The New Enthusiast featured a very insightful article today, talking about the reason behind the recent slew of lay-offs in the games industry. The skinny of it is that developers are pushing production budgets sky high, and whilst sales are increasing it just isn't covering the costs so well any more.
I agree with most of the article, and one of the core points is something I have mentioned before:
It needs to move the spotlight away from the unimportant aspects in games and focus on the parts that make them fun, such as inventiveness in game mechanics and even story. These are the areas where tossing around loads of cash does little, but can be a money magnet if done right.
You can't begin to describe the vision of a game without first setting the core mechanics that will make it a fun experience for the user. That little kernel of joy is what separates the timeless classics from the shelf hogging money sponges.
Terry Pratchett is due to be knighted.
This tremendous writer has already received an OBE "for services to literature", but will now receive a well earned knighthood.
For those of you who aren't familiar, Terry Pratchett is the author behind the popular Discworld series of novels. His unique brand of humor has brought me many hours of pleasurable reading, from as far back as his first book (Carpet People, published 1971).
In December 2007 he let the world know of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, after making a very substantial donation to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust.
A great man, well deserving of the recognition.
To those who lost your jobs recently, you have my sympathy. I am currently feeling quite glad of my move outside of the games industry, and have postponed my desire to get back into games for the immediate future.
I can't help feeling that many developers really need a wake up call. This is not the time for massive, bloated, high budget titles that will almost inevitably tank.
In my recent spate of trolling fellow bloggers comment sections with my unholy walls of text I stumbled into the following conversation with a member named Mist, over on Scott Jennings' blog. As with my last entry, I thought it was interesting enough to share here.
It's a very interesting article, by the way, so if you have a few minutes spare make sure you read it.
10) Launch when the beginning of the game is fun, the middle of the game is fun, and the end of the game is fun, and that fun is able to last more than a week. If you have a fun beginning game but no endgame yet, don’t add a bunch of non-fun content between the beginning and the end and hope to stall for time. (See: AoC levels 21-80.)
In a post by Ryan Shwayder on official forums being a necessary evil, I came across this comment from a user called makkaio:
Yes. But I think official forums should be used, like you say, to build community. Forums should not be used for serious feedback. Other methods that provide better results for feedback should be used (i.e. in game polls and such). Forums have, for way too long, given the vocal minority too much influence over games. Like in the case of SWG post NGE, I didn’t know who was developing the game. Was it the devs or the two dozen players who constantly beat the crap out of them on the forums? The community forums have, in more than one game, ruined the experience for me and others.
...with which I absolutely disagree. Disregarding feedback on a forum on the basis of it being from a ‘vocal minority’ is a mistake.
Sure, you will only get 10-20% of your player base on the forum, but that’s actually… kind of the point. If every single player were to have a forum account then the signal to noise ratio would be absolutely dire. Instead you generally have the people who have used forums before, who are most enthused by the game, or who have even been in similar communities previously. They are the people that generally will have played other MMOs, and have a greater experience of MMO design and how to give feedback in a format that can be digested.
Saying that they are simply a misleading vocal minority is a very cynical view of them and of your staff interpreting their feedback. All you need is a CM or designer who can recognize when the community is acting like a dog with a bone, and when it is actually pushing a valid idea.
I’ve never rated in-game polls for serious design feedback. Sure, it’s great for things like ‘What do you think the next special Halloween event hats should be?’, but I really wouldn’t consider making any game changing decisions based on it. On a forum you have the option of ignoring the feedback of players who just don’t ‘get it’, but a poll available to everyone isn’t going to discriminate. There are a few decisions where I could see the additional metrics being useful, but only as supporting evidence to a few lengthy forum topics about it.
So in short, saying in-game polls are more valuable than a forum topic is essentially ignoring your hardcore players in favor of majority rule. I certainly don’t think any developer should bend to the whims and wills of its forum community, but designing by democracy has the potential for even greater disaster.