The state of the ~2005 game industry

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Jetrel
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The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by Jetrel »

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/article ... y-Part-I.6

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/article ... -Part-II.4

Or "I don't ever want to be anything but an Indie dev, because the whole point of my getting into making videogames was for my own artistic expression." I'm quite glad to see, in the five years since this has been published, that the indie field is actually becoming better-respected, and better-known to the average joe.

And perhaps most importantly, actually has a way to make money thanks to the gradual death of retail game sales.
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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by wayfarer »

You know I remember this Quote: "Everyone claimed that they haven't bought our CDs but at the end of the week we were Still Number one topping the charts a phenomenon that occured very often in my career." (Lousely quoted from Dieter Bohlen the end of good taste and offence for everyone who likes good music)

To make it short the masses demanded the masses got delievered.
And arguing about every company that cuts it looses is arguing against capitalism. (Not that I wouldn't mind but hey this is one of it's core principles)
Sadly thats reality I would prefer myself that some good Indie musicians would make the cut or a revival of good old school games but hey that's not how this business runs.
People want to get paid and they do the stuff which gets paid, and the people get what they want. There is no room for idealism.
This girl, this boy, They were part of the land. What happens to the places we used to tend?
She's a hard one to trust, And he's a roving ghost. Will you come back, will you come back, Or leave me alone?

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Jetrel
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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by Jetrel »

wayfarer wrote:And arguing about every company that cuts it looses is arguing against capitalism. (Not that I wouldn't mind but hey this is one of it's core principles)
Sadly thats reality I would prefer myself that some good Indie musicians would make the cut or a revival of good old school games but hey that's not how this business runs.
People want to get paid and they do the stuff which gets paid, and the people get what they want. There is no room for idealism.
Actually, there is room, and it's called "the internet". :) I chose "2005" carefully because stuff has changed over these 5 years.

The poison is retail, e.g. in a box, on a store shelf, sales. That's where most game companies died, because they only get 2 weeks. More than 2 weeks without good sales, and the products are literally thrown away. There's no room for word-of-mouth; the only way to get those sales is an extremely expensive media blitz, again, favoring only huge companies. It's bad enough that 90% of games make no profit; with this high of a level of attrition, there's only one way to make money, and that's for a large publisher to own a stable of games. If each game in the stable costs "one unit" of money to make, then if 9 of them don't make any money, but one of them makes 30 units, the publisher manages to have a net gain. What sucks by contrast is that an independent shop, if they fail to sell their one game, they're simply out of business.

So where does the internet come in? The internet means you don't get pulled from shelves, which means sleeper hits and word-of-mouth; exactly what promotes the good stuff, actually have time to work. The internet also eliminates the two huge mandatory costs for a boxed, commercial game: you pay almost nothing for distribution. Also, the ad blitz isn't mandatory anymore. You can still do it, but you don't have a gun to your head. Also, you don't pay the massive up-front costs for a console dev kit anymore: developing a PS2 game required you to pay Sony roughly $10,000 [sic] to even write the thing.

Indie game companies don't need to get filthy rich, they just need to make enough to recover costs. Much like an indie band. The internet+shareware has actually worked for a bunch of pc game companies I've followed for the past 10 years, but the real question has been "when will this come to consoles?" That's what's changed; thanks to stuff like WiiWare, XBoxLiveArcade, and the iPhone app store, small indie groups are actually able to sell stuff on consoles for the first time. And before you bust out the cynicism, yes, you keep a majority of the profits and IP ownership.
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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by Yoyobuae »

This is a topic I have been thinking a lot about. I really like the idea of being an indie game dev myself (need to learn a lot more though). For the last year I've also gotten into FOSS by working daily with Linux, and programming using several FOSS tools, libraries, etc.

I can clearly see how the ease of comunications available these days can empower FOSS. Worldwide, fast, cheap distribution extends the reach and influence of these types of software. The open source nature extend the reach of it into new architectures/platforms/enviroments.

Yet, at least at first glance, FOSS seems to clash with comercializing software, specifically with the "make product -> sell product" business system. Comercial software needs to be kept locked and heavily protected with DRM, to at least manage to mitigate piracy enough to make some sales.

Wiiware, XBoxLiveArcade, iPhone AppStore provide an already proven platform, that work on top of somewhat locked systems, and offer indies a way to make sales without going thru much trouble. Yet this limits the reach of the software product to a single platform (ie. Cave Story was slowly making it's way into many different platforms, until it made it into the Wiiware store. But I'm happy for the author, hope he makes the good money he deserves for such a jewel among games), plus you need to share your profits with the platform owner.

I can't help but to wonder if there is a better way, specifically a way without intermediaries. The internet provides the medium to reach out a lot of users. Software is naturally easy to duplicate and distribute. The gist lies on how to make profits if one can't control who gets a copy (not that all the DRM on the world can achieve that for long these days).

To me it seems some sort of donation system might be a possible solution. Of course, it will need to be a well though system. Just slapping a "Please donate" banner on the front page probably won't cut it. But maybe a reward system can be attached to donations. The LasLindas webcomic donation system follows this scheme (the details are explained on the right column). I personally like the comic very much and feel very tempted to make donations myself. So the system seems to work. :D (yet the fact that I haven't done so yet does show that there will be some reluctancy to donate at least at start :hmm:)

It's not hard to imagine a similar system for other forms of intelectual property. Games, for example, could be released on stages/episodes/chapters, with each one being the reward for some donation goal. Once released, it becomes FOSS and can be freely distributed/ported/hacked/etc. This in turn gives more exposure to the work of the author and, if the game is good, people will want more. Which leads back to the donation system, which offers the users a way to support development of the game the like so much.

Too idealistic? Probably. :lol2:

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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

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Ah well perhaps I'm just to pessimistic. But on the other side lets face it if you don't do it for the money you are an Idealist but at the end of the day you are still expecting something out of it, acceptance and perhabs something to eat and a roof over your head if you are good. :mrgreen:

Internet and all but how many people use the Internet and how many actual use it for than shopping and pr0n?
No doubt there are some succesful people out there but compared to a) the big players and b) to the unknown guy who didn't make it?

First there must change something bigger. Either everyone has the possibility to indulge their likes without fear to starve or a more critical audience. Perhabs even both.
This girl, this boy, They were part of the land. What happens to the places we used to tend?
She's a hard one to trust, And he's a roving ghost. Will you come back, will you come back, Or leave me alone?

-Ghost Fields

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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by Yoyobuae »

Yes, I guess it's not such a good idea to completely rely on a system such as I've suggested. But it does seems to be a good source of extra income added to a regular job.

I think that's the kind of approach I'll take, eventually. :)

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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by Sgt. Groovy »

Games, for example, could be released on stages/episodes/chapters, with each one being the reward for some donation goal. Once released, it becomes FOSS and can be freely distributed/ported/hacked/etc. This in turn gives more exposure to the work of the author and, if the game is good, people will want more. Which leads back to the donation system, which offers the users a way to support development of the game the like so much
I was just thinking that why not combine a webcomic with a webgame: a comic that has an minigame level at the end of each chapter, which you have to complete in order to unlock the next chapter. If the game is a tactical one with several units/characters on player's side, the player could choose which unit to play, and by giving a donation, could choose a character more central to the plot (or play a rank-an-file unit for free), or play several units at once. Donating wouldn't necessarily make it easier to beat the level, but would make it more interesting to play. Also, the designers would get feedback about characters' popularity.

Also, if people wanted to read the comic but not play, they could unlock the next chapter by paying a nominal fee and then get to watch a replay of someone else's game in between (because the games are also part of the plot). That way, players would be not only contributing revenue but also content. Replays could be ranked by viewers and highest ranking players would get free games (and fame in the community).

The game/comic would be released incrementally to keep up constant buzz, and "events" could be staged where the audience could vote with their donations for the direction where the plot will proceed. If it would get popular enough, significant revenue could be also made with merchandise, which could be produced very cheaply, since all the graphichs would already exist.
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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by Kess »

Sgt. Groovy wrote:I was just thinking that why not combine a webcomic with a webgame: a comic that has an minigame level at the end of each chapter, which you have to complete in order to unlock the next chapter.
Various takes on this exist in some web comics (or interactive fiction, perhaps) made in flash. Both as unlocking later episodes as well as extra material.

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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by Jetrel »

This article is a canonical example of why videogame companies fail:

Crack dot com made Abuse, which you can get here as OSS for mac/linux:
http://abuse.zoy.org/

Or here for windows:
http://www.rocket-surgery.net/abuse/

Original source: http://www.loonygames.com/content/1.10/guest/
Since the announcement of the demise of Crack Dot Com I have been getting a lot of mail. The biggest question seems to be "why?". Abuse, Crack's first product, was one of those shareware games made on a shoe string budget by a "green team". Yet, it made it big in the commercial world, and many small developers hoping to do the same have looked at Crack dot Com as a role model. Fans addicted to Abuse anxiously awaited our next product with the expectation that it would be even better. When Crack Dot Com died, a lot of people wanted to know why or how this happened. So unfolds the story.

After finishing Abuse and receiving our first of many royalty checks for $250,000, we moved out of the apartment we working out of and into a real office. I begin developing Golgotha with very little knowledge of 3D computer graphics. At the time, the 3D gaming industry was just beginning, and no one knew for sure which way it would go. We knew it was going to big, and we wanted in on it. It was unclear at the time how important software rendering was going to be. We didn't know what features were going to be hardware accelerated, and which weren't. We could only guess at which 3D API would be the best supported.

The second big unknown was what kind of game would we make? We had just spent way to much time working on Abuse and didn't want to even think about Abuse II. The first idea we had was to make something like Gauntlet 3D. Gauntlet, for those of you who don't remember, was a multiplayer arcade game where you could pick between 4 characters and run around and kill, kill, kill, eat food, and collect treasures.

The way we were going to approach Gauntlet 3D was by letting the artist model the world in extremely complex detail and we would render out movie quality frames along a preset branching camera path. This idea is similar to an arcade game Area 51, except we were going to store a Z-buffer which would allow characters to be drawn into the scene freely and also we would have much more camera angles making the game less linear.

A problem we encountered was that modeling a realistic environment was a huge task. Adding to the difficulty of the task, our artist had no experience in the field. I remember in a particular level we wanted to have a dungeon. A certain artist begin by creating a single brick, then duplicating it several thousand times and building a wall out of the bricks. He kept complaining that his machine was too slow when he tried to render it. Needless to say this is not the best way to model a brick wall.

Another idea we entertained was a game called "Assassin" in which you play the part of an assassin who gets a mission to kill some famous person. You get the blueprints to their house, a list of weapons, and maybe some information about their bodyguards. We thought it would be great if we could have a mission where you could actually kill a certain famous political figure. We figured the publicity for such a game would be very strong and more importantly, free. But, it posed a number of burning legal questions. It is very illegal to even talk about killing the president of the United States. If we were to make a game about it, could we be arrested, or even worse, everyone who played the game? I called the FBI, CIA, secret service, the defense department, the pentagon, and several lawyers, but I couldn't get a straight answer. We quickly decided maybe it wasn't a good idea!

About this time we got hooked on playing a little game called Command and Conquer (C&C). This game was fun! Very fun. We wanted to make a game just like it, but we also wanted to make something 3D. The only fun 3D game I had ever played was Doom. This still holds true today for me. Naturally the thought occurred "Doom meets Command and Conquer". But what does this mean actually? Do you play first person driving in one of the vehicles, or maybe you can switch to any vehicle at anytime and take control. We played with many combinations of these ideas, but they never seemed to be what we were looking for. The problem boils down to : In Doom you are single character only concerned about your health and what's behind the corner, In C&C : you are a mastermind global strategist where everyone is expendable and you only care about how you are doing overall. The two don't work together. It seems obvious now, but we thought there had to be a way to make it work.

After discovering we couldn't make it have the level of fun we were looking for with "Doom meets C&C", we considered two options. One options was to make the game more action (Doom) based, the other was to make it more strategy based (C&C). First we tried the C&C approach, but the theory was that without fancy camera angles, it's hard to compete with the 2D strategy games coming out because of they can have more characters and better artwork. Then, we tried an action version, which is what you see in the final release. To make the game more action oriented we had to simplify the strategy aspect. This meant not spending all of your time "micro managing" units by clicking on them and then their destination/target. We setup up a system where all the paths that a vehicle could travel on where predefined by the level designer and you could only select a current path and then build a vehicle. Once built, the vehicle would travel down the path, fighting all the way, until it reached it's destination or was killed. This concept is similar to an old Apple game called Rescue Raiders. So, since you were not tied up planning strategy all the time, the world was your to explore in the first person. The problem that occurred here, is that all the vehicles would travel in straight lines and it was like shooting ducks at the county fair.

While all this planning, designing, and throwing away of ideas was occurring, money was being spent. Lots of it. Salary, rent, and other expenses took a ~$30K chunk out of bank every month. We had grown from 3 to 9 people and moved into a bigger office. To keep up with cost, we signed a deal to publish in Europe and Australia with TeleStar, and a deal to publish a Linux version with Red Hat. We also inked a deal with AMD to add AMD-3D acceleration, and we were in the process of talking with 3D sound card people, and specific 3D card people. Each time we signed a deal we put money in our pockets to keep us going, but we added more time to the project by having to promise certain things. As the water treading continued, the world was changing around us. Now, the minimum spec machine was not a P-133, 3d acceleration was a must, and other similar games had come out (Uprising & Battlezone). The games that came out didn't offer us any clues on how to make this genre fun. They also sold really poorly which was a signal to publishers that we would have a similar fate. This made finding the great publishing deal we had been holding out for for so long a near impossible task.

Around July, Crack first missed payroll. August came and we moved out of the office. September offered no new news, so we decided to call it quits. Rather than letting all that hard work sit around and rot, we released it to the public domain. After doing the same with Abuse and getting a tremendous response, we had to. Some people have said "Aren't you worried someone else could pick it up, finish the game and sell it". The answer is no. I don't mind if someone makes a profit off this work, which is a definite possibility. I think the engine can be used to make many different games, and I hope someone does just that. The soundtrack could be sold to a record, game, or movie company for 100k or more, and the textures have a fair value as well. But with debt that Crack dot Com accrued, even these sales would not have helped. We would much rather see other people learn from our work and our mistakes.

The experience gained by going through this process has helped me understand the business world in a way that I could never learn by reading about it or studying it in school. Personnel, management, accounting, and planning are skills just as important as the required technical skills in the computer industry. The only real way to learn these skills is through practice. Once you see how it all works and that you can do it, you are not afraid to try again.
Section in red is emphasis mine. Pretty much why I figured it was really important to at least have a clue about how to produce art, if I was gonna go into making videogames. They had a whole company there, of smart people, who couldn't figure out that was bad.
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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by wayfarer »

Kess wrote:
Sgt. Groovy wrote:I was just thinking that why not combine a webcomic with a webgame: a comic that has an minigame level at the end of each chapter, which you have to complete in order to unlock the next chapter.
Various takes on this exist in some web comics (or interactive fiction, perhaps) made in flash. Both as unlocking later episodes as well as extra material.
I like the style very much the man has taste. But anyways not a huge success.

Well Jetrel someone remembers "Amen: The Awakening"?
The downfall and actual Tombstone of Cavedog Entertainment, good company good games and Amen looked really well done with a nice story.
Alas publisher went away dead of a good game and the studio followed. (And they did know how the business ran)
Than this whole [censored] about copyrights. Lionhead Studios would love to make a new Dungeon Keeper but EA sits on the rights like a hen.
This girl, this boy, They were part of the land. What happens to the places we used to tend?
She's a hard one to trust, And he's a roving ghost. Will you come back, will you come back, Or leave me alone?

-Ghost Fields

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Jetrel
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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by Jetrel »

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfOhXwhtXjY

A somewhat NSFW summary of why indie devs are indie. Key moment is at 1:00. This is the Introversion team accepting an award for their game, Darwinia at IGF.
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Re: The state of the ~2005 game industry

Post by wayfarer »

Well duh

http://www.limbogame.org/

Is now stated as a Playdead, Microsoft Game Studios Development and it is now exclusively X-Box.
It seems you can sell your soul at least partly.
This girl, this boy, They were part of the land. What happens to the places we used to tend?
She's a hard one to trust, And he's a roving ghost. Will you come back, will you come back, Or leave me alone?

-Ghost Fields

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