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Default The Escapist - Editorial about E: Everone - but not for me

June 16th, 2010, 23:36
The co-founder of The escapist Alexander Macris has written a rather thought-provoking article dealing with the rising costs of game production. And how this affects the games being produced. Here's one of his thoughts - the others are very intriguing to read, too:
What does it mean to say that in 1999 a videogame only needed to reach 80,000 customers to break even? It means that videogames once had economics similar to book publishing or music publishing. A low cost of production relative to retail price point creates a low breakeven point that incentivizes publishers to invest in top-quality genres that cater to specific niches. They can capture every consumer's taste, no matter how obscure, with something great.
Here's his closing statement:
So at E3 this year, I'll be prowling around like some sort of saber-toothed tiger of videogaming. My food supply has grown scarce; my days as an apex consumer are limited. I'm rated E for Endangered.
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June 16th, 2010, 23:37
Nice. Somebody actually has had the same thought and analysis than I had.

Sorry, this just sounds as if I was boasting, but I always knew that I was ahead of my time with my ways of thinking - and I also knew that that was the reason why so few people would understand me.

The world needs people for analysis who are able to look [i]so[i] far ahead that others can't understand them. A *lot* more of these people !

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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June 17th, 2010, 00:56
One of the most important articles on games ever written. Something every gamer should read. But it destroys all hope we old school gamers are ever going to be really happy.
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June 17th, 2010, 04:34
Nice article, though I still don't fully understand WHY games are costing so much now. As that article mentioned a few weeks back, voice acting costs are up but Dues Ex back in 2000 had some pretty nice voice acting, so I'm having trouble believing that's the whole problem.

It seems more likely that it's the number of people. The end credits movie for Baldur's Gate 2 are about 4 times shorter than Dragon Age's credits. That's a lot more people to pay, especially if they are hired for a longer period of time. But what are they doing?? More artwork? More programming? More bug testing?

Over on the boring old CRUD side of the programming world, fewer people can do quite a bit more in less time than we did back in the 90's. Why is game programming going backwards??
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June 17th, 2010, 06:28
The art pipeline. It's massively more time-consuming to do 36-bazillion poly models with hi-res textures and perfect animation than the days of Deus Ex when you used a triangle for hands. And woe betide any game that doesn't do it (or spend the equivalent making low-poly models look as good like WoW). Look at forum comments on Alpha Protocol or even Fallout: New Vegas (seriously…head to a major site and look how many people are disappointed the engine is essentially the same).

These days you compete with Assassins Creed 2 with gorgeous animations for climbing, jumping, diving, rolling… Back in the day, you clicked a dialogue and a box said "you climb up the wall and into the window".

His article is all well and good but we all* built this world with a voracious appetite for improved graphics. Those 1994 games are still out there, made by Spiderweb and Basilisk and Matrix and Shrapnel…is he buying them? Maybe…maybe not.

*I'm being general, obviously.

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June 17th, 2010, 10:29
I don't entirely agree with the article, although I share the general sentiment. It seems he is mostly angry that the niche productions don't have the production values of todays AAA games, and somehow he finds that hard to accept. However, once you DO accept that indies won't look like multimillion-dollar productions, I am not so sure we see less variety or niches than we did in decades past. There is still MUD's, text adventures, point-and click adventures, TB strategy, RPGs, etc. being made, and these niches are probably bigger than before, just because a much larger percentage of the population plays games today.
Also I wouldn't be surprised if the gap starts to close again. Looking at what low-cost game engines today are capable of, the ever-increasing number of art-packs, art-tools, sound-libraries, etc. it seems that you can leverage a lot today with relatively little manpower, while I find that the visual improvements in AAA games become more and more incremental. Maybe 3D will widen the gap again, for a while. What I am missing a bit is small dev houses that try to find a niche between the one to four man indie teams and the big boys - but I think thats coming, too.
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June 17th, 2010, 10:35
I read the article, my feelings are that the cost rising because game Developers are competing each other over the same ground of ideas.
Most modern games are 1 guy holding a gun shooting at bad other guys or deformed or monsters , obviously for customers to prefer your game over the other SAME one you have to spend more on engines and graphics and stuff.

Is anyone wondering why x-com uses an old franchise title for a shooter game ?

I am 100% sure that if someone comes up with a new idea developing a game very different from the others in the market he will get maximum profit for minimal costs .
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June 17th, 2010, 11:15
The Rampant Coyote has a nice comment on the article:
http://rampantgames.com/blog/?p=769

I'd note that Spiderwebs games are really very far behind the curve, graphically. To a point where even I find it hard to get enthusiastic about them. It'd be interesting to have some numbers from Soldak entertainment in comparison, as their graphics are allready a little more advanced (and later AoD, which is clearly above my threshold, graphically).
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June 17th, 2010, 12:30
I used to be more pessimistic, but I'm now starting to wonder if the industry isn't changing faster than I expected.

If you look at games like Deus Ex 3 - and what they're trying to do, with plenty of cash in their pockets - and the general reception it seems to be getting, I think we might be closer to reaching a similar place to where we were, when gameplay essentially stopped evolving. Now, it's not a black and white thing, but in my mind many of my favorite genres stopped evolving around 10 years ago. Not in terms of production values, obviously, but in terms of OVERALL gameplay depth and complexity.

For instance, System Shock (and arguably SS2) is to me the peak of that particular genre, and games like Bioshock took it backwards.

Games like Baldur's Gate 2, is the peak of that particular genre, and Dragon Age took it backwards.

Like that.

But it seems to me that the audience is adapting to complexity, and us enthusiast players are adapting to a certain measure of streamlining, because we understand the necessity to a degree.

So, I'm predicting we'll be seeing a true advance of gameplay within 5-10 years, and that's WITH AAA production values.

That would make me a very happy gamer indeed, but let's see
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June 17th, 2010, 14:49
I think Alexander Macris is a graphic whore. If old graphics are the only problem with niche gaming these days, then there's really no problem. My two cents.
Originally Posted by Tragos View Post
I read the article, my feelings are that the cost rising because game Developers are competing each other over the same ground of ideas.
Most modern games are 1 guy holding a gun shooting at bad other guys or deformed or monsters , obviously for customers to prefer your game over the other SAME one you have to spend more on engines and graphics and stuff.
So why are mainstream rpg titles so expensive when there are only few of them?

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June 17th, 2010, 16:30
It doesn't really have to be like that. Take Grotesque Tactics for example. That's still a niche type of game, but I find the production values completely acceptable. It's doable, but just don't expect to rake in the millions of $.
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June 18th, 2010, 10:47
Originally Posted by Malk View Post
So why are mainstream rpg titles so expensive when there are only few of them?
From what i have read AAA RPGs have a "set" price developers are asking for . You see there is the compass of Bethesda / Blizzard 's success who set the standards .
Also "mainstream rpg" usually means "kind of RPG" and the titles are not few at all .
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June 18th, 2010, 11:11
I was talking about real rpgs, not the action ones.. You say they're competing over the same ground, but there's almost no competition when it comes to tr00 mainstream rpgs (how many of those were released in last two years? Three or four…?), and yet they're still expensive. I don't see how a set price changes that?

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June 18th, 2010, 11:22
Originally Posted by Malk View Post
I was talking about real rpgs, not the action ones.. You say they're competing over the same ground, but there's almost no competition when it comes to tr00 mainstream rpgs (how many of those were released in last two years? Three or four…?), and yet they're still expensive. I don't see how a set price changes that?
What you mean "true" ? actually there are more than 5 only released this year , given that the RPGers are not the biggest group of players how many do you think bought all of them ?
Of course they are competing each other over the same concept and of course to make an AAA title you need a "set" (high) budget .
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June 18th, 2010, 20:33
True rpgs are those which aren't action. And there are only a few non action mainstream (i.e. Bioware range of production values) released in last two years. So it's not likely they're expensive because of a strong competition.

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June 18th, 2010, 23:17
Originally Posted by Malk View Post
True rpgs are those which aren't action.
Oh god, not again…
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June 18th, 2010, 23:18
Yawn………..
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June 19th, 2010, 00:11
Originally Posted by Malk View Post
True rpgs are those which aren't action. And there are only a few non action mainstream (i.e. Bioware range of production values) released in last two years. So it's not likely they're expensive because of a strong competition.
I agree with you but forget it, this place is full of twitchers
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June 19th, 2010, 12:37
Originally Posted by Malk View Post
So it's not likely they're expensive because of a strong competition.
That is not necessarily true: Mainstream Games have to compete with all other mainstream games, not only with those of (exactly) the same type. Otherwise they would be niche games only appealing to people playing exactly this one game type (like your "real RPGs"). But as AAA games they have to appeal to other gamers too, otherwise they could never break even.

So they have a strong competition and have to be expensive because of that.

That is the reason why "middle class" games are rare in niche genres:

You either have to break even in the niche, then you can only make a low cost game or you have to break even in the mass market, then you have to make a mainstream game.

"Middle class" games can only break even in a niche market, if that niche is bigger than the niche of "True RPG"-players. It is possible e. g. in the strategy niche or for a racing game, but not for a "True RPG".

In Europe the RPG niche is bigger then worldwide (relative to the market, of course), so more "middle class" RPGs like Drakensang come from Europe.

(However I don't know if Drakensang was successful enough.)
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June 19th, 2010, 14:18
Lol, I didn't mean action rpgs aren't real rpgs, I just wanted to make a distinction between them. Tho, I don't think Diablo is an rpg. Or other similar games.
Originally Posted by bkrueger View Post
That is not necessarily true: Mainstream Games have to compete with all other mainstream games, not only with those of (exactly) the same type.
Yes, this makes sense.

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