Happy Thanksgiving
Thursday, 22 November 2007

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving holiday today.  For the many of you who are from outside of the US, I hope you have a great day also.

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Portals & publishers
Tuesday, 20 November 2007

I mentioned a little while back that contracts are killing my brain but at least they seem to be leading somewhere useful.  As of right now, we have signed deals with one publisher and two portals.  There is still a long way to go till Depths of Peril gets the distribution that I think it needs, but this is a start at least.

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Copy protection & piracy
Friday, 16 November 2007

Another indie developer (Cliff from Positech Games) mentioned why he is adding copy protection to his next game.  Unfortunately, he is right in his reasoning about why he feels he needs to. :(  He has decided to add online validation to his next game, which we don't do, but I can understand why he is adding it.

There are a lot of excuses and justifications about piracy, but it does hurt the industry as a whole, the companies that make games, and especially the individuals that make those games.  Cliff is correct, in my opinion, that this is one of the big reasons why many developers are moving to consoles and why many games are going MMO only.

People can justify piracy all they want, but by stealing a copy of a game or by making it available to download they are doing a lot of damage.  What most people focus on is the lost revenue from piracy, which is very true, but there are a lot of other repercussions. 

Every copy stolen of a particular game makes it less likely that the industry will make another game of that type.  The industry is very focused on number of sales and revenue.  Piracy numbers do not show up in their market research (at least not in a positive way), so every pirated game is a vote against that game.  So in the long run pirating a game that you actually like is kind of dumb. 

The specific developer and publisher that made the game is going to be even more effected.  They are less likely to make more games of that type or property or even at all.  Without enough sales most companies definitely won't make sequels and will eventually go out of business.

Piracy also forces developers and publishers to add in copy protection schemes and is forcing more and more games to consoles and MMOs.  I'm seeing copy protection mentioned more and more in contracts with publishers and portals.  I've also been in countless meetings and discussions about leaving the PC business or moving to something more like a MMO style business because of piracy.  As a primarily PC gamer, this makes me very sad.

For small indie companies, piracy is even worse (not that it is ever a good thing).  A pirate is not stealing from a big faceless retail chain, publisher, or large developer.  Pirates are stealing directly from individuals that made cool games and it is hard enough to survive as an indie without people stealing from them.

I won't say how I know, but I know at least a few people have tried to pirate Depths of Peril.  I don't think there are many people that have tried, but it is still frustrating.  In our case there really is no reason to pirate the game, except to get something for free instead of paying for it (that's generally called stealing btw).  Anyways, Depths of Peril has a demo that is a very fast download, the demo lets you play as long as you want and even has all 4 classes, the game is pretty cheap at $29.99 compared to most games, we have a 30 day money back guarantee, and the game actually does some unique things.

Personally, I would much rather not add copy protection to our games.  It's an extra step I have to do for every build of our games.  It's another thing that can cause problems for our customers, which in turn causes support issues that I have to resolve.  It's also another expense that I have to pay for.  Unfortunately, currently it boils down to a necessary evil. :(

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Game credits controversy
Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Who gets credit on a game has been a hot topic lately in some circles because apparently Take 2 left everyone from Rockstar Vienna off of the credits of Manhunt 2  I believe Rockstar Vienna was shutdown before Manhunt 2 shipped and that's probably why this happened.

Before I start, I should mention that most of the missing names probably deserve to be in the credits, but as usual the reason this is a controversy is because it's not as simple as it sounds.  Most of this is just my opinion but I have the unique perspective of having been an employee and wanting credit, being a technical director and seeing tons of resumes, and being the owner of a company and deciding who gets credit on a game.

Should everyone that worked on the game be in the credits?  The people that worked on the game for the full duration obviously deserve as much credit as you can give them, but what about the person that was on the project for a week?  What about that new programmer that came on the project, kind of worked for a month, was fired for incompetence, and all of his work was redone?  What about the guy that quit the company at a critical time?  Where do you draw the line?  The controversy comes in because everyone picks a different place to draw the line and if you are personally on the wrong side of the line you get really upset.

What we did for Depths of Peril was everyone that had an asset in the shipping game got credit.  In our case, I think this worked out fairly well.  In a larger project I'm not sure it would work as well though.  The main problem would be what about people that don't produce direct assets like producers, managers, the CEO, or even the invaluable office assistant?

There are even negative issues of adding people to the credits though.  If you include everyone that ever touches the game, doesn't that diminish the credits for those that were on the project the entire time?  One of the reasons everyone wants credit on a game is because it makes your resume that much better.  It's much easier to get another job in the industry if your resume has 10 game credits on it rather than 2 and it is much easier to claim credit if your name shows up in the credits of the game itself.  The problem is that the guy that worked on the game for a month gets the same credit as the guy that worked on the game for 3 years.  Is that fair?  Note: this is a great help on your resume but it does break down some during interviews.

As I've implied so far credits don't always mean much.  So you worked on a game for a week and got a credit in the game.  You are now most likely going to add it to your resume.  In reality that 1 week was mostly irrelevant though and you are just padding your resume.  Of course now the problem is that you have to in this industry because everyone else does it. :(  Now days if you look at various peoples resumes or list of credits it becomes almost impossible to tell just from the resume if the credits mean anything or not.  I've seen resumes from people that have 2 game credits, but was probably one of the main people on both games.  I've also seen resumes from people that have worked at numerous companies in just a few years and have a huge list of games on their resume.  Now with these extremes it is a bit easier to tell what is going on.

Ok, enough of my rambling.  I'll give some of my own personal credits of examples of all of this.  I'm not saying any of the following examples are right or wrong though, this isn't all of the games I have worked on, and the timeframes are off the top of head so they should be in the general ball park but will probably be off a bit.

Sin - I first started working at Ritual when they were finishing up the original Sin.  Jumping in on the programming in the last month of a project isn't terribly bright, so I mostly helped out by testing for the last month or so of the project.  I worked a lot of hours in this month and played all of the way through Sin WAY too many times in that time.  I don't have credits in Sin.  Do I deserve them for 1 month of work?

Heavy Metal: FAKK2 - Other than a little bit of the initial design phase, I worked on the entire project (~2 years).  My primary focus was AI, but I also worked on a lot of other systems here and there.  I do have credit in Heavy Metal.  I'm not going to ask if I deserve credit on this one, but do I deserve the same credit as everyone else?  However, in the strategy guide, Ritual isn't mentioned in the credits (which is strange since they have their logo on the front cover).  I'm not mentioned anywhere even though I did all of the AI in the game that they are giving tips for.  Do I deserve credits in the strategy manual?

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down - This was an expansion pack that Ritual did for the Black Hawk Down game.  I was supposed to be the one programmer on the project, but we never got the source code for the project so my contributions to the game were mostly minor technical support.  I have credits in the game.  Do I really deserve credit?

Blair Witch: Volume 3 - I came in late on this project and only worked on it for a couple months.  I do have credit on BW3.  Do I deserve credit for 2 months of programming?  Ah, but this case gets a little more interesting.  The programming side of the project was failing badly and wasn't going to finish.  Me and another programmer came in at the last minute, worked a lot of hours, and saved the programming side of the project.  Now given that, do I deserve credit?

Elite Force 2 - I was one of only a few people that was on this project from start to finish and worked on this game for 2 years or so.  I was the lead programmer on the project and the technical director for Ritual at the time.  I have credits in EF2 (in 3 places actually).  Do I deserve to have my name in 3 places?  As a side note, I have credits in the same list as Patrick Stewart which is kind of cool.

There is another problem with credits that my personal experience shows.  I have worked on many game projects that were cancelled for various reasons (none of which I had any control over) but I get no credits for this.  So should the person that worked on a game for a month that shipped get credit whereas someone that works on a game for a year that got cancelled through no fault of their own not get credit?  Of course, it's hard to give credit for a non-shipping game. :)

Anyways, just food for thought.  This for some reason ended up a lot longer than I was expecting.  If you are still reading, I hope you enjoyed this at least. :)

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Random worlds suck when testing
Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Ok, so random worlds are very cool when actually playing games, at least in my opinion, but they are a pain when testing them.  Today I needed a priest NPC to pop up so that I could test something.  Well you would think it would take about 4 tries or so to get a priest since we have 4 classes and they have the same odds for each of them to spawn.  The statistics are actually more complicated then this, but that's beside the point. :)  Anways, the first 4 in a row were warriors and it took me another 11 tries after that to finally get my priest.  I generated 7 warriors, 4 rogues, 3 mages, and 1 very lonely priest.

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