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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Some Simple Truths

Rarely would I link to Penny Arcade ... like I would actually even nudge their traffic ... but I think this one bears particular attention. Geoff Zatkin has some things to say about the industry, and it's bucking the trend of a lot of people who want to whitewash the current problems the gaming studios are facing. These are things I've been suspecting, some people "inside" the industry have said or sometimes even directly told me and yet I've gotten a lot of contradiction when I've talked about it to others.

This paragraph, however, summarizes some simple truths very well:

The average price of making games has been escalating rapidly. Too many features have become standard (multi player, obligatory tools for player made content, matchmaking, cut-scenes, transforming donkeys, etc.), the caliber of graphics has risen (ironically, teams are getting bigger AND games are getting shorter because of how long it takes to make the higher quality art) and a myriad of other market factors. Nothing you buy from a store was made by a few people in a garage anymore. It hasn't been for years. One of my buddies was speaking to a high school class a few weeks ago about the game industry. After a few moments of disconnect, she asked the class what they thought the development cost of the last GTA game was. Most students thought it was around $500,000. She informed them that they were short about two zeros.

And I'm telling you, with this next generation of engines and hardware - it's going to seriously pop. You're going to be seeing games which are much more like 5-10 hour CGI movies than say, Defender. I'm not sure what that will do to the industry. Perhaps the indie developers will get a leg up from it - a sort of counterculture to the big studio development. Will engines like Torque and cheap machines like the Mini bring about an alternative to these games? Too early to say.

I did also find this interesting:

I got to break a lot of hearts by telling the audience a very sad fact – that in my 8+ years as a professional game designer, not once has any boss of mine ever asked me for an idea for a new game. Not once. Again, unless you own the company, you get assigned a project (or jump ship to another company working on a game that sounds interesting).

I find it interesting because it's precisely the reason I've stayed away from being a professional developer. Call it my ego, that's perfectly fair - but what interests me about programming games is trying to figure how to make a better one than what came before it - not just completing a project plan.

Course, I may find out a year for now why there aren't many 2D shooters anymore...

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