Video Gaming

Making Flash Games into a Platform

Today, I finally announced a project I’ve been working on. It is a service called “AlwaysOn SaveGames” that provide remote storage of save data similar to Valve’s SteamCloud but open to Flash developers. You can read the announcement for more details, or the about page for an overview of what I am trying to provide.

This post is about why I created the service.
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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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Dear Developers: button layout loading screens must go

I recently downloaded a bunch of demos from the Playstation Store to check out some of the games I’ve missed. After playing through a bunch of them, I noticed that all of them included a loading screen that tells you what each of the buttons do, the “Button Layout” screen.

Here is an example of a button layout screen:
harman-kardon-avr-340-receiver-remote-control.gif
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The Publisher/Game Studio Relationship

Since the blog is called “Inside the Game Developer Studio,” I should talk a little bit about what a game studio is.

A game studio is where the eternal dance between the money, the monkey, and marketroids takes place (that would be publisher, developer and marketing in layman’s terms). Given those things and add an extra ingredient of Chemical X to the concoction and you will have a hit game on your hands.
studio-equation.jpg
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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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Remembering E3 : why it was the best of times and worst of times

Ah, E3. (the show formerly known a Electronic Entertainment Expo) Gamers know it as the avalanche of new game announcements and an orgy of screen shots and breathless coverage by the geek world at large.

Here is an insightful documentary on what it was like to be at E3, which you should checkout before reading on.


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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.