Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Load Tubes One and Two!

Okay, I've had enough of this silence bit. So many people complained that I was all talk, so I put away the black hat and put out a real first-stab at a real high-level business design. I've gotten some real, serious feedback, some offline interest, and a few of us are mucking about on our own time looking at that.

Then I shut up.

But my blog seems to have gone blahhh...

So let's light up some targets again!

Here are a couple comments I made on Gamasutra recently...

On Simon Parkin's examination of numeric rating systems for game reviews:

Think of all those great works in other media - films, novels, music, etc - that were trashed, ignored or otherwise misunderstood when first released but, after time, were "rediscovered" and then went on to become masterpieces and extreme commercial success.

Once again, I have to say we need to pry the reins of creative-decision-making in game development out of the hands of the short-sighted beancounters.

(Note: Somebody later commented against me, mistakenly believing I was criticizing the author. Actually Parkin and I were in agreement.)

On Will Wright's optimistic view of games being accepted as a form of expression:

"We are a couple years away from being respected as a form of expression, but it's not a battle we need to fight. We'll win anyway."

Yeah right... Kind've like the Civilization model of R&D: just keep pumping "research points" into a new tech (which, somehow you know is coming even before it's been invented), passively, and sooner or later the new tech just pops out of nowhere.

Guess what?: in the real world radical discoveries don't happen that way. They are far from inevitable... They come from unexpected directions, by people often looking for totally different things. They meet great resistance.

The reality is new advancements don't just magically happen. Anymore than in cinema the auteur system - and with it respect for the medium of film - appeared. The auteur system which brought respect to film occurred because of an act of government to break the monopoly of film studios. Similar accomplishments require great work.

I wonder if Mr Wright would speak so free and easy if he were a just-starting-out designer today. Without the immense power his name carries. Let's say Sim City had never been invented - and thus the entire genre of Sim-like games didn't exist. And he went as a lone designer (much as he did back in the late 80s) with the proposal for such a radically new design. If he didn't have all the firepower of a working 3D demo behind him - which is de rigeur today - would he have gotten anywhere? Or would some suit at a publisher say "How quaint? However, we're trying to fill out our roster of military shooters, so we'll take a pass..."

One wonders.


Anonymous said...

Actually when I criticized you I was saying your post had nothing useful to do with the article not that you were 'against' the author in anyway. All you said was some odd spout about things get rediscovered later to be interesting and how we need to pry game design from the hands of 'bean counters'. I was annoyed because you were posting this unrelated stuff up on gamasutra like it meant something. In reality you just come off as someone who has no idea what he is talking about.

Grassroots Gamemaster, said...

OMG! An ad hominem rebuttal! Can't you come up with something better than that?

Anonymous said...

Can't you? You basically said nothing just now to refute my point.

This seems to be a going theme with you. Your ideas rarely actually relate to what's being said. I've seen it repeatedly on Gamasutra and it's getting rather annoying really.

What's more this fanciful idea of yours for a "lottery" game company is utter idiocy. No designer in their right mind would risk that much on any game idea no matter how sound. You place all of your risk in that idea on the designer, which is a good way to kill them if the game through code of your hired out programmers fails horribly.

If their idea dies on the table thanks to your practice having the IP for it is meaningless, it's ruined and likely no one would ever pick it up again thanks to you.

I'm not going to say the current state of game design is perfect, it isn't. But it's a sight better and less dangerous thank your crazy ideas and notions. I sincerely hope I never have to work with you and I truly hope you never win the lottery. Your company would ether never have anyone at it's door or it could very well ruin the lives of those who come knocking.

Infinity said...

I'd beg to disagree with the above statement. I think the system has a sound idea. Would obviously need to be put into practice. Just because you dislike someone does not make their idea bad. If you didn't intend to come off sounding like that you certainly did. Anger is a bad emotion to carry into communication although I must admit grassroots indifference is not better an attitude to bring to a table where communication and networking are powerful allies.
I think you're lottery idea is very sound. That it has some kinks and specifics that need to be worked out yeah...but the same could be said about anything. And while the risk is grand for the designer, the payout can be as well and I understand why you dare to have a system like that...because certainly a passion for bringing an idea to life should far overreach anything monetary. If you truly believe you have something great you will see it to fruition especially if it's success means you're success. I understand what you are getting at. Attempting to make a field driven by passion for the art pf you're craft...certainly no easy task but it is how art should be. You need to be passionate.

Anonymous said...

I guess I rather did have a lot of Venom in me Infinty. And for that I do applogise. In an ideal world honestly I'd like to see this work, my point was more I don't think it would fly. And it has nothing to do with wether or not there is people with enough passion out there.

It's more that well, his idea is rather dangerous, there is no saftey net at all from the sound of things. Passion can go a long way I'll admit but having nothing of a backup plan just felt rather dumb to me. It just sort of feels like if the game flops, even by no fault of the makers (which I've seen happen in some very good games) that the company just hangs out a very good designer to dry, shrugs and says oh well so much for him.

Infinity said...

Although I don't have a family of my own...I am actively involved with my immediate family (father, mother, brothers...) and I know why such a risk can be fatal. You can't afford to fail with a family you need to provide for. I think that with a system like this offering marketing to the person game designer could make the risk worth it...let's face it if a game is crap and has a great marketing strategy it will outsell a game that is good with a poor marketing strategy. Another way would be to use a service like steam where your game is easily accessed, viewed and downloaded. Just a few ideas I had. I'm sure there are more possible solutions and better ways to go about this.

Anonymous said...

Finaly someone who gets it! I'm glad you're here infinity, that's basically the core of what I was trying to bring across. Apologies for being unclear, I sometimes have a problem making my point in arguments.

But yes, the way he has it set up in his head is just blatantly dangerous to the designer. I felt there had to be a counterpoint made somewhere since so many people seemed to be missing the dangers I saw in it.

Like I said, in a perfect world I'd kind of like to see a model like this work. I think that there might even be some good points to take from it for other setups, but alone it's a very very risky way to set things up and I really doubt anyone would go for it when they could take their idea elsewhere.

Grassroots Gamemaster, said...

The way this is set up, the designer shares in the risk but makes a killing if his (her) game is a hit. Honestly, if you are looking to do creative work like game design, but want it to be *safe*, you are contradicting yourself. Creative work is dangerous. It's risky. If it isn't, you're just cranking out pulp formulaic garbage. The way LGC looks at this is like being the author of a book, or a writer-director of a film. We make a deal where you assume some risk. We build the production team; we market it; we guide production. But we give something no one else does in the game industry: we give a RESIDUAL! On gross man! Payable to YOU! Not some company. YOU! Directly!

(Besides, if you *are* a name designer already, we offer the residual PLUS a hefty fee.)

So if you believe in your game idea/design - if you have the balls to risk it you will make a lot of money without the hassle of being tied to a single game company as a co-owner.

Infinity said...

Sounds fair enough to me. Then again I'm not in the industry yet.

Anonymous said...

It sounds it infinity, but the inherent problem here is that code is not film. Making a game is not the same as any of those processes. Film there are a few parallels I'll admit but they're not as big as some people would think.

And I agree, the gross share pay off would be awesome. It really would. Assuming it even comes mind you.

The trick is code is a much more fickle sort of place to make something than in film. Especially if you're attempting a PC game. An example from my own experience was a project for school. I made a particle engine we used, looked awesome, tons of neat effects on my laptop. We moved it to an identical laptop of a teammate and it was UTTER crap. It took us a week worth of tracking to figure out that this error was due to a driver he had and I didn't, and his driver was the one used by our test systems so I had to trash all of the effects I'd made.

It's why games like Daikatana can have a wonderful writer come up with an awesome idea, then the game itself can crash and burn. Your company doesn't account for the fact this can occur. You throw your designers to the curb afterward and go "oh well we shat all over that IP, where's the next one?"

I won't pretend the current state of things is perfect, but you should rethink your idea to account for some of this, it'd be silly not to. Unless you seriously think game designers are such a disposable resource that you can simply toss them aside like a Kleenex when you're done, in which case you're no better than the companies you openly decry.

Grassroots Gamemaster, said...

Use middleware whenever possible (don't reinvent the wheel).

Do iterative prototyping.

There is no reason these should become insurmountable obstacles.

Grassroots Gamemaster, said...

Also, I should say that I would rather be "tossed aside" after a project with a one-percent of gross residual - payable to ME, personally, for as long as I live (meaning that if the game makes $100 million over its lifetime I earn ONE MILLION DOLLARS! plus fees for spin-offs; plus my fee for the actual work) - than be kept nicely chained to a game designer position for a measly $60 to $100K per year.

In case you haven't heard, film industry screenwriters get a deal like this. They do get "tossed aside" (as you paint it) after each film. They can also get very fucking rich for their work. A hell of a lot richer than game designers.

I mean, again, my god. If you want job security, become a banker or an accountant. This is an entertainment industry. Grow some balls!