a more cinematic experience. They're trying to reproduce movies in a video game format. Hence the obsession with overly realistic graphics and the cinematic-type presentation. It's inevitable that games inspired by film will also command movie-sized budgets.

Needless to say, this doesn't necessarily translate into entertaining gameplay. I think many developers have lost sight of what constitutes good gameplay. However, I don't think they care. The average consumer is easily impressed by the cinematic patina contemporary games exude. Let's face reality, developers keep producing these games because they sell. The Wii demonstrates that there is a desire for something else. But Nintendo doesn't possess some sort of holy grail of unique gaming. The unique controller can only go so far. Many others have offered unique and compelling gameplay. PCs, outside of the FPS, RTS and RPG clones has offered tons of neat games for years.

Look at what indie developers are producing. And many of them are exploiting high resolutions to their fullest extent. Some of these games look phenomenal. Some have a unique visual style which enhances gameplay. I inevitably am drawn back to the Wii as compared to the other platforms. There is this prevailing opinion I see that expects the Wii to somehow solve all these problems. It won't. The system is hindered performance-wise and the controller while great for some games is nowhere near as flexible a device as some believe.

I predict that within a few years Nintendo will introduce an HD-capable Wii. I think it will be a smart move for Nintendo, but it will also mean anyone who currently owns a Wii and then gets the upgraded model will have likely spent $400-$500 on the two systems. Suddenly the pricing won't all that different from an Xbox360 or PS3.

I don't expect most large developers to change their ways. They may occasionally offer something different but the for the most part we'll see more of the same. Perhaps we'll see the game industry work more like the movie industry. Ultimately, the problem lies with the nature of business and the lack of consumers who can think independently.

Re:That comment was out of nowhere... (1)

trdrstv (986999) | more than 7 years ago | (#18172226)

I predict that within a few years Nintendo will introduce an HD-capable Wii. I think it will be a smart move for Nintendo, but it will also mean anyone who currently owns a Wii and then gets the upgraded model will have likely spent $400-$500 on the two systems. Suddenly the pricing won't all that different from an Xbox360 or PS3.

Wha, huh? Are you saying there was no differnece in buying a PS1 and PS2 at launch (total $600) than buying a PS3? There is a massive difference between buying a console, then it's successor for x dollars than simply spending x for 1 console. Not everyone needs to buy the successor (or the original) to enjoy the vast library of games.

Also where did that actually come from? It seemed like a weird aside to your argument.

Re:The problem is not the technology. (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173510)

There won't be an HD capable Wii in the sense that it'll be the same old console just with higher resolution output. While I don't doubt that Nintendo will release another console in the future, it will be an all new platform, just like each of their previous home consoles have "replaced" their predecessors. This new console will likely support HD, but it will not just be an upgraded Wii. It will be an entirely new system. Games created for it will not work on the Wii.

If Nintendo does release an upgraded Wii, it'll include incidental features, like the ability to play DVD movies. Nintendo knows better than to fracture their marketshare.

Re:The problem is not the technology. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18175898)

While I don't doubt that Nintendo will release another console in the future, it will be an all new platform, just like each of their previous home consoles have "replaced" their predecessors. This new console will likely support HD, but it will not just be an upgraded Wii. It will be an entirely new system. Games created for it will not work on the Wii.
Game Boy vs. Game Boy Color? GBC games that came in black cartridges had a fallback mode that allowed most of the games to be played on an original Game Boy.

Re:The problem is not the technology. (1)

CaseM (746707) | more than 7 years ago | (#18183328)

I predict that within a few years Nintendo will introduce an HD-capable Wii. I think it will be a smart move for Nintendo, but it will also mean anyone who currently owns a Wii and then gets the upgraded model will have likely spent $400-$500 on the two systems. Suddenly the pricing won't all that different from an Xbox360 or PS3.

I agree that for $50.00 more we could/should have had something akin to Xbox 360 graphics on the Wii. The Wii is overpriced for what it is.

That said, however, I don't believe that Nintendo will ever introduce a hardware revision that splits the userbase in two. Look at the DS/DS Lite. As a developer, you know that you can target "the DS" even though there are two different models. It would be business suicide to have a Wii that does high-def and a Wii that doesn't - developers would have to pay attention to both or ignore one, thus alienating half of their userbase...it's just not economically rational.

Re:The problem is not the technology. (1)

valintin (30311) | more than 7 years ago | (#18198602)

Gamecube has a high resolution mode. There are games that support the high resolution mode and games that don't. People buy the fun games and apparently most people don't actually use the High-Res mode. It's been discontinued on the current models of the Gamecube. Did that split the userbase? Not really because both modes work.

There should be no reason to think a High-Def mode wouldn't work for the second gen Wii. Developers only have to pay attention to the market they want to sell to. Graphics are an enhancement to game play, and if High-Def graphics sell games then why not develop games that work in High-Def mode and "normal" mode.

It's not rational that I have purchased Mario 64 for the N64 and on the NDS and will get probably buy it for the Wii. But it apparently makes economic sense to take my money as much as possible.

Better tools, better languages needed (2, Interesting)

tomaasz (5800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18173044)

Many studios still develop their engines and tools themselves, they even start from scratch with each game. Artists don't have experience with the tools, there's no proper documentation, everything is unstable, things often have to be redone to work with new technology. It's ridiculous if you look at it from a distance.

Using licensed technology is a way out, but it forces you to do things in a certain way that may influence the game in many ways you don't expect.

Solid reusable tools are going to be more and more important. Scripting language support is also good but often a bit overrated; proprietary languages often suck. Using a single language such as Java or C# for everything is better. The performance hit is negligible and all the trouble with constantly keeping the interfaces up to date is gone.

Development practices in the gaming industry are still very primitive compared to, say, web development. It is only a matter of time and some more failed megalomanic projects before this improves.

It's the entertainment industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18173292)

Publisher = Record Label
Development house = band

Same business model.

World of Warcraft (2, Funny)

ronrib (1055404) | more than 7 years ago | (#18174972)

I'm sure World of Warcraft is turning a profit.

Amen, Brother. (1)

Malkin (133793) | more than 7 years ago | (#18187256)

Yeah, seriously. If there are at least 8 million people playing this game on PC and Macs, why do people keep insisting that PC is dead, and whinging about the lack of a "leading platform"? Whatever. I swear, some people have such a bizarrely myopic obsession with consoles that it's like they're wandering around with bags over their heads.

Why Graphics are such a easy target (2, Interesting)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18176442)

Graphics is a bruteforce problem. Throw more artists, programmers and hardware at it and eventually you get something pretty. The problem is fairly well understood and instances brilliance (HDR, Bloom, Pixel shading, etc..) can be replicated. Most of the time it links back to math. Giving some framework to think around.

Gameplay is much different. Throwing more designers won't nessacarily make the game more fun. No amount of hardware will make somethign instantly fun (sex toys are a notable exception). Many innovation seem out of place in other venues and every accuses you for ripping an idea off. And math doesn't determine is something is fun so you have a ironically more artistic thought proccess to come up with innovative gameplay.

Given these graphics will always advance steadily while gameplay waits for the occasional genius to spurt once in a while.
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