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Default Spiderweb Games - How Jeff Vogel Saved the Gaming Industry Overnight

April 22nd, 2010, 23:08
Jeff Vogel has updated his blog - in a response to a comment on the RPG Codex. In it, he talks about using the same game engine for many years which he things other game developers should do as well:
And the big companies, who make AAA games with these amazing awesome big-budget engines? They should re-use more of them! The Dragon Age engine is very cool. Make ten games with it! And not just piddly Dragon Age DLC either. Make games that are cyberpunk, horror, science fiction, fantasy in a new setting. The budgets will be much lower, and that makes it easier to take risks. And use the same dragon model. It looks really sweet. And, once the engine is a drained husk (in, say, five years), then spend a lot of money making a new one.
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April 22nd, 2010, 23:08
The Codex guys were either being irrationally harsh or stupid. Or both I guess.
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April 23rd, 2010, 00:02
He is perfectly right. However, isn't DA:O, NWN2, KOTOR1/2, Jade Empire etc based on a constantly improved/tweaked NWN1 engine?

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April 23rd, 2010, 00:32
I am not a game producer but what he says makes a whole lot of sense. It seems to have worked well in his case any way, but one thing he may not be considering is the "glamorizing" of the AAA titles its all about the whole big production not about making the best game you can with the resources you have. So unlike an indy project.
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April 23rd, 2010, 04:56
I think it makes sense. The Infinity engine was used to make five games and four expansion packs. (BG I plus Tales of the Sword Coast, BG II plus Throne of Baal, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale I plus Heart of Winter and Trial of the Luremaster, and Icewind Dale II. They were all good games and as far as I know they all sold fairly well.
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April 23rd, 2010, 05:23
The "AAA" developers already use the same engine but only add minor new upgrades to the engine for every new game (which is just obvious evolution, it will happen and it MUST happen).

Unlike Jeff however, 3D game developers cannot afford to use same old engine from 2000 now unless they feel like spending millions of dollars on new art material only to have a big flop because no one saw specular maps and bump maps in the screenshots of their game compared to the competitors.

Lets face it, graphics are 50% of the game and without any visual treat, you better have one hell of a storyline (read = Planescape Torment) to make people world over spend money on your little "gem".

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April 23rd, 2010, 05:51
The man has a point…

The problem is that because graphics cost money, everything else has to take a back seat in order for the game to become profitable (or so they say?). I truly wonder if this assumption is even true. I happen to follow quite many game related sites like many here and I rarely see people basing their buying decisions on the visual quality.

In fact I'd like to belive that most gamers value gameplay, storytelling, good a.i, large gameworld, music, physics, voice acting etc over nice visuals. Just read best games ever lists. Those games are loved because of their storytelling, gameplay etc.

Devs/publishers are using so much money and resources to make their games look stunning which is why they have to cut perfectly good gameplay feautures, rewrite storylines, cut sidequests etc. Innovation suffers a lot due to this.
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April 23rd, 2010, 08:50
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
The man has a point…
not really, sure technically reusing game engines and art makes sense but pretty much everyone is already doing that run down any list of AAA games and the engine is either resued (either internally or licenced from another company) or built in hopes of licencing the underlying technology to other companies. There's hardly any games made these days where the developer starts off with a blank sheet. The real dispute is just over degree not over whether anyone is doing it.
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April 23rd, 2010, 09:34
For engines this already seems the case, as people have pointed out, with regards to the even more expensve (in terms of manpower and time) art assets however, I think there is indeed a point. Sure, I don't want to meet the same dragon in every game, but still reusing graphical assets more extensively would seem to make sense, especially if we consider a secondary market viable. Basically, I think we could have more games like MoB and SoZ (and hopefully FO:NV) if game platforms and art were reused a bit more extensively, a bit more often. And that would be a good thing.
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April 23rd, 2010, 09:35
Originally Posted by V7 View Post
not really, sure technically reusing game engines and art makes sense but pretty much everyone is already doing that run down any list of AAA games and the engine is either resued (either internally or licenced from another company) or built in hopes of licencing the underlying technology to other companies. There's hardly any games made these days where the developer starts off with a blank sheet. The real dispute is just over degree not over whether anyone is doing it.
You are only speaking about the 3d Engine here, not the game engine. A highly optimized game requires stuff like a level creator, right textures, a dialogue editor, optimized controls etc… many things that lies beyond the graphics engines they usually license. Building a game from scratch takes time even if you have something like the Unreal engine in your hands.

Look at the time it have taken to develop Fallout 3 vs Fallout: Las Vegas. You have numerous of examples of the first game taking ages and it's sequel taking 1/2 or 1/3 the time to produce usually with enhanced gameplay.

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April 23rd, 2010, 09:39
Well, perhaps he should take his own advice?
And, once the engine is a drained husk (in, say, five years), then spend a lot of money making a new one.

As for the AAA game developers that is what they are already doing.

He is perfectly right. However, isn't DA:O, NWN2, KOTOR1/2, Jade Empire etc based on a constantly improved/tweaked NWN1 engine?
Don't forget the Witcher….


I want to add one thing though, it depends on HOW and WHY they are using a certain engine. If they build a new engine to enable new gameplay features which is not possible with current engines. That's one thing.

If they build a new engine from scracth just to get a bit better graphics and nothing new in regard to gameplay.. well, that's another thing.
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April 23rd, 2010, 10:15
I've now worked in two game companies where it was decided that in order to move to "next gen" (read: current gen) it was necessary to radically rewrite the old in-house tech from the PS2 days.

In both cases it was correct that a quite big change was needed - and in both cases it *hurt*, because the way the tech was upgraded was pretty much to start from scratch. It takes a *long* time to build a new engine from scratch… much longer than people usually anticipate

So I definitely agree with Jeff that engines should be re-used even more than they are today.
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April 23rd, 2010, 10:19
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
For engines this already seems the case, as people have pointed out, with regards to the even more expensve (in terms of manpower and time) art assets however, I think there is indeed a point.
Not sure I agree with that - if you look at what goes into the big game engines I'd guess that there's at least as much effort on them as later gets put into art,but its not only game engines getting licenced - how many games have come out using Speedtree lately?

I don't disagree that more reuse of developed assets sounds like a good thing, I just don't think the idea is all that novel - hell if you're looking for an example of a big studio recylcing games over and over how about EA Sports lineup?
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April 23rd, 2010, 12:42
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
Well, perhaps he should take his own advice?
He is, Avernum & geneforge are all wrapped up and apparently there's a fairly significant redesign for his new IP. I think it's reasonable to say that 5 AAA developer years are equivalent to about 15 indie developer years.

Edit - totally agree with his viewpoint anyway. Anything that skews budgets towards high quality content generation rather hardcore programming gets my vote.
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April 23rd, 2010, 15:49
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
Sure, I don't want to meet the same dragon in every game, but still reusing graphical assets more extensively would seem to make sense, especially if we consider a secondary market viable. Basically, I think we could have more games like MoB and SoZ (and hopefully FO:NV) if game platforms and art were reused a bit more extensively, a bit more often. And that would be a good thing.
I agree if a game is a expansion or a sequel, but for a brand new game I don't want to see any art reused.

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April 23rd, 2010, 16:08
I agree and been saying it forever. How many games were made for the 'gold boxes'? They all used pretty much the same engine, and there were MANY, from D&D to Ravenloft, Dark Sun, hell even Buck Rogers (and even an RPG maker if I'm not mistaken). Nowadays you're lucky if the same engine is used in two games.

Take an engine with all the tools you developed for it, and bring that synergy to make other games, with different settings, stories, spells, skills, characters, but keep the engine the same. Not only you don't have to spend time and money developing it, but the developers learn to use it to the fullest and what took them 1 month to do the first time now takes them a week.
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April 23rd, 2010, 17:06
Nowadays you're lucky if the same engine is used in two games.
That statement is just… wrong.

I think you'll have a hard time to tell me about a game which use a engine that hasn't been used more than twice.
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April 23rd, 2010, 20:13
Heck, look at Valve. Their newest offering (L4D2) uses the Source engine. Counter-strike Source and Half-Life 2 were released on the Source engine how long ago? And that engine still looks and plays beautifully. Have they done a lot of work on it since its first release? Oh, absolutely. But…you get the point.
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April 23rd, 2010, 22:18
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
That statement is just… wrong.

I think you'll have a hard time to tell me about a game which use a engine that hasn't been used more than twice.
Oblivion's engine I don't think has been used in other games (not talking about DLC or expansions). Same with, pretty much every MMO out there, and how many games are out using The Witcher's engine (again, not expansions), or even Risen, which is supposed to be the same Genome engine from Gothic 3 yet it was almost 'rewritten from scratch'.

I'm talking about taking the same engine, no modifications, and just create new games with it, with a different setting (sci/fi instead of fantasy, or steampunk), different textures, story, etc. That's just not happening.
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April 23rd, 2010, 22:39
Yeeeeahhh, I dunno…

To me this is sort of evidence of just how much he's sitting in his own little box.

The biggest bane on these flashy AAA games atm IS that they're all on the same engine. Its unreal3 engine and it seems to be used in much the same way with every game. Its like theyre all loading up a tutorial template for their code. Same GOW angle, same GOW cover system….

Other than unreal3 engine, what is there? cryengine? maybe 2 games on that…. ids tech4? maybe 3 games? tech5, 2 games… 3rd expected soon. Source engine I think is really sweet, but no one is using it.

Look, if quake 3 was done on the quake 1 engine the industry would look NOTHING like it does today. New tech was the driving force not only for the devs and money hungry publishers but also for my own enthusiasm and incentive to get me a 32mb DiamondViper TNT2 Ultra!

So yeah, Sure… money, time.. blah blah blah… But a new engine is a new game and a game on an old engine is just a classy MOD you're paying for.
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