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Trimming The Fat: How and Why Game Design Must Change

Trimming The Fat: How and Why Game Design Must Change

Mon 14 Jan 2013 12:00pm GMT / 7:00am EST / 4:00am PST
PublishingDesign

Game design has become clumsy and bloated - it's time to shake things up

The traditional games industry has reached a dangerous point. Retail sales are down for the fourth year in a row (software sales for 2012 were down 22 percent from 2011). Worse, the number of games has dropped; the total SKUs across all platforms dropped by 29 percent. The top games are still making a profit, but more and more games aren't. Publishers are producing fewer titles and relying on sequels to proven hits in order to reduce risk, but that in itself is risky in the long run. We're already seeing that Call of Duty sales peaked in 2010. When you rely on fewer titles, any stumbles become more dangerous. What happens when you're down to depending on a few big franchises for your profits, and one of them doesn't deliver for the year? Disaster.

One response is to expand into other areas like social, mobile, and free-to-play, and put more emphasis on digital distribution and various forms of purely digital revenue. All of the traditional publishers are doing that to a greater or lesser degree, but the majority of their sales still come from discs in boxes sold at retail stores. The next generation of consoles may have more digital content than ever, but the majority of their software revenue will still be from discs in boxes for years to come.

Is there a way to introduce more new IP, take some chances on innovative games, and reduce risk? Possibly, and game design is the key.

"What happens when you're down to depending on a few big franchises for your profits, and one of them doesn't deliver for the year? Disaster.

It all comes down to design, in the end. Designers have become used to designing to the form dictated by retail sales, and they have to break out of that mold when the realities of the marketplace change. This is happening in music, video, and writing. Albums are no longer shaping how artists create music, nor are their tracks limited to the length that can fit on an analog vinyl single. Video is no longer confined to the two-hour movie or the one-hour drama, and we're seeing a lot of innovation in form, style and content on Internet-distributed video. The novel's length used to be dictated by the word count that would fit in a few price points and page lengths in a standard trim size. Similarly, game designs have been bounded by the retail pricing of games and the amount of space available on the media, and by the perceived need to provide a certain number of hours of gameplay for the retail price.

Digital distribution has removed those restrictions. Price points can be at any level; length of play is no longer set. We're seeing great innovation among games distributed digitally, first with indie games on the PC, with games on XBLA and PSN, and the explosion of games on mobile platforms. Those games have their own restrictions due to download size and the specifics of their platforms, and designers for traditional titles should be learning some things from them.

The answer to the industry's problems lies in redesigning game design to suit the demands of the current and future market. There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risks and raise the chances for success.

1

Project Eternity

First, don't treat every title as if it were going to be the next AAA blockbuster by giving it a two-year development time (or more) and a $50 million budget. Sure, sure, the sequels to your hit products deserve the big treatment; the next Call of Duty needs to have a big budget. Look at Halo 4; Microsoft spent hugely on it, and it's paying off. But that same effort on a new IP? You're asking for trouble.

What can a publisher do with that $50 million? How about funding ten $5 million games that are on the level of some of the recent Kickstarter phenomena, like Obsidian's Project Eternity or InXile's Wasteland II? Use existing technology; don't push the graphic envelope. Leave off the voice acting. Don't reinvent an entire game system or game engine. Don't figure on including both multiplayer and single player; pick one mode and do it well. Adjust the scope of the design so it's doable in 12 months with a reasonable team size. The idea is to prove the market for the idea and the IP.

EA had a good idea a few years ago, when it tried to create a number of new IPs. The initiative floundered because the company tried to do it using the old process, which doomed it to failure. A new, innovative idea is too risky for a multi-year, $50 million plus project.

Chris Roberts is approaching it sanely. He has a grand vision of a huge space MMO in Star Citizen, but he's figured out a design that will allow him to build it in salable pieces. So he can build it without an immense budget at the start. And if the first piece or two is not a big enough success to fund the rest of it, he can stop working on the next massive pieces and save that money. Maybe it'll do well enough to fund continued content development; if not, that could be shut down, too. But he should be able to do all this with only a minor downside risk, and huge upside potential if he succeeds in making a hit.

2

Wasteland II

Only there won't be a publisher sharing in that upside. Because they don't offer anything he needs. Money? A handful of investors and crowdfunding is enough, thanks. Technology? Nah, he can do that himself. Servers and back-end support? Amazon or others will cheerfully sell that in whatever size you need. Marketing? If you've got a name already, and a little bit of help, you don't need a big marketing department. If publishers don't begin to follow this path, developers will be happy to do it for them, as the growing number of Kickstarter projects demonstrates.

Traditional games have become bloated with too much that isn't really vital to the gameplay. Sure, those lengthy cinematic intros are cool, but how often do you watch them? Once. How much did that cost to make? Millions, in some cases. Maybe it's a proper marketing expense, but don't build it into the game budget.

Sometimes games are just bloated, period. Gran Turismo 5 took more than 5 years to develop at a cost of over $80 million, and includes over 1,000 cars and 71 tracks. This is just ridiculous; has anyone ever used more than a small fraction of those cars? Get the game engine done in whatever time it takes, sure, but the game needn't ship with more than a few dozen cars and perhaps a dozen tracks. Sell more tracks, more cars, more customizations later, once the game is out there making money.

"Traditional games have become bloated with too much that isn't really vital to the gameplay"

Mobile games have shown how to strip gameplay down to the essential elements. Social games have refined the onboarding process to a minimal time, rather than making players spend hours learning the controls. Do you really need a whole new graphics engine? A brand-new character creation system? A completely new set of algorithms for combat, and a new set of weapons?

If there's one thing Minecraft should have taught us, it's that pushing the graphic envelope isn't always necessary to have a hit game. You don't have to look like an 8-bit game, either; the screen shots from Project Eternity look very nice. Do we really need voice-overs? Nope, that sure doesn't affect the gameplay at all, but it can add a lot of time and a lot of cost to a game budget.

Now obviously a stripped down title isn't worthy of a $60 price point... so don't charge $60 for it. Try $20, or $15. We know publishers can still make money even at retail stores with that pricing, if they could convince the retailers to carry such a low-priced SKU. That may not be as impossible as it might seem, given some clever marketing. A special end-cap display, some branding for the innovative games under a special label, a clever promotion - it's all in how you set expectations for the customers.

3

Star Citizen

Perhaps these titles might debut as digital distribution only, and only jump into retail when they've proven their audience. Out of ten titles, maybe only one or two gather a following. Then the publisher can fund more content for those successful titles, give it a deluxe treatment and put it out into retail with a much lower risk.

This development strategy is the same one successfully used by King.com for casual games: Develop many ideas with a small team and a low budget and test them on an audience. Take the successful ones, give them a special treatment and roll them out big time. Rinse, lather, repeat. This strategy took King.com to the #2 Facebook game publisher in just 18 months from their first Facebook game introduction.

We know that some of the best designers around are working at some of the biggest companies, but they only get to do one project every few years. And when they do, those designs are constrained by the publisher's risks. We therefore see fewer and fewer games, with less innovation. That's both annoying to us as players and frightening to investors. Why have all the major publishers' share prices been languishing for years? Because investors aren't convinced they have the potential to create breakout hits on a regular basis. With good reason, as publishers place fewer and fewer development bets with less innovation attached.

There are certainly other strategies that can be followed to get more games, and more creative games, from the big publishers. Let's see some attempts, before the big publishers become smaller the hard way. New publishers are growing rapidly with online games (like Riot and Wargaming.com), and social games (like Kabam) and mobile games (Rovio, Gree, DeNA, Supercell and others). The old-school publishers need to redesign their design processes or risk getting outplayed.

32 Comments

Jason Avent
VP, Studio Head

139 140 1.0
Popular Comment
This is a really good article making an exceptionally good point. I've had arguments like this with publishing guys over the past ten years. You don't have to tick all the boxes all of the time. You don't always need split-screen. You don't even need multiplayer a lot of the time. How did we arrive at 100 hours of gameplay as a target? Why should there be twenty race tracks? We spent a lot of time keeping up with the Joneses in this business and it's just unnecessary. I was just playing Subway Surfers before I read this article and was thinking to myself, I'm sure this entire game was just one of the five or six types of levels in Ratchet and Clank or Crash Bandicoot. Subway Surfers is still making a lot money. As gamers we've been really spoilt by AAA development. As developers and publishers, we need to be much cleverer about editing and packaging games into products that people welcome. With all the new business models and platforms, consumers are having their expectations reset. We should all take advantage of that.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Renaud Charpentier
Lead Designer

64 138 2.2
True: 3 revolutions triggered that change: Game Engines, Digital distribution and non gaming hardware specs explosion. If you want to succeed in that new ecosystem you should take advantage of all 3. Use a SDK, sell 5$ worth of contend and still earn 3$, remember that the average smartphone is faster than a PS2 and the average laptop on par with a PS3.

If you embrace it that's a designer's dream come true: game crafted faster with a smaller team on a smaller budget means less risks and less risks does mean more creative freedom. You don't have to wait 2 years for the engine to be "ready" you don't have to justify why your design is not a carbon copy of the last hit in the genre, you can metric your game, update and push what players actually like the most in it... haaaa so much fresh air!

Posted:A year ago

#2

Emily Knox
Associate Designer

47 96 2.0
Cheaper boxed games with more concise content definitely would've appealed to me before I started buying products digitally, the only title I can distinctly think of that did this on the shelf was when Metal Slug came to PS2/Xbox, but the main option to spend less in store was always with pre-owned, and still seems to be.

A little aside, but with the GT5 example, is cutting down on cars and tracks in a driving game trimming the fat? I'm not sure the player is at a benefit or particularly appealed to with less tracks to race on or to pay for later, I'd perhaps argue that additional features like the photo mode and track editor are better examples of extraneous content.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Rob Jessop
R&D Programmer

37 35 0.9
Technology? Nah, he can do that himself.
Or license it :)

Posted:A year ago

#4

Robin Clarke
Producer

300 684 2.3
We're seeing less new IP because we're at the end of a cycle, don't forget.

I think physical distribution will be around for a long time but it doesn't automatically follow that it will be the largest slice of console revenue. It's often more convenient to put distributables weighing in at tens of GB on a disc or flash drive (especially for most parts of NA and EU where unlimited high speed broadband still isn't available), but I can easily see a scenario where the physical part is sold cheaply and most of the revenue is made from IAP, DLC, episodic content, etc.

Most of the shifts the article describes (smaller budgets, using mature technology) are already happening. It broadens the market but doesn't change the fact that you can only keep selling customers rehashes of the same ideas and technology for so long. Many of the big console franchises are suffering fatigue at this point, they've just been iterated too many times on the same hardware.

Totally agree with Jason that being able to get away from the 'bullet points on the back of the box' arms race frees development resources to concentrate on what matters. I don't think gamers' memories are short enough to ever fully embrace pretty slot machines in the place of deep action/adventure/strategy games though! ;)

Posted:A year ago

#5

Al Nelson
Producer

32 47 1.5
This article reminds me of a long time concern - a surprising number of designers are unaware or unwilling to make use of game theory and instead rely on a "cut and fit" process to arrive at similar results. For instance, the first, top down, layout of a level map is a great place to consider Nash or other kinds of equilibrium. Tuning will always be required, but theory gets you closer to the mark, first try.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

314 206 0.7
Good article. In my 16 years of making console games, I've yet to come across a game designer who knows exactly what they want to make prior to production. If you know otherwise, hire that person. Programmers and artists are held to account on the arrival of features. Designers don't seem to be as accountable, in my experience. Massive room for improvement with task definition and good pre production planning here. My suggestion is make sure your game design is completely fleshed out before you start making it. Generally, if its not on the page, it shouldn't go in the game without some serious arm twisting. The alternative is usually lots of wasted art assets and programming time.

Obviously, if you want an organised approach to audio, then come to us. ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 14th January 2013 3:12pm

Posted:A year ago

#7

Jason Avent
VP, Studio Head

139 140 1.0
What we tend to do Sandy is make everyone responsible for design. Designers here don't merely come up with a big list of stuff that everyone else has to implement. I don't think we're alone in this. It's just the modern way to make games. The designer is usually the one to write stuff up and record what's been agreed but design is very collaborative and iterative nowadays. It should include anyone on the team who's interested. If anyone on the team isn't interested, you have to ask whether they're in the right job.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Jessica Hyland
Character Artist

263 990 3.8
To be fair Jason, not every programmer or artist cares or even has very useful input on design decisions. That's not our job - that's the design team's job. Welcoming input from interested non-designers is great and all, but painting the rest of us as being in the wrong job because we're not interested in that job...? Well, if it works for your studio I guess...

Posted:A year ago

#9

Jason Avent
VP, Studio Head

139 140 1.0
Ok maybe that was a bit of an extreme way of wording it. It's good to be inclusive and to encourage everyone to take part. Certainly to take responsibility for how their part fits into the whole and how their part might add to the design.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jason Avent on 14th January 2013 5:30pm

Posted:A year ago

#10

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

314 206 0.7
I do agree with you on everyone being interested in the product Jason. I think that's a given. As Jessica points out though, and I guess I'm kind of bias to that point of viewing being a programmer, is that if programmers and artists know what they are making, the process goes twice as fast. Programmer time is obviously the most expensive, so I think you can really make big savings on projects if you nail the design and know what you're making first. Obviously some things can move and cool features can come later once the core of the work is done. Won't name names, but I've seen months of work by 30+ artists binned because there was no clear vision of what the game was before hand. I don't think its too much to ask of a designer to design the features and take responsibility for them. It also leads to unhealthy crunch periods if you don't do the work up front.

Posted:A year ago

#11
I agree with much of what is being said here. Also I think money can be saved by being smart and savvy in where, and what you pay for office space, if you pay for office space. Basically overhead can pile up cost and most of the time much of it isnt necessary. Next pay for performance not hours. If I need these art assets by Tuesday, I dont care what specific hours someone works, I just want the art when its due, and done well . ( Trying to make people especially artistic types inspired during 9 to 5 hours is ludicrous, 9-5 was created due to factory work and was basically a left over from a agricultural society due to sun light limitations)
Coming from a Project Manager background, I have found this skillset severely lacking by some in this industry. Whether your building a 300 million dollar road reconstruction project or a 5 million software project its almost exactly the same. Get the assets to the people who need them on time, when they need them on budget.

As some have mentioned above, it is beyond comprehension that an entire team may not have have a clear vision of what the project look, feel , and goal is. Its mindboggling and a total failure of those in charge if this is ever the case in a project. I want my secretary to have a firm grasp of timelines, goals, feel , and look, let alone the artistic, programming talent and so forth.
As for the largest cost of all, salary and healthcare, for salary make employees get some skin in the game, have profit sharing, TRUE profit sharing on all sales, Have employees take a slightly lower salary with the chance of making much more on final sales. Also make sure there are no suit leeches, Those high salary professionals which bring very little to the game itself. Every employee must have a role or 2, and they be vitally important, if not why are they collecting a paycheck?

Anyway just my rambling, great article, there is no doubt a lot of bloat in this industry. I think the indies are once again showing the big boys a lesson in many areas. If an indie can make a good fun game for under 6 figures, sometimes much much less, what the hell are these large companies doing with 50 million? ( and the games are still often lacking in many areas)

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 14th January 2013 5:45pm

Posted:A year ago

#12

Jason Avent
VP, Studio Head

139 140 1.0
I agree with you Sandy and a lot of bad direction does happen which leads to stuff being thrown away but just like it's pretty much impossible to write a programming schedule that's accurate six months in advance for a games project because there are so many technical unknowns, it's also virtually impossible to design the game you'll end up making right from the start. When management and parameters allow, it's better to design and engineer for flexibility and accept the fact (in terms of time, cost and design) that there are things you need to discover just by getting on and doing it. It's another reason to at least start with a small team I guess. I'm sure there are designers who change things on a whim though and aren't responsible for the consequences. I'd certainly not champion that. (Although I've probably inadvertently done it in the past. : ))

Posted:A year ago

#13

Ruud Van De Moosdijk
VP of Development

46 51 1.1
I would have expected more criticism on this article but so far I am only seeing people that agree. Strange. Although the core principle of the article is a given truth, the "there is no more new IP coming out, it is all sequels" has been a record-on-repeat for 10 years, so really it is nothing new and not a valid point to take as core problem in your reasoning. Actually when you look at it, the explosion of viable platforms (Android, iOS mobile, digital channels like XBLA, PSN and Steam) changed the market so there has never been MORE new IP released - almost daily. How long ago was it that a game like Minecraft, or Terraria, came out of nowhere and made it big? What to think of the hundreds of really good small games...Angry Birds became a world-wide phenomenon, How about innovation? Skylanders shows that very smart handling of IP in conjunction with in-game use of merchandise can be a huge success. Look at the hundreds of Final Fantasy action figures out there and how well those have sold over the last decade...now imagine Square would have combined that with in-game usage?

Of course I do agree with the part of the article that states that things are changing, and will need to change more if you want to keep/obtain an edge. In reality though, this is a cycle that I have seen five or six times already. It means adapt-or-die for the mid-range publishers, it means more power to the developers, it also means even more work goes into obtaining funding for your game, since the publisher is no longer where you hold up your hand. So there is private investors - which most developers I know have no experience dealing with...or crowdfunding which is really a fantastic 'new' way to getting financed, but everyone highly underestimates how much work it is.

Posted:A year ago

#14
everyone thinks the mid ranged developers are in trouble, I tend to agree, but if and when the next banking credit crunch hits, and it has too ( math doesnt lie), it will be the big leveraged companies ( which they all are) that will get hit the hardest and fastest. Interesting times are coming.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
Well i do think development procedures and costs can be trimmed down a bit, by developing assets that can be used in multiple games and costs can be geared more towards story and gameplay mechanics.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Hugo Trepanier
Senior UI Designer

156 143 0.9
To those blaming the designers for screwing up your programming schedule, keep in mind that a lot of times the real problem originates from poor direction and bad planning. How many times have you seen art and code teams get started on projects too early while the design team is still hard at work on the basics of the game? In a perfect world not a single line of code would be written before the design is set in stone, but we all know that this is never the case.

Also, some ideas work well on paper but once you have a working prototype there's almost always a few things to tweak to make it great, sometimes in major ways. In the end, this means you need to plan ahead for changes in design, with associated repercussions on code and art teams, unless you are fairly confident you'll never hit a snag and deliver perfect results on your first try. Some of that falls in the producer's camp, with the help of creative and art directors (and as Todd cleverly mentions, beware of suit leeches!)

@Jason, Although I generally agree with your statement, it is also my experience that some programmers and artists should be kept away from the design process. Hearing every team member's opinion and ideas on how to improve the game should be mandatory, but some people are just too biased to really help advance the project in a productive manner. We all have top qualities in our respective crafts and sometimes that's good enough.

@Emily, true about the extra features in GT5 but... 1,000 cars is still way, way more than necessary. There were only about 40 in the latest Need for Speed and I spent most of my time driving only about a dozen of those (the ones I liked best). I did try them all at least once but if there were a 1,000 I would never have bothered.

Posted:A year ago

#17

Bryan Robertson
Gameplay Programmer

86 210 2.4
Popular Comment
I don't think you can really know what you want to make up front. At least not for anything complex (AAA) anyway.
My experience has been that trying to go with the approach of trying to design everything up front, and just having the programmers and artists develop to spec, doesn't really work very well for games.

Which makes sense really, we're building games here, not building bridges, or writing a piece of software to interface between two banks' systems. Games have to be fun, and that's not something that's easy to design up front. What sounds fun on paper often isn't a lot of fun in reality, and that's something that even the best game designers come up against.

My personal preference is for prototyping and iteration through testing. I think what really wastes time is taking a bad idea to a high level of polish and then throwing it away (and that is something that I've seen a lot of in this industry). It's better to test and find out what works very early on in a game's development, than spend a lot of time on it and find out that it's broken later on.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Simon Lepine
Studio Creative Director

6 5 0.8
Thanks for putting some sense in these comments Bryan. The waterfall model is not the way to go to make games.

Posted:A year ago

#19
Mobile is a harder deal because without any barriers to entry, you're competing against 10's of 1000's of apps in a given genre.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Mike Engle
Senior Game Designer

17 11 0.6
The shift to F2P and smaller projects has been pretty apparent in the industry for years. I think there's still room for the blockbuster AAA stuff, but certainly the "ten $5 million games" comment is a very level-headed approach (and guess what: when one or two of those $5 million experimentals gets huge, you get to go deep on the idea by either massively expanding that game or making the $50 million version of it.)

Also any source info for the statistical claims? "Software sales" seems like a very misleading and/or useless stat if it doesn't include microtransactions.

@Bryan Robertson: Totally agree about being smart about what features to polish. I'm not sure that's the mistake AAA games make most frequently though, as most AAA titles seem light on innovation. They're strong bets on known formulas. The mistake the AAA industry seems to make is to only commit to those rich veins -- veins doomed to eventually run out. Which results in the AAA industry dying out if they're not expending resources scouting for new veins.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mike Engle on 14th January 2013 8:19pm

Posted:A year ago

#21

Mike Engle
Senior Game Designer

17 11 0.6
Mobile is a harder deal because without any barriers to entry, you're competing against 10's of 1000's of apps in a given genre.
This was another part that made me strongly question the accuracy of the article's numbers. I can only assume that if the number of SKUs decreased 29% that that data completely ignores mobile.

Posted:A year ago

#22
No one is saying you have to remain on 100% spec. Games once started do tend to lead where they want, and designers are of course wise to follow the lead. ( but if you think other large projects in other industries isnt the same you are mistaken by the way)
I think what many are saying is, for someone to give you a large amount of money, you better have a good idea, and direction and goal in mind. and be able to communicate this well with your team, In this environment no one is going to give you 50 million and say, figure it out as you go along.
The days of free easy money are long gong. Making money stretch, having good communication, ideas and goals from the outset are essential.

If you look at Kickstarter what is being used is a quasi waterfall approach, investors are being told the design, goals and target date, you really think after receiving the backing developers are free to go way way off on some tangent? Again, you follow the fun but that need not mean your scrap the goals, design etc.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 14th January 2013 9:29pm

Posted:A year ago

#23

Steve Peterson
West Coast Editor

108 73 0.7
Absolutely, the numbers given reflected only software sold at retail, and did not reflect mobile or online games. I was focusing on games created by traditional publishers; there is plenty of innovation occurring in mobile and online games, from bigger publishers as well as indies.

The problem to my mind is the big-budget titles, or rather the inability of most games in the console or PC packaged goods markets to make a profit. The mid-list games are disappearing, or they're losing money and hurting their publishers.

Posted:A year ago

#24

Robert Mac-Donald
Game Designer

58 45 0.8
I haven't played/enjoyed AAA titles in years, with just a few exceptions like the batmans and deus ex:HR. Less polish and more features/gameplay is more fun to me than focus on graphics, cinemactics and spoonfed gameplay that is really just interactivity and not much of game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robert Mac-Donald on 14th January 2013 10:31pm

Posted:A year ago

#25

Yiannis Koumoutzelis
Founder & Creative Director

361 204 0.6
great read and matches my current philosophy about game production greatly. i think disagreeing with this reality, unless you got a proven IP, means going the way of the dodo. i do not mean of course that blockbusters have no future, but a blockbuster can follow a successful IP introduction when market has been built to support it. not only consumers are accustomed to this, but also it makes perfect sense for start up studios. and these are the majority that drives innovation in gameplay today, even as they revisit old themes and genres. today is the 90s all over again, but for small and competent production units. agility, is not just a production methodology, it is a business culture that had for many years been ignored, buried under tons of paperwork and misconceptions.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Yiannis Koumoutzelis on 15th January 2013 7:23am

Posted:A year ago

#26

Jeremie Sinic

43 18 0.4
I agree with everything except for the Gran Turismo 5's thousand cars argument.
It's definitely a selling point to me. The same for Forza. It's not because I am not going to drive or own all those cars that I dislike the choice. I like to drive my Back to the Future's DeLorean, and although it surely is not the best car in the game, I am happy it is there. Others will love collecting all the Ferraris or Porsches.
If I heard the new Forza had less than a hundred cars and all the rest was coming via DLC, I might be first tempted to skip it.

Posted:A year ago

#27
Good article! This is what I've been hoping for ages - less 3 year waits for something that won't live up to it's hype and more solid, small games.
Or rather, not 'small' in game time but small in scope graphically in comparison to halo, gears etc.
The AAA games will still have a place though - i'd still love to play Fallout 4 even if it is just Fallout 3 with minor changes and improved graphics. Sometimes graphics and the comfort of the familiar is enough but sometimes something smaller and braver has a sense of wonder that you can't get elsewhere.

Posted:A year ago

#28

Joey Lapegna
Producer & Game Designer

2 1 0.5
Great article. While I would love to see this shift in design thinking, I doubt we'll see many corporations making these decisions. The industry will have to rely on indies to do this until business models can change.

We've become so reliant on profit that the industry has become seriously risk averse. The mobile game industry is not too different right now either. While there are a few big players making big bucks, the others aren't making enough to sustain themselves. A failure in the mobile space isn't selling 10,000 units, it's selling 10s. Certainly not enough to sustain a real business. Unless of course your costs are extremely low and you stay can stay "indie". Mobile development costs are rising quickly, and it's right now the business models that make sense are to stay lean or grow big.

Posted:A year ago

#29
I wondered that too, but he starts the gist of the article related to retail sales - so I made the assumption he was talking about mainstream boxed product.

Posted:A year ago

#30

Tim Hull
Co-Founder

24 2 0.1
Numbers aside I thought the article reflected much of what goes through development minds all year round, for decades. Nothing new really. The industry is in a great period of flux. Time to "adapt or die", that's all, nothing new there. Adapting fast enough is the key. Nimble teams will find their way to success sooner.

All developers are asking themselves "what is the best way forward ?"

The answer is almost any direction imaginable.

A great game can come from any member(s) of the team or the gaming public. Equally a bad game can be derived from the same pool of skills and is most often the case, but not for want of trying. We are spoilt for choice because almost anything imaginable is possible. Narrowing the choices down sooner is imperative so that the lion's share of effort can be spent on what's most engaging.

A designer IS however, in a unique position to rally all the great concepts from any corner of the office and spin it into something fabulous without a jot of production taking place. The designer IS uniquely capable of leading the focus of a tightly bound nugget of joy. But if the designer can't keep the feature set to 1 page everyone loses focus and fall into another multi year project.

Keeping the feature set lean and tidy, focusing on quick prototypes to whittle out the rotten concepts, it's just more fun and fun is the goal.

Posted:A year ago

#31

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