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Op Ed

Massively - Learning from the 38 Studios disaster.
It's said that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning needed to sell three million copies for the studio to break even on its investment, but we all know that's not practical because even the best games rarely reach that number quickly enough to pay back a government loan less than three months after launch. Bethesda and Blizzard aside, selling three million copies of a game to break even is quite a risk for any studio. That's literally gambling on the livelihoods of hundreds of people working on that project. You can't take risks at that level of investment, which is exactly why small indie studios are thriving right now. People don't care as much about pretty graphics and realistic voice-overs as they did five years ago. People want to have fun. The end.

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50 Replies. 3 pages. Viewing page 1.
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50. Re: Op Ed May 28, 2012, 20:10 Jerykk
 
PC hardware is what ultimately drives console hardware in the long-term. That's why most of the devs working on next-gen console games are doing so on high-end PC hardware. While DX11 won't become standard in PC games until it becomes standard in console games, DX11 wouldn't exist at all if not for PC hardware evolution.  
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49. Re: Op Ed May 28, 2012, 12:14 Verno
 
Not debating, just pointing out that the percentage of ownership doesn't mean they aren't an important factor in the market. There are other things to consider than just simply who or how many own them. Graphical and technological progression is a really important buying consideration for many people in the gaming market in general. The high end drives the market in many indirect but important ways.  
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Playing: Fire Emblem, Diablo 3, Bravely Default
Watching: The Machine, After the Dark, Devils Due
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48. Re: ahuh? May 28, 2012, 11:55 StingingVelvet
 
Verno wrote on May 28, 2012, 09:23:
So yes, new console hardware will help alleviate the current situation but no, the high end hardware market is far from insignificant as there is much more than raw unit sales to consider. Most high end hardware stays that way a year at most before moving into the larger market at better prices anyway.

I'm not pooping on PC, I am a PC only gamer after all. By high-end hardware I mean the brand new 680s he mentioned, which less than 1% probably own. That's niche. And consoles lead technology due to sales, so by new consoles I also meant new PC benchmarks.

Anyway I don't think we really disagree so no real need for debate.
 
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47. Re: ahuh? May 28, 2012, 11:15 Slashman
 
Most successful games don't require high end hardware to run. See all Blizzard titles for examples of this.

Blizzard makes games that can run on your grandma's PC because they hope that your grandma will give those games a try. And unfortunately, that's exactly what happens.

Making games that scale up and down equally well is time-consuming and difficult though. Because the idea is that the game looks and performs decently at both ends of the hardware spectrum. It's really much easier to make a game that performs well on lower end hardware and add in a few features that high end hardware can utilize rather than looking to monopolize the full power of top of the line rigs.

The things is that even the next generation of consoles aren't looking all that impressive on the hardware front. And very few developers are making games aimed squarely at the PC market. And even when they do, they seldom want to target the high end hardware segment. You're not going to find a Hard Reset or Serious Sam 3 popping up every day.
 
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46. Re: ahuh? May 28, 2012, 09:23 Verno
 
StingingVelvet wrote on May 27, 2012, 14:46:
In any case, I do agree graphics matter. New consoles will energize the market again with greater visuals and larger areas. I just don't think the high-end PC market matters much in the grand scheme of, well, anything. It's a niche within a niche.

You seem to be making two different arguments in an effort to poop on the PC, one based on sales and another based on capabilities. Of course high end hardware matters, without it BF3 and Crysis 2 might not have existed in their current forms. Many developers are starting out with the high end and scaling down to consoles, its an approach that works really well. The trouble now is that the low end of the market is 6+ years old and things can't move forward without new console hardware. The whole thing is a rubber band and we've been at the breaking point for awhile now.

So yes, new console hardware will help alleviate the current situation but no, the high end hardware market is far from insignificant as there is much more than raw unit sales to consider. Most high end hardware stays that way a year at most before moving into the larger market at better prices anyway.
 
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Playing: Fire Emblem, Diablo 3, Bravely Default
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45. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 19:47 Jerykk
 
It's obvious you didn't play the game. There's actually quite a bit of background, and the setting it actually pretty interesting. You just don't get that in the first hour of playing. The gameplay itself it bland, a lot of the sidequests are generic, but there are some really interesting aspects to the lore.

I actually played the game for a few hours. Didn't find the setting or lore interesting at all so I stopped playing. This isn't to say that the game doesn't have any lore or anything. It has plenty. It's just that the lore is so utterly generic and forgettable that it might as well not exist.

Oh, and considering that 7 out of the 10 races in Skyrim are humans or elves, making the complaint that another game is mostly humans and elves falls a little flat.

Even if you ignore the differences between the various elven and human races, 5 races is still more than twice as many as Amalur has.
 
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44. Re: ahuh? May 27, 2012, 14:46 StingingVelvet
 
Prez wrote on May 27, 2012, 06:56:
Even extremely affordable mid-range graphics cards have the ability to render incredible images. Batman Arkham City looks fantastic on my 560ti, and it costs a about a quarter of a Geforce 690 card. You don't have to be the owner of a high end card to still be all about the eye candy.

Sure, but his argument was that because the 690 exists people obviously care about high-end graphics. Yet selling even 10,000 of those in a market that sells 100 million Wiis is a pathetic number.

In any case, I do agree graphics matter. New consoles will energize the market again with greater visuals and larger areas. I just don't think the high-end PC market matters much in the grand scheme of, well, anything. It's a niche within a niche.
 
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43. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 13:34 Zadig
 
Paying millions for 'aaa' writers to create lore for them was a really bad idea. Warcraft (the only game they cared about), Half Life, Fallout, Deus Ex, System Shock, etc didn't need to do that. Those developers had good ideas and wanted to tell an interesting story in their games. 38 Studios had people who were only interested in making a WoWclone.

They were aware that Warcraft had 10 years of commercially successful "lore", so they tried to shortcut that by effectively licensing it - just like the other WoWclones did with Conan, LoTR, Star Wars. It was never going to work.
 
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42. i create my own reality! May 27, 2012, 12:46 space captain
 
panbient wrote on May 27, 2012, 11:07:
It's not, but like others mentioned Skyrim had a well recognized reputation. RA Salvatore also has a reputation, he can write really engaging combat within a completely generic fantasy setting that make his stories a lot of fun to read. Unfortunately the ability to write great combat doesn't amount to squat when writing (ultimately generic) lore for a video game.

Now a game based on worlds written by someone like Neal Stephenson or William Gibson... THAT would exciting.

just because you arent a fan of Salvatore doesnt mean he cant write lore.. it means YOU dont like it.. and heres a tip on that - your opinions do not control the physical laws of the universe

the Dark Elf trilogy practically invented the majority of lore for dark elves and the underdark, maybe not the names and basic concepts, but all the meat and bones were well in abundance

also the Crystal Shard was excellent

not sure why you think a psuedo-surrealist like Stephenson would be able to shoehorn his style into a video game, but it does reveal your penchant for name dropping.. but yeh, im not impressed

 
Go forth, and kill!
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41. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 12:24 wtf_man
 
Sepharo wrote on May 26, 2012, 14:43:
xXBatmanXx wrote on May 26, 2012, 14:41:
Wasn't part of the downfall of 38 that they had way to many employees? Thought I read somewhere they had close to 400!? Seems high.

They had to create a specific amount of jobs to receive all that tax payer money.

And THAT is the problem with government "creating jobs". Let's say the average salary was 75k. Obviously there are some who made more and some who made less, but 75k for the east coast isn't a stupid high number for a professional position. With 379 employees that's 28.5 million in one year, out of the 75 million borrowed. That doesn't include overhead of office space, utilities, computers, software, etc. etc.

The mandate to employ that many people is what killed the company. The resulting game could have been easily built with probably 1/3rd that number, so there was a ton of unneeded redundancy of people.
 
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40. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 11:07 panbient
 
Alamar wrote on May 26, 2012, 20:45:
I saw this complaint a bunch, but I wonder, how is it more generic than Skyrim.

-Alamar

It's not, but like others mentioned Skyrim had a well recognized reputation. RA Salvatore also has a reputation, he can write really engaging combat within a completely generic fantasy setting that make his stories a lot of fun to read. Unfortunately the ability to write great combat doesn't amount to squat when writing (ultimately generic) lore for a video game.

Now a game based on worlds written by someone like Neal Stephenson or William Gibson... THAT would exciting.
 
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39. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 09:19 Bhruic
 
Jerykk wrote on May 26, 2012, 21:24:
Well, for one, Skyrim's setting has some pretty heavy Norse inspiration, which isn't something you see very often. Also, the Elder Scrolls lore is pretty deep and there's a lot of interesting history there. There's also a great diversity of races. In Amalur, there's nothing really notable about the setting and there are basically two races: humans and elves. There's nothing interesting about the lore or the politics. The fact that the next Amalur game was going to be an MMO really comes as no surprise, as the generic setting is all too standard for that genre.

It's obvious you didn't play the game. There's actually quite a bit of background, and the setting it actually pretty interesting. You just don't get that in the first hour of playing. The gameplay itself it bland, a lot of the sidequests are generic, but there are some really interesting aspects to the lore.

Oh, and considering that 7 out of the 10 races in Skyrim are humans or elves, making the complaint that another game is mostly humans and elves falls a little flat.
 
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38. Re: ahuh? May 27, 2012, 07:50 Kajetan
 
Prez wrote on May 27, 2012, 06:56:
You don't have to be the owner of a high end card to still be all about the eye candy.
Yepp. Because the graphical progress is slowing down so much, most people need captions to distinguish DX9 to DX10 to DX11 screenshots. Yes, there is progress. But it's only in details. Details only people can recognize who have the knowledge.

As someone in the idustry has said a few months ago, concerning the upcoming console generation: Graphics are good enough for most people. Graphic is no longer the motor that drives sales, the main factor people buy a game. If it were otherwise the rise of the indies had not happened.
 
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37. Re: ahuh? May 27, 2012, 06:56 Prez
 
StingingVelvet wrote on May 27, 2012, 04:55:
Shataan wrote on May 26, 2012, 17:41:
Try convincing all the peeps who are buying new 680 GTXs, or the new 690s. We don`t upgrade to play games with crap visuals.

Insanely small number of people, your argument means nothing.

Some people do like shiny graphics, and the consoles really need an upgrade to get that portion of the market excited again, but the uber-graphics PC market is incredibly small.

Even extremely affordable mid-range graphics cards have the ability to render incredible images. Batman Arkham City looks fantastic on my 560ti, and it costs a about a quarter of a Geforce 690 card. You don't have to be the owner of a high end card to still be all about the eye candy.
 
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Goodbye my Monte boy. May you rest in the peace you never knew in life.
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36. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 06:51 Ozmodan
 
When I heard that they had almost 500 people working on that project it was almost a given they were going to fail. Great to have dreams about making a great game, but you need to hire people that how to be fiscally responsible to achieve any kind of success.  
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35. Re: ahuh? May 27, 2012, 04:55 StingingVelvet
 
Shataan wrote on May 26, 2012, 17:41:
Try convincing all the peeps who are buying new 680 GTXs, or the new 690s. We don`t upgrade to play games with crap visuals.

Insanely small number of people, your argument means nothing.

Some people do like shiny graphics, and the consoles really need an upgrade to get that portion of the market excited again, but the uber-graphics PC market is incredibly small.
 
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34. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 04:25 Tanto Edge
 
The system of success is pretty straight forward.
Start small, get quick small profits coming through.
Once you have a base of continuous income, you can safely venture into larger projects as you'll have a budget for it.
It's amazing to me to think that companies time and again are putting themselves out there on investments or loans.
 
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http://www.youtube.com/user/tantoedge
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33. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 01:46 eunichron
 
Prez wrote on May 27, 2012, 00:44:
I saw this complaint a bunch, but I wonder, how is it more generic than Skyrim.

Fair point, but Skyrim is the latest in a crazy popular series (Elder Scrolls is legendary among RPG enthusiasts), so that alone makes it stand out enough to get noticed. Nondescript, derivative games aren't necessarily bad (I like quite a few games that could be considered "Cookie-cutter"), but for a first game in a brand new franchise by a new studio with very high sales requirements to meet, you need something special. From the reviews I read, while everything was pretty solid in Kingdom of Amalur, there was nothing special about it.

With a much lower budget and a lower price tag (say, 30 bucks vice the $60 it was at release), I'm betting it easily could have been a success. The failure here imo was far more on the part of poor business decisions than bad game design.

It's worse than that -- at least Ion Storm wasn't your tax dollars at work...

Correct me if I'm wrong but unless you live in Rhode Island it isn't your tax dollars. This was a state-run RI taxpayer-funded initiative to encourage business creation in RI, wasn't it?

The Verge has a pretty amazing (and lengthy) write-up of the situation, starting with the history of the company, their deal with Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, and where the money was flowing (and coming from). It's just bad decision after bad decision... they were making business deals as if they were a rock solid AAA developer without having released a single game. Gotta hand it to Curt Schilling for trying to realize his dream, he just didn't think it through.
 
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32. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 01:44 Cutter
 
Prez wrote on May 27, 2012, 00:44:
It's worse than that -- at least Ion Storm wasn't your tax dollars at work...

Correct me if I'm wrong but unless you live in Rhode Island it isn't your tax dollars. This was a state-run RI taxpayer-funded initiative to encourage business creation in RI, wasn't it?

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/08/americas-fiscal-union

Yep, RI is a payor state. Still, it just sucks to see when any of us taxpayers get F'd in the A with this nonsense.
 
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James Woods: Oh that's fun. That sounds like you had a fun time. Where would I fit in with the fun time, huh? Where does James Woods fit into the fun?
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31. Re: Op Ed May 27, 2012, 00:44 Prez
 
I saw this complaint a bunch, but I wonder, how is it more generic than Skyrim.

Fair point, but Skyrim is the latest in a crazy popular series (Elder Scrolls is legendary among RPG enthusiasts), so that alone makes it stand out enough to get noticed. Nondescript, derivative games aren't necessarily bad (I like quite a few games that could be considered "Cookie-cutter"), but for a first game in a brand new franchise by a new studio with very high sales requirements to meet, you need something special. From the reviews I read, while everything was pretty solid in Kingdom of Amalur, there was nothing special about it.

With a much lower budget and a lower price tag (say, 30 bucks vice the $60 it was at release), I'm betting it easily could have been a success. The failure here imo was far more on the part of poor business decisions than bad game design.

It's worse than that -- at least Ion Storm wasn't your tax dollars at work...

Correct me if I'm wrong but unless you live in Rhode Island it isn't your tax dollars. This was a state-run RI taxpayer-funded initiative to encourage business creation in RI, wasn't it?
 
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Goodbye my Monte boy. May you rest in the peace you never knew in life.
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