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March 15th, 2007, 07:45
Originally Posted by Ionstormsucks View Post
Dhruin, no one ever said that games wer not buggy 10 years ago. Games always had bugs. But you cannot ignore that many players have the impression that it's getting worse. I would also imagine that bugs have nothing to do with the amount of gigabytes a game has - or do you honestly believe that it is the program code that is blowing up the size of games?
I can easily ignore it because I think they are wrong. I would imagine art assets eat up the most data but I feel pretty confident the latest shaders, physics etc produce far more complex programs that also rely heavily on drivers from other people.

All true what you are saying, but then again you shouldn't continue an anology that you describe as erroneous. I would also think that customers have way more rights when it comes to buying a car than buying a game. Also (and here I'm doing the same mistake as you did), if I compare Vanguards state of release with a car, then that would have been a car without tires, and with a motor that stops working every half an hour. I would think that you don't see that all too often with new cars…
Guilty, I did continue the analogy. Customers buying a car need more protection because of the larger value and safety concerns. I think Vanguard is more likely a car that's very unreliable and with poor mileage than one that doesn't go anywhere (a car without tires is useless) - but I think we agree it's a dodgy analogy so I'll leave it at that.

I don't see software pirates as one big homogeneous group of people. That seems to be a harsh generalization to me. I'm sure quite a lot of people do as you say - they pirate because they can. But I also think there are people who would be willing to buy more games if they saw their gaming needs and wishes fulfilled. Some might also pirate software because they cannot afford the product.
Also if you think about it - your approach to the topic is fairly pessimistic. It means that there is no solution to the problem (apart from a copy protection that cannot be cracked). I mean, what do you want to do? Dragging every single software pirate to court will most likely not work out.
No, they aren't homogenous and there are some difficult areas around the edges, but is that really central to the debate? It has little bearing on Western pirates and is still an excuse for many, many others. I still see it the same if a game is 1/10 of your income — if you can afford the hardware to play Oblivion, you can afford the game. It may take a while to save up, or maybe you need to buy a 6600GT instead of an 8800, but at the end of the day, you know you can get the games for free.

Bjon045 is right that these markets will always exist but the reason is still an excuse and comes down to "because you can". If they couldn't pirate games, they'd budget differently or perhaps move into other hobbies. I'd love to learn how to fly a plane but I can't justify the costs, so I have other hobbies that are within reach. Since you can pirate gsmes that makes it nice and convenient: I can spend on hardware because the software cost is always zero.

As for being cynical, I think it's just realistic. And I'm not offering a solution - I don't know there is one. Why should a seller lose money discounting or giving stuff away to make the value appear better? You can't beat free. At the end of the day, the beancounters will do a cost/benefit analysis and if reducing the price gets enough additional buyers, they'll do it. If not, they won't.

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Last edited by Dhruin; March 15th, 2007 at 09:09.
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March 15th, 2007, 11:09
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
I was going to comment on the ever appearing semantics BS about copyright infringement vs. theft and how if I hit you in the head with a wooden stick with flat piece of metal on the end, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't really care whether I called it a shovel or a spade … but reading Dhruin's excellent comment put me in a much better mood so I'm going to let it go.

Well done Dhruin.
I was going to comment about posts the sole purpose of which seem to be the use of and false analogy, but OK, I'll let it go too.
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March 15th, 2007, 11:27
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
As for being cynical, I think it's just realistic. And I'm not offering a solution - I don't know there is one. Why should a seller lose money discounting or giving stuff away to make the value appear better? You can't beat free. At the end of the day, the beancounters will do a cost/benefit analysis and if reducing the price gets enough additional buyers, they'll do it. If not, they won't.
Ahh, I think we will not find common ground here. I my opinion your approach to the problem is just too simple. I mean, we always reduce the whole topic to piracy, but I doubt that's covers it all. Take quality for example. Will better quality keep people from pirating? In my opinion it might keep some people from pirating, but certainly not the majority. But if you're asking me if quality helps to sell the product to those people that are willing to buy it, then I'll have to give you a definite - yes! If you release a high quality game then it will still be pirated, no doubt about it, but it will probably also sell more copies.

You're saying, "you can't beat free." That depends. Some people will always choose the cheap alternative, sure. But I'm fairly sure that quite some people are willing to pay for a product if the offer is good.
And if you look at given realities you'll see that these offers exist, there are just too few of them. Just to give you a few examples. Look at games like Half-Life/HL 2 and Neverwinter Nights/NWN2.
These franchises sold quite some copies. And, surprise, surprise, both products are/were supported over a very long time span. Both companies offer additional services to keep up the attractivity of their products (there are other examples - think about Blizzard and their games). Have a look at Valve's Steam. When Steam was announced everyone said that customers would not accept it. Well, obviously they did, since from what you read on the internet about 25% of all copies sold were sold via Steam. And Steam dstribution is significantly more profitable than retail.
Of course these games were also pirated. But they still sold a nice bunch of copies.

I'm not saying the market isn't changing. But as markets are changing the ones that act on these markets have to change. That concerns players as much as developers, and publishers alike. Online play becomes more and more popular, so why not use that? I'm thinking of… let's say account-based single player games, that need a permanent internet connection. I know, a lot of people would cry out "never!!!" in the beginning, and would later on buy the game anyway. It all depends on the offer that is made. You could for example let the player choose between a version of the game that runs offline and one that needs to have permanent internet access to work. If the customer takes the one with permanent internet access, he will get new episodic content once in a while (Bioware's permium models were a bit like that, I guess). Something like that.
I'm sure these games would still be pirated, but to a lower degree.

As players become more demanding, developers and publishers can demand more from them. We deliver you improved service, but therefore you have to be online - for example. That is why the quality argument DOES play a role, not because it keeps people from pirating, but because it gives credibility to game developers, and publishers.

And if you look at other markets this is a well established, everyday thing. Companies demand from their customers much more than they did 30 years ago. Customers usually have to know alot more about products in general, but on the other hand the industry offers highly customized products. True, quite a few industrial branches do not have the problem of piracy, but they have other problems, like that of customer retention, which is very similar to what we're talking about here.
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March 15th, 2007, 11:40
Originally Posted by bjon045 View Post
Another local example for me is fake rolex watches, the difference here is that the companies selling genuine rolex watches don't care about they people selling counterfeit copies because they know people buying the fakes would never even dream of being able to buy a genuine one.
The thing is, even Rolex makers would start to care when the people who CAN afford to buy the Rolex CHOOSES to get the fake instead.

Are the suits wrong when the add all the numbers of the pirated games together, even though some of them are from countries where the game in question isn't available in stores and a legal purchase wouldn't be possible? Absolutely.

Does that mean piracy isn't a problem in countries where people CAN afford to buy the games if they get their priorities straight? Absolutely NOT.

Originally Posted by Elwro
I was going to comment about posts the sole purpose of which seem to be the use of and false analogy, but OK, I'll let it go too.
If we hadn't let all of this go I might have said that I'm simply sick and tired of always having to deal with the schoolyard antics of proving a classmate to be a rock or an alien in 3 sentences by the use of fake logic when it comes to piracy discussions. It might not be theft when the physical object isn't up for sale, according to the law books, but when your business model is based on customers paying to use the product and they don't, then infringement, freeloading, piracy all amounts to the same effect as theft of a physical product, so it is just using semantics to avoid dealing with the problem … but since we'd decided to let it go, I'm not going to say anything … consider the above "thinking out loud"

"Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks around, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves." - Commander Vimes in Thud! by Terry Pratchett
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March 15th, 2007, 12:07
OK :-) So, it's good that we had both decided to let it go back then.
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March 15th, 2007, 12:47
Very good indeed

"Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks around, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves." - Commander Vimes in Thud! by Terry Pratchett
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March 15th, 2007, 22:20
Originally Posted by Ionstormsucks View Post
Ahh, I think we will not find common ground here. I my opinion your approach to the problem is just too simple.
I think you might be surprised. I agree with most of your last post.

My main point is simple: don't give me bullshit excuses* about quality or price - individuals pirate because they can easily take the game for free with almost no chance of consequences. That's it. The rest is all justification and obfuscation.

Zooming out to a macro level, I agree with many of your points. Piracy will always exist in some form or another but the market is changing, so companies will do best to find ways to move with the times and work with their potential customer bases to get the best result.

My lesser point is we need to understand the realities of this corner of the games market. Niche projects from small companies will always involve a higher level of risk and QA is likely to be the first budget trimmed when the crap hits the fan. It's not desirable but it is inevitable to some extent. The only cure is to move to the big end of town and play the major console releases (and perhaps a handful of PC games from the likes of Blizzard). In that case, instead of compromising on quality and polish you are choosing a different gameplay model. I'm not saying we should simply accept poor quality but we do need to appreciate the bar needs to be set at a different level to console releases. This has nothing to do with the main piracy discussion but has been raised several times in this thread.

*I'm primarily talking about western pirates and don't want to get bogged down over fringe examples of disadvantaged people.

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March 15th, 2007, 22:41
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
…Niche projects from small companies will always involve a higher level of risk and QA is likely to be the first budget trimmed when the crap hits the fan. It's not desirable but it is inevitable to some extent. The only cure is to move to the big end of town and play the major console releases (and perhaps a handful of PC games from the likes of Blizzard).
You lost me at this point, Dhruin. What is it that Blizzard can do that you can't? And why is that, exactly?
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March 16th, 2007, 01:10
Blizzard can hire 20 guys to spend the next 8 weeks trying to break their game. Dhruin can't. Simple finance based on available capital.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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March 16th, 2007, 01:20
So Blizzard is willing not to make a profit, right? That's the answer? Is that right, Dhruin?
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March 16th, 2007, 04:04
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
You lost me at this point, Dhruin. What is it that Blizzard can do that you can't? And why is that, exactly?
This is really a different can of worms to the original discussion but that's my fault for going back to it.

Starting with…

Originally Posted by Ionstormsucks
Look at the quality of games. There is a tremendous difference between console games and PC games when it comes to technical quality. Console games are fairly bug free (because hard to patch), PC games are often one big patch orgy.
There are a number of reasons consoles generally have less trouble than PC games, some of which ISS goes on to discuss.

One of the other reasons not discussed is sort of the reason many of us are here (in a round about way). Console game developments are self-selecting to a degree. In other words, the process weeds out or discourages projects that are less viable in favour of projects that meet certain criteria (larger developer, better funding, "broader" appeal to more gamers).

To get a console game made, developers need approval from the licensor (Sony, MS, Nintendo) — a bunch of stuff never gets past that, they'll need dev kits and they know they'll have to pass certification. There's no choice on this, so it has to be budgeted for.

That limits the number and types of games - anyone ever complained that BioWare just hasn't been the same since BG2? (Not saying I necessarily agree but plenty of people would raise their hand).

I tend to like RPGs that often aren't all that commercially viable, such as Troika's stuff a some Eastern European games - as with a lot of other people here.

Those smaller projects are often under-funded, so QA is one of the first things to suffer. But, if it wasn't that way, they often wouldn't get made in the first place. Those who want console-like bug-free operation are going to be regularly disappointed by niche genres such as hardcore RPGs, because there is less investment in these games to start with. Someone like Blizzard has a huge QA budget — but they only develop slam-dunk titles.

Simply: better QA is always desirable but we need to be realistic about niche markets.

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March 16th, 2007, 04:44
So when you said:
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
(…a handful of PC games from the likes of Blizzard)….
You were really talking about console games? Because I thought you meant some companies were able to make high-quality PC games, and you were referring to Blizzard as an example.
Last edited by Squeek; March 16th, 2007 at 05:00.
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March 16th, 2007, 10:08
While everything Dhruin has said is absolutely true it might also be worth to note that a company like Blizzard has spend a long time building a name and a reputation for themselves. They have made a couple of gambles that have paid off big time leaving them with a huge reservoir of cash to fund their next project.

A game like Diablo 2 and the expansion pack stayed on the top 10 best sellers list for several years. That means cash by the truckload that can be used to spend a few (or many) extra months (perhaps even years) on the next game to fine tune it and squash bugs. That is a luxury most other developers don't have and THAT is why Blizzard games tend to contain fewer bugs than many others.

If Half Life hadn't sold so well there is no doubt that Valve would NOT have been able to afford delaying Half Life 2 a whole year like they did and the final state of Half Life 2 would most likely not have been anywhere near the quality of the game we know as Half Life 2.

Without cash deposits the like of Valve's and Blizzard's, developers don't have the luxury to make their own schedules. They have to make deals with publishers and that usually forces an often very rigid deadline upon them (along with the fact that the publishers also take the greatest piece of the pie afterwards leaving the developer dependent on them for the next project as well).

As dteowner said: It is a matter of available capital. If you can afford to spend the money on proper QA and/or necessary delays to ensure that the product is as bug free as possible then that's wonderful. If you can't … well, then you're at the mercy of your creditors/investors and as we all know, THEY tend to prioritize a holiday release a lot higher than the quality of the product.

Does that suck? Absolutely but as Dhruin has said: If you want to see games from smaller independent companies then you have to accept that a smaller purse won't buy you a Ferrari (I just couldn't help using the car analogy )

"Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks around, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves." - Commander Vimes in Thud! by Terry Pratchett
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March 16th, 2007, 10:46
Look at it this way, we all get the 'joy' and privilege of being the unpaid QA dept for these smaller devs and eventually we get the patched up game they planned to release!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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March 16th, 2007, 16:36
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
As dteowner said: It is a matter of available capital. If you can afford to spend the money on proper QA and/or necessary delays to ensure that the product is as bug free as possible then that's wonderful. If you can't … well, then you're at the mercy of your creditors/investors and as we all know, THEY tend to prioritize a holiday release a lot higher than the quality of the product.

Does that suck? Absolutely but as Dhruin has said: If you want to see games from smaller independent companies then you have to accept that a smaller purse won't buy you a Ferrari (I just couldn't help using the car analogy )
Well, I think you have to be very careful with that line of argumentation. We were talking a lot of justifications in this thread - well, the arguments above are also justifications. For a customer it doesn't matter why he gets a flawed product, just that he gets one.
To reduce the problems of quality to indipendent labels is also quite a distortion of the whole situation in my opinion - as if the "big" lables would only deliver quality products. Take Vanguard, big names involved, big publishers involved - still fairly unacceptable product quality. Of course, everyone will say that this is SOE's fault. To a certain extent sure, but indirectly it is also Sigil's fault. It's up to them to either stand up to their publisher and tell them that they won't release the game in such a state, or to look for another publisher - who else should do it? The customer?

But well, maybe my demands are a bit high… I don't know.

Anyway, I searched the internt for some studies about game quality, but couldn't really find much - if anyone knows of a quantitative study I'm very interested in it. It would be nice to know if this is a purely subjective impression that the quality of pc games is declining or if it is true.

What I found were the sales numbers from 2006 and before. It's the NPD that usually releases these numbers, and yup if you believe them the PC games market is rapidly declining over the last few years. A 14% decline in 2005, a 19% decline in 2004… now the NPD had to admit that the numbers were not quite correct since they only cover boxed retail versions (digital downloads and mmo fees were not included). Big "ups". At least the numbers from 2006 are correct, and they show a somewhat different picture. Sales for the pc are stagnating or declining very slowly, (around 1%), while the console market is growing immensely.
That makes pretty clear why companies like ID are really developing cross-platform games. It has most likely not much to do with piracy. But with the fact that you can just earn a lot more money by developing a game that runs on pcs and consoles (at least your on the safe side if your game should not be a big hit). From my point of view that's quite understandable.
Piracy is bad - I totally agree. But drawing the piracy card on every possible occassion is pretty lame as well. Especially if you have no empirical proof. There are other possible explanations for a stagnating pc market. The NPD admits for example that the pc games market is changing - especially the mmo market is growing. Now, if I have a look at myself, I hardly buy any other games if I'm really into a mmorpg. During my whole time in Everquest (almost 5 years) I hardly bought any other games because I just wasn't very much interested in playing something else. Same with WoW really. And if I look at all my friends, then it seems to me that I'm not the only one. That's of course pretty cool for the developers that create mmos, but not so good for companies that develop other games.
If you go to the sites of IGDA, and gamasutra and have a look at their articles (which I did over the last few days) you'll realize that there are relativly few articles about piracy or intellectual property rights, but quite a few about other problems that the games industry is facing nowadays.

Of course saying that piracy is destroying a market is much easier than being a bit self-critical, or admitting that you can just make more money by developing cross-platform…
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March 16th, 2007, 17:28
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
Look at it this way, we all get the 'joy' and privilege of being the unpaid QA dept for these smaller devs and eventually we get the patched up game they planned to release!!
That's right, but only if you download the game for free. If you buy the game, then you're paying for that privilege (but we all know that's the right thing to do).

There's no guarantee the devs will ever come through with the fixes, of course. Some companies do a better job of that than others. Bethseda only came through with one little patch for Oblivion. Maybe someday they'll be able to afford better QA like some of the bigger companies, Atari and Lucas Arts for example.
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March 16th, 2007, 20:49
the bethesda business model is a lot like the ikea business model. both give you lots of value for your money and they appeal to a wide audience. both require extra labour on the consumers part. but that approach doesn't work for everyone who wants things that are more niche/less generic. but in the case for both of their markets they suit a lot of peoples needs so there's a lot of good things to say about that type of success.
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March 16th, 2007, 21:37
Originally Posted by Ionstormsucks View Post
Take Vanguard, big names involved, big publishers involved - still fairly unacceptable product quality. Of course, everyone will say that this is SOE's fault. To a certain extent sure, but indirectly it is also Sigil's fault. It's up to them to either stand up to their publisher and tell them that they won't release the game in such a state, or to look for another publisher - who else should do it? The customer?
I know that you were only using Vanguard as an example for big labels delivering bad quality (which does certainly happen from time to time) but in all fairness, I don't think that Vanguard is a good example because as far as I remember, SOE is only providing hosting and marketing for Vanguard but not full publishing (i.e. funding). That's why it would seem to me that the blame lies 100% with Sigil since they ran out of funding and decided to push the game live. Or did SOE take over more responsibilities in regards to Vanguard in recent months?

Anyway, I searched the internt for some studies about game quality, but couldn't really find much - if anyone knows of a quantitative study I'm very interested in it. It would be nice to know if this is a purely subjective impression that the quality of pc games is declining or if it is true.
You don't really need any studies if you happen to have some old print mags. I trashed mine the last time I moved but if you happen to still have some mags from the mid 90s, then feel free to grab a random issue and check out the utter crap and garbage games that were released in quantity back then.
In my subjective view, I have the impression that the quality of games has only become better over the years. Developers and publishers can't usually afford to fail. Back in the 90s when a game would cost a few 100K or a couple million $ max, it was much easier to take some chances. That doesn't happen that often anymore with the multi million $ budgets of modern games.
Of course, there are a lot of so-so mediocre games still getting released but the total stinkers (something like Dungeon Lords) are luckily few and far between now.

But drawing the piracy card on every possible occassion is pretty lame as well. Especially if you have no empirical proof. There are other possible explanations for a stagnating pc market.
Yes, but what "anti-proof" is there that piracy is not a major factor? The only "empirical" evidence that I have seen in that regard is people accusing publishers of pulling the numbers of downloads or of lost revenue out of their ass. Wow. That's some kind of proof…

BTW, what's funny in this whole context is that Funcom has just decided to go fully online (it's unknown what this means to Dreamfall episodes - the project might have been cancelled or maybe they'll make online activation mandatory).
That linked article states that Dreamfall was downloaded 200,000 times before the game was available on store shelves. Of course, Funcom might be pulling that number out of their ass, too, but what proof does anyone have who doubts their numbers?
There is a reason why publishers are so concerned about preventing "day zero" (day of release) availability of their games on Torrent sites/filesharing networks. Copy protection is not meant to prevent the copying (which is mission impossible anyway). It's just aimed at keeping the game away from the download sites for as long as possible. Every single day counts in that regard.

Funcom aside, I also find it interesting that MS Office 2007 is selling like hotcakes compared to its "prequels". That might have a lot of reasons like the revamped UI, the attractive price of the Home & Student edition etc but I have a sneaking suspicion that Microsoft's genuine advantage program might be a major factor as well. I haven't really done any extensive research on the availability of a free Office 2007 yet but I got the impression from comments on sites like Winfuture.de (a German news site dedicated to everything Windows) that tracking down a working version of Office 2007 with WGA permanently disabled is quite a pain in the ass.

Edit:
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
There's no guarantee the devs will ever come through with the fixes, of course. Some companies do a better job of that than others. Bethseda only came through with one little patch for Oblivion. Maybe someday they'll be able to afford better QA like some of the bigger companies, Atari and Lucas Arts for example.
Ummm so do we measure the quality of QA by the number of patches now?
Oblivion had a few minor annoying bugs at release but the game was fully playable out of the box. There's a reason why it didn't need a lot of patching. It was already in a very good and polished state at release.
I'm not so sure that the same can be said about some of Atari's (Boiling Point, ToEE) or LucasArts' (KotOR 2) games.
Of course, Bethesda could have and should have done a better job as well (especially with that Star Trek Legacy game from what I've read some other places) but to name Atari and LucasArts as examples of companies with good or better QA seems like a bit of a stretch to put it mildly.
Last edited by Moriendor; March 16th, 2007 at 22:16.
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March 16th, 2007, 23:08
Originally Posted by Moriendor View Post
…to name Atari and LucasArts as examples of companies with good or better QA seems like a bit of a stretch to put it mildly.
Actually, I meant that as sarcasm. I can't think of two companies with a worse reputation for supporting their products. I think Bethseda earned plenty with Oblivion and can easily afford to fix it.

Some folks in this thread are selling the idea that high-quality PC games can't be made profitably. I'm not buying it.
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March 17th, 2007, 01:01
You've simplified my point to "can't". I'm saying there is a bigger chance of QA issues with smaller, niche titles and comparing the QA level of this market to consoles is an exercise in futility. Those who demand console level QA had best move on, because they will be continually disappointed.

@ISS, Vanguard is an interesting title to look at. Broadly, it's not as simple as forcing your publisher to do certain things or just look for another publisher - contracts are signed and (usually) they are paying the bills. How are you going to pay all your developers while you look for a new publisher? What if you can't find one?

I don't know if Moriendor is right about SOE's responsibilities with Vanguard because I don't follow it too closely but here's what I think: Microsoft dumped Vanguard because they knew it was a dog. SOE picked them up because they need to boost their portfolio and Microsoft had already done the hard yards but everyone knew Vanguard was a waste of space commercially, so they were never going to spend a lot of money on it. In other words, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Sigil made a "hardcore" MMO with limited appeal, so the investment from publishers needs to be limited. There's no other publisher to take it because they know it's a relative failure and noone else wants it. SOE would be stupid to spend large amounts of money on it.

So, the question is: should Vanguard have died when MS dumped it or is it better to have it, buggy as it is? I don't know, because I don't play it.

I may have Vanguard wrong, because as I said, I don't follow it. But the principle is the same. I know consumers don't care what the reason is and they just want a quality product, but they often don't have a clue and it isn't always so simple. Perhaps it should be, but it isn't.

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