Posts tagged games industry

I Didn’t Join the Video Games Industry to Make Glorified Random Number Generators

I said that last night while discussing the state of Flash/Facebook games with my friend David. Cracked.com has a great article explaining some of the techniques video games use to keep players engaged.

Notice that I said engaged, not entertained. They are two different things. Games used to want players to have fun so they will eventually buy another game. If it was so the players will buy another game from the same studio, it was called building a brand. If it was so the players will buy another sequel, it was called building a franchise.

But that is a very risky thing isn’t it? To always build new games and hope it does well? A brand can be trashed with a few not so great games, see Rare. Sequels can be milked to death, see Tomb Raider. So the new way to make games is to engage the players so they don’t want to stop playing. The players don’t have to enjoy the experience, but have just enough rewards to keep them coming back. Now you can charge users more and more money for the same game without having to risk making something new. You can tweak your reward delivery channel, aka game, to ensure maximum engagement and of course maximum profit.

Not all game company think like that of course, just the more profitable ones. The problem is that this way of viewing players is growing. When engagement games grows, it takes time and attention away from enjoyment games. To compete for time and attention of the players, all games will adopt the same kind of techniques to keep players playing.

How do you see the future of gamings? Will it be drowned by the sounds of pavlovian mouse clicks?

Why the Games Industry Needs E3

Apprently it is news to some people that E3 is dead. I wrote my own eulogy to E3 a couple of month ago, around the time E3 is suppose to take place. The real E3, not whatever just happened last week.

E3 was important to the industry because it represented gaming as a “Culture” and that’s why we need it back.
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Cast of Characters pt 2 : the Broken

If you want to work in the games industry, know that it is filled with geeky guys. Be prepared to put up with a certain amount of ‘eccentricities.’ In this series, I offer up a sampling of the types of people you might meet in your journey.

Last time I talked about the ‘Burnout’, this time I’ll be talking about a close cousin to the ‘Burnout’ I like to call the ‘Broken.’

The inspiration for the name comes from something that Dan, a fellow gameplay programmer on BioShock, told me. After I was hired at Irrational, I learned that there was long search to fill the position I was hired for. When I asked Dan why it took so long, he explained that it was hard finding experienced people that still had the passion to make great games, and the person they interviewed right before me was ‘broken and bitter.’
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Why Sky High Development Budget is Good for Publishers

The cost of developing a game has increased exponentially over the past few years. The first game I worked, ‘The Punisher,’ had a development budget of six million dollars. I would say that’s in the middle range of development cost during that time.

Nowadays, just marketing a high profile game will cost that much, with twenty million dollars being a reasonable estimate for the development cost of a competitive console title.

Many developers have remarked on this huge increase and thinks it is bad for the industry, however I believe that big budget titles plays right into the hands of large publishers.
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Cast of Characters pt 1 : the Burnout

If you want to work in the games industry, know that it is filled with geeky guys. Be prepared to put up with a certain amount of ‘eccentricities.’ In this series, I offer up a sampling of the types of people you might meet in your journey.

The first personality I’d like to talk about is the “Burnout”, which technically you won’t meet in the games industry since he has already left it. A Burnout is someone who has worked as a developer for many years and then leaves the industry entirely.

Working in as a game developer can be an unforgiving and thankless job, so some turn over is to be expected, but one group in particular seems to be susceptible to becoming a Burnout, the programmers.

Burning Man by Aaron Logan
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The Games Industry Needs More Competence Not ‘Innovation’

One of the perennial complaints leveled against the games industry is that the industry is ‘Stagnant’ and needs more ‘Innovation.’

I’ve fallen into that train of thought myself a couple of years ago during the period known as ‘The Time of Brown Military Shooters.’

Gradually, I came to another realization, what I really want to see is more good games, that the game is ‘innovative’ is secondary to the fact that the game must be good.
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The Economic of Video Games : the royalty question

New York Times recently ran a story about how the voice actor for the protagonist in Grand Theft Auto IV only earned $100k for his work while the game has already grossed over $600 million.

So how does the games industry reward the people who made the games? The short answer is not well. Compensation really depends on the company you work for, as there is no industry wide standard. For the three games I’ve worked on, I’ve receive around $50k in total bonuses , while the games have sold over 5 million copies total, or a gross of around $300 million.

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Three degrees of Miyamoto

Miyamoto, Inafune, Ian, me. That is the three degrees of separation between Miyamoto and me.

There is a well known theory that everyone is connected to everyone else in the world in just six steps. There is also a trivia game that connects actors to Kevin Bacon through working together on the same movie, where the number of steps is called a “Bacon Number”.

If we apply the same idea to get a “Miyamoto Number,” where you connect people by the games they worked on, then my number is probably 2. I worked with Kelly on BioShock, and Kelly worked for Nintendo for 12 years, so she must have worked on a game that Miyamoto made.

So what does this have to do with understanding the games industry?

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Welcome to Inside the Game Developer Studio

This blog is my attempt to open the door and shed light on the game making process, from the point of the view of a game developer.

Blogs about games tend to fall into two categories, “Enthusiast” and “Insider.” Enthusiast blogs are all about the games, what’s the latest and newest, and written for gamers looking for their fix of information. The insider blogs are written by people making games and contain interesting details for those working in the same field, but too arcane for other readers.

The idea for this blog was inspired by JC Barnett’s “Japanmanship” blog, which is a great introduction to working in the games industry in Japan. As I was reading that blog, I wondered if is there a blog about what’s it like to work in the games industry in the US? Well, this blog is my stab at it. Unfortunately, I am not an artist nor possessing the dry British wit of JC Barnett, but hopefully you’ll enjoy my blog anyway.

I am not an artist, but I was a programmer in the games industry for the last five years. I was in two great studios, Volition and Irrational, and worked on three titles I am proud of: The Punisher, Saint’s Row and BioShock. I am currently taking some time off to work on my own thing, and finally have time to write this blog.