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Worth Reading 03/01/2013

A few thoughts on the fallout from our Skullgirls feature, alongside your usual week's worth of articles, games, quotes, games, and more.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at the furor and confusion that erupted in some parts of the Internet over the Skullgirls crowdfunding campaign for a new character, but I was. It acutely demonstrated the continued disconnect between the people who make games and the people who play them.

It’s not new, but it makes me wonder if we’re doing our job right and conveying game development in 2013. Iron Galaxy CEO Dave Lang was quoted in the article because his studio has worked with Capcom on a number of fighting games recently. Once the article was published, he went on Twitter and made this observation:

For the most part I don't think gamers should care about how much games cost to make. They should only care if it was worth what they spent.

— Dave Lang (@JosephJBroni) February 28, 2013

On one hand, I’m with him. It should be about the games, right? But it’s not, especially if you’re someone who’s reading this website or cruising message boards dedicated to games. You are not the average player, you are someone who, ostensibly, has a huge interest in knowing more about how the sausage is made, and that does inform how you play and buy. Not everyone wants the behind-the-scenes, and that’s okay, but the conversations started by exposing the cost of producing a high-quality 2D fighting game character brought out armchair experts that simply cannot believe it but have no basis for that opinion.

Rather than accepting the $150,000 number at face value, I asked experts in the field to comment on how it lines up from their own experience. Everyone agreed it was a crazy deal, and still there were loads of commenters who could more quickly believe this was a conspiracy and Lab Zero Games were scam artists or lazy. That strikes me as a certain kind of crazy, and suggests to me there need to be many more stories about game development to drive it home. You have every right to think it’s unacceptable that game development has become so expensive today, but that’s a different conversation entirely.

Hey, You Should Play These

There’s an increasing number of games, largely ones coming from the independent community, focused on “avoiding” combat. It’s a huge part of what made Amnesia: The Dark Descent so terrifying, and was the crux of Slender: The Eight Pages. Not every one is successful, but developers ditching a hugely popular but tired mechanic is interesting to watch. I’m not convinced 1916 is really all that good, but it generates a moody atmosphere, and it’s tough to get upset about a free game that swaps soldiers for...dinosaurs.

Keep it simple, stupid. Bomberman. Thousands of players. Simultaneous. Go play it. Now.

And You Should Read These, Too

If you’ve forgotten, Tevis Thompson is the same author behind that brilliant essay critiquing modern Zelda games from a while back. He’s now started writing for Grantland, the same place where much of Tom Bissell’s work lands. In his debut, Thompson looks closely at mobile games like Angry Birds, Time Surfer, and ZiGGURAT and how they play with gravity. There’s an art to implementing sublime touch controls that goes unappreciated, and Thompson, the same person who invoked Dark Souls to criticize today’s Zelda, makes a case for their importance.

"It is this kind of arc, the shape of life under gravity, that games can engage so powerfully, and so playfully. But to describe it? Video games speak in a language we can hear but not repeat, read but not yet write. We’ve been thinking in video games and through video games for decades now, but we still struggle to articulate our experiences with the gamiest of games. Instead, we reach for narrative legitimacy using the language of literature and film. We chase those games with serious themes and mature content, hoping they will prove some "final arrival" of the medium. When in truth, Super Mario 3D Land has more to say about life on Earth than BioShock."

This thread on NeoGAF is what caused my several paragraphs of my ire at the top. Despite the concrete evidence presented, there are pages and pages of users suggesting the developers don’t know what they’re doing, and offering to execute similar results for a tenth of the price. It’s insanity. (The Giant Bomb community was mostly the opposite regarding this point, thankfully!) There was good that came out of this. Eventually, enough developers became incensed at the ignorance being spouted by armchair developers, and a healthy, frank, honest discussion about the price of making today’s video games came out. It’s a lengthy and often frustrating thread to read, but it goes to some very interesting places, and has a number of illuminating stories that would have been perfect for my piece, had I known it would cause such a stir.

"I don't get those prices at all. Pretty sure I could design, model, rig, animate, do a theme song, record some grunts and do testing for single character in a year, even if I had to do a lot of learning along the way, and 150k is more than I could ever dream of making in even a year."

If You Click It, It Will Play

If This is Where Games-as-a-Service is Going, You've Got Me

"As more and more services and contents become available digitally, we'll have more of an option to create attractive packages. So hypothetically we can look at different models – like a cable TV company. We could have gold, silver or platinum levels of membership, something like that. We can do subscription services when we have more content – especially now that we have the Gaikai technology available. With one subscription you have access to thousands of games – that's our dream." -- Sony head of worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida to The Guardian

Kickstarter Has Promise, Hopefully Developers Don't Screw It Up

  • Throw Trucks With Your Mind gets right to the point, and holy shit does it sound cool.
  • Twofivesix sounds like a neat little gaming conference. Considering coming out for it.
  • Delvers Drop just looks like a quality 2D action RPG. Can't really complain about that.
  • Back to Bed is an interesting puzzler that isn't asking for much money to hit the finish line.

The Latest Slate of Games Steam Has Approved Via Greenlight

Tweets That Make You Go Hmmmmmm

HULK OFTEN WORRIES THAT WE'VE GONE FROM A CULTURE THAT LOVES MOVIES WE JUST SAW TO A CULTURE THAT LOVES WHATEVER IS COMING OUT LATER.

— FILM CRIT HULK (@FilmCritHULK) February 28, 2013

HULK WENT BACK AND LOOKED OVER THE SUMMER MOVIES AND A LOT OF PEOPLE WROTE MORE WORDS ABOUT THE TRAILERS THAN THE ACTUAL REVIEWS.

— FILM CRIT HULK (@FilmCritHULK) February 28, 2013

IT'S EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT. WE LIVE IN THE AGE OF MARKETING. @mikepokryfke on some level, isn't that what Hollywood wants?

— FILM CRIT HULK (@FilmCritHULK) February 28, 2013

Cliff Bleszinski Left Epic Games, And He's Blogging Again

The Curious Case of Assassin's Creed IV Being a "Secret"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
147 Comments
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Edited by Phished0ne

ASHENNSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! YES YES YES YES

Edited by NoelVeiga

Patrick, you're right on about the inside baseball reporting in gaming. Keep bringing that stuff on, it's really important to finally bridge that gap and stop all this hostility between gamers and game makers. DVD extras made it for the film industry and somebody needs to do it for gaming.

This is an industry that started refusing credit to its early artists. We've gone a long way in the last few decades, but there's a long way to go still, and this Skullgirls thing demonstrates it. The average film buff will quote from memory the box office performance and estimated budget of any given summer blockbuster. Hardcore gamers have no idea how much making a game costs or why.

That's not a good thing.

Posted by razgriz417

Nice summary Tricky, that neogaf thread was the most frustrating thing to read, pretty sure it started out as the worst GAF thread in history but I'm glad some real devs decided to correct the ignorance in the end.

Posted by Hassun

"Valve's in-house economist explains the hiring and firing practices at the studio."

I recommend that everyone listens to this podcast. They don't just discuss Valve, they even talk about the debt crisis for a bit. Very interesting talk by very smart people.

Posted by KaneRobot

Film Crit Hulk kind of sucks at pretending to be The Hulk. Looks like a regular guy just replacing "I" with Hulk and then typing in all caps.

Edited by Nekroskop

Fuck yeah Ashens.

Posted by Master_Funk

Wait. Dave Lang's the CEO of Iron Galaxy ?!

Edited by TyCobb

That Retro City Rampage video was great.

Posted by MariachiMacabre

Ashens makes some really great videos. Really good channel. Great read, Patrick. I had no idea Stranger's Wrath was on Vita. May need to get that when I buy mine.

Edited by posh

that cliffy b article gushing about the virtues of capitalism is horrible garbage. "Yes, there are obvious issues around basic business ethics but that’s not what this blog is about right now" - this is an actual quote

Edited by Avatar

Wrong war Patrick, 1916 was the first world war with Imperial Germany. The Nazi's came later.

Edited by The_A_Drain

As a software engineer trying to scratch a living from freelance scraps and odd-jobs and had to resort to forming his own company because there's no work going locally, that whole Skullgirls ordeal made me sad. $150k is an incredibly small amount of money for the insane amount of work that goes into a modern, high resolution 2D fighting game character, and that's without even touching on game balance. Especially when the developers have families to feed and could easily drop the whole thing and get a job somewhere outside the games industry for a lot more money. As consumers we should be rewarding these people, not attempting to cage them and screaming at them like rabid monkeys when they aren't grinding out content day and night.

Sadly, these kinds of people aren't just ignorant gamers. I have people hounding me every day for "just a small simple app that does... everything in the fucking world" and then balking at the figures I quote them because some moron who couldn't even do the job if he tried quoted them $500 and inevitably fucked it up.

I think it's important that gamers, ones who are as involved as most who frequent these kinds of sites anyway, really should be a bit more educated in this field, but it's also not as easy as it could be. And I think the problem is with both sides, developers hardly ever talk about how much things cost them unlike movie studios, where you can find out the budget of a movie quite readily. Then on the consumer side, it's already difficult enough to battle this creeping wave of self-entitlement and willful ignorance, it doesn't help with bedroom developers pitching supposedly world-changing Kickstarter projects for a couple thousand bucks. It contributes to the problem by skewing peoples already warped view of game development costs.

Posted by Phatmac
Posted by Toug

Holy shit that Bomberman game is madness!

Edited by patrickklepek

@avatar said:

Wrong war Patrick, 1916 was the first world war with Imperial Germany. The Nazi's came later.

D'oh. Thanks.

Edited by DaMisterChief

Bomermine looks crazy

Posted by Seb

MMO Bomberman is insane.

Edited by SirOptimusPrime

Keep bringing the developers in to comment on stuff like the SG Indiegogo, Patrick. It helps educate people, and I know that you want that. Though I think getting info from industries outside, but relatively similar to, the games industry - like, a SFX group or animation studio - would be helpful. It'd stem some of the "well, you're a developer so of course you're gonna say it's that expensive!" comments at least.

And I was literally watching one of Grubby's WC3 videos before I clicked this and that guy... man, if there was ever a player that shows everything that's awesome about the eSports community (the exact opposite of an asshole, independent sponsorship, and so much more) it's him. Legendary good manner.

Edited by BBAlpert

The pitch video for Throw Trucks With Your Mind just makes me want to see someone take another crack at making a good Force Unleashed game.

Online
Edited by AngriGhandi

Just because someone on the internet is willing to do something for next-to-free doesn't really prove anything, NeoGAF. You can find at least one person on the internet to perform any given activity for free.

Secondly; I was able to tolerate Thompson's hyper-lyrical self-rhapsody when he was talking about Zelda-- a subject I presume he cares very deeply about-- but if that shit's also his default mode of communication for talking about jumping, skyboxes, reload animations, and/or sandwiches?
Ugh. Kill the English language. It's gone out of control.

Posted by Branthog

Gamers shouldn't care how much games cost to make and that's why we're constantly bitching about how much it costs to make games and justifying ridiculous prices and extensive shitty DLC and season passes and horse armor by whining about how much it costs to make games.

Also, gamers generally don't care, but enthusiasts do. The same way that my neighbor doesn't give two shits about what's coming down NVIDIA's pipeline or how things are going with their new foundry or chip size or how much their stock has adjusted since their latest adjustment, but I do and lots of people on the intarwebs do.

Posted by TheGlitchmaster

1. POPSTATION WATCH 2K13

2. Patrick, did you hear about the Skullgirls TF2 hat fiasco? Do you think you could talk to Lab Zero and get more info about this? Also, could you ask if they have gotten the Steam release of the game set in stone? I'd like to believe them, but the hat disaster is making me question they've talked to Valve about their game at all.

Posted by Tylea002

Film Crit Hulk is one of my favourite writers, and that sentence doesn't even need a qualifier. Those tweets are just one example of the many many times he's said something and I've gone "shit, he's bang on."

Also, this is why I don't watch trailers. For anything ever! If I'm already sold on a thing, I can wait for the thing. If I'm not, I listen way more to recommendations.

Edited by Video_Game_King

I'm not sure how well that "eBay killed WiiU sales" argument holds up. Maybe I'm misunderstanding it, but wasn't eBay very visible at the time of the Wii launch? Yet that system sold pretty damn well early on.

I also didn't know that the video section was just for random stuff you just think is cool (wouldn't think to include Ashens as Worth Reading outside entertainment value).

Posted by Lazyaza

Yep a very large portion of the gaming populace are ignorant, self indulgent, impatient people. Completely and utterly oblivious to the realities of how hard and all consuming making games is. I'm honestly surprised the industry is still standing, seems like it should have imploded by now. Maybe it is and it's just happening so gradually not enough people are noticing.

Posted by mnzy

Yeah GAF is pretty high and mighty about their knowledge and about professionals on their boards but really, it's just a bigger enthusiast forum like all the others with the same discussions and problems.

Edited by aggrocrag

That thread was definitely tough to participate in. I really thought that Patrick's original article would illuminate the cost of making a game. But it only further highlighted Dave Lang's statement on prejudices about the cost of game design and development.

Posted by TheHumanDove

thanks GIANTBOMBA.

Posted by Sergio
Posted by Winternet

@patrickklepek: Yo, The Killzone: Shaow Fall [and it's missing a d :)] link directs to the Giant Bomb page of the game. I'm assuming it should direct to the Digital Foundry thingy.

Posted by CrunchbiteJr

GAF users thinking they know more about the industry than they actually do? Shock.

Keep on giving us an insight into the industry Patrick, loving the work. The written work being put on the site from yourself and Alex is fantastic.

Posted by TheHumanDove
Posted by SaturdayNightSpecials

Not every one is successful, but developers ditching a hugely popular but tired mechanic

...What, combat? Combat is a tired mechanic?

Huh?

Edited by I_smell

I legitemately don't know why people like Patrick always check out what this vBulletin message-board at Neogaf dot com think of their stuff.

We all know it's a bunch of jaded, elitist, uninformed, belligerant dudes with anime avatars sharing snarky asshole .gifs and image macros, and it's been that since forever... it makes about as much sense as judging "public opinion" on youtube comments or Reddit posts, or 4chan threads.

It's 2013: we don't care about screenshot galleries, or system-wars, or decimal points in a review score any more. Patrick- and a lot of other people- are writing stuff that's a lot more interesting than that old shit, so why am I still hearing "NeoGaf" pop up so much? Just leave it in the dust, guys!

Posted by fox01313

The two articles linked on here for the latest Alien game & the female marine are quite fascinating to read. Makes me start to wonder what this Alien game would have been if Borderlands wasn't as successful or on the lower priority over getting the Alien CM game good.

Posted by MarkWahlberg

@patrickklepek said:

"It’s not new, but it makes me wonder if we’re doing our job right and conveying game development in 2013."

What? No. That's not your job, at all. I mean you know what your job is better than I do, but the gaming press can't take responsibility for communication failure on the part of the developer. If everyone freaked the fuck out over a Kickstarter, then that's the fault of the people asking for money for not properly explaining why they wanted/needed that money.

"... still there were loads of commenters who could more quickly believe this was a conspiracy and Lab Zero Games were scam artists or lazy. That strikes me as a certain kind of crazy, and suggests to me there need to be many more stories about game development to drive it home. "

That's not crazy at all. That's what happens when you ask people not in the business of game development to participate in supporting said development without communicating. 150K is a lot of money, and if you don't explain why you need it, people are gonna think you're crazy.

Edited by prestonhedges

"We want $150,000."

"That seems like a bit much."

"No, see, we need to pay all the employees at our company while we work on this DLC."

"Aren't you paying them already?"

"Yes."

"Then why is that factored in?"

"...it is."

"But why?"

"You clearly just don't understand the video game industry."

"Yeah. Clearly."

Posted by TheMasterDS

"Oh hey, this has a pretty striking look. Very harsh, feels grounded. I wonder, OH CHRIST A DINOSAUR! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH."

Well that was cool.

Posted by Y2Ken

This whole cost thing has been really interesting. Personally as soon as I saw the figures laid out it made perfect sense to me. I think a lot of people underestimate the amount of care and attention that goes into something like the sprite animations for 2D fighters like Skullgirls. I'm always astounded by how good they look.

Posted by Sanity

Personally i could care less about how much a game costs to make, i mean it intrests me, but cost to make doesn't always correlate into quality as we all know. As far as costs go i think its fair to say the average person shouldn't even know that information, i hate when you hear so and so game cos X amount as it leads to expectations that shouldn't be there.

Edited by Gelf513

Great links Patrick! I go to emory and know a few people in that class. Nice to see some articles that show the school in a positive light cus Jesus fucking Christ we've gotten some bad press lately...

Edited by bananaz

The games as a service quote scares me. That's a terrible idea. Look at cable. The prices are exorbitant because packages are stuffed with channels nobody likes being bundled will the few channels people watch. It's a horrible model to emulate. If cable had ala carte pricing, you could get the channels you want and save money, just like buying games. And tiered pricing? You're potentially categorizing games based not on interest or genre or preference, but on economic means.

Posted by TyCobb

"We want $150,000."

"That seems like a bit much."

"No, see, we need to pay all the employees at our company while we work on this DLC."

"Aren't you paying them already?"

"Yes."

"Then why is that factored in?"

"...it is."

"But why?"

"You clearly just don't understand the video game industry."

"Yeah. Clearly."

The difference is those employees would have probably been laid off and no DLC at all had the funding failed.

Edited by DHunter329
Edited by Sergio

@sergio said:

Perhaps the biggest failure of Aliens: Colonial Marines is the amazing lack of females.

I highly doubt it.

Nope. No vaginas made it bomb. It's science

Does that mean the biggest failure of Giant Bomb is the amazing lack of women on staff? Crap. Guess we'll all go to Polygon now.

Posted by TheVideoHustler

I've never been to NeoGaf before. But are like 90% of the people there assholes?

That thread was fucking awful.

Posted by Reisz

It's surprising how many conflicting opinions showed up about that Skullgirls thing. If you have been part of the financial running of a business it's so easy to see where that money could go. Without that experience I would have been shocked at first as well, though I would likely have done some research before I started commenting about it on the internet.

Edited by crusader8463

Man Vas really is one of the best characters in a long ass time. Shame they wasted his potential in the game. I would not be surprised if they did a prequel with him in it.

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