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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rein Dismisses Episodic Content As Competition

He explained, “Customers are supposed to buy half a game after 20 months, then wait six months for an episode? When I put a game down, I want to try a new one. Episodic games that offer faster turnaround will inevitably be using a lot of recycled content, walking through the same environments and shooting the same enemies with the same weapons.”

He said that episodic games could never compete will full-priced products. “They’re competing against massive marketing budgets. Distribution without marketing is worthless. You can’t buy retail marketing with a wholesale price of $15.” He added, “Full-price games have a cohesive start, middle and end.”
-- Rein Pours Scorn on Episodic(digg it)

Hrm. As a semi-reformed Unreal fanboy, I gotta tell you that Rein's track record for foot and mouth correlation isn't so hot. His statement that a release would be out "in two weeks" is probably still getting guffaws on the forums. I get the impression that Mark's a pretty good guy ... and having seen him in action on mass IRC chats I'd definately say I'd have a few beers with him ... but occasionally he gets quoted in the news and it makes one groan.

That as it may be, I think he's got a point here. His mistake is making a blanket statement about all potential episodic content. Yes, it might be re-use a lot of existing content. I would certainly think it would. Sure, if all other factors for games remain the same ... it's potential for some suck. Cheap redundant content is not superior to expensive unique content.

What he's missing, though, is that some of us hope that developers will use episodes for the power of good. Think of it as the difference between television and movies. TV might have lower production values, but they allow a lot more canvas to paint a big picture. Television shows can carry more characters and more plotlines whereas movies require a lens focused enough to film within their time limit.

I haven't seen that it will happen yet, but I'm hopeful that's the kind of difference developers can make with a new publishing format.

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Unknown said...

Two things:

- Rein is a nice guy. When I lived next to Epic and my friend there (engine programmer) had me over to visit, I saw him a couple of times. Good impressions. He also made the famous comment about making Unreal client work on Linux to pay back the community for the server support. Hard to get on my bad side saying (and doing) things like that.

- The kind of reuse of assets to make espisodic content was something I suggested could have been part of Vice City on the PS2. It would have been so easy, and Sony could have been so far ahead of the curve...

Random comments, yes. Sorry.

Josh said...

I don't think I've ever had an email, mail-list or irc transaction with an Epic employee that I didn't like ... to paraphrash the old quote.

I've given them heck in the past, but I gotta say that the company is a very personable lot and one of the best aspects of modding for the Unreal engine was that they're pretty up front and center.