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Rubin: "Games are becoming harder to make"

Rubin: "Games are becoming harder to make"

Mon 23 Sep 2013 8:06am GMT / 4:06am EDT / 1:06am PDT
Development

Infinity Ward's exec producer worries for smaller studios

Infinity Ward

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Call Of Duty: Ghosts' executive producer has highlighted the rising costs and increasing difficulty presented by the AAA market for developers, and even for Infinity Ward.

"It's a scary thing, and I'll take my Call Of Duty hat off for a minute here, but games are becoming harder to make, more expensive to make," Mark Rubin said in a video interview with GameInformer.

"I feel like smaller studios are having trouble - I can't speak for them but I would think - are having trouble making games that fill the big AAA market because they're harder to do. It is kind of a bummer that games are getting so hard and difficult to make."

"People want better and better graphics, they want more realistic looking art assets and that comes at a cost and that's a hard thing to have to deal with."

He added that it "bothered" him to think that games were trying to chase Call Of Duty's success, using the example that he loved MMOs, but wouldn't want to make a World Of Warcraft clone.

During the interview Rubin, who has been executive producer at the studio since August 200, also spoke about some of the challenges about developing for current and next-generation platforms at the same time. The game is due for release on both PlayStation consoles, both Xbox consoles and PC later this year, and Treyarch is developing a version for Wii U.

14 Comments

Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve

340 291 0.9
Popular Comment
It's certainly getting more difficult to make AAA games for sure, but I don't see it as much of an issue for small studios because most of them aren't targeting that market.

On the other end of the spectrum I'd say things have never been easier. With tools like Unity, creating great looking mobile and indie games is far easier than half a decade ago, and I think it's one of the biggest reasons why there's such an explosion of smaller development studios.

I'm not sure if there's some hidden agenda behind Rubin's comments, but in the larger scope of things I'd say he couldn't be more wrong. It certainly annoys me that he seems to suggest that AAA is the only segment of the games market that counts as well.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Thomas Dolby on 23rd September 2013 1:34pm

Posted:A year ago

#1
@Thomas don't think its an agenda, more just his point of view. Great graphics are a selling point especially when your game & brand is 10 years old, but in the scheme of things I agree its just one element of what makes a hit. From IW's point of view it naturally matters more for their market (long-established console FPS) where they are spinning the same game repeatedly so need to show some difference between each iteration, but in general I think developers are more hung up on it than players are, even allowing for the graphics-whore gamer peeps.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Games are becoming easier to make.
Firstly game making is largely an iterative process. So we build on what we have learned.
Secondly the tools and libraries are getting better and better. And much easier to use.
Thirdly there are so many more mechanisms available to tune and polish a game so as to make a silk purse.
Fourthly project management has come on in leaps and bounds.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

572 316 0.6
It's not rocket science.

Use the project-based model. It's been used for years and years in the mature art industries.

In other words, you have a small team that coordinates production of a very very large project through the use of outsourcing providers.

Hello! That's how they make things like massive dams, bridges and movies with $200 million budgets.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

572 316 0.6
And yet, Bruce, yoiu can't attach a small team to a budget that is larger than aboiut $500k.

That is a sign of the utter stupidity of the game industry.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Ruud Van De Moosdijk VP of Development, Engine Software

51 58 1.1
Although I agree with the points that Bruce lists above, you can not deny the fact that there are much more mechanics now considered a must in games (more interaction options, choice, customization, full dialog) but aside from that the graphics assets creation is always the most expensive part in the so called AAA titles that Rubin describes. Then again, those studios often get a kick out of wasting money so I dare to say you could easily cut 25% of any triple-A budget without the game itself suffering from it. As one simple example: let's go ahead and hire some top Hollywood actors to do our 5 lead characters...because there aren't any extremely talented voice actors out there that have not been in a blockbuster movie and come at 1% of the price. I honestly don't know if it is a marketing decision (Kiefer Sutherland is easier to market than Hayter), or because some devs still have a self-esteem issue in regards to movies.

Then again, Rubin clearly thinks that huge triple-A blockbuster games is the only way to go, whereas some of the top-grossing games of the last 5 years have been incredibly cheap to make (like Angry Birds, Minecraft, Terraria)...so he does not have to fear for smaller studios...they will just do something different.

oh and @Tim: I run what I would consider a small studio (core team around 20 people) but we have easily dealt with bigger budgets than that. It comes down to good management and experience and we have been around for 17 years. Team size is no relation to budget any more, not with all the outsourcing options we have these days.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ruud Van De Moosdijk on 23rd September 2013 5:14pm

Posted:A year ago

#6

Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer

236 96 0.4
It is getting harder for a small developer to create games, you used to be able to do almost everything by yourself, but now you need larger and larger teams to do the whole thing, people are getting more demanding on graphics, and even though tools get better and better, they models/enviroments still need to be made.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Ruben Monteiro Engineer

79 194 2.5
It is harder to create a game these days. The high power and affordability of the tools doesn't offset the gamer's demands on production values, which is brought on by vastly increased competition, which itself is brought on by high powered and affordable game development tools in the first place.

There's no free lunch here. If the tools are powerful and cheap to you, so will they be to your competitors.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ruben Monteiro on 23rd September 2013 11:21pm

Posted:A year ago

#8

Carlos Bordeu Game Designer / Studio Co-Founder, ACE Team

65 90 1.4
"There's no free lunch here. If the tools are powerful and cheap to you, so will they be to your competitors." <- Ruben, I completely agree.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Carlos Bordeu on 24th September 2013 12:25am

Posted:A year ago

#9

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
@ Ruben:

The high power and affordability of the tools doesn't offset the gamer's demands on production values, which is brought on by vastly increased competition, which itself is brought on by high powered and affordable game development tools in the first place.

Wait, which is it? Demands from gamers on production values? Or increased competition due to ease of entry?

I don't believe that the first one comes from the second. If anything I think all that gamers want is an appropriately decent looking production without lots of glaringly obvious bugs. The industry competition drives developers to have their titles stand out in some manner from the rest of the crop - that's nothing to do with gamers or their expectations.

Posted:A year ago

#10

Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve

340 291 0.9
@Ruben
You could say that actually what's happening is that games are getting easier to make for everyone, so the actual difficulty comes from standing out from the crowd. If everyone is producing higher quality assets with less effort than half a decade ago, games have gotten easier to make, but what has changed is where the bar is set, and reaching that bar is harder because of competition in the market.

I guess it comes down to whether you're comparing things to others in the market, or whether you're comparing yourself with the market in the past. I personally feel that if you gave Bethesda the same budget that they used for Morrowind now (adjusted for inflation), they could produce something better than Morrowind (at least on a technical level).

Posted:A year ago

#11

Axel Cushing Writer / Blogger

104 130 1.3
@Thomas
Think you've got the right idea there, and at the same time Rubin has the wrong idea. The perspective he seems to be espousing is the "gamers want increasingly realistic graphics" trope that seems less and less relevant the more we hear it. Presentation and art style are becoming more important. It's cool that games like CoD and Battlefield are trying to push the envelope for "realistic" visuals, but it's not the end-all be-all for games. You can have the most realistic graphics in the world, but if it doesn't have any decent gameplay behind it, something other than the shiny visuals, you've got nothing more than a glorified tech demo.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto

86 210 2.4
It's not rocket science.

Use the project-based model. It's been used for years and years in the mature art industries.

In other words, you have a small team that coordinates production of a very very large project through the use of outsourcing providers
Knowledge of your game's codebase and tools takes quite a long time to develop, and is actually very valuable to a company.

If you throw away your team at the end of every game, then you're essentially shooting yourself in the foot. This is why, when a developer goes under, the administrators will typically try to keep the team together for as long as possible while they attempt to sell the business as a going concern. Selling the source code/data on its own is much less valuable, because then you have to train a team, which results in a lot of wasted development time and money.

So I'm afraid it's not as simple as you make it out to be.

A game is not a movie, nor is it a bridge or a dam.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bryan Robertson on 25th September 2013 6:31pm

Posted:A year ago

#13

Private VIdeo Games

103 14 0.1
I agree with everything Bryan says above..

Tim - if it was so easy we'd all be millionaires by now.....

It's extremely difficult to keep a consistent vision of a product amongst a huge internal team without even trying to involve outside teams.

Posted:A year ago

#14

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