Pessimism's End

Sean Sands

Optimistic Cynic
Sep 14, 2006
Pessimism's End

It seems that every cycle the industry forgets how much it costs to launch a next-gen console. ... It takes a few years to have a big enough install base in any generation to give developers and publishers the kind of safety net with which they are familiar. The good news is that a few years of growing install bases are increasing sales as the cost of development drops.



New member
Jul 13, 2006
I enjoyed this article. However, being the constant pessimist that I am, I wonder if things could be even better... particularly when it comes to creativity and innovation.

This is a really interesting proposal for rejuvenating the artistry that video games are capable of...

I followed the link from Sirlin's site ( and it really opened my eyes to the complacency we seem to have regarding video games. I mean, there was a time when video games were new and interesting in just about every facet imaginable with each year that went by... and now I dread even some of the most highly rated games because I've simply been there and done that a decade or more ago.

The Wii has been my savior, mind you, so I'm not entirely disappointed with the industry's offerings. I just know things could be better... because I love to hate. ;-)


New member
Jan 13, 2007
Echolocating said:
I mean, there was a time when video games were new and interesting in just about every facet imaginable with each year that went by... and now I dread even some of the most highly rated games because I've simply been there and done that a decade or more ago.
Possibly because, globally, the tools and platforms still share the same basic ingredients as ten years ago, just with shinier stuff packed all together, and a bit of variation thrown into the mix.

The Wii is not really my kind of revolution, but I'm still glad it occured, and I like the idea that lesser graphics can still find their place in today's gaming choices (though, let's be honest, the Wii works for reasons very similar to why the Game Boy buried all its competitors, and this makes a different painting to what most people seem to see).

Now, the download of small, original and digital content is hot. Though it's nothing new, especially considering the inclusion of modded content, what is refreshing is the growth of alternate download systems.

EDIT: That "Sirlin & Grassroots vs Cynics" must be looked at objectively. I think both sides make good points.
I bet Grassroots' words find a place within the hearts of indies more than in industry heavies', but it appears a tad naïve in some points. Well, naïve is a bit of a harsh word, and the guy makes a lot of noise, is very showy, but there's not much substance... yet.
His speech is music to many ears I suppose, but there's the cold realism of business one has to cope with, and the way it goes, the video game industry is still lagging behind in many domains.

It's really pathetically sad that for such a young industry which has solid examples to look at, it seems to go through all the same troubles as older sisters did, like if they never existed.
Look at the business models, political support, syndicates, copyright and protection of content, development structures... sometimes it's just so rigid and awkward, one can easily understand how it's easy to be cynical about it.

Yes, it's flexible to a good extent, but it's also horribly jaded.

That Grassroots guy's point [] is about giving credit to the designer, and for funders to grow a new branch of business, which resolves a lot about being able to snif the genius factor of a potentially good design which could sell, and paying the guy the money he deserves.

I find this claim so disconnected from reality. A scriptwriter won't just send one copy and voila. Most of the time, there's a ping pong game between the scriptwriter(s) (original or added to the group) and the funders, until the script gets greenlighted.

Okay, this could work in videogames to some extent. You come with a concise description of the game. Then you provide the bible, the oh so horrible piece of concrete that details all the shit that goes into the game.
Like others have said, that's just a piece of the work. A very small one. Still consequent and important to some degree, because the first step is important, and you can't afford following a bad route, so you got to know where you want to go, and be sure that it's going to lead you to Las Vegas, and not to the middle of nowhere. But there's lot of refinement to do. The design will change a lot, ideas will be ditched, and a lot of iterative work will shape the final product.

I don't think anyone would be interested in buying the first step of a design, the "newborn", and not hire the parent of this baby to shape it, "educate" it.
That's probably where this recurring statement drops in... ideas are a dime a dozen. But it's still quite true, like it or not.
Not going to argue about what makes a good game in the end, based on the initial sheet, there are many ideas flying around, and I can't see mere designs being sold like hotcakes. The studio or publisher will want to know if this or that design has a value, and buying a piece of sheet with some organized ideas, laid over two hundred pages, still don't mean a lot in terms of revenue.

Maybe there are people out there who believe that a big piece of text has some value, can be bought/sold there, as it is, and most links with the progenitor not be maintained.
If the document is well made, clear, and if the idea seems to be good, yes, it does have value, but it's minimal.
This doesn't work in the movie industry, which seems to be GG's main reference, I don't see why it'd work in games.
No matter how fat the document can be, the vanilla version alone has much less value than the reworked iterations.

So I don't really agree with his position. Well, there's something good about it, but it's more complex than that.

There's a lot to add to the design to make sure it's good, and the design a lot has a poor return for investment value.

Most logically though, if we want to find a workable variant of that system, I think the best deal would be to hire the designer over the project's whole term. But not to have this person be a stencil pusher. But it requires that this person comes with a certain bag of competences and knowledge in various domains, which is a bit counter intuitive to what GG says about selling design docs for the sake of being recognized as a designer, instead of selling complete game design docs as a designer, without needing to prove you're one.

I think the problem with GG's points is that he longs for attention in some way. Sure, there's obviously a question of ego, from the moment you defend the principle of having a name on a box. Although his stompy and ratling ways could be a mean to get the industry moving faster than wished by some, and shaking many pillars which seem to gather dust more than anything else, he also gets a lot of flak because of a lack of humility, being wide mouthed, yet hiding behind a tag.
Many of his general ideals can be agreed with, but the way he delivers them, and illustrates them, is leaving something to be desired more than once, and some ideas definitely sound... naïve.

I think his point is not exactly clear. I have that horrible feeling that he entertains a level of vagueness which he relies on to backpedal from time to time.