Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Hard Road for the Small Guy

In this HomeLAN Fed interview with Epic president, Mike Capps, he puts it simply for the road ahead on game technology:

Building competitive engine technology has become extremely expensive, so more shops will be licensing engines rather than building their own. The balance of power (and the budget) is definitely shifting from the programmers to the content artists. When characters are 6,000,000 polygons instead of 200, and scenes are 200,000,000 polygons instead of 50,000, the amount of work for the art staff just skyrockets. And those increased expenses will lead to even more consolidation in the industry, and an even harder road for the independent or start-up studios.

In other words, more cost to game houses makes it harder for those without a bundle of capital in the corner to make something competitive. This is a pretty standard technology model. A Netscape executive once agreed with me that trying design internet software was a bit like selling crack except far less profitable. Game expectations ballon every year as the software houses like id and Epic push out eye cocaine.

Let's take a gross example of how this impacts gaming. One of Daikatana's (many) problems was that by the time Ion Storm had designs and offices and thing really moving with a demo of the game, id had already started showing off Quake 2 eye candy. Ion Storm tried to keep up, and looked what happened. Heck, do I even need to mention Duke Nukem Forever? Do I? I didn't think so.

And there's the flip side. Look at the gamer responses to Deus Ex 2, Doom 3 and even Half-Life 2. Even with the best visuals in the world gamers aren't satisified without a solid game behind it. So Ion Storm, id, and Valve can barely keep up with itself.

How is the little guy supposed to compete?

I'm not sure, unless they have some serious trick up their sleeve, they should even try. You don't necessarily need the most photorealistic skins over the highest polycount monster to develop a good idea. And by looking at IGF Finalists of this year, I'd say there's a lot of potential for the theory. Katamari Damarcy is hands down one of the best games I've ever played in my long geeky life, and those graphics really kinda suck. And thank god, Katamari Doom 3 would be too distracting for my eyeballs to track (not to mention too hard to find things to roll over without a flashlight). I just played the Gish demo, and I can't see how specular lighting (whatever that is) would improve it.

No comments: