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
- 1916 (Browser, Free) by students at The National Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment -- http://1916.dadiugames.dk
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.
- Bombermine (Browser / Free) by ??? -- www.bombermine.com
Keep it simple, stupid. Bomberman. Thousands of players. Simultaneous. Go play it. Now.
And You Should Read These, Too
- "Fun With Gravity: The Video-Game Arc in Angry Birds Star Wars, Time Surfer, and ZiGGURAT" by Tevis Thompson for Grantland
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."
- "How the hell does *that* cost $X to make???" (Giant Bomb and Skullgirls) by the sometimes confused members of NeoGAF
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
- Huntsman: The Orphanage
- Kingdom Rush
- Legends of Dawn
- Organ Trail: Director's Cut
- Surgeon Simulator 2013
- War Thunder
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
- On the rise of microtransactions: "Nickels, dimes, and quarters"
- On modern horror films: "The Horror...The Horror"
- On the contradictions of building game sequels: "The Problem with Sequels"
- On the announcement of Playstation 4: "4th and Inches for Sony"
The Curious Case of Assassin's Creed IV Being a "Secret"
- The Penny Arcade Report points out the contradiction sites find themselves in over embargos.
- Kotaku's Stephen Totilo admits to the turmoil over pretending to not know something you know.
Oh, And This Other Stuff
- An argument that games don't have more violence than other mediums, it's just misunderstood.
- Digital Foundry had two great pieces analyzing Stranger's Wrath on Vita and Killzone: Shaow Fall.
- A thoroughly enjoyable examination of ten hours playing the seemingly impenetrable Dwarf Fortress.
- What it's like to look at Call of Duty's virtual representations of war when you've really been there.
- Using video games to help teach students about transphobia.
- Aliens: Colonial Marines has had one hell of a rocky road to completion, apparently.
- Why exactly are we reading reviews in the first place, anyway?
- Trying to figure out the difference between grinding and meaningful grinding.
- How a clone almost killed development of Vlambeer's Ridiculous Fishing (which is really fun, btw).
- A collection of ridiculous things hacker geohot has been saying while studying at school.
- Perhaps the biggest failure of Aliens: Colonial Marines is the amazing lack of females.
- Valve's in-house economist explains the hiring and firing practices at the studio.
- Apparently Minority Report has influenced modern interface design more than we know.
- The designer of Proteus looks back at what inspired its creation in the first place.
- The producer on Dark Souls explains five lessons from its development for other producers.
- How Assassin's Creed: Liberation ended up having a black main character.
- An interesting theory on why Wii U sales slumped in January: eBay hounds returning their machines.