Window of Opportunity

I recently read an article about Duke Nukem Forever (you can find the article here http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2009/12/30/duke-nukem-forever-escalating-commitment-and-chewing-bubblegum/).  It started me thinking about the window of opportunity for video game titles.  Every title is a mash of content, technology and design ideas.  At any given time there are a number of really talented teams all working in similar spaces, each with strengths and weaknesses.  The perceived challenge is to try and beat the other guys to market with a great title which outstrips the features currently on the market.  Sadly, new games are getting released all the time.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard “But, XXX just came out and it had YYYY amazing feature, we need to have that.”  I’ve seen teams lose months, sometimes even years chasing features.  If you are closing in towards a shippable title and you know what the title is, what the key promise of the title is (what you expect of the experience) and what the fans are looking forward you should be able to look other games in the face and say,  nice work fellows, XXX is great, but that isn’t a core requirement for what we are doing.

In my career I spent a lot of time ranting against the “feature shotgun”, which is lumping a ton of features, all of average quality, into a title, to try and make it appeal to the broadest group possible.  To me, the “feature shotgun” leads to clumsy gameplay and an unfocused title.  Instead, figure out what matters most about your title and carry that to a high level of polish and I think you have a better game.

Reading the Duke story brought back way too many memories of runaway features.  Know your game, know what matters and when you have a fun game, ship it.  If you don’t, all your effort never existed.

-Trent

The changing PC game space

I recently completed the main story arc of Torchlight (http://www.runicgames.com/) and I have to say it has me really excited.  I’ve infected about a half dozen others with Torchlight so far and to me it is a beacon of a brave new future for PC gaming.  I see a new space forming between the 30+ million dollar “AAA” efforts of the big publishers and the self-funded indie space.  With digital distribution a proven reality and a number of skilled developers getting together, I see a new space forming.  These games have professional production values across the board, a more limited scope than expected from a typical “AAA” title and a much better price point.  The Runic fellows have mapped out the high end of this spectrum with Torchlight and I’m certain in the future we’re going to see a lot more of this class of title.  The big guys can’t compete in the space simply due to overhead, so I expect it to be dominated by a new crop of privately funded, independent developers (some ex-big studio, some new to games).  I’m excited to see more of the new Indies and I’m looking forward to working with the scene as part of my latest venture.

-Trent

Tax credits and Alberta game development

I live in Edmonton.  I want there to be a game development industry here.  In fact I’m willing to work to try and make that happen (once my non-compete wears out ;-). )

Every time I hear about another tax credit or “gift” to some major studio to set up somewhere else it makes me cringe.  Here’s a bit on the Ontario scene:http://ow.ly/168eZA .  Simply put, there isn’t a level playing field and it seems the odds are stacked against building a larger game development community here.  Sure, we’ve got EA/Bioware, but without at least a few more players, the local environment is a one shop scene and not going to grow into a vibrant community.  Tax credits help to feed the local pool where they are given, while at the same time poisoning all the other pools.   We’re one of the other pools.

Here’s the last line of the article: “France-based Ubisoft’s investment in Toronto will create 800 jobs over the next ten years.  In response, the province of Ontario will contribute $263 million to bring the total investment to $800 million”

Read more: http://www.techvibes.com/blog/ontario-technology-corridor-joining-the-digital-gaming-revolution#ixzz0ZKQy7ORR

$800 million!

-Trent