The Indies Will Ruin Everything!

Shamus Young

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The Indies Will Ruin Everything!

Major game developers are going to have to change if they're going to survive this next generation of consoles.

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Hoplon

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Mar 31, 2010
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I still have a real problem with this "8 to 10 time more expensive to develop for" this a close to off the self PC part and most of these people have been making game for the PC for years.

Are they really that different? There is a strong smell of bullshit about the whole thing.
 

XMark

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Jan 25, 2010
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Any company that is spending 10 times as much cash to make a AAA game on the next-gen consoles is doing something seriously wrong. It should actually be a bit cheaper, if anything, since the overall process of development will be about the same as last-gen but with more relaxed limitations on memory and processing speed and better tools.

If you look at any of the videos of the development tools for the Unreal 4 engine, you can see how this generation's tools offer a far greater ability to make changes on the fly (walking around in-game while editing the level and seeing changes in real time, re-compiling code segments and tweaking entity scripting without even restarting the engine, etc). It should be easier to get more content finished in less time.

Where the heck are they dumping all the extra money?
 

The Rogue Wolf

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Indie developers are ruining the march towards gaming Nirvana, where we can see the ultra-high-fidelity textures of the narrow corridors we're herded along and count every last hair in the beards of the generic Middle Eastern terrorists we gun down by the truckload.

So, much like Jim Sterling, we should thank God for indies.

XMark said:
Where the heck are they dumping all the extra money?
Marketing, probably. Or hiring another expensive voice actor to deliver twelve lines, six of which you'll never hear.
 

medv4380

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Feb 26, 2010
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I'd have a hard time giving Indies all the credit. You could equally give credit to mobile gaming, and free to play as price destruction. Those cheep Indie titles could be selling for a bit more money if people hadn't had a perspective change resulting in the view that games should be free or 1 dollar.
 

Sniper Team 4

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Graphics have never been a selling point for me. I don't care about being able to see a single bead of sweat going down a man's face for half a second in a cutscene where things are exploding, or the water dripping off of my gun as I come out of the water. I care about story, and triple A games seem to be drifting more and more away from that, and I'm hearing more and more about how indie games are capturing audiences with great stories. So yeah, I think this new generation is going to cause several houses of cards to collapse, and it will be interesting to see what hands we are dealt from the rubble.
 

Gorrath

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I don't think it's so much that indies are killing AAA games so much as indies are filling up the vacuum left by disappointing titles and bloated budgets. Indies aren't destroying the AAA market, the AAA market is. In lieu of advancing graphics, they are advancing gameplay, and as has been preached over and over, gameplay is the more important aspect. Games like Papers Please, Minecraft, and Terraria are niche games to be sure, but those niches are bigger than people think. What's more, people would much rather buy the niche games they are really into, at a fraction of the cost, than buy "expanded audience", catch-all, mediocre messes that are trying to stand out on visuals alone and have four times the price tag.

I think the best thing for the big developers/publishers is to get as far away from the AAA development cycle as they can, and get back to producing "niche" games for targeted audiences instead of trying to pander to everyone by producing the blandest possible products. GIve us the same innovative gameplay but WITH amazing, jaw-dropping visuals and you'll catch some of that thunder that's sweeping the indies along. Learn to love the niches, or die.
 

Colt47

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Kickstarter, early access, and indie gaming are the three shakers right now in the industry that are going to change things one way or another. We just got done with nearly a decade of mediocrity or failure in AAA releases, with companies mistaking huge sales figures to a general audience for franchise success. Somehow I feel that many of the games are going to go the way of Metal Slug.
 

Rad Party God

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Feb 23, 2010
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Yup, that's exactly the issue Capcom (and pretty much ANY AAA publisher) has, they're blinded by the notion they themselves have created that "graphics sell", the time I was working on retail, every single day I was asked at least 3 to 4 times if I had Minecraft for 360, even more so than your Maddens, Fifas or CODs combined.

I don't have anything against having so much horsepower behind a console, so long as it's used to deliver artistically impressive images (not to be confused by "photorealistic"), instead of rendering all the sweat from a soccer player after a hard match or "realistic blood" covering 2/3 of the screen.
 

Dr.Awkward

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Well, when you hire a team of lawyers, accountants, marketers, sales associates, a board of executives, and a few chief officers for certain branches, many of which expect a six-digit salary for their expertise (or "expertise"), of course you're going to eventually run into financial problems. The traditional corporate model these larger development houses tack themselves onto is the problem, as the mentality seems to be that it's necessary in order to appear legitimate. Yet the game industry, both as a business and as a medium, isn't necessarily a place of tradition - For instance, Valve's flat structure works because most of the people share titles and have equal power (in theory). Now we are seeing one-man and two-man teams that are creating games that are both financially and culturally notable, some of which took amazing cost-cutting decisions to still be able to work on them. For example, Robot Loves Kitty moved and lived in a treehouse in Vermont to reduce finances while creating Legend of Dungeon, and BetaDwarf secretly used a seemingly-forgotten classroom at a university as their place to develop FORCED until being discovered and moving to the cheapest place they could find in Denmark that could hold the entire team.

However, the saturation of indies may soon be a problem as well. Too many indie devs means not enough spotlight to showcase them, and when you look at the similar products these small teams are making, you could say that they might be better off meeting and merging into one bigger, better medium-sized team that's able to create better-refined products for the industry. And that's one greater need that I've seen little of - More medium-sized teams that rival some of the ones we've seen in the late 90s and early 2000s, right before it became "essential" to have a corporate setup in order to be taken seriously.
 

Reyold

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Hey Shamus, been a while since I last saw some of your stuff here. Good read.

I should think that indies are "ruining" everything. Generally speaking, they're cheaper, aren't screwing over their consumer base, and are making more interesting games. What will the AAA industry do? We'll have to wait and see.
 

Tel_Windzan

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I've always had this speculation theory when it came to the game industry in that you can kinda relate some elements of it to art history. Mainly the whole realism part of video games. It felt to me that artists for years were trying to be super realistic in their art. When they finally peaked at that level, they eventually went down and started to go in the opposite direction with art, resulting in Abstract art and its variations.

With AAA games having that backing of art-quality behind them for so long, I figured this would happen to them as well. In that, the artistic side of games will peak and you have to eventually move on to something new. Of course, with developers in the AAA industry putting so much money down for the graphics, I don't think they can move anywhere but forward. The train is already going so they just have to be hopeful they have enough money for the next train.

That said, being welcoming to indie groups could help the bigger developers say a float for a bit, maybe. Not every indie game would be as successful as Minecraft, Rogue Legacy or Papers, Please. I'd imagine if they manage a lot of them, like I assume Microsoft and Sony are doing, they should be getting some profit from them. That is, assuming Microsoft and Sony are doing everything in their power to make their service accessible to indie developers. And are not in some way going to make things difficult for indie developers by charging them a lot of money for their game.

And with that also being said, hopefully the indie developers will not abuse the system to make it harder for future developers as well, but I guess that's just the point of taking risks, isn't it?
 

cidbahamut

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Dr.Awkward said:
But once they hit medium they immediately start wondering if they shouldn't keep trending larger and before you know it they fall into the huge corporation model and the cycle repeats.

I'll agree that the medium sized teams from the 90s seemed to hammer out some of the best stuff that's ever made it to market. However I'm not sure if that was because of the team size or simply a product of the times.
 

geizr

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Make a decent game for a decent price and don't pester the gamer with a bunch of bullshit. For whatever reason, this simple, fundamental principle has eluded the minds of the AAA publishers for decades. Don't ache over using every possible feature of the hardware; that's actually not necessary. Just focus on the game design, gameplay, and game mechanics. It's not necessary to make a ginormous game with eyeball annihilating hyper-graphics all the time. Sometimes, small, focused, and intense experience is better, rather than long, boring grinds and worlds of vast empty spaces, both engineered to just eat time without having to provide any actual content. You don't need to create a game that appeals to everyone in the market; that's impossible, anyway. Just select and understand the core audience to whom your game is targeted and focus on appealing to that audience. When you're ready to grow the audience, do so with a new game, not piling onto the same old one and over-extending it.

While marketing is a necessary evil, it's not necessary to spend massive amounts of money on it. Quit worrying over the whole piracy issue and take advantage of the rapid social nature of the Internet. Let your fans advertise the game for you, though personal blogs, videos, fan-art, etc. Take advantage of the highly connected culture of the Internet to do the advertising work for you; best of all, most of it is completely FREE of cost to you. It's possible to even use piracy to advantage to get the word out about the game and garner sales. This is the kind of thing demos are made for.
 

Oskuro

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Tel_Windzan said:
And with that also being said, hopefully the indie developers will not abuse the system to make it harder for future developers as well, but I guess that's just the point of taking risks, isn't it?
The one thing to remember is that power, *any* power, corrupts. It's not a question of if but rather of when. No, seriously, it is a know psychological effect, human beings are corruptible, and any of us in a position of power will eventually end up abusing it.

So yes, today's underdogs can and possibly will grow to be tomorrows EAs, Apples and Microsofts, just as those evolved back in the day.


But right now we're possibly witnessing passion, talent and innovation defeating the tried-and-true shady tactics of those in power. Lets enjoy it while it lasts, and try, as a community, to learn from it.
 

Xman490

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May 29, 2010
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reiniat said:
Last time i checked the most expensive game that has been ever made is GTA V, with 115 million dollars. But here's the interesting thing; the second game is Halo 4 with 30 million dollars.
Now, these are of course DEVELOPMENT BUDGETS, this means that all the AAA games that you have ever played (with the exception of the above two), costed LESS than 30 million bucks to make.
And here I am wondering if Nintendo didn't make enough on games like Super Mario 3D World. (Yeah, remember them? Their console division is in roughly the same position as the others in terms of sales.) They're just resting on their laurels - making a hefty profit - as their fans (myself absolutely included) patting them on the back and whispering, "It's okay. You don't have to play with the others if you don't want to." Metaphorically, of course.
 

SKBPinkie

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The problem I've had with most indie games is that about 90% are innovative, sure, but in the wrong way.

They're different, yeah - but that's where it stops getting interesting. The games' mechanics, controls, design, and variety are just plain boring most of the time. They're fun for maybe 20-30 minutes and make for a good blog post, seeing how they're pretty different from most genres, but I've never played an indie game that I play for more than a day or two.

If they put more effort into the design phase of things, I'd love them. But as I see it - only Braid and Minecraft are good in that aspect.
 

grigjd3

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So, the AAA games I noticed get released in 2013 are a Devil May Cry game, Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Aliens: Craptacular Marines, the Tomb Raider remake, BioShock Infinite, Dead Island: Riptide, Metro:LL, RE:Rev, Last of Us, Disney Infinity, Arkham Origins, ACIV:Another One, BF4, Injustice: what did they do to the justice league?, CoD:Ghost of it's former self, Forza 5-thousand, FIFA this year, Madden this year, NBA 2K-this year and Ryse. I'm pretty sure there was a GTA game released in the last two years but I'm not entirely sure when and I had no interest in it to begin with.

Of these titles, only Ryse and Last of Us were new IPs and they were both meh, at best. Disney Infinity is a blatant money grab. I presume the sports games and Forza are basically the same with different cars and tracks/team rosters and slightly updated graphics. Most of these games are mediocre at best and almost none of them showed us anything even the slightest bit novel.

I don't deny that indie games have come up really big compared to where they were five or six years ago, however, I would suggest that perhaps the biggest problem facing AAA titles is that they keep producing REALLY CRAPPY AAA titles. Of the above list, the only game I could bear to play all the way through was BioShock Infinite, which I really enjoyed. I either had absolutely no interest in playing the other games to begin with or I played for an hour or two before I decided I would rather boot up some other game instead.

However, let me put this another way. When I was in graduate school and had basically no money, I would likely buy seven or eight AAA games a year. Today, I have more money than ever before and I buy fewer AAA games. The impact of indie games on my spending is effectively negligible. I just buy whatever I want. Indies are not taking away sales or segmenting the AAA market. The AAA market just happens to suck right now.